TOTAL MILES TRAVELED ON SAIL to SEE EXPEDITION: 29,417
THE LAST PASSAGE
Total Miles traveled on last passage: 2,066
Miles traveled using SAILS – WIND POWER ONLY: 1,935
Miles traveled using both SAILS & ENGINES together: 100
Miles traveled using ENGINES – FOSSIL FUELS ONLY: 31
Ship Sightings: many Fishing boats, lots of Container ships
Animal Sightings in Atlantic: Spinner Dolphins, Flying Fish, Terns, Boobies
Other Wildlife: Vervet Monkeys, Capybara, Iguanas
VOS Reports Filed: 11 VOS weather reports were filed with NOAA on this passage through our satellite communications.
Average Air Temperature: 82.5 f/ 28 c
Average Sea Temperature: 82.5 f/ 28 c
Strongest Wind:18 Knots (knots are a wind measurement of Nautical Miles per hour)
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, was a relatively short stop. The scenery was stunning with a very prominent rock dominating the west end of the anchorage that was an ancient volcanic plug. The rest of the island was very green with sharp hills that encased small bays. The people of Fernando de Noronha spoke Portuguese, the official language of Brazil.
A pod of spinner dolphins, small dolphins that propel themselves out of the water performing acrobatics, zoomed past the dinghy as we went between shore and the boat. Another boat called Catching Up was anchored when we arrived. We had met their crew in St. Helena the day after Christmas when we cleared in at the same time so it was fun to catch up with them.
A frustrating part of this passage has been many rain squalls that have caused us to have to make sails smaller and then larger again after they pass. Rain squalls in the tropics tend to have more wind in them so it’s best to be prepared. Many have come at night which makes getting sleep more difficult for the crew who need to be up handling sails.
We’ve also seen quite a few small fishing boats as well as a considerable amount of large commercial traffic. Part of the challenge is that we were terribly spoiled on the rest of the South Atlantic crossing with day after day of consistent wind strengths and clear skies and no squalls and very little traffic!
On our third day out, we crossed the equator around 10 AM in the morning. Elena was our only crew on board that had never crossed before. It is a sailor’s tradition to do a bit of a good-natured hazing in a ritual that involves cleansing and some tests before King Neptune and Queen Amphitrite arrive to elevate the Slimy Polliwogs to Trusty Shellback status. I think Elena was originally nervous about what was going to happen but she took it all in stride and joined the ranks of the initiated. A shot of rum was offered to Neptune over the aft deck for continued safe passage.
Two days later, we celebrated Emma’s 18th birthday! I know it was a bit of a bummer to have to celebrate a significant birthday stuck at sea with your family. Molly made another amazing cake - chocolate with caramel sea salt frosting. Unfortunately, the same evening, Emma developed a fever and overall malaise that she has had ever since. We’ve been treating it as Dengue, a tropical disease spread via daytime biting mosquitos. She got quite a few bites in Fernando de Noronha. It is quite common and we know many people who have had it. There is unfortunately no cure other than time, lots of fluids, Tylenol and rest. She has started feeling better.
Kourou, French Guiana, was a very good stop. For five nights, we were anchored in the Kourou River with about 6 other boats that were also sailing along the South American coast. Clearance was very easy there and it was free for a change. There was also very fast WIFI at the boulangerie (French for 'bakery') close to the marina where we could leave the dinghy. The supermarkets had plenty of good French cheeses and fresh baguettes as well as other yummy French foods. On two days there was a large fruit and vegetable market with just about anything you could want. Well, except for peaches, which is what Molly really wanted.
Anchoring in the river was interesting as the current flowed at about 4 knots past the boat when the tide was ebbing but only 2 knots when it was flooding. There was about a 7 foot tide so we watched it empty and fill twice a day. We set two anchors, one from the bow and one from the stern, so that we didn’t spin with the current change. It was very difficult getting both anchors up when we left on Saturday afternoon. They had dug in really well in thick, gooey mud.
We had signed up for a tour at the European Space Agency, a space center that launches about 15 rockets a year to put satellites into orbit. The tour was very long and mostly in French but we all have a much better understanding of how rockets are made and launched. The security at the station was very high. We had to leave our passports while we were on the tour and pass through many scanners and security checkpoints.
Saturday morning, we took care of some last minute WIFI needs, one more trip to the market and supermarket, and then out the river to Ile du Salut. The three islands of Ile du Salut are only about 6 miles from the river mouth but it took a while to get there as the tide was flooding, therefore going the opposite direction we were. We anchored next to Ile Royale, the largest of the three islands and went ashore for a walk. There were so many ruins of the old penal colony still standing – barracks, a hospital, officer’s quarters, a chapel. There is also a hotel and restaurant on the island. Several tour boats make the trip out there each day.
A small museum gave some of the history of Devil’s Island and the former inmates. The prisoners were all French and wore striped uniforms. Those that committed treason seemed to get the harshest treatment. The prison closed in 1953. We visited one of the other islands which had the remains of the actual jail cells in a huge compound at the top of a hill you accessed on a road made out of huge stones and lined with stone walls. The work done by prison labor was impressive. There were stone retaining walls and paths everywhere. I guess they had to keep making work for the prisoners to do.
There was some great wildlife on the islands, two kinds of monkey, capybara (which looked like giant long-legged guinea pigs) and green iguanas. There were also some colorful birds. Quite a few Hawksbill sea turtles were swimming around the anchorage. We didn’t swim because the water was very murky due to the rivers emptying twice a day not too far away.
We departed from French Guiana on Monday after spending two nights at Devil's Island. It’s been a fast passage with plenty of wind so far – a bit too much to start but now it has turned into a very pleasant sail. Our biggest challenge was that we ran out of cooking gas! It means we were only eating cold foods and NO hot coffee or tea. Fortunately we are in the tropics and not the North Sea. We should be able to get some more gas as soon as we arrive. It was not possible to get propane gas in any of our last four ports. Believe me, we tried!
About halfway to Barbados, we started seeing large rafts of Sargasso Weed floating in the oceans. Sargasso weed has tiny balls built into it that contain air and allow it to float in the sea. It often forms large "rafts" that give the ocean a reddish-yellow color. It provides great habitat for Sargasso Fish and Sargasso Crabs, and also shade for larger fish to hide out beneath.
We are in Barbados and truly find it hard to believe we are back in the Caribbean! It feels so much closer to home than it ever did before. We’ve got four more days before our next crew join in mid-week and plenty to do to keep busy. The Caribbean promises some great adventures to check back in soon...
WHERE WE VISITED: French Guiana- Kourou & Devil’s Island
Area: 83,534 sq km / 32,253 sq mi
Main Town: Cayenne
Type of Government: French Guiana is part of France (French Republic) and therefore a part of the European Union. The head of state is the President of the French Republic and the head of government is the Prime Minister of France.
Highest Point: Bellevue de l'Inini in Maripasoula (851 m / 2,792 ft)
Climate: tropical rainforest climate with heavy rain between December and June/ July; dry season between August and November; tropical monsoon climate between September and October
Economy: fishing, gold mining, timber and “Guiana Space Center”
Major Exports: fishing, gold, timber. For subsidies, trade, and goods, French Guiana is heavily dependent on the EU and mainland France.
Natural Hazards: non-known
As part of France, French Guiana is the largest landmass (area) outside of Europe and has the longest European Union external boundary along the Atlantic coast.
A European and French Space Port is operated near Kourou since 1968. The French space agency CNES (National Centre for Space Studies), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the commercial companies Azercosmos and Arianespace are launching rockets from Kourou, transporting supplies and satellites into space. On a tour, the Elcie Crew got to visit all the facilities and even saw a rocket being build. Unfortunately, we missed the launch of an Ariana 5 rocket, currently the biggest rocket being send into space, as we were too far away and already heading towards Barbados.