03 34 South 34 58 West – Sailing Fernando de Noronha

0145 am. It’s a sensible time to be asleep. Apart from when you’re not.
Being short handed (just Nichola and me) means we are single handing 12
hours a day each. Fortunately on this stretch of water Nichola is in good
form and the seas are relatively calm (relative being the operable word).We left the anchorage in the tiny island of Fernando de Noronha yesterday
morning for the 365 mile passage to Fortaleza in Northern Brazil. We have
the wind on our beam and are making fast progress at some 9 knots to
Fortaleza. It’s a murky night outside with lots of squalls and lightening
around Aretha. We’ve taken the precautions of putting the iPad, VHF, spare
GPS and spare EPIRB in a metal box and put this inside our microwave. This
is our makeshift Faraday cage to prevent these essential bits of kit being
frazzled if we get a direct lightning hit (like our friends on Garlix did on
the East coast of S Africa). An EPIRB btw is emergency kit which when
activated sends out a signal to let rescuers know where to find you.

There is a reasonable amount of shipping tonight – tankers and cargo ships
heading South and East towards S Africa, and North towards the States. It’s
nice to see some lights out here in the gloomy light and know that its not
just you out here.

We had a robust 5 day sail to Fernando – the wind largely on the nose
meaning wet bouncy sailing. By day 4 Nichola had just about gathered her sea
legs and there was enough time to forget how green she’d felt by the time we
arrived in Fernando.

We’d had an expectation that Brazil was the land of the beautiful people. By
the time we left Salvador we were questioning this a little. Now we’ve been
to Fernando, we get it – they are all here – the beautiful people that is.
Fernando is a totally different experience to the Brazil we’d seen so far. A
small relaxed island, extremely friendly and easy to get around. We had just
4 days here and loved every moment.

I’ll paint a picture. The anchorage is on the Northern side of the island
and anchoring in 18 metres of water its very rolly – the beaches just in
front of us having huge surf rollers breaking on them. You dinghy ashore and
land behind the breakwater. Wildlife abounds – the anchorage comes alive at
6am with huge pods of spinner dolphins (they jump and spin around in the
air). The breakwater has a flock of frigate birds patrolling overhead and
other diving birds which regularly plunge in the sea pulling fish out at
will. At night you shine your torch on the water and the water boils with
needle fish jumping. As you beach the dinghy, there are small sharks and
rays around your feet on the sand.

You can hire a stand up paddle board (SUP) on the beach (we did) and there
are brazilians wearing the smallest bikinis and swimwear you will ever see.
Little is left to the imagination. The top of the beach has 2 or 3 shops
selling the obligatory T shirts and sarongs, and has the harbour masters
office where you have to clear in and pay your fees. It costs around $100 a
day to stay here and checking in is an affable if time consuming process
made a little easier by them serving excellent fresh coffee while you wait.
Climb the hill 30 metres or so and there is a stylish restaurant with views
over the bay and the stunning rock formations around the island. They serve
ice cold beer, caprinhias and a range of great brazilian food. The music and
ambiance is relaxed chic and you are surrounded by the beautiful people
(still wearing just their swimwear). Apparently this is a very popular
honeymoon destination. In fact on our penultimate night there, a wedding
party was celebrating. We’d seen the wedding from afar – there is a tiny
church on the headland some 1/2 mile away and the 15 or so people in the
wedding party had chosen the restaurant for their wedding breakfast.
Stylish, happy and relaxed indeed.

We travelled round the island and visited the famous beaches – Sueste Turtle
beach is the last stop on the bus route. The entire bus route is only 7 km
long and the price of a fare to go anywhere is 3 Reals. Kids go free
provided they can crawl underneath the turnstile. The kids loved playing on
Turtle beach and whilst most visitors were happy to stand on the shore and
watch the sharks, our crazy 3 had to jump in and chase after them. Pete and
Mindy from Wayward Wind were great company and Pete was brilliant at
building sandcastles with Willow and charging around the beach with her.

We visited Baia de Sancho, which is world famous for its beauty.  It has
many types of volcanic rocks, cliffs, sand, sea, birds perched in trees all
around, lots of lizards, crabs, ‘rock rats?’, chameleons and has a unique
access to the beach.
It’s tricky to get to as the bus stops at the 1km long dirt road that leads
up to its entrance and 2 small villages. We hitch hiked one way and when we
waited for an age to get the bus back, we decided to hitch hike again back
to the port.

Access to the beach is via a vertical ladder down through a rock crevice.
Standing at the top you peer over the edge and can see the beach some 50
metres or so below you. Looking down the ladder on the inside, its a ladder
disappearing into the darkness. Yes, your heart skips a beat. Not for the
faint of heart. The reward at the bottom though is truly stunning and you
can see why Brazilians rate this as the best beach in the world. The kids
swam and were tumbled around in the surf and built sandcastles.

We shared some great meals, drinks and playtime with our World ARC friends –
not all boats came here as it wasn’t an official stop (although it should
be). A truly different Brazil experience to the intense time in Salvador and
a good break from 5 days of tougher upwind sailing.

We should be in Fortaleza in 24 hours time. We’ve been warned there is some
piracy there and the only safe place is inside the the marina. Definitely
not a place to anchor outside. We only stop to reprovision and regroup with
the fleet before the 1700 mile sail North to Grenada. More piracy to avoid
there as there have been recent reports of robbery close to the Venezula and
Trinidad coast. A time to stay a good distance offshore.

Best go and check the sails and for shipping, Team Aretha in Brazil, Out,

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