1833 Local time.
Back at sea again. It’s been an eventful 2-3 weeks and as always the time
flies and life is full. I’ll do my best to share my recollections.
We made land fall in Brazil on the 31st January. After a good 3 weeks at
sea, it was great to have our second Team Aretha Atlantic crossing under our
belts and to be safely in Brazil. Expectations were high as we approached
the buzzing city of Salvador, home to some 3 million Brazilians the majority
of whom were tuning up for Carnival – the time of year when the City
basically shuts down for 10 days and parties around the clock. We knew the
reputation before we arrived as being the largest party in the world.
The final approaches were a little anxious – our engine was playing up and
would cut out every half an hour or so. With Jani, we’d dissected most parts
of the fuel system and still couldn’t resolve the problem. As we approached
Salvador and came close inshore past the Barra Lighthouse and Christ
Monument, we were close to a large sandbank and had the sails and anchor at
the ready in case the engine should fail again. The last thing you need
after a long passage is to get stuck. We navigated in the dark through the
shipping channels and past the ferries buzzing around – the lights moving
against a background of light and music as the pre carnival music filled the
warm evening air.
We were met by Victor from the World ARC, Makena and Hugur ready with the
cold beers. We’d pressed hard to make sure we arrived in time to celebrate
Sarah (from Makena’s birthday) and joined Makena on board for drinks to
celebrate. Mooring up was classic Mediterranean style. Stern to the dock,
bow lines and the gangplank down to the pontoon. It was a lively pontoon to
say the least and required some deft moves from all of us to get off safely.
The luxury and stability of Cape Town V&A marina seems like a long time ago
For the next 10 days or so, we explored Salavdor and sampled carnival. Our
first experience was a boys night down the main drag leading to the
lighthouse. Even though this was two nights before carnival proper started
it was heaving. The roads were full of people, groups of drummers and
dancers in groups working their way along the drag. Beers were 3 cans for 5
Brazilian reals – about 90 pence – 30 pence a can. Probably the cheapest
beer you’ll find anywhere. With 10 guys in a heaving road, it wasn’t long
before we lost each other and had fragmented into 4 groups. Despite the
warnings to only take what you want to lose, I still had my iPhone on me.
Within an hour I’d had it pinched from my hand where I was gripping it
tightly. By the time I’d turned around, the thief was long gone. I was
warned. An expensive lesson.
Another evening saw us and the guys from Makena join the carnival trucks for
several hours. We walked alongside the truck for Olo Dum. Probably the most
famous group out here – they’d recorded with Paul Simon and Micheal Jackson
in the past. The crowds were unbelievable as was the police presence
everywhere. Cohorts of 5 armed and helmeted officers followed a strict
routine working their way through the crowds. You’d only go for 2 minutes
before you were passed by the next five. Offences were dealt with severely
and quickly – fast whacks with long truncheons and handcuffs. Thankfully,
the revolvers stayed in their holsters. This is not a place for the faint
hearted. It’s full on – the music blasts, the beers flows, the crowds dance.
If you don’t want to dance, well you don’t have a chance not to. The
movement of the crowd carries all along with it. This truly is a street
party of epic proportions.
We found some afternoon events to take the children too so they too could
experience the carnival – in the old town of Pelourino, we sat in the square
as different groups paraded the streets. The colours were vibrant and the
music blasted. The sons of Gandhi stood out in their blue and white costumes
– several thousand of them. This truly is an event that everyone takes very
As always we had plenty of work to do – mostly trying to fix problems
created by the work we’d had done in South Africa – turning the sheaves in
the last around which had been put in upside down making the staysail
halyard unusable, replacing the outboard engine which had been serviced in
Cape Town and was now rendered inoperable. Other than that, it had been a
mostly light crossing and our jobs list was less than usual.
It was great to have Paul and Jani stay with us for the week after we
arrived. We all got to explore the old town, the countless churches – some
with fantastic amounts of gold and incredibly ornate. An incredible contrast
to the poverty in many places here in Salvador and the favelas. We’d been
warned by friends before we arrived about the Zika virus prevalent here.
Amazingly there was barely a mention of it and without notice from our
friends we’d have been unaware of it. Thankfully, there were few mossies
around but we didn’t take chances and had the spray and the mossie nets up
The weather was incredibly hot and it was great to escape to a truly first
world air conditioned mall to cool down. The contrasts are extreme – the
mall with every brand and store you can imagine from London full of wealthy
Brazilians. Another haunt we found was Bahia Marina – a much nicer marina a
mile down the road with great sushi and wifi. Wifi as always the essential
commodity amongst sailors – especially so for us as this time as we plan our
A year ago right now, we were heading out towards the Galapagos and the
whole world was ahead of us. We’ve been cantering around and the end is now
in sight which is generating a range of mixed emotions. Elation that we’ll
have circumnavigated (by the time we reach Grenada), sadness that the World
ARC is coming to an end and we’ll be saying goodbye to this incredible group
of sailors who we’ve called our family for the past year, excitment at the
adventures that we are planning and lie ahead of us, the uncertainty of what
the future holds.
After 10 days in Salvador, it was time to leave and we headed out.
Unfortunately the problem with the engine (which we thought we had fixed),
wasn’t fixed. After refuelling we headed out into the shipping lanes only
for the engine to fail. We had the sails ready to go and sailed out of the
harbour as we debated options. We turned back and called Marcelo to arrange
an engineer. Marcelo is a local, a big man with energy and an eye for a deal
wherever he looks. He’s a useful handy guy and has the knowledge to fix most
When we were in Salvador, Marcelo had invited us and several other crews for
lunch at his house. We ate fine Brazilian dishes while the kids played in
the tree house, complete with a 20 foot long firemans pole, all of which he
built himself. Willow loved climbing up and coming down the pole – this girl
is fearless. After lunch, we went to his mothers house – she is a very
talented artist who exhibits all over the world and whose house has every
inch filled with her artwork. We all bought some tiny things – some great
memories of a lovely day.
We sailed back to Bahia Marina (the nicer newer marina) and with the help of
several of the World ARC crews, we were towed in the final few hundred
metres to the pontoon. Relief to be back alongside when your engine fails is
a good word. True to his word, Marcelo had an engineer over that afternoon
and after a couple of hours we found the fault. The Yanmar engineer from
Cape Town had taken away one of the filters to service it. When it was
refitted, the one way valve was the wrong way around. Hopefully this is the
end of the gremlins from our Cape Town engineers! We tested it and ran it on
the dock for an hour and all seemed fine so fingers crossed.
We stayed for another day and then headed out and North bound for the
tropical islands of Fernando de Nornonha. The first 48 hours have been
bouncy with the wind on the nose – Nichola and Columbus have been sick and
its taking some time to adjust being back at sea. This evening is the
calmest yet. The crew are settled and quiet and we have a full moon lighting
the sea around us. We’re 25 miles off the coast and are now heading out into
the Atlantic. We have Hugur and Ayama a few miles away for company and have
all the hatches open to get some breeze through the boat to take the edge
off the heat.
Its the first time that its just been the five of us since my brother Max
joined us in Cocos Keeling last year and we’re adjusting again to our
routines without the help to channel the energy of the kids. Read into that,
3 lively kids that need entertaining to avoid becoming terrorists!
So, 340 miles until the Islands of Fernando. Time to go and enjoy the peace
and quiet on deck now that everyone has settled for the evening,
Team Aretha off the Brazilian Coast. Out.
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 ... Read more