The NYE hangover is still there as I wake up on the 2nd January. Maybe it was the beer or more likely the moonshine a fellow sailor was dispensing from a Camelbak. Funny how you know better, but you don’t. So be it, there’s work to be done to repair the spinnaker pole track and obtain port clearance from Fernando de Noronha. I make my way to the mast with tools and parts and see a woman on a nearby French yacht setting up an inflatable SUP – nothing unusual there, except when she mounts a seat on the front and puts her baby in it before paddling across the bay! Stay out here long enough and anything that can happen will happen.
Mast track repaired, I make my way to the port for an espresso with the Port Captain and to pay the substantial anchorage fees and fill in more customs forms. I wonder silently, what happened to the same forms I completed on arrival? The Brazilian Federal Police will be here in an hour to complete immigration, so I pass the time with a coconut and another espresso to see if that helps the hangover. Meanwhile, the lady with the baby on the SUP arrives well dressed & in heels (who wears heels in a dinghy?) to complete arrival formalities with another French yacht. Everyone is in a small crowded office, she has the complete attention of the Port Captain, Customs and Federal Police and I become invisible. OK I get it, so I pretend to wait patiently and tell myself the fastest way out of here is to stay calm. The passport scanner is in town so we all pile into the police vehicle to complete the formalities.
All’s well that ends well and I weighed anchor around 1300 to make way NW 1,950 nm to Trinidad and Tobago.
The winds are light, so I set the spinnaker and let it run overnight under a full moon.
On the third morning, a 2m sail fish took the lure. I had my work cut out to bring it to the boat and getting it up the transom into the cockpit was more of a challenge.
The first meal of sashimi and beer felt well earned. The sail fish would have weighed over 20kg and yielded about 10kg of fillets, so I kept some to eat fresh and dried the rest so it would keep. I won’t be needing more fish for some time, so I put the rod & lure away for the rest of the passage.
After my experience with the doldrums in the Indian Ocean, it was with some trepidation I sailed toward the equator and doldrums in the Atlantic. The wind picked up after a storm passed and this time I was lucky, scooting across with 2 reefs in the main & a staysail.
The steady trade winds and gentle seas remained for most of the passage, leaving plenty of time to ponder the seemingly infinite vastness of the ocean.
The experience of it is so much more than the concept, even so the numbers ( e.g. http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/06/04/4018335.htm ) are impressive and highlight there is still much to learn, with oceans accounting for;
- 70% of the earth surface with an average depth of 4.2km
- 97% of the water on earth
- producing >50% of the world’s oxygen
- Storing 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.
- 40% of photosynthesis occurs in the ocean – the weight of phytoplankton is many times more than all the vegetation on land
- and most of it remains unexplored
With 300 nm remaining, I thought I’d go for making Trinidad a day early on Monday, so I set the spinnaker and pinned my ears back; the winds faded, the sheet flogged in a lull and the snap shackle released – with the clew free, the sail wrapped around the fore-stay and combined with what is known as a wine glass wrap. I wrestled with the spinnaker until my muscles burned before retreating for some water and sunscreen. I have heard that boats have cut or burned the sail down in this situation and neither of those options was appealing. Nor was returning to the clubhouse to sort it out in the marina berth. So I returned with a new strategy to simply let the spinnaker fly out in front held on by the halyard – I jibed a few times so the twist would go the other way and happily it worked. While I was at it, I also dropped the main and sailed downwind with both the genoa and staysail poled out – it’s a nice configuration, with no flogging and good speed once the breeze gets over 10kts.
I made landfall just before dawn, heading into Galleons Passage. A note on the chart advised ” the current between Trinidad & Tobago sets to the north west, usually with sufficient strength to prevent a sailing vessel from working against it.” So with a swift current behind me, I expected to cover the 45nm to Chaguaramas well before 1600, when the customs and immigration offices close. However, Murphy is still about and there was an ebb tide that slowed the current and created some eddies – one minute Galaxy was doing 7.5 kts, the next 5 kts. It was going to be tight and after passing through Boca Del Monos at 4kts, I tied up at the customs wharf at 1550. Once I relearned the art of using carbon paper and completed the forms in quadruplicate, I had arrived in the Caribbean and looking forward to liming*.
* In Trinidad & Tobago, liming is an actual activity, referring to the art of doing nothing while sharing food, drink, conversation and laughter, liming is an important part of the country’s island culture. In fact, it’s not uncommon for locals to say something like “let’s go lime” to mean “let’s chill or hangout.”