Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Fernando De Noronha (Brazil) and onto Iles Du Salut (French Guiana) then Trinidad and Tobago

We left St Helena Island on the 29th of May after a wonderful  10 days.  We travelled with SV “Boomerang”- Klaus and Juana. It was a long, boring and frustrating passage  with squalls and rolling seas from astern which necessitated us to change from a poled out Genoa to our downwind twinsail jibs as the wind changed. The motion prevented us from wanting to play games or watch movies so we spent the time reading and sleeping. We managed to fill our water tanks during a heavy downpour which flattened the seas and Eric pulled in several  MahiMahi ( Dorado) which filled the freezer.
This Lure and hook were damaged by a close encounter with a marlin!

We were pleased to see the Brazilian  islands of Fernando De Noronha on the 14th morning and our friends at anchor took this shot.

The man made harbour behind the rock wall was a great facility with a sheltered dinghy dock and rubbish bins

The harbour masters office was a short distance up a boardwalk where we had fun trying to communicate in Portuguese. The customs and  immigration officers came to the office and spoke some English. They were all very nice and embarrassed to have to charge us anchoring and National park fees on a daily basis.  It cost us $83USD per day to anchor and $23USD each person per day in fees making this the most expensive  landfall  ever!! 

We shared a taxi to the airport to use an ATM machine but our bank wouldn’t authorise a transaction here without notifying them so we exchanged USD for local “Real” at a divers shop.  After exploring the local area by foot and a snorkel over rocks we departed  after 2 days.

It is a real shame that the fees are so high because if one can’t rest here on the way to the Carribean it makes it a very long passage.

We had less wind with calmer seas and favourable currents of 1-2.5knots most of the way to the Iles Du Salut. After the 5th day we crossed the equator for the 3rd time since leaving New Zealand and celebrated with a special breakfast arriving at the French Guiane islands on the 12th morning.
We had only been anchored for 30mins when the Gendarmerie  (Coastguard) arrived to inform us that we could not stay. A rocket was being launched from the Kourou space station on the mainland in 3-4 hrs so we had to head to sea to be more than 15nm east out of the danger area. Even though we were tired and wanted nothing more than relax and have a swim we were pretty excited to be in a prime spot to see a launching.

The sky was clear but 4 hrs later it was overcast and drizzling with rain and we bobbed about on anchor 15nm to sea.

After an hrs delay waiting and wondering we saw 3 seconds of a bright light streaking skywards and 

disappearing into the clouds followed by a thunderous rattling overhead and a black exhaust bloom!  Not enough time to get a photo.
This is what we should have seen. ….. Anyway that’s one off the “Bucket List”

The next day we went ashore to explore the site of the ex penal colony where the story of “Papillion” is famous. This French colony of 3 small islands housed political prisioners and criminals from  the 1860’s to 1954

We met a group of children who were part of a Sth American youth sports training program. They were shy but keen to speak English

Cruisers on MV “Emily Grace” arrived 2 days later and Tom, Kim and daughter Emily Grace joined us for a further visit to Ile Royale

During our visits ashore we enjoyed feeding the monkeys. The little Capucin and Singe hurleur Baboune

These Agouti ( which look like a cross between a rat and a wallaby) were all over the island. They walk on all fours then hop under speed

We saw hummingbirds and were amazed how tiny they were. Around 5cm in length!

Around the restaurant and accommodation we saw a variety of animals, birds and lizards

We visited the chapel, the hospitals and the museum which were really interesting. There was a guide there to answer questions and was most informative.
Another day we visited Ile St Joseph and took a picnic

We couldn’t visit Ile Diable where Political prisoners were held and where “Papillion” escaped from as it is prohibited. There are very strong currents and no safe place to land a boat.

On the 1st of July we set sail for Trinidad and Tobago arriving at Scarborough, Tobago on the 6th morning. It was a passage with a mixture of squalls and calms and we motorsailed alot of the way. 
We had one whole day with blue fin tuna leaping out of the water all around the boat but didn't catch any. There were lots of flying fish which we suspect were what the tuna were after. There were dolphin pods and we saw 2 whale .

On arrival we were informed by coastguard and the Port Captain that we had to anchor in a tiny fishing harbour where there was hardly any room to put the anchor down.  When our friends arrived in their yacht they had to anchor  very close to the channel the ferry uses for turning and docking. We took turns to dinghy in to clear  Immigration and customs as we couldn't leave our boats unattended and they had to power forward on their anchor to give the ferry room

We stayed in Tobago for several days enjoying the vibe of the place and people. We hired a car with friends and spent a day seeing the island and provisioning. The anchorage around the SW headland from Scarborough was pretty sheltered with good holding and a good sandy beach to pull the dinghy up on. It was very cheap to get a local taxi to the capital, being Scarborough.

It was then time to move on so we sailed overnight from Tobago to Trinidad. A fellow cruiser had bent the shaft on his boat and couldn't run his engine so when we got near the pass between the mainland and an island we towed him as the current can be swift and often the wind drops away

We spent a few days on anchor in Chaguaramas Bay, west of the Port of Spain, checking out the boat yards and facilities. We decided to haul out at Coral cove marina where "Erica" will be having a well deserved rest until 2014

So there's some maintenance and improvements to do then off to work to earn the dollars!

Cruisers Notes

Fernando De Noronha

On planning our South Atlantic crossing from South Africa to Trinidad and Tobago we had decided to bypass Brazil due to many lackluster to horrifying stories coming back from those cruisers who had preceded us.
However after deciding to cross from Walvis Bay Namibia, to Trinidad via St Helena we looked at the route and saw that the voyage could be conveniently split in two by stopping at the Brazilian Islands of Fernado De Noronha. Anchorage, (3* 49.9 S) (32* 24.7 W) .
Other cruisers had mentioned these islands and we found information on the internet and pilot guides about them. What we read seemed to correlated in most things. Primarily that the fee charged for visiting this marine reserve, national park , was very high. However we feel the words used like spectacular, to describe the scenery and snorkeling to be a little over stated.
The anchorage here is adequate for a short stay. The holding on a sand bottom is good. It has little land mass to windward and is therefore, windy . During rain squalls the anchorage can become rough.
The anchorage is rolly most of the time.
Landing by dinghy in the harbour is easy at a nice big pontoon.
There are rubbish bins everywhere, (great)
There is a service station very handy to the port.
The port captains office is very handy.
The port captain is a very nice man. In fact all the officials we met were helpful and amazingly tolerant of our lack of Portuguese.
The port captain rang the Immigration and Customs and they arrived in short time.
Fortunately one of the Immigration men spoke a little English. We needed this as we had conflicting information regarding cost of landing and anchoring. So we didn’t know how long we could afford to stay. The answer to this was, very short !
So the cost as it stands on the 13th of June 2013 is ---
: For anchoring ; R 181,83 per day. Approx US $86
Per person to stay: First day free: ; R 45,60 per day. Approx US $ 23
So for an average cruising yacht like ourselves with two people onboard in will cost you US $129 a day plus the bank fees to get your money !
Your credit cards will likely, not work at the ATM unless you call your bank and confirm that you wish to use your card in Brazil.
A local dive center acts as a money changer.
From what little to could afford to see of the island we found it a pretty place with clear water and a nice atmosphere. There looked to be some great walking/hiking to be done. During our short snorkelling event there appeared to be no coral and moderate fish life, But there could be better spots than what we saw.

Iles Du Salut

 We had light Easterly winds all the way from Fernando De Noronha to Iles Du Salut. We were hoping for rain to fill our water tanks but contrary to what we had been told, we had none. We straight lined our course. We had a helpful current to begin with and also towards the end of our passage. We had considered following the current inshore and I got the impression that we would have got a faster passage but one is never sure that one will hold the current and I'm sure we would have had more obstacle's such as fishing boats and oil rigs to avoid.
We arrived at around 1100 hrs, anchored and had a bite to eat. Soon a French Coast guard boat showed up and told us we had to leave as there was a rocket launch that afternoon. They were friendly and told us we could return after 1700hrs and stay as long as we liked. So we took them at their word and stayed for five days. We had to go fifteen miles to sea.
All information we had said that the holding in the anchorage was good.
Warning : This is Not so !
It is a mud bottom and any anchor will set well but unless it has an unusually large blade area it will not hold in the very Thin Mud. There were four other boats who all found the same. We have a small guardian anchor that we tandem off the front of our main anchor . This worked well.
If you arrive in the evening you could pick up a mooring but be prepared to vacate it for tourist boats or the navy early in the morning.
The anchorage can be a little rolly.
Access to Royale Island is via a nice pontoon. We tied up at the back of it .
Ile St Joseph has a smaller pontoon that they like to keep uncluttered and there is a lot of bracing that makes tying up to the back of it risky if there is a swell. There are concrete ramps near each landing.
As far as we could see there are no sales of provisions ,water or diesel.
There are rubbish bins.
Royale Island has been partly renovated to give you a good idea of what it was like in the past. There are a wide range of different prison facilities that you can walk through. There is accommodation and a restaurant here also. Lots of cute wild life . Bring some peanuts for the monkeys.
At the time we were there one was only encouraged by signage to walk around the parameter of the Ile St Joseph as there were renovations happening on the upper walkways. Its a lovely walk with a little sandy beach and an interesting old cemetery.

Ile Diable we believe is prohibited to land due to strong currents and rocky foreshore. It appears very difficult to land a boat.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

St Helena

We left Walvis bay  Namibia, with newly made friends Klaus and Juana from SV Boomerang 2 on the 9th of May, to sail to St Helena. It  is situated 1200nm to the NW in the South Atlantic ocean… Access to the island is currently only by ship but an airport is being constructed.

 A friendly seal decided to leap aboard hoping we had some fish. The tourist boat operators feed them each day as part of their routine. Eric offered some canned tuna which it declined and slid overboard!

We had a tedious and boring trip with the wind never quite in the perfect direction to fill the sails and give us speed downwind, along with an unpleasant  rolling action from the stern. Our highlight of the trip was passing the meridian line taking us from the eastern to the western hemisphere.

In our minds we are half way around the world…..We were pleased to see the peaks of St Helena Island at the end of the 9th day.

We took a mooring bouy and relaxed for the rest of the day choosing to clear with Immigration and customs the next day, being Monday. 

A ferry operates every 2 hrs to provide transport ashore. This was most helpful on the first day to see where to land and at times when it is very rough causing rollers to break on the sea wall. We used our kayak most of the time to regain our fitness and save the 2 Pound return trip pp charge.

We arrived unknowingly over the long weekend of Whitsunday and Monday and St Helena Day (21st May) so enjoyed the festivities ashore, celebrating  it’s discovery in 1502. 

With Klaus and Juana we puffed and panted our way up the 699 steps of Jacobs ladder ( 600ft) to enjoy the view of the bay. This inclined plane was built in 1829 to ferry goods to and from the town on rail tracks then reverted to steps when the roads were built.

 At the top of ladder hill is the old fort with it’s barracks and battery commanding spectacular views of the Ocean and Jamestown. The views of Jamestown in the valley are stunning

The road winds it’s way down the valley boarded on one side by chain link and wire rope fencing and on the other by a rock wall to guard  against rock falls.

As extra punishment to our aching calf muscles we took the gravel track over the other side of the valley to view the old fortifications and view the celebrations below.

The warship Black Rover was anchored in the bay as part of the St Helena day celebrations

Many hours were spent looking around town at the old buildings and  museum, shopping  and enjoying coffee and cake

We took a local bus up to Red Hill then walked to High Knoll Fort which was built as a redoubt for the island population incase of an invasion.

We got the key from the National trust office and enjoyed the time fossicking through the old barracks and fort with a torch.

The view here was also spectacular and we watched the HMS St Helena arriving which sails between Capetown,  St Helena and Ascension Island on a regular basis bringing supplies and passengers.

 Cathy encouraged us to sample the fruit of the cactus “Prickly pear”

Walking along the road through a forest of Bastard Gums which are endemic to St Helena and NZ flax brought us to Plantation House which is the residence of the Governor. It was built in 1792 by the East India company. The grounds surrounding are open to the public with historic nature trails and  5 Tortoise to see.

Walking back to Jamestown was all downhill through the villages where people  were so friendly and forthcoming with information.  We sat on the top of the Hill looking at the St Helena offloading supplies and passengers

With 2 ships arriving in close succession we weren’t able to hire a car for a week but we had an itinerary well planned by the time we did.
We visited The 2 houses where Napoleon was held in exile. Local saints are passionate about their history and gave us an excellent guided tour of each house

We took a stroll down the valley to the very peaceful glen where Napoleon requested he be buried if his body wasn’t allowed off the island. The tomb no longer holds his body. It was exhumed 19 yrs later and returned to France.

With a long haul ahead of us to Brazil we had been struggling to find enough fresh fruit , veges  and eggs so we stopped at every roadside shop to provision. There isn’t enough produce grown locally to keep up with the demand and when it reaches the shops it vanishes quickly from the shelves and  the supply ship from Capetown takes several days to offload it’s supplies.
This shop was almost completely hidden and only an old rustic sign gave a clue to it’s existence.  This local man was enjoying a beer in the driveway entrance and pointed out the shop to us.

We wound our way down the exceptionally steep, narrow and winding road enjoying the view and diverse landscape. NZ flax was brought and planted here for the production of rope

There were small pockets of lush flora in a ribbon down the valley surrounded by the arid volcanic peaks

Old stone fortifications and cannon still stand in defence of this “Sandy Bay” beach

We arrived back at Jamestown just before dark and enjoyed an ale at the Pub before returning to our boats.
Tomorrow we check out and on Wednesday morning  set sail for Fernando de Noronha, 1800nm to the nor west ,an island off the Brazilian coast.

Cruiser Note's For St Helena

We left Walvis Bay in 15 knt's from the SW soon changing to 10 to 20 veering between SE to E.
After a nine day Passage we approached the Jamestown anchorage in the morning from the north.
The local boats all face the land as they are tied to heavy braided, floating, polypropylene warps that extend from inshore anchorage points seawards.
For obvious reasons don't steam in amongst the local craft.
The mornings that have been laid for transient boats are just south of the local boats. ( 2 pound per day) Everyone is very obliging and helpful. Just pay later when you have the money.
This seems to be a well chosen site, although it is a long way from the landing dock.
The water is clean and clear. Around fifteen meters over sand. Good bottom fishing in the late afternoon and evening.
The moderately large mooning buoys have a large ring on the top that you are expected to pass a line through. However the ring lies flat and is difficult to lift remotely. Be prepared to come along side the buoy or reverse up to it . Maybe even standing on it to pass the line through.
Friends tried to anchor but their anchor did not bed well. The sand seemed to have little depth to it.
The little ferry to shore is the best way. ( now 1 pound per person one way.) but we went by inflatable kayak and hauled it up on to the dock. Others did similar with small inflatables and one person tied theirs off at the dock. It seemed to survive it .
There is usually a swell rolling in but it the eight days we were there it was never a problem getting ashore.
We had the first three days there flat calm.
St Helena radio gave us a time to be ready and the ferry picked us up and took us ashore to clear.
Information others have given regards fees, internet ,supply’s etc are reasonably accurate. Fresh veges happen when they happen there is no real regular time for them to arrive . We had trouble getting eggs on the west of the island but found plenty in the east.
Ann’s place is nice but as we had heard it was lackluster and we found the Consulate hotel a better base.
If you want to hire a car , the best deal is direct from Collins garage, or if they don't have one the tourist center will arrange one for you but it will, likely, cost a little more. They can be in short supply if the supply ship HMS St Helena is coming in. Don't expect to get higher than second gear. If you do , your'e speeding!
We were approached to take a guided tour, but chose to drive ourselves
If you require LPG? Get you bottle to Solomon's garage before Thursday as the bottles are taken early on Thursday for filling. It is expensive but they can put in a measured amount if you ask. Ours was topped right up by mistake but they are such obliging people that we chose not to make a fuss.
For us this was a fascinating place with so much to see and lots of exploring to do.
We think it needs to be thought of more as a destination rather than a short stop over. We met a Sth African couple on their boat and they were working for 6mths to supplement their funds. This is permissable.

SV Erica

SV Erica

About Me

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We met in 1971 and it was Eric's dream to build his own yacht and sail the world. This became a joint dream but it was not until 1994 that we were able to start building. "Erica" was launched in 2001 after 7yrs building her. It then took us 5 yrs to prepare her and ourselves before leaving NZ to see the world