Global Voyage

A Story About Sailing Around the World

Ray & Jenny aboard the ketch Suka

3 years, 35,000 miles, Nov 1982 - Jan 1986

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Chapter 16: The Southern Atlantic page 95 of 109

Bound for Fortaleza, Brazil

Sailing away from James Bay, St. Helena.

Hearing us weighing, the crew of the errant yacht sprang to life and set sail soon thereafter. Reasoning that their yacht might have been capable of sailing faster than ours, and assuming that the reason they were leaving with us was to navigate by following us, I was worried about them zeroing in on Suka's masthead light in the night, and inadvertently ramming us. So Jenny and I made all possible sail, and ran throughout the night without showing the slightest hint of a light. Their masthead bulb glowed ever more faintly in the distance astern, and eventually it faded away to the starboard quarter, leaving us in tranquility.

Two days out, the wind moderated, so we set the spinnaker, and for the ensuing six days it flew continuously, save for the few times when it hour-glassed around the headstay. When this happened we simply lowered the snuffer, then raised the snuffer and hardened the sheet, whereupon the sail would snap open with a bang. And after I had re-trimmed the sheet, the brig would be off and running again.

“The passage was proving among our most enjoyable in our sailing experience, blessed by steady trades, flawless weather, and benign seas.”

From the bulk of material written by seafarers both antecedent and contemporary, the consensus is that the Southern Atlantic can indeed be amenable to fine sailing. And in fact our passage was proving among our most enjoyable in our sailing experience, blessed by steady trades, flawless weather, and benign seas. Rarely did anything happen noteworthy, yet the profound beauties of the ever changing light playing over the sweeping, oceanic panorama; the resplendent sunsets; the swaths of glorious stars; and the burnished daybreaks readily captivated and sustained our interests. Our moods were enlivened particularly by the simple privilege of living unshackled, and as free as the wind that filled the billowing sails of our little brig and drove her ever onward.

Catching the reflection in Jenny's sunglasses of the sun coming through the spinnaker high above.

There were, however, minor events that seemed to transpire in endless succession. One afternoon, for example, as we were cruising an empty sea while lounging in the cockpit beneath the sun awning, I happened to notice a floating object ahead. Against utterly improbable odds, at the last moment I had to grab the wheel and steer clear to avoid colliding with a wooden cask. Its massive undergrowth of algae suggested it had been long adrift; its lid was missing, and as we swished past we could see that the 50-gallon container was empty.

The Pirouette

The following evening came something most inexplicable. Suka was flying her chute and her double reefed mainsail sheeted free, both on the port tack. Without warning, the eight knot wind suddenly backed and drastically increased to 15 knots. Caught aback, at once the sails inverted; whereupon Suka stopped dead in her tracks and began rotating. She was not sailing in a circle; rather, she was pivoting: her bow sweeping to port, leaving a glassy wake, and her stern doing the same to starboard. The wind continued backing as the brig executed a 360 degree spin in some ten seconds. As she reached her original heading, the trade winds resumed, the sails popped back into shape, the wind vane rose to the occasion, and Suka sailed onward as though nothing had happened. Apparently we had encountered an invisible whorl in the otherwise steady wind, and with finesse Suka had executed a beautiful pirouette.

Jenny wrote the following entries into our log:

March 1: Noon run 131. We spent a few hours sanding and painting from the cockpit. Engine noises heard, not our own. Airplane? Submarine?

March 2: Noon run 131. Same conditions, same sails. Idleness setting in. I wanted to start sewing my Brazil flag, but realized I don't have enough green material. Made two large batches of granola, which should last several days. Also did some varnishing.

March 3: Noon run 136. Our 8th day out from St. Helena; we are over half way to Fernando de Noronha Island. The sea and sky are kindly, for which we are thankful. While Ray was catching up on his sleep this morning I simmered a pot of applesauce, laundered a few clothes, then cooked a lunch of French toast with applesauce. Lost yet another lure to a big fish, so dinner tonight will be spicy East African noodle stew. Later in the evening squally weather has finally forced us to douse the spinnaker.

Suka sailing in light following airs with the spinnaker, genoa, and reefed main. The reef was necessary to keep the spinnaker flying. A full main would have back-winded it.

March 4: Noon run 140. Hash browns and fried eggs for breakfast, fresh squeezed orange juice, and granola with bananas for lunch. Set clocks back an hour again as we march across the time zones. After my three hour sleep I sanded and varnished, then simmered a stew and baked banana bread. The sky is filled with high cirrus, but the winds are less squally.

March 5: Noon run 145. A slow leak at the rudder shaft had been increasing lately. I cleared off the aft cabin berth so that Ray could tighten the packing gland, and in this he succeeded. While I had the berth open, from the under-berth lockers I brought out my once-a-week supply of canned and dry goods. Outside, the air is laden in dust, presumably blown from African deserts, and I have to sweep the salon floor daily. The box of Cape Town apples is spoiling quickly in the heat; I will make more applesauce. Dough is rising for English muffins to go with chili for lunch. Laundry is drying on the lifelines. We have just over 400 miles to go to Fernando. I am full of anticipation. Although we're progressing well, the days seem to pass slower the closer we get.

March 6: Noon run 152. A sunny, bright new day. A small bird rested on the mizzen boom through the night. Decided I could patch together some scraps of green fabric, so I started my Brazil flag. Ray is doing a lot of reading, studying, and trip planning. We are unsure whether to go out to Hawaii or up the coast of Central America. Both options have merit. Beautiful early-evening sky with dramatic cumies, golden in the light of the setting sun.

The spinnaker flying day and night for six days continuously.

March 7: Noon run 125. Gorgeous daybreak with the full moon smiling back at the rising orange sun. The sky is a subtle blue, then a purple-lilac above the moon. The wind is slackening and we are slowing, taking in the beauty of the last few days of our South Atlantic crossing.

While at sea, we sleep most nights in a lee cloth to combat the boat's motion. Like a hammock turned on it's side, to keep the person from falling out of the bunk.

Jenny sewing a tear in the mainsail.


March 8: Noon run 140. 75 miles off Fernando at noon. We are feeling the lack of exercise and fresh food. We haven't caught a single fish on this leg. Guess we caught our quota for this ocean en route to St. Helena, catching as much as we could eat. More ships sighted. Spent the morning sewing. Not flags, but the mainsail. Last night I put quite a tear in it as I was trying to hoist it without untying one of the reef cringles, unnoticed in the dark. Poor old sail, it has seen its better days. While writing this, I have one hand on a spoon, stirring a pan of fudge.

St. Helena to Fernando.


Fernando de Noronja.


Zoom out to see where we are, or click on logo.

As we exited the trade wind belt, the wind dropped to a whisper. We drifted throughout the long night, slowly rounding Fernando de Noronha to its north-east. This island stands aloof, some 200 miles off-shore mainland Brazil's eastern extremity. And as is the case with the open roadstead at St. Helena, Fernando's anchorages are subject to a ground swell that reputedly can render them uncomfortable. And indeed, after motoring under the island's lee at dawn, to our dismay we found the main anchorage wholly untenable, being swept by heavy, rolling waves marching in from the northeast - no doubt a vestige of some far away storm. Hugging the shore, we plied the coast while inspecting each of its indentations and coves. None proved suitable as an anchorage. Ours was unfortunate timing, as the yachts that arrived a few days later enjoyed interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable sojourns here. Nevertheless, we consoled ourselves that at least while exploring the island's seaboard we had enjoyed a visual smorgasbord. Our eyes had stared across an empty horizon for 13 days, and were now feasting on terra firma. Even so, we were eager to plant our feet on land, so we decided that rather than sail directly to the Caribbean, we would point the bow for Fortaleza, a Brazilian port 375 miles to the west.

I'm creeping toward Fernando de Noronja while Jenny watches for dangerous coral-heads.

The Doldrums

During the next two days we engaged in an ongoing battle, more mental than physical, with the impulsive and massive forces of nature. After spending hours crowding on all possible sail in order to capture the scant breezes, we would observe yet another colossal squall advancing furiously in our direction, necessitating a frenetic dowsing of Suka's canvas. Each time the wind howled, and the rain fell by the ton. Then we were left to await the wind's procrastinated return. Adrift in the wake of each venomous squall, eventually we would start the engine and motor for an hour, if nothing more than to gratify our combined urges to continue with the journey over the water in the appropriate direction. Finally, though, a meager breeze would waft our way, prompting us once again to hoist all possible sail. After we had ghosted along for perhaps an hour, yet another monster squall would come charging our way, prompting us to rush about, desperately handing sails. In the deluges we would often stand on deck, absorbing the bone chilling, wet and decidedly welcome respite from the glaring equatorial sun.

Negotiating the doldrums, we see the next advancing squall.

A scant three degrees south of the equator, obviously we were negotiating the doldrums. Yet despite the unfavorable sailing conditions we progressed about 100 miles a day, this due largely to the powerful Brazil Current sweeping south-eastward at nearly 3 knots.

On our fourth morning from Fernando we sat 30 miles offshore, becalmed. If we were to fetch port by nightfall, we would need to motor. But Perkins refused to start. The starter cranked the engine obligingly, so the problem was most likely one of fuel starvation. First I inspected the fuel tank's pick-up tube, looking for a blockage such as the one we had discovered while in the Polynesians. The tube proved clear, so next I checked the fuel lines for clogging, and found them unobstructed. We changed the pair of primary filters, and bled the fuel system, but these tasks proved equally ineffectual. The fuel pump appeared operational, leading me to reason that the problem was with the injector pump, a most intricate and complicated confusion of machinery, and likely unrepairable in a place such as Fortaleza.

Pondering this miserable conclusion, vacantly I studied the injector pump, and happened to notice a spring dangling uselessly from one end, this concealed in a maze of ancillary equipment. Probing into the labyrinthine tubing, I found that the loose spring belonged to the fuel shut-off lever, activated whenever one wished to shut down the engine. After reattaching the spring, I cranked the engine, heartened to see fuel now spurting from the loosened injector lines. I tightened these lines, and with a most reassuring roar Perkins sprang to life.

Nearing the Brazilian mainland under the next advancing squall.

Her sails hanging flaccid like Paul Bunyan's laundry drying in the equatorial sun, Suka motored toward a continent as yet lying beneath an empty horizon. Considering the distance off-shore, the water here was remarkably shallow, 30 or 40 feet. And its color was an exquisite pale-green.

We began encountering local fishing boats: tiny craft loaded with tawny, crusty fishermen and flying huge, sweeping and brightly colored cotton sails so gracefully shaped as to suggest fluidity. These were the traditional jangadas, a term meaning sailing raft. Indeed, considering the design's diminutive freeboard, the term seemed appropriate. The decks were fitted with a hatch and cover, and at night the intrepid fishermen crawled inside and slept like sardines neatly packed in a tin. Jangadas flitted about the off-shore waters, and each time we passed near one, a half dozen or so tough, leathery, sun-parched Brazilian men waved and grinned toothsomely.

A gracefully shaped jangada, a traditional fishing boat.

Because we had not originally planned on calling in at Fortaleza, we were not equipped with visas, an oversight we were soon to regret. Moreover, we lacked the appropriate charts, so we had not the slightest notion of the city's whereabouts. However, rummaging through our periodicals we found the coordinates (latitude and longitude) of the harbor entrance. These I keyed into the sat-nav, which then indicated the appropriate heading. Admittedly, this was an odd way to find one's way around, but it proved successful, for later that afternoon the buildings of Fortaleza emerged in the perceptible distance, dead ahead.

Plying the shallows without benefit of a chart that might have indicated any dangerous shoals required the utmost vigilance, and this in turn required us to stand exposed to the searing sunshine throughout the long day. Oddly enough, then, on the final day of the 17 day South Atlantic crossing we both became heavily sunburned.

The story has 109 pages. This is page 95.
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Page Links
GV 001: Title Page
GV 002: TOC
GV 003: Dedication
GV 004: Preface
GV 005: Prologue
GV 006: Beginnings
GV 007: Work Done
GV 008: Making Ready
GV 009: Departure
GV 010: Sailing Credentials
GV 011: First Lesson
GV 012: Sextant Navigation
GV 013: Safety Harness
GV 014: Murphy's law
GV 015: Spirit of Adventure
GV 016: Holding On
GV 017: First Big Storm
GV 018: Storm Intensified
GV 019: Rolling Violently
GV 020: Mizzen Sleeping Bag'sl
GV 021: Freeing the Propeller
GV 022: Visits by Birds
GV 023: Crossing the Doldrums
GV 024: Nearing First Landfall
GV 025: Land Ho
GV 026: Fatu Hiva
GV 027: Trek Inland
GV 028: Anchor Watch
GV 029: Passage
GV 030: Hiva Oa
GV 031: Skin Diving Circus
GV 032: Almost Like a Jungle
GV 033: Polaris Missile
GV 034: Taiohaie Bay
GV 035: Cascade Hakaui
GV 036: Taipi Bay
GV 037: Cyclone Lisa
GV 038: Cyclone Nano
GV 039: Passage of Patience
GV 040: Tuamotu Archipelago
GV 041: Tahiti
GV 042: Cyclone Reva
GV 043: Secret Sharer
GV 044: Moorea
GV 045: Cyclone Veena
GV 046: Aftermath
GV 047: Good Weather in Papeete
GV 048: Huahine
GV 049: Raiatea
GV 050: BoraBora
GV 051: Rarotonga
GV 052: Tonga
GV 053: Fresh Air
GV 054: Tongan Feast
GV 055: Excursion to Maninita
GV 056: Mariner's Cave
GV 057: Fiji
GV 058: Ndravuni Island
GV 059: Mara Island
GV 060: Aneityum
GV 061: Noumea
GV 062: St Elmo's fire
GV 063: Breakwater Reef
GV 064: Bundaberg
GV 065: Life on the Burnett River
GV 066: Engine Sabotage
GV 067: Flying
GV 068: Aground in Round Hill Creek
GV 069: Gladstone Confinement
GV 070: Tropical Queensland
GV 071: Trip into Townsville
GV 072: Cairns Sojourn
GV 073: Cramped Cooktown
GV 074: Lizard Island
GV 075: The San Michelle
GV 076: Lost Mummy Cave
GV 077: Land's End
GV 078: Darwin
GV 079: Christmas Is
GV 080: Passage
GV 081: Cocos Keeling
GV 082: Crossing the Indian Ocean
GV 083: Rodriguez
GV 084: Mauritius
GV 085: Reunion Cirque de Mafate
GV 086: Reunion Cirque de Salazie
GV 087: Passage to Africa
GV 088: Kruger National Park
GV 089: Richards Bay
GV 090: Durban
GV 091: Port Elizabeth
GV 092: Cape Town
GV 093: Storm Passage
GV 094: St Helena
> GV 095: Passage to Brazil
GV 096: Fortaleza
GV 097: Passage to Caribbean
GV 098: Bonaire
GV 099: Passage to Panama
GV 100: Panama
GV 101: Panama Canal
GV 102: Medidor
GV 103: Costa Rica
GV 104: Passage to Acapulco
GV 105: Acapulco to Cabo
GV 106: Baja
GV 107: Home Port
GV 108: In Retrospect
GV 109: Next Time
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