St Helena to Ihas Martin Vas
27th November Tuesday to 28th Nov Wednesday
We lift up anchor at 12h00 after a visit to emigration, bank and last visit to Anne' place for internet. We set course to go over a Bonaparte seamount for a bit of extra fishing. Sea state of 2 m swells and force 4 winds. Soon St. Helena was laying behind us, as we started the long journey to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean of about 2200 nm. Our longest trip that will take about 14 to 20 days depending on the wind and the weather.
We haven’t had a full sunshine day from the time we had left Cape Town. Always overcast and with the wind over the sea of 20ºC that have a chill factor so when you are outside you have to wear a jacket. It was more confortable inside the saloon with temperature of about 22ºC.
The second day we felt lame and we both looked like zombies. We named it boat lag, and with effort we went through our daily chores. On my off time I slept most of the time. Normally it took about 2-3 days to get used to the routine of working shifts. The first night you never sleep through your three-hour off time, you sleep with your senses active till you and the Vagabund become one again. You feel what she feels, you know when the odd wave heart her, you know when she is running closer to the limits of endearment and you know when she is enjoying herself, running with a quiver of enjoyment as she vibrates as she is surfing down the wave.
It is full moon and felt so much easier during the night to be able to observe the sea state outside. To be able to can tell where every noise is coming from, is it the luff or is it the leach that needs tensioning or anticipate the wave that are slumming. The first two nights the wind picked up to force 5 With the moderate breeze in the trade winds Vagabund was in her element like a thorough breed you had to stand up in the saddle and hold her back. The two meter sea swells build a rhythm and she was just gliding through the ocean. This was what she was designed to do. Although she is heavy loaded she is strongly build and I felt safe inside her.
With the odd squalls providing additional entertainment with wind directional changes and wind gusts exceeding the comfort zone. Vagabund responds equally and before you know it she is surfing down the waves at 11-12 knots with most comfort bear up against the crest of the next wave to fall back to 8 knots and then set of down the next wave. Brazil here we come!
During the morning hours the wind backed off to force 4 and the swells was not too bad. I like my night shift of about 3h00 to 7h00 in the morning. The time alone in the dark morning hours, with only the sounds of the sea, the moon lighting the sky above the clouds and the noise of Vagabund gliding through the water. The best is between 5 and 6 when the east is turning color. When the day make ready to take over from the night. A new day to be born. The time to be spends with worshipping and prayer, celebrating the birth of a new day. How special this morning with the full moon now and then fully visible and the sun at the same time
29th November Thursday
I am starting to feel better. I have more energy and the boat lag feeling is subsiding. Feeling to start wearing my boat dresses with a jersey. My boat dresses is a long dress that I modified by shortening the length to knee high. I can still climb, stretch and bend with a slight reduction in step length. I needed to feel something like a woman again. Zack enjoy the dresses and will always complement me when I make my appearance.
I have planned to do some washing by hand, needle work etc. The washing was soaking in the water of my shower bath. We turned Vagabund more South to search for more wind as the forecasts indicated Force 3 and less winds in the North. It results in a wave direction on the beam with a bumpy ride for the rest of the day. What started, as an easy task becomes a huge task to execute in the bath below deck. It was like free diving, only here I managed to hold my composure against the nausea for around 5 minutes but when the desire took over to surface for fresh air the urgency was the same. It took the whole morning to do a few pieces of laundry. Eventually by noon the washing changed Vagabund appearance to be a lot more colorful. Just in time, as I have to start the preparations for our main meal and clean the kitchen.
My husband was in his element, captain of his own boat. He is in one big box full of stuff to do in the middle of the ocean where nobody can disturb him. He will tweak the sails, set out different fishing lures, study the sea, do small repair work or just sit in his nothing box for hours - “strategizing”? And then captains orders: Hoist the main sail together with the G2 to sea if we can improve on our speed as the wind has dropped down to force 3. As we where running with the wind and the possibility of squalls jumping up we had to secure a jibe protector up. It took about 2 hours to finally set the G2 with the mainsail. An hour later the wind dropped to force 2. The main sail prevented the G2 from setting properly. We took the mainsail down and settled for about 3 knots in the varying 7-knot wind.
30th November Friday
The wind died down to 2 knots and we took the G2 down und run the starboard engine for 4 hours from 3 till 7 h00. The wind picks up to force 4 for a little while and the afternoon slow down again to force 2. We were doing only about 3 knots. Feeling like a cork drifting on a wide-open sea. I kept myself busy with some needlework; making lunch, clean the kitchen.
Just before sunset one of the reels screamed. On the end was a small rapala lure that can be at the back of the boat at a reduced speed. Zack asked me if I want to fight the fish. It was a nice fight on the light tackle and with the braid you could clearly feel the headshake. My biggest Bonito jet of 14 kg. We could fill up the empty space in the deep fridge with fresh fish.
1st December Saturday
Our first day of sunshine without a cloud in the sky. Struggling the whole morning to keep going in a 4 - 6 knots wind at 2-3 knots. After 14h00 the wind dropped down to between 2-4 knots. We had to take the G2 down. The only sound was now and again the water splashing against the beam. The sea was like a dam. We were alone in a wide-open ocean without any propulsion.
For the first few hours I actually enjoyed the tranquility and started to philosophy:
What is time? Have wanted to escape from time. From doing things on a certain time. It was replaced by sailing. Every day so many things to do with the sails. Now we were lying in the sea. Zack could not keep himself busy with fishing. A new concept for us. This is time....
After a few hours I run out of philosophy as well. This is the trade winds and not the doldrums. Paranoia started to kick in.
Although our average speed was above 6,5 knots your brain immediately started the calculations and speculative: At this rate we will only be after Christmas in Rio. What about the Michael and Cathri visiting us over Christmas?
Rather keep myself busy:
I baked my first bread and rusks on the ocean. Warm bread, jam and cheese. I am happy when I can be creative. Creativity for me lies in many things. Reshaping a dress from a dress I bought to something I wanted. From raw ingredients creating a dish and laying a table to present this food. Creativity in writing my thoughts down. Creativity at home in seeing a picture in my mind of a room and then creates this picture. To take and old house and by a few tins of paint create a new look. Creativity in the garden by planting new plants. By using the roses I planted 3 years back and put them floating in water. I am happy by doing the things I love and being with my best friend and husband.
The wind is still not blowing!!!
A night of floating in the sea with the headsail to hold direction. Looking at the stars with the ipad at the different constellations. From 14h00 till 7h00 the next morning we have floated 14 nm. I have slept from 22h00 till 7h00 the next morning. I night of good resting.
2nd December Sunday
The wind only 2-4 knots. A raincloud was in front on the bow side. We start the starboard motor to reach the cloud. As we were motoring underneath the cloud the wind immediately picked up to be between 7-10 knots. Zack was in his element. The rest of the morning we sail zig zag following any possible cloud in close facinity. A salad bowl variety of fishing lures were following Vagabund and just as I was thinking there is absolutely no more space for another fishing rod Zack will improvise another gatched. At one stage we were trawling six rods. I was actually relieved when the fish did not strike as pandemonium will brake loose with cross lines, getting the lures out of the water, dropping the sails, starting the motors, turning the boat around and getting the fish under control.
With the engine running for half hour there was hot water. I could have a hot shower bath. With the hand shower you splash in a little bit of water with the " prop" in. When there was about 3 liters of water you close the water. Now I was tempting to wet myself with water in a similar fashion as a small “Mossie” in a puddle of water. I enjoy the hot water over my body and it reminded me when I was a kid how I enjoyed playing in a little bit of water. How things have changed and still remained the same.
The rest of the day we have force 1 and 2 winds. More difficult and challenging to keep the sails up but we drastically improved on our previous day progress. At sunset the wind pick unto force 3 and the captain was frilled when Vagabund was gliding through the water at more than half the wind speed. Doing 6.5 knots in a 10-knot wind. I was lectured in detail to master the art of apparent wind. It gave me a new appreciation for our friends back in Namibia that achieved a boat speed of more than double the actual wind speed.
3rd December Monday
The wind picked up to force 4 again and with our average dropping to 5.6 knots average did not look so bad on the screen. Everything is relative; it meant that at that speed we would be in Brazil before Christmas.
Zack have in his schedule to daily study the manuals of the boat. I have scheduled myself to master my apple mac better everyday. A big perk is to have my instructor on board with me. Our captain quickly saw the trend and indicated that he is going to charge me for all the lessons in computer, camera, and sail trimming. Every day I learn so much from him. Always there if I needed info on small things. At home there was never time. I am enjoying having my husband for myself and although we are always together on the boat we have more than enough alone time.
Fishing at night.
4th December Tuesday
At 4h30 when my shift started it was pouring down with rain. We had to change our tack with the G2 due to wind change. Easier said than done. After Zack had his early morning gym session, tired and frustrated captain held a post mortem. “If apparent is suddenly high with wind increase and the sail is wet, we must known to start both engines and run hard down wind to reduce the apparent and take as much load of as possible.” Hope I will improve on my next effort. We were both wet and cold.
A nice day of sailing. It was overcast with rain the whole day. Zack set the G2 to tack past the middle of the boat. This made a big improvement and we could run almost straight downwind. The wind change from force 3 to periodically blow at force five for the rest of the day. We were on the move again.
Our fresh vegetables stock was dropping rapidly, with only some cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes and one cucumber left in the fridge. I use the fresh vegetables to make different salads instead of cooking (see under food). The fresh fruit appreciation level went through the roof especially when it is cut up and served as a snack with custard and jelly. Of course we still have potatoes, unions as well as frozen vegetables left. It will take some careful planning for the rest of the trip!
Late afternoon one off the reels was screaming and we were doing 8 knots. A big fish on the line. Now we know what each one has to do to take the sail down. We operated like a well lubricated machine and in no time we turned the boat back. Zack offered me the opportunity to fight the fish retrieving the 400 m line back took quite a while. Close to the boat we could see it was a Long Bill Spearfish! I was thrilled to have another marlin and it increased our species count on bill fish. The marlin was very tired and Zack spend extra time in reviving her before letting her go.
It was a night of ships. Early evening a ship past us without AIS. We follow on the radar. Then a ship with AIS and in the morning hours another ship without identification. We were on alert till the sun rises. Were we in the Indian Ocean we would have been very worried.
5th December Wednesday
It is overcast with the wind between force 4 and 5 and the wave height of 2.5 to 3 meters. With the G2 symmetrical in front we were doing well enjoying a nice sail trying to make up for lost time. This morning at 7 we turn the time back one hour. It felt like in the movies. You have that hour all over again. Do the same thing or alter for another outcome. Wow!!!!
Zack had only two lures on the big 80W Tiagra reels with almost a km of 80lb line in the water. Just after midday the one reel started screaming the bonito smokers was the preferred meal. A big blue marlin was tailing walking behind the boat. The wind have picked up to 20 knots and Vagabund where surfing close to 10 knots. Like a fire drill we ticked of the sequence of steps to slow down Vagabund. Only this time everything was in fast forward and then we picked up a snag! The G2 sock was stuck and we forced it down through the winch. The real where continuously still screaming, for a short period the real stopped only to start screaming again with a renewed urgency. With the extra strain put onto the bow sprit the positioning line snap causing the one end of the bowsprit to drop into the water. The G2 was deployed again and the extra sheet from the windward bow was tighten up to take the load of the bowsprit sheet. Zack was exhausted. The real was quite. Great was the disappointment when we saw a turned rod and real with roughly 100m line still left on the real.
We still had to fix the bowsprit. It was an operation to bring her up again and fasten a new safety line. First Zack was lying on his stomach halfway over the yacht with me sitting on his ankles so that he don’t fall overboard. The tighten windward sheet of the G2 was shaving through on the bow chair and as the bowsprit sheets where already released to picked up the end of the bowsprit from the water we had to made a plan with the shaving. We ended up using the bait board with the one hand and helping with the other hand to get the bowsprit back up. My knees were trembling and I forced myself to stay calm. Eventually the bowsprit was tied again. We retrieved to the saloon exhausted. It took a while for us to recover our wits. Zack made a dry comment “that marlin sorted us out”. He took out the other lure to prevent another exhausted exercise and decided no fishing till the G2 can be sorted out.
After a few hours I got myself going again with my Sushi book and made California rolls inside out. Used the last of our cucumber. Fresh vegetables and fruit are now very low.
6th December Thursday
A rough night of raining and with every cloud squalls coming through. Have to be constant at the helm to be ready to change course with the wind change. We were doing good time but hard work of sailing.
The first time I used my washing machine. 15 min quick wash that only took 30 l of water and against 800 W. I am not going to do any hand washing any more. I have a wonder machine.
7th December Friday
A lazy morning. Today I put our duvet away. It was something I was looking forward to and now it was!!!! Summer! During the evenings it was hot enough and we don’t wear jackets any more. Zack was only dressing in swimming clothes every day. The water temperature is 27 degrees.
After lunch the wind has dropped down a little bid. We decided to take down the G2 and change to tack with the screecher and main. The G2 sock was turned at the head of the sail making it vary difficult to pull the sock over the sail. We struggled from 14h00 and only managed to set sail with the screecher at 19h00.
We have to fix the G2 before we could use her again.
8th December Saturday
It is now more than 12 days on the water from we left St Helena. We are getting closer to the most Eastern Island under Brazilian jurisdiction. It was late in the afternoon and we decided to take the main down to slow down, as we do not want to approach the Island in the dark.
I was sleeping for about the whole day. Start with antibiotics after consulting the medical guide. Middle ear infection. Hope it is going to clear soon.
The wind direction has changed from East to North East to North. We expect the NE for most of our remaining trip.
9th December Sunday
With the break of day the island Ihas Martin Vaz was visible in a distance. It consists of a group of four islands forming the outermost features of a series of seamounts and islands extending 620 miles East of the Brazilian mainland.
Ihas Martin Vaz islets are volcanic in origin, generally steep and rocky, with shoals and isolated submerged rocks surrounding them. The four islets are Ilha do Norte (flat rock), Ilha Martin Vaz ( big islet which is rocky and steep ricing to an irregular plateau of sparse tussock grass), Inholta Angula ( flat circular rock, 60 m in height with sharp pinnacle) and Ilha do Sol ( rocky pinnacle).
Our navigational maps warned us that the Southern part of the Island was still uncharted and the accuracy of the maps was not good. We decided to stay close to the Northern edge.
From Ilhas Martin Vaz the next island Ilha de Trinidade was visible (26 nm).
The water depth varied from 1000m to 29 m and back to thousands of meters in vary short distances. There was a lot of fish activity on the sounder. The capability of the sounder to read more than 1500m came in handy. The bottom profile was fascinating with near vertical profiles and stocks of activity.
Before we knew it we where over the submerged pinnacle at 29m and the water depth drastically increased to 60m again.
Zack start to jig and with the first time going down caught a yellow fin tuna. He used the tuna for live bait. Turned the boat around and slow troll back to the pinnacle. At the crawling speed the 400g jig produced the goods almost every time. Tuna, kingfish, bottom fish and bitten of. Re-load and kingfish, bottom fish, something that smokes the Torsa with its 80lb braid. It just kept on coming. It became a question of how much fruit can Zack eat? He is in fish paradise! First the hunger for a decent fish, then the hunger for specie count, then just the thrill and then just still the thrill… All the time he is fighting exhaustion, as jigging is the gym of fishing. I can only conclude I have a very fit husband with a massive appetite for fishing. The fish even started to follow the jig to the surface and as we where passing the pinnacle one could see the bottom on 30m of water. The rate of retrieval has drastically reduced but the fish were still attacking the jig with a vengeance.
As the appetite was fading with the jig and the intervals became longer with more refreshments paradise turned into fishing heaven as the big 80lb Tiagra started to pick up speed. Zack increased the drag gradually and wait for the circle hook to set. The fight was on! 15min later a monster fish surfaced behind the boat. The biggest barracuda I have ever seen. Zack managed to gaffe the fish in the mouth and after some nice shots and pausing he revived the fish and released it to rein over the reef for another day as the apex predator.
Martin Vas: The best fishing grounds encountered till date. May there be many more like this.
The desert topped the appetite and our captain exhausted declared this is enough for one day. We set sail for Ilha de Trinidade. The waves were from the front and we were sailing close reach. Very bumpy ride and a struggle to keep everything on the table with lunch. The one after the other squall pas through and visibility was limited to a few hundred meters from time to time.
Within 50 m water depth contour around Ilha de Trinidade is prohibited except for Brazilian naval vessels. On the NE coast of the island there is a military garrison. The naval vessel was lying on anchor in front of the Island. We tried several times to make contact without success.
When we were about 3 nm from the base the rain cleared up and we could see the Navy ship clearly on anchor. As we got closer the radio got active. It was a long attempted conversation without saying much but repeating ourselves and then spelling it out. Zack even had to spell his surname three times before they acknowledge. Fortunately a third voice appeared and acted as a translator. By this time we have passed the Navy ship and where heading for the Northern point of the island.
We do not know what impact our sudden appearance has made to there navy but as we where approaching the Northern tip of the island the Navy ship lifted its anchor followed us for a few hundred meters and then turned back. We where relieved the translator cleared any possible misunderstanding or confusion. We think we have given them quite an exercise for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
We started the last stretch of our voyage over the Atlantic Ocean. From we have left Cape Town we have already done 3723 nm and we have about 830 nm to Rio de Janeiro. We are already on 80% of the mileage to be done. The last 20% lie ahead of us.