Vagabund Log

Ihas Martin Vas to Rio de Janeiro

Ihas Martin Vas to Rio de Janeiro

10th December to 11th December

Zack was doing his daily check and found oil and water on one of the engine room floors. He traced it back to the sail drive. He checked the other sail drive as well - both the sail drives had water in the oil!

The only possible explanation is that because we sometimes leave the saildrives in neutral to reduce drag at lower boat speeds the props where rotating freely. This caused extra strain on the sail drive seals as the shaft was continuously turning. We might have picked up some pieces of netting around the props (some of the fishing lures had to be cleaned from small pieces of netting that got entangled with the lures)

We suspect that the seals where worn out or damaged. The only way of replacing the seals is by taking the boat out of the water. Not possible when you are still 400nm from land and even after making landfall you still have to find suitable facilities to get the 14 ton belly on solid ground. Finding spares is another problem that we will have to be overcome.

This meant that we could only use the engines for short periods of time as an emergency. Running the saildrives with water in the oil can cause permanent damage to the saildrives.

We had our route planned to pass close to every possible seamount to target the big game fish of the ocean. These remote seamounts offered some of the best fishing imaginable. Targeting +50kg fish you must be able to stop the boat by lowering the sails, start the motors and assist with the boat to fight the bigger fish.

Zack was forced to remove the bigger lures from the water after a huge Marlin came and investigated each lure. Fortunately when the fish did strike, the O12 did not set properly causing the 80W reel to wake up. We where waiting in anticipation to see what would happen next. We stood in awe as the fish only partially lifted its head out of the water. The bill was longer than anything we had seen before. As the fish started picking up speed the reel went quiet. We sighed with relief. This one we knew we would not have been able to control without motors.

11th December Tuesday

We had to find a suitable marina in Rio that can do the repair work. One phone call and Cobus was practicing his rusted Portuguese as he was turning the other side of the world on his head. Later the same day a string of text messages explained where to go and what to do.

The afternoon when traveling over a seamount Zack tried fishing under sail. We depowered the screecher by releasing the sheet and changed course to a close haul. We managed to bring boat speed down to 1.5 knots in a 15 knot wind. Zack was sail jigging at a depth of 60 m water and caught quite a lot of fish.


At the drop off he caught 2 tuna fish and in a little deeper water another marlin came and inspected the boat. Fortunately no lures were in the water. This supports Zack theory that the boat is attracting the bigger fish to come and investigate and only during there investigation does the fish find the lures at the back of the boat.


12th December Wednesday

A day of planning. We need to replace the oil with new oil in the sail drives. I did an experiment with the old oil. Take 250ml of old oil and 50 ml of seawater. Mix well to form an emulsion. Let the mixture stand overnight to separate the water and oil. Thursday morning the oil and water were separated. I could determine the amount of water in the sail drives by using this method.

13th December Thursday

We put the old oil back. Started the engine to mix and extracted the old oil. Now we can determine the amount of water in every sail drive by pouring the oil in glass bottles and allowing the oil and water to separate out. We left it for 24 hours. We also had a control test with some of the old oil and little bit if seawater. From the results we could conclude that there is water in the sail drives but very little. This was a relief as we could extend the time to take the boat out of the water by changing the saildrive oil more often.

Soli Deo Gloria

We were slightly more than 200nm from land and we started smelling the earthy aroma of the land.

The wind kept on picking up and was gusting more than 25 knots at times. The barometer was still dropping. At 21h00 we took the screecher down. Mainsail with 2 reefs and 100% headsail.

14th December Friday

The wind was now gusting 30knots. We modified the rigging to put a third reef into the mainsail. We managed to do it without turning Vagabund into the wind. This meant that we can take the mainsail down even when we where on a run.

The distance to Rio is so small but yet so far.  We where running South to clear the oilfields and the direction to Rio was rapidly changing from SW to West and was now changing to WNW. This meant to reach our destination we had to sail with the sea and wind on our beam.

The wind was now blowing on average over 30knots and gusting closer to 40 knots. It was a matter of less than an hour before sea mountains started passing underneath us. Our weatherman informed us that the wind will pick up with another force 2 by Saturday afternoon and the wave heights will double its current size. This condition will last for at least 48 hours. What a scary thought!

The waves will be too big to take on the beam. There is only one possibility and that is to stay on a run with the sea and overshoot our destination with quite some distance. And even then we have no experience of +40 knots seas in gale force conditions persisting over such a long period of time. The biggest issue will be to slow Vagabund down enough to not overtake the waves when she will start to surf these waves.

 We start with storm preparations. Clean the deck. Put everything away. Inside we secure all the items that can be thrown off the tables and off shelves. Make a big meal of pasta so that there is enough for two days without cooking.

I reminded myself that a fresh mind and body is essential but going to sleep while the adrenalin was pumping was difficult. I managed to sleep for two hours and then relieved Zack of his duty to also get some rest before conditions further deteriorate.

As Zack went to sleep I jumped on the satellite phone requesting prayer support from our support group.

Two hours later and the wind dropped back to around 25 knots. As a test we started both engines changed direction to Rio and made a short run. Surprisingly Vagabund did better than expected with the odd wave breaking over the beam and water rushing over the saloon deck with force. We returned back to our previous course as we still have 30nm to clear the oil fields.


We could see waves simultaneously going into two directions, almost perpendicular to each other. It was like watching two drops of water generating different direction waves. We were in awe.

We approached our turning point.  The wind was still blowing between 20 and 25 knots. It was pitch black outside and difficult to assess the sea state. Only the sound, the white foam of breaking crests and the tilting angle of Vagabund was some indication.

We turned with great anticipation. Vagabund responded well and it seemed as if the second set of waves where assisting us. With the wind on the beam we immediately picked up speed and the apparent wind was between 25 and 30 knots. Vagabund was swinging, sliding and moaning but ever so willingly bearing us through an untamed sea. Every once in a while you will see the white glare of a breaking wave, hear a breaking wave approaching, feel the boat tilting, then either splash or the wave passing underneath Vagabund.

With the wind on the beam Vagabund was racing through the waves. She reached speeds exceeding 10 knots. You could feel the pressure build up in her hull. We spilled wind from the sail to reduce the load on the sail and settled in at around 8 knots. The boat speed in the type of sea we had been something else we have never experienced before. We where racing towards Rio in a sea that was supposed to be impossible on the beam without any major waves smashing into our beam. It was a bumpy ride never the less and had some resemblance of driving back home on a gravel road with the texture of a “sinkplaat”.  Vagabund was groaning as the screecher was pulling her through the water. Like an ox with a wagon through mud. The sheets of the screecher was on the limit of stretching. We stood in awe of this road to Rio, perpendicular to the waves. 

In the morning hours we were about 60nm away from Rio in calmer waters and wind dropped to force two and we could start the motors towards Rio.

Soli Deo Gloria to the Master of the wind.


15th December Saturday: Arriving in Brazil

The water was calm and Zack tried some fishing. He caught a nice dorado (also called the chicken of the sea) and we could freeze some fillets. From about 20nm the mountains become visible.


We radio for permission to enter the harbour. We heard a reply in Portuguese and then silence. For more than an hour there was no reply on calling the port. If you cannot speak Portuguese, they do not speak with you over the radio. We picked up that the pilot speaks English and is on channel 12. She helps us to contact harbour control.


At 18h00 we were eventually anchored in front of Club de Regatta Guanabara. We could do customs the following day.


I salute all women that are crossings oceans; especially those that have kids on board as well. For me this crossing was so much more than I expected. Stretched me beyond my limits. I have learned to know myself better. I got a captain that I will cross any other ocean with. A husband that’s understands my fears and support me when I need it. It is comforting to be part of a crew: Zack, myself, Vagabund and the Master of the winds and the sea.

Special thanks to those at home supporting and praying for us.

16th December Sunday

With the dingy safely secured at the jetty of the club we set foot on land. Our first priority is to get Brazilian money (real). The first bank did not accept our credit cards but with the help of a friendly American we drew money at another bank. Armed with the book Brazilian Cruise we start our journey per taxi well aware by now of the language barrier.

At Immigration we got our “Passe de Entrada’. Now for customs. Another taxi to Armazem 13. We were greeted in a friendly manner and received a coke while the struggle begins with all the forms to be completed, photo copies to be made by the driver at another department and the originals to be signed by another official in the main building. Eventually we got our “Termo de Ressponsibidiade”. A third taxi drops us about five blocks from the Capitano dos Portos. First it was like a dead end because no one could speak or understand a little bit. At the end after a struggle we got our ”Declaracao de Entrada”.


The rest of the afternoon we spent in a shopping mall close by to get the feeling of what you could buy in Brazil. We miss the supermarket, it was already closed.


17th December Monday to 23rd  December Sunday

We translate exactly what we are going to say if we asked permission to cross over to Niteroi. (Capitanos dos Portos, Barco a vela Vagabund, permissao a atraves Baia de Guanabara a Niteroi) The only reply we got was: Si.


We saw the fast catamarans that were the quickest way of going to Rio from Niteroi. We moored at Club Naval. A beautiful friendly club welcoming visiting boats. They cater for basic repairs and have a swimming pool,  playground for kids, clinic, braai areas and two restaurants.


That evening we met with Susy that speaks English that can tell us where everything is, and where to get petrol, Taxi etc. She is a real ambassador and a great help to all visiting yachts. We also met Stan, an American living in Brazil. We were invited for a pre Christmas party at his house. We met his wife Sandra and his adorable daughter May.

The rest of the week was exploring Rio and Niteroi with there public transportation:

  • Fast catamaran ferrys
  • Busses that is roller-coaster rides
  • Taxis on every street corner

Wish we could have this form of public transport at home.


On Sunday we went with Susy to the last performance of the symphony orchestra in the theatre. What a beautiful building and a morning spend with music that do not need any translation.


We are looking forward and cannot wait for Michael and Cathri to spend two weeks with us here in Brazil……