Vagabund Log

Passage to Trinidad

Passage Ilha Fernando de Noronha (4deg S)

To Salvation Islands (French Guiana) (5deg N)

Passage to Trinidad & Tobago (10deg N)


24th July 2013 Wednesday to 29th July Monday

On the 24th July just before sunset we where sailing out of Baia de Santo Antonio in a North Westerly direction to the Caribbean!  With a moderate to fresh Easterly breeze we were able to fly the asymmetrical G2 in a following sea. We were spoiled by the trade winds with a steady 10 to 18 knots from the East in a relatively calm sea.


25th July 2013,Thursday

With some of the blogs of sailors that have done this trip before we knew we had to came closer to the main land to avoid the cross currents. Working the drop-off of the continental shelf we knew we had to encounter the river in the sea that was flowing NE. Pilotage charts indicated this as one of the most consistent currents in the world.

As we were sailing towards the Northern Brazilian coast the current changed direction from our starboard to our port. At 100 nm from the coastline the current become a little bit stronger. During the night hours a bird decided to get a free ride. Perhaps it was tired but kept us company for a few hours. 


26th July 2013 Friday

Our route was determined not only where the strongest current will be but also got side tracked to where the best seamount would be. Just after daybreak the water depth rapidly decreased from thousands of meters to less than 50 meters. We were over a seamount in the middle of nowhere. We brought down the G2 for easier handling of Vagabund with a serious fishing session. With the sails down and the engine running the fisherman was in charge and I was quickly promoted to the captains chair (a modified version of remote control). We had our work cut out to position Vagabund. With only one motor functional we had to position her to drift slowly in the direction of the fast flowing current over the drop off. A 15-knot wind complicated it further. After some trail and errors we managed to define the variables correctly and the fisherman could get to work. Each run of Jigging started at 50 m and ended at around 120m before the fish finder could not keep up as the bottom disappears into the blue yonder. Shortly after the second run we had fresh fish for lunch and a yellow fin tuna swimming as live bait, hoping for a nice size pelagic. The hopes were shattered when the Brazilian tax man (shark) came to collect his dues.  It was after twelve before the exhausted fisherman gave way to the captain again and we could set sail towards the Amazon.


Vagabund was in her element. The main wind engine (G2) was flying proudly as it dominates the skyline above the bow to almost 20 m above the water line. The asymmetrical spinnaker was shaped perfectly with its bowl shape scooping up every bid of air flowing from the stern. The following sea was playing along causing a gentle cradle movement. We were smiling watching the sea miles being piled up without been beaten up.

27th July 2013 Saturday

With only water surrounding us we had me, myself, cook, cleaner, wife and first mate, the captain, fisherman, husband and soul mate and of cause Vagabund our trusty sailboat all standing as one in front of God our guest of honor. After a few days your thoughts of loved ones becomes more vivid and colorful.  Memory pictures starts playing in full HD/Big Screen format.  You miss people and you feel lonely in the big yonder. The only other form of human life (apart from your sole mate) you encounter is the occasional cargo ship steaming past and then you wonder how big is: the number of crew, the language they speak and what is their next destination.

For the first time on our passage we downloaded the weather with our Iridium phone on the ipad. The weather gribb files is then imported into an iPad navigation program called InavX. The weather can then be viewed on top of your navigational map. This makes it much easier to decide where our next waypoint must be and how to set our sails for the next few hours. Thank you Manie for all your hard work to made this possible!!!!

28th July 2013 Sunday

I do not like cold water, even if we were literally at the equator. Without the port motor being functional the heat exchanger to generate hot water was also not functioning. I did not want to risk the change of running out of propane gas by boiling water, as the re-fill in Brazil was an issue.  The gas had to last till we are in Trinidad.

With my husband knowing how important hot water is for his sailing mate he came up with a genius solution. All the hosepipes were rolled out on deck. He had an additional two extensions for the odd long distance water supply connections. With all three hosepipes connected to our freshwater deck wash pump it took less than 15 minutes to heat up. Dropping the hose through the hatch in the heads I had hot water. Wonderful!!

Living offshore on board Vagabund for weeks enhance a woman appreciation for certain luxuries on board. 

- The first one is my washing machine. To be able to wash towels and sheets. Using a 15 min quick cycle that only uses about 70 liters of water and afterwards a spinning cycle of 15 min to dry the washing so that it dried outside in less than two hours. 

-The second one is my vacuum cleaner. To be able to vacuum clean all the floors so that the floors could only be wiped with a wet cloth and not to mention its capability of sucking up water from the odd places that cannot gravitate to the bilges.

-The third machine is our Little Wonder desalination machine. The 12 Volt Spectra can reduce the salt level in the seawater to be fit for human consumption. The desalinator produce 25liters of drinkable water per hour but it does not use much power therefore making it possible to run it on the solar power. Almost water for free. Once she gets going her constant humming in the background reminds you of some of the local folks singing back home as they are working.

-Needle working machine. Allowing me to do needle work mostly modifying some clothes and doing the odd sail repair.

We have now done 632 nm in 4 days with an average of 6,6 knots. We know we have to enjoy the wind before we "walk" into the doldrums. 

29th July 2013 Monday

The equator was crossed at half past five Monday morning. We celebrate by having Shabbat.  The year of jubilee: the season in which we currently enjoy our rest.


Highlighting Gods favor over us with the abundance of the overflowing beaker of wine, reminding us of the importance of a mother bringing our Savior into this world, thinking back how God provided for the Jews in the desert and then declaring Him as our Protector. We only serve one God: the Creator of heaven and earth.

What a privilege to move over into the northern hemisphere with joy in our hearts with knowing that the Master of the sea and winds is with us on our voyage.  Danie Botha was put on loudly over the music player as he sings the:

Master of the wind

My boat of life sails on a trouble sea

Ever there is a wind in my sails

But I have a Friend that watches over me 

When the breeze turns into a gale


I know the Master of the wind

I know the Maker of the rain

He can calm the storm

Make the sun shine again

I  know the Master of the wind


Sometimes I saw like an eagle in the sky

Among the peaks my soul can be found

But an unexpected storm may drive me from the hides

Bring me low but never brings me down


I know the Master of the wind

I know the Maker of the rain

He can calm the storm

Make the sun shine again

I know the Master of the wind

200 nm from the Amazon on the 100 m depth contour about 120 nm from the coast we pick up the stronger current.  The current was running over three knots.


30th July 2013 Tuesday

Late afternoon we were in about 70 m water depth. A couple of fishing boats were around, talking to each other on the VHF radio. We could see a school of fish jumping out of the water, being chased by bigger fish. We maneuvered Vagabund into position to intercept and our fisherman grab a light casting rod making the remark: “Nou gaan ons pret he!!!” He casted a small metal spoon over a big distance to reach the edge of the bait ball and as he started to wind the real he shouted: “Ek is vas”. The light rod was initially clearly outgone by something bigger fish. The high pitch noise on the real indicated that the fish now know he was hooked. Fortunately with the light braid lots of line could be stacked onto the small coffee grinder and with some battle a bonny was landed. Our fisherman had a big tuna smile on his face as the rods frequently came alive.


While fighting the bonnie the big rod came alive and as soon as the bonnie was landed the other rod was taken up. After a few good runs a 9,5 kg tuna was landed.  We could fill up the remaining freezer space with fresh vacuum-sealed tuna steaks. He was enjoying himself as he was catching and releasing them. Allowing me to catch and release a few as well.

We have done 172 nm for the 6th day with a 7,2 knots average. With all the fishing boats on the continental shelf we divert to the 200 m water depth for our night shifts.

31st July 2013 Wednesday

While having lunch we observed the Amazon water meeting the Guiana current 150 nm from shore. The one is a deep green color and the other one a deep blue. Slowly the two currents converge into one dark green color.


With the G2 flying in the light winds  (10-12 knots) and the current staying above 3 knots in our favor we still managed to cover good ground. For the 7th day we managed 183nm.  It took some getting used to a 7,6 knot average while Vagabund were only swaying gently about almost as if we were on anchor.

A warm breeze was blowing and we could feel the humidity and the temperature increasing with summer in the northern hemisphere. We appreciative the warm days and not facing the winter cold back at home.

Having enough water on board I could do two loads of washing. I love the fresh smell of the stasoft lingering in my nose, hanging the sheets and towels to dry in the wind and sun.

1st August 2013 Thursday

Overplaying our hands by sitting too long in the current on the drop off we had to pay a price to crawl back against the current to shallower water to meet up with the Salvation island group. The wind died down to less than 5 knots. We had to drop down the sail and start the motor.  With the strong current we were crab walking.

The water was now an olive green color. The ratchet of the reels sounded more like the reverse alarms of construction trucks. They were all over the place. The first tuna for the day, then three on three different reels simultaneously. Two released and the third one swimming as life bait. Now it were Dorado's finding the strip bait irresistible. We released both of them. 


It always gives me a thrill to watch a fish swim to freedom as it is set free. To see it disappear into the safety of the deep blue. I know I have overplayed my hand a few times when Zack ask me should we release it? I will respond with a yes, not giving much thought to our fresh fish demands. It had some primitive cruelty resemblance of the gladiator standing over his victim looking at Cesar to determine should the victim life or die. None would have died if I had the say.

Our Fisherman was enjoying all his different techniques of fishing, apart from the od wahoo that bytes of a nylon trace with the lure, seems to be working well.

Later that afternoon we crossed the border between Brazil and French Guinia. We were about 90 nm miles from the Salvation islands. Looking forward to explore a new destination. 

2nd August 2013 Friday

It is like following in Christopher Columbus (1498) footsteps that sailed along the coast of French Guiana to these islands. On the horizon we could see the humps of the islands slowly growing bigger.  Salvation Islands also called the Iles du Salut or Devil Islands consist of three islands that are closely spaced together.  We rounded the NE island of “Ilhe du Diablo” and approached the main island “Ile de Royale” from the North and dropped anchor in Baia des Cocotiers  a short distance from the big floating buoys of the trip boats from the main land.


Facts of Wikipedia

"This French colony of three small islands, a few miles of the coast of French Guiana, is well known as an ex penal colony, in the film "Papilon". Now it is a French heritage site. Ile Royale, the more Westerly of the three islands offers the best anchorage. Ilhe du Diable is to the North and Ilhe Saint Joseph to the South East. Strong currents flow between the islands. 


On these islands 70 000 convicts were imprisoned since 1887 and 1938.   It spanned over a period where human rights where still evolving and not much value was added to a criminals life. Executions were also conducted with a gelatin on the main island. Great controversy existed around the operation of this prison. The island was named Devil Island to further enhance the fear and controversy.


The dead were covered in cloth attached to rocks and then placed in a coffin.  With a little boat the coffin was tipped and emptied at a certain spot in the sea and the empty coffin was returned until next time. 


The cemetery on the island Ile Saint Joseph was exclusively for the deceased prison staff members or their families and their families.  All the death dates were around the 1830`s and 1850`s."


In the church you could read the names, twelve A4 pages full, of people who lost their lives on these islands as well as pictures illustrating the life of the convicts.

An article of Rene Belbenoit (Papilon) was on a board that escaped 5 times and succeeded the 5th time to escape Devils’ Island. His books Dry Guillotine and Hell on Trial are credited with getting the infamous French penal colony on Devils’ Island closed after disclosing what imprisonment was like on the Island. The film Papilon tells his story. 

We walked the steps of the convicts in the corridors. Touched the rusted hooks where they must have been chained. Stand behind the solid bars and experienced the longing for freedom. 


On the island there is no shops and apart from a little curious shop (that was closed) and a small restaurant at the hotel we could not fill up our stock levels. The main attraction was trip boats from the mainland dropping of tourist to spend a day on the island walking around or alternatively fishing. The hotel offered different options with quite a few old jail ruins to camp and sleep in or alternatively aircon rooms in the main hotel. The currency is Euro in French colonies.   We bought three bears, a bottle of water and two footlongs that add up to 22USD. Our bill could be paid in cash with USD dollars or per credit card. We preferred to pay cash. 

 Midday we went back to Vagabund for siesta. A welcome 3 hours stretched out in a sleep not remembering any dreams. Catching up on continuously sleeping for more than four hours. 

Before sunset we walked around Ile Saint Joseph and around Ilhe Royal. The seawater braking over the black granite rocks and the islands covert with palm trees.

Little rodent like creatures, with long legs like a little deer, was walking in the forest, looking for food. They are called agouties. Little four long leg monkeys with long tails were in the treetops.


3rd August 2013 Saturday

Early morning exercise was getting the dingy ready with the bigger outboard and load the fishing gear to go catch tarpon on the banks close to Ile Saint Joseph.


We trawled close to the Island shore on a shallow bank with a big swell a rod on each side jammed between our legs and the cooler box. The iPad was used as a plotter to indicate the edge of the bank. Some activity was visible on the surface and then with a shock every thing was in motion. The water exploded as the silver giant tail walked, the reel was screaming and the rod was jerking violently as the fish took line.  It is a spectacle to experience. Zack would open the throttle of the outboard to get us out of a possible braking wave into deeper water. Every time the fish broke the water I was in awe to experience the battle in such close proximity. In an hour and half we had five hooks ups and managed to land three fish to be released again.


I landed a tarpon as well. Our Fisherman could tick off Tarpon from his bucket list. What a thrill to catch one of the kings of predators. They were very aggressive and took almost any lure presented to them. I now have experience and appreciate fishermen flying in from all over the world to come and experience the Tarpon fishing of French Guinia.


To make sure we can motor through the doldrums, the diesel in the port tank had to be pumped over. An exercise that kept us busy for some time. After siesta it was time again to spend with the tarpons Of Saint Joseph Island. Zack hooked up to a monster tarpon it initially leaped a few times just to show of its massive body and to intimidate us. The grander was clever and rather dive deeper than leaping into the air. Our dingy was dragged all over the place with this big fish.  After twenty minutes Zack could only get the leader line occasionally on the reel just to see it taking off again. Having the leader line back on the reel Zack applied more pressure to try and lift the fish from the bottom. Something had to give way and this time it was not the fish. A roller swiffle disintegrated and just as suddenly as the fight started it was over. A knock out on tackle failure and a story of the big one that got away.

That night we sit on the front deck using an ipad to start learning the star constellations in the Northern atmosphere. The tail of the bear was the first one we could identify. So much more to learn. 

These island is very special. No mosquitos and night temperature comfortable hot. 

4th August 2013 Sunday

Before we set sail to Trinidad, we planned a last visit to catch some tarpons. Just to experience it again and freshen our fishing memories to last a long time on this experience. To feel the thrill of such a fish at the end of a reel with the spectacle of close by aeronautics is something to remember.


After our third tarpon for the morning with low fuel level we decided to return back to Vagabund  (trawling of cause), just as we rounded Saint Joseph the reel went of again. This time the fish did not jump. Zack made the comment this is a small one. After reeling the fish in we were surprised with a nice size King Macrell weighing in at 12 kg. Enough steaks to be vacuum packed and sealed so that for the rest of our trip, all fish could be released.


Another yacht was in the bay and upon approaching we saw a South African flag. The 44 foot St Francis looked familiar but the name Katlyn was unfamiliar. Only upon introduction was we informed that the boat was previously called Papagena. A yacht that was chartered by Tecroveer in 2009 in Lazarus in Mozambique. The new owners are now Dug and Val. We were invited on board for rooibos tee and coffee. Their daughter Kate practice her skills to be a  hostess for chartering and we enjoyed her outgoing character and some "lekker" home language discussions. It was a pity that we had to leave to fix our motor as we were tempted a few times to join them to sail up the river Rio Orinoco of the coast of Venezuela.


We departed much later than planned but with new friends and a lot of new information. While still traveling over the shallow water close to the islands we came across a turtle and some dolphins playing in front of the bow. With no wind and no current we motor for the first few hours.  Zack was not fishing knowing that a lure in the water will almost guarantee a strike. His body needed to recover and we had to make good progress before sunset. That night the sea state was uneven with thunderstorms and squalls. We managed to use the wind from the squalls to gain some ground. In the early morning we were back on the 200 m water depth still motoring searching for the current.


5th August 2013 Monday

With the sails down and the engine running our Captain could set out lures and adjust the boat speed accordingly. Before long the reel was screaming. A Sailfish doing his tail walk. It was our Captains turn to catch a sailfish on Vagabund. After a photo session this two meter billfish was released back in the water. Minutes later a Dorado found the same lure irresistible. 


6the August 2013 Tuesday

The wind picked up and we could deploy the G2. At midmorning the current change. Suddenly the current was not pushing us forward. It was now a current against us. The whole day was a struggle with the wind unstable in the doldrums. Late afternoon the wind died down and we motor again with the mainsail. The G2 up, then down, then up again. With the light wind of 8/10 knots from the port and then on the beam with constant changing wind speed and direction and the ocean a confused swell made it impossible to use the G2 in the light winds.

Reading again the blog of the RCC Pilotage Foundation we experience exactly the same problem: very light winds, confused seas. The counter current if you are further offshore on the direct route. The two tanks of 400litre of diesel are a comfort not to be stacked in the doldrums for days. It is not that one is impatient and need to going fast. It is to be in a situation to be able to use diesel rather than to see our expensive sails slatting and banging. We rather sail/motor till we arrive if necessary.

We changed course to be able to follow the 200 m depth contour. Dolphins come and inspect Vagabund. Playing in front of the bow for a while. 


7th August 2013 Wednesday

Our course change paid off. The current change to 0,6 knots in our favor. Our working engine (G2) was willing to do her part in the light winds and Vagabund was slowly gliding towards Trinidad.


On sailing the doldrums we have learned a lot about currents. On the map I plotted the current with our position every hour and could see how the current was changing with the contour depths and why it is better to hug the coast line and stay within 50 nm from the 100m water depth line than to sail a direct line of 300 degrees T towards Trinidad.  

8th August Thursday

It was a night of steady wind that changed more to the beam with occasional squalls coming through. Early morning excitement at 3h00 when a possible broadbill marlin finds the halfbeak interesting but a hook set was not formed. He come and investigates twice before he lost interest. 

It was overcast with squalls not far apart from each other. Our captain was instead of fishing catching squalls for the morning. The longest ride of a squall was about two hours. It was like being participated in a race. Changing of the G2 from port to starboard and back have to be done in a few minutes in pouring rain. At midday it start clearing up and the wind died. We were a lot closer to Trinidad using every possible source of wind to transport us.

9th August 2013 Friday

Trinidad profile slowly grew bigger on the horizon. Another 18 hours before docking in Chaguaramas customs dock. It is 36 degrees in the shade without a breeze of wind. I could remember this heat in Rio de Janeiro in December. You just want to exist without doing anything. Looking forward to feel ground under my feet again. To be able to buy fresh fruit and veggies. To be able to sleep for a whole night. So much to look forward to!!!!!

10th August 2013 Saturday

We have been slowly  riding the current around the Island to arrive in daylight at Trinidad.

At 8h00 we moored at Chaguaramas Custom dock. The end of our voyage before we are flying home.