It took us 32 days to reach the Caribbean from Salvador, covering 2 200 nautical miles (almost 4 000km)! Along the way we stopped in Cabedelo and at Ilha dos Lencois, which was perhaps the highlight of our voyage thus far. The latter is a remote island a stone through off the north coast of Brazil, with unspoilt natural beauty and a small local fishing population that is untainted by tourism… the kind of place that we were hoping to ‘discover’ on our voyage.
Salvador to Cabedelo
The leg north from Salvador was rather uncomfortable, mostly beating into the wind and having plenty of rain. We’ve found that the first three days of a passage are most difficult as we are super cautious to try and prevent my seasickness (which means that Pete is graciously on full galley duty) and it takes us both some time adjust to the motion of the boat and the broken sleeping pattern.
We covered the 604 nm in six days, pacing the boat so our arrival at Cabedelo, at the mouth of the Paraiba River, was in daylight and coincided with rising tide and inflowing current.
Following the channel markers down the wide river, with a view of the skyscraper buildings of Joao Pessoa in the distance, we anchored in front of Jacara Village Marina at 07:15. After a difficult passage it was a rather strange feeling to have sudden peace and calm, without motion or sound.
The six days that we spent at Jacara Village, on the outskirts of Cabedelo, were quite pleasant. Every evening, at sunset, we watched the passing parade of big pleasure boats with their festive Brazilian music and joyful, dancing partymakers. We have come to realise that the Brazilians love loud music!
There were four other South African boats in the anchorage and we invited them all over for a sundowner party on Moondust one evening. Since they were all on monohulls, they marvelled at the space.
We stocked up the larder, completed the inevitable maintenance jobs and said goodbye to our new found friends, hoping to meet up again.
Cabedelo to Ilha dos Lencois
With the help of a nice breeze and the ebb tide current we were soon at sea and turned north. The winds averaged in the high teens for the first few days and we quickly rounded the bulge of Brazil, then headed north west, picking up a favourable current at last. Around Fortaleza the wind peaked at around 20 knots, with short steep seas, but we were fine with shortened sail. All in all it was a pleasant voyage, with little rain, and most importantly, I didn’t get seasick.
Pete had read about a very interesting island, Ilha dos Lencois, just north of Sao Luis, and it didn’t take much persuasion to stop by. Well, it wasn’t quite as easy as that, as we were cruising nearly 200km offshore and, beginning two days prior, had to carefully plan our speed and hence our arrival in Lencois Bay in daylight, two hours before high tide, to make sure that we wouldn’t get stuck on one of the sandbanks that surround the island.
This amazing island warrants a blog post on its own, so suffice to say for now that our four day stop at Lencois was perhaps the most special of our trip thus far, for reasons of natural beauty and unspoilt people. The only downside was the tiny black fly which left us covered in itchy bites for days afterwards.
Heading further north for Tobago
We would have loved to stay longer at Lencois but I didn’t want to risk losing my sea legs. After our six day stop at Cabedelo I was 95% okay and thankfully after out stop at Lencois I was 100% once at sea. It seems that five day stops may be my limit, if the seas aren’t too boisterous on sailing again.
For the first four days after we left Ilha dos Lencois we had a gentle breeze of 5 to 10 knots and sometimes a current, both from behind, to push us along nicely. Then the wind dropped almost completely, however, thanks to the strong Equatorial current we still made headway towards French Guiana and thoroughly enjoyed our peaceful passage on the violet blue ocean, with plenty of flying fish gracefully skimming the waves around us.
After we passed the mouth of the Amazon River, about 250km offshore, we encountered patches of floating sea weed which played havoc with the fishing line. This stayed with us all the way to Tobago, where tons of it had washed up on the Atlantic side of the island. We later learned that it is Sargassum, a sea weed which provides food, refuge and a breeding ground for fish, sea turtles, birds and other sea creatures.
On one of the calm days a pod of dolphins joined us for about half an hour, swimming along at our bow and entertaining us with some high jumps.
We lost two lures and a shark snapped off the body of one fish, leaving us only the head. We did, however, manage to catch a Spanish Mackerel and a beautiful Dorado, the latter with one of Pete’s homemade lures.
Off the coast of Suriname most of the fishing boats we came across were quite curious and came up close to wave us a friendly and welcoming ahoy. From their reactions they don’t see too many sailing boats out here.
Sadly, a few days before we reached Tobago, we lost our favourite sail, the colourful genneker which is great for light wind sailing. One night, just as I lay my head on the pillow, I could hear something was wrong and after Pete switched on the deck light I could see colourful pieces flapping wildly in the wind. She split from top to bottom in only a 12 knots squall, albeit from the beam, which may have stressed a weak point and started the tear. We had to bring her down and hoist the main sail and genoa in the dark. When I encountered a gust of 20 knots later on my night watch, I was relieved that it wasn’t up anymore.
For the rest of our passage to Tobago we had good wind and the strong current which got us there quickly. In fact, on the last day we had to reduce sail to ensure that we arrived early the next morning rather than that night.
On 12 July, after rounding the rugged, picturesque north end of the island we dropped anchor in Pirate’s Bay. Finally we were in the fabled Caribbean!