Island Packet 370 critique
Island Packet 370 critiqueReport Abuse
Here we are, on the right side of the pond and likewise the equator, having rolled into Baia de San Antonio, Ilha de Fernando de Noronha just before dark on the 27th of October. Not too shabby even if the last couple of legs took a bit longer than expected, as my target date for arrival in Brazil was always the 1st of November, so I guess we made it with a few days to spare, days that will be spent having some R&R on this very attractive island....but that's for the next report.
Meanwhile here's the conclusion of the Cape Verde saga (sorry, you're not getting rid of me quite yet); - "Darkest Africa " took on a whole new meaning on arrival at Ilha de Santiago. Making landfall in the wee hours of a moon-less night, we discovered that not a single light-house was working, including the main Southern approaches ditto of Punta do Lobo. Mind you, the British Admiralty chart covering the archipelago carried a cautionary note to the effect that "There have been reports of light-house service at times being unreliable"....well, if any employee of the Admiralty reads this, I am in a position to confirm the fact and would suggest that the text be altered to "Light-houses don't bloody work. Period".
Nor do radios; - Having managed to avoid using the horrid contraptions (I think most of you are aware of my aversion to yakking on the air; - I go to sea for peace & quiet, not to talk to people, something that can be done in port if necessary. The Mavericks never had any radios, not even a VHF) since departure from Holland , I decided to make an exception here in an attempt to establish a rapport with local authorities (oh so important in prickly newly independent countries) and called Harbour Control on channel 16 on the VHF to request their communications-channel. Not once, but four times......Not receiving a reply we simply proceeded into the harbour and selected a suitable anchorage.
Later in the morning, while going through the clearing-in ritual I was in the Harbour Master's office (or maritime police, as it was called here) and upon completion of formalities, the officer I dealt with told me proudly that they were operating 24 hours and to call them at any time should we encounter a problem with robbers or other marauders while at the anchorage. I enquired how, in the unlikely event their assistance would be required. "Oh, just call on channel 16" said he. I then told him of my unsuccessful attempt to do precisely that earlier in the morning, and he walked over to the antique-looking office-VHF to test it. "Ah, it's not working, he laughed happily. I wonder how long it's been out".
I guess you get the picture. To refer to Cape Verde 's public sector as dysfunctional, as I took the liberty of doing in the last report, is an understatement. Then again, the folks sitting off their time in such offices are very nice and helpful, such as the immigration officer who leant me 40 escudos to make photo-copies of our passports as required, when I did not yet have any local currency.
Speaking of the inhabitants of these islands, and of putting new meanings to old expressions, Tunako the "boat-nigger" (having myself been a member of this noble profession, I have never hitherto encountered a black colleague, and have only a vague notion of the origin of the term) was the real McCoy. We were fortunate to encounter him cleaning the bottom of one of only two resident "yachts" not far from which we had anchored, and he soon came over in his dilapidated old inflatable which required pumping every ten minutes to keep it afloat, to offer his services. He turned out to be invaluable, enabling us to get all repairs and acquisitions done in three days as opposed to probably a week had we been left to our own devices in finding things in this sprawling disorganized port. Thanks to him we were also able to both go ashore, as I decided to trust him - a trust, incidentally, that was not misplaced - leaving him to look after the boat, a duty he took very seriously. A symbiotic relationship of the best kind was thus established; - Thanks to Tunako who was at our beck and call 24 hours we did not even have to launch our own dinghy, and the stay at Porto da Praia became both efficient and pleasant. He on the other hand probably made more money in three days than he will for the rest of the year.
I will miss our spirited conversations, he in Creole mixed with Portuguese and I in French mixed with Spanish, in fact I will miss him, period; - He had obviously spent his life around boats and seemed to know instinctively what we wanted or needed. A price-less man.
As for Cape Verde in general the contrast was stark; - Majestic colonial Portuguese architecture, government buildings and private mansions alike, surrounded by manicured lawns, bordered by African shanty-town un-finished, un-painted, windowless concrete blocks surrounded by trash. The private sector seems to thrive, with the (only) supermarket being very well-stocked, the bank new and modern, complete with a functioning cash-machine, making escudo-withdrawals via Visa a breeze. The hotel where I stayed - admittedly the best on the islands - was on par with any first-class ditto anywhere in the world and the taxis were the newest and cleanest I've seen in Africa . Alas, the public sector is a laugh and I'm constantly amazed at idealists in the West who still think that there is a "solution" for Africa , if we only send more foreign aid.
On the point of the security issue, upon which I left off the last report, I was assured on departure by the chief-of-police that violent crime is still rare (although he happily admitted that property-dittos were a scourge) and my impressions tend to concur with that assessment. All the same we "snuck" quietly out of port, attracting a minimum of attention and without "company" of any of the fishing boats that had continuously "cased" us while at anchor.
Now, some of you may have received the impression that I've written off Cape Verde , but such is not the case; - The islands represent one of the last unspoiled cruising grounds in the world, and the pros do indeed outweigh the cons. Given the opportunity, I wouldn't mind spending several months cruising the archipelago, with just one major change. I would make absolutely positively sure I had a weapon onboard.
One last note on Cape Verde ; - Unbeknownst to us we ended up in the capitol city (I had always assumed that Porto Grande on Sao Vicente was it). We were just looking for a port not too far out of our way in order to obtain bunkers, and Porto da Praia looked like a likely spot on the chart, and it was not until the second day we realized that we were in the capital ( London and Paris have nothing to worry about, though). This turned out to be a bonus, as there was a Brazilian embassy, enabling me to extend my already expired visa. Better have some fun in Brazil , as by now I have some $500 "invested" in this visa......
As for the passage across the pond it was rather event-less, but at the same time cause for momentous changes of plans. I had hoped to report that conditions were typically equatorial with little and erratic winds, lots of rain-squalls etc. etc. and such was generally the case, but......
The first 30 hours out of Porto da Praia were fine, with good Northeasterlies enabling us to rapidly put some 150 miles in between ourselves and the islands, but then we hit the doldrums which had decided to move North on this occasion. Flat calm interspersed with fierce squalls, and when on the fourth day out we finally encountered a steady wind, it was from the SW!; - Having poured over pilot-charts onboard the Amanda as well as some Hank managed to bring with him, we had established that the chances of encountering SW-lies in a normal month of October in this area were nil, but this was no "normal" month of October, obviously. In fact, my research indicates that it has not blown out of that direction here since the Portuguese discovered Brazil ....or they wouldn't have, since with the clumsy square-riggers at their disposal they would never have made it against the wind....which brings up the motive for the changes of plans previously referred to.
Every boat-design is a trade-off of qualities, and the Bly is blessed with many, but this was the first opportunity we had to test her windward abilities and she turned out to be a "dog", I'm afraid. I'm not knocking your ex-boat Maikel (in fact, I've grown rather fond of her), but must confess that I was always a bit concerned over the excessive beam-to-length ratio. Of course, one never expects a heavy-displacement, full-keeled boat to be a marvel at pointing into the wind, but the exceptional beam of the Island Packet 370 - the very same that makes her such a sturdy sea-boat, and give her the most spacious accommodation of any boat her size - makes the design almost useless for on-the-wind sailing. In the conditions at the time (light to moderate sea and swell with about 15 knots of wind) she could not muster a tacking-angle better than 140 degrees (Maverick would have handled a 90-100 ditto, and Maverick II easily 70, in similar conditions), and when I looked at Hank I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was; - If this was the best she could do here, with the conditions we are likely to encounter at the Horn this angle would easily increase to 160, and factoring in drift as well as adverse ocean currents we would arrive at a theoretical 180 degrees, meaning that we could spend an eternity tacking between Antarctica and Tierra del Fuego in persistent W-lies without making an inch of progress. With heavy hearts - but foolhardy we are not - we decided that the Bly is not the right boat to attempt a rounding of the Horn from the wrong direction, although ideal for a passage from the right one, i.e. from the Pacific to the Atlantic. As such, we've agreed to abandon the plan for both Falkland Islands and the Horn this time around and pass through the Straits of Magellan instead, postponing the supposed highlight of the trip until next summer when a 6-7 week venture from Valdivia around the Horn and back up through the Straits of Magellan again would be something to look forward to. If Hank can't make it down again for some reason, it is my intention to attempt to persuade a certain Detroit Dave to sign on as Chief Engineer in his place (yep, there's your "public" challenge, Dave).....speaking of the gentleman in question, here's also a public "thank you" for the 20-real note you slipped me prior to my departure from the fundo with instructions to use it for our first beers in Brazil. Your instructions have been successfully carried out, Sah!.....and I shall reciprocate in Valdivia .
Lest you get the impression that I am dissatisfied with the Bly, I emphatically state that I am not; - She is in many (most, in fact) ways the perfect cruising boat, but certain changes will have to be made to make her a serious one, ripping all the electronic junk out of her being a first priority. To all you young gimmick-age turks who were smiling knowingly at the Old Fogey's insistence on bringing a sextant, reduction tables and a nautical almanac, well, you can stop snickering now, 'cuz if I hadn't we would not have had any means of navigating following a "beep, beep, bye..." from the GSP about a day South of Cape Verde, rendering the entire new-fangled integrated chart-plotting system useless (excepting the auto-pilot and the radar). There is a back-up handheld GSP onboard, but my faith in electronics has now sunk to an all-time low, so I will save that - literally - for a rainy day (when no astronomical observations are possible).
Other than that, the passage to Brazil was indeed event-less, and all is exceedingly well, but rather than keeping on rambling in words, I will attempt to upload some self-explanatory pictures to the voyage-album this afternoon.
Next stop (we're leaving here the morning of the 31st) Salvador de Bahia, then Rio (de Janeiro) as Hank has never been there, then probably Bahia Blanca in Argentina, before the Straits and Punta Arenas......any other suggestions, anyone? Andrew might have some pointers on Southern Brazil (gotta maximize the use of my expensive visa)...?