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January 2002

Dear Friends:

"Hope you are having wonderful holidays and that your New Year will be full of fine memories.."

Our decision to sail on to Argentina for the southern hemisphere summer, committed us to spending a high proportion of our time at sea. It also meant sailing past several potentially enjoyable cruising destinations. I sure hope we have made the right decisions. So far since leaving the Chesapeake bay on June 24th, we have covered 6,800 miles and been at sea 65 days (up to November 25th.)

Once we left the Azores our stops were short, just time to top up our water tanks, buy fresh provisions, spend a day or two enjoying the local sites and having some grand meals on shore and twice, rebuilding our nylon drifter after it developed a l6 foot long split just above the foot (click on Cruising Tips on these web pages to learn what happened.)

Early morning at Docklands in Bermuda


The passage from the Azores to the Cape Verdes was fast, wet, a beam reach on easterly winds that at times rose to force 7 (30 knots). A cross sea from north and another from the south made life on board annoying at times. The proximity of the African coast meant dusty skies with visibility usually less than 8 miles. But the sun poked its nose out between clouds and any horizon better than 3 miles will give a good fix so we got enough sextant sights to lay into the Verdes.

The sheer desolation of these islands is hard to describe. The wind funnels over the treeless rugged peaks to reach gale force in the anchorage most of the day, though offshore the trades are only blowing at l5 or l8 knots. The air is dust filled and within a few hours of anchoring our rigging was covered in a layer of dust. Six days later when we set sail everything above deck had turned a reddish brown. On shore, Mindelo is a dusty, windswept third world outpost with limited supplies, but some of the most relaxed and friendly folks we have met. The locals, of mixed Portuguese and African descent, are quite handsome. The women carry themselves like Brazilian women, as if they are the most beautiful women on earth. I found the atmosphere enjoyable with everyone helpful and willing to try to figure out what I was saying as I murdered my bit of Portuguese. I don´t know how these folks managed to always look so clean and tidy in a town that was often full of blowing dust. Some previous sailing visitors had complained of theft and invasive boat boys. But the port captain has solved this problem. Now anyone who wants to offer services to yachtsmen (about 50 a year visit here, mostly flying French or German flags and bound for the Gambia) must be over l8 and registered with his office. For $1.00 a day Humberto, our selected assistant, carried our dinghy to and from the waters edge, waited for our return no matter what the hour, filled our water jugs, helped us locate stores, then a sewing machine to fix our sail and also saved us money by making sure we were not over charged by local venders. When I gave him some second hand clothes from a locker clean out, he wanted to waive his daily fee.

As we ran free of Bermuda, we had still not decided for sure to head to Argentina.


Only a few yachts were in port, but we had a special time with Susie and Frank, an American/German couple who cruised for two years on Manatee, a boat with a special pedigree. She was built by Nevins in l959 to a design by S and S, and at 46 feet with an alloy hull and magnificent teak interior is well worth a look. Now she is being used as a home and transport boat while Suise and Frank finish building a ten room bed and breakfast resort on a beach at Tarrafal, on the island of Sao Antao, just north of Mindelo. They introduced us to Nellas cafe where we spent two lovely evenings sitting on the tiny balcony overlooking the sleepy mainstreet, eating seafood prepared by a French chef and his Brazilian wife while being seranaded by a local 75 year old who played the violin wonderfully, backed by two young guitarists. He sang local ballads that reminded us of Portoguese fado, with an African beat.His singing was so grand, his presentation so charming we weren´t surprised when we learned he had toured for several years to places as far and wide as Brazil and the U.S. as a goodwill singing embassadore for this tiny emerging nation of islands.

Sailing onward to Brazil meant crossing the Intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) or doldrums. For five days we had fickle winds and constant rain squalls, confused seas with swells at times six feet high and no wind at all to steady the boat. Frustration and the hard work of trying to gain miles any way we could, lead to frayed tempers. Then when we did find the southeasterly trades, we had to lay close hauled for four days in 25 knots of wind to be sure to counteract the west going equatorial current and clear the offshore islands and bulge of South America. It was l7 days to cover the l600 miles to Maceio. But we have met other sailors who took l2 to 20 days just to work through the doldrums, including using engines at times.

It was here in the Azores that we met cruising folks that finally convinced us to head south to explore the Argentinian south. This is the seawall at Horta, with Pico in the background.


Maceio, chosen for its easy access and small townness (very little tourism) which made us feel it would be safer than Recife, turned out to be very pleasant. No cruising yachts there. Instead we were surrounded by small fishing boats, many of them using only sail, which meant we spent a lot of time each morning watching them glide free of the bay, or scull past us to throw fishing nets right next to us. Ashore we found beautiful beaches to rival any we saw in Rio, but here we felt completely safe and prices made it impossible to eat at home. Sushi dinner for two, $8.00, Fresh giant prawns, $l0 for a enough for the two of us to feel over-fed. The Brazilians know how to create romantic evenings. We lounged in one thatch roofed shore side cafe and watched the sun turn the sails of the returning Jangadaros (sailing work boats) gold as we sipped iced drinks. Then as our elegantly prepared dinner arrived at our table, a duo sang Brazilian love ballads, just loud enough to blend with the waves lapping the sand 50 feet from our chairs. To cap it all, a street puppeteer wandered by and had all of us at the restuarant, including waiters, laughing till tears ran from our eyes by making his two birdlike creations dance to the music, putting on an erotic/romantic pantomine that needed no translation at al
l.

At sea, Nylon drifter set and pulling wing and wing, before it decided to give us trouble.

Four days of very easy trade wind sailing brought us to the Abrolhas reefs, a conservation area where diving is supposed to be fabulous, but the weather deteriorated as a southerly front came through and the water was murkey, anchorage poor so we sailed on to Buzios, a beautiful but tiny beach resort once favored by Bridget Bardot. Buzios is about l50 miles from Rio, and will be our last stop in Brazil. Again, easy to take. No other cruising boats, just a few local yachts at anchor. A day after we sailed in to find once again, no cruising yachts, a handsome classic looking 30 foot steel boat came in to anchor nearby, French and Brittany flag flying proudly from the stern. In the morning a mother and daughter rowed over to say hello. Nichole and her l4 year old daughter had just sailed in directly from the Cape Verdes (24 days at sea.) It took only a few minutes to realize we had met Nichole 30 years ago in the Panama Canal Yacht club when she was on a circumnavigation on board Esquilo. She is still on the same boat (it looks almost like new) and this is Kims first voyage. Nichole feels like the luckiest mother alive as Kim loves voyaging and is a natural sailor. As they too are headed for Argentina we have lots of sharing to do and will hopefully meet up again.

A classic tropical squall, this one missed us completely. But squalls like this are one reason we always keep watch - checking on deck at least every 11 minutes. Some of these squalls have 40 or 50 knots of wind on their leading edge..

In two days we set off for the 1100 mile passage to Argentina. I´m getting out our long pants and sweatshirts. I will miss the warm nights at sea, but not the overheated days on shore we have had in the tropics.

Fair winds,
Lin and Larry Pardey










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