FTTH – Uruguay, Argentina and Atlantic X 2

FTTH – Uruguay, Argentina and Atlantic X 2

As I continue the ongoing saga of Nine of Cups’ From There to Here, I feel like Charles Dickens serializing Great Expectations in the local newspaper each week. Uruguay proved to be a wonderful place for us. We enjoyed the people, the town and the laid-back ambiance of the whole country. Their motto seems to be “Tranquilo” … and tranquil it was.

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St. Helena to French Guiana - Days 24 - 26

shiptrak 102
shiptrak 102

Day 24

Miles to go: 315

Another sleepless night...this time because the autopilot was acting up. It was working just fine, the wind picked up and the off-course alarm beeped ...the A/P couldn't correct. I tried to adjust manually, but too little, too late and we jibed, nearly knocking David out of his bunk. I jibed us back on course. David appeared sleepily at the ladder, wondering what was happening. I explained. He listened patiently, tsked-tsked me and as he spoke it happened again. The rudder couldn't recover quickly enough and once again we jibed. Too much wind for the unreefed main. We took a reef, but the same problem persisted. We switched to the back-up A/P and resumed our course. Then the GPS crapped out.

David was too wide awake to sleep now, and though we have several GPSs aboard, he opted to troubleshoot and fix this one. Corroded connector...replaced...working fine now. As to the A/P...he switched back to our usual Raymarine and it worked just fine. Hmmm. We rearranged our watches. I stayed up longer, so he could catch another hour or so of zzz's. He was up an hour later...couldn't sleep. No further problems with the A/P... a mystery to solve...or not.

A word about magnetic vs true headings. The Raymarine A/P is set to magnetic course headings and agrees with the compass. The Navman A/P is set to true and agrees with the chart plotter and the paper charts. At the moment, because of magnetic variation, they differ by as much as 40 degrees. Way out of the ordinary! Is this an area of magnetic disturbance, weird local anomalies or perhaps  alien interference? We've seen this phenomenon before, but always near land. Later in the day, this variation was just a few degrees as usual.

By late afternoon, it is tropical hot and humid. We sweat with the least amount of exertion. There is no wind to speak of...no movement in the air. The wind gen is idle. We have arrived in the doldrums. A favorable current, however, continues to help us move along, albeit slowly. For those of you who like to sail fast...today ain't your kind of day.  I am beginning to complain about the heat. Cover your ears!

A morning high ... 7 flying fish for a passage total of 26.

Day 25

Miles to go: 198 nm to St. Laurent du Maroni; 88 nm to Iles Salut

A pleasant night, but the moon is waning already. The favorable westerly setting current is  pushing us along nicely despite the lack of wind. The days are hot and humid and the sun intense. The evenings cool off nicely though and we sit in the cockpit on night watch in t-shirts and bare feet in total comfort...the stars and moon for entertainment.

Paul from Wisconsin wants to know what we "chat about for hours". Well, lots of things. We talk about writing (we both have articles due and are in the middle of books) and, of course, the daily blogs and possible topics. Sometimes we reminisce...all that we've seen, and then all that we haven't. We talk about getting older and family and personal finances or maybe what we'll do when we arrive in the next port (travel? chores?). The task vs travel negotiations usually take awhile. We talk about what's for dinner.

We list the options and criteria for the perfect place to settle down, if we ever do. (It won't be Wisconsin.) Lately, we've dedicated hours to discussing cruising options after the Carib. The one thing about long passages...it's an unhurried conversation. We can sip a cuppa, start and stop and ponder and come up with all sorts of alternatives at our leisure. No stress; no "gotta make a decision immediately".  For those of you who know David and me personally (like Paul, for instance) or who read our blogs daily and have a fix on our dissimilar personalities, you might think I do all the talking because the captain's such a quiet guy. I assure you, he definitely does his share. That's why we're sailing in the first place!

And speaking of sailing, we're taking a tiny detour and stopping at Iles Salut and the infamous Devil's Island since they're on the route to St. Laurent du Maroni. We probably wouldn't backtrack (110 nm), so if we want to see them, now is the time. A chance to rest up for a day or two, maybe do a little bit of exploring on these notorious islands...and walk, walk, walk.

One tiny guy in the scuppers this morning...total 27 flying fish this passage.

Day 26

ETA: Iles du Salut late tonight

We motored a good portion of yesterday and through the night, but we're bucking a current again which has made even the motoring slow. There is no wind to be found now and there is none in the forecast. The sun rises fiery orange and soon becomes a searing globe of white hot brilliance. It burns and glares all through the day, reflecting so brightly off the mill pond smooth sea that just a quick look is blinding, leaving an after image of black spots. A gentle southerly swell is the only movement of the water and it's so subtle, it hardly causes a ripple. Even our wake is quickly gobbled up, leaving no trace of our transit.

The shadow of the daytime moon is barely visible. The sky is a washed-out blue, bleached by an unrelenting tropical sun. The humidity is palpable, a hazy veil that hangs heavily on the day. Man, it's hot!

The sea has changed color. Instead of a crisp, steel blue, it's become a muted grey green. The ocean depths have become more shallow...now hundreds of feet, not thousands. According to the chart plotter, we've entered France's territorial waters.

Even with the ports and hatches open and the fans going, it's like an oven down below, but the sun is so intense in the cockpit, it's intolerable to sit there for long. Short exposures and we're sizzling like ants under a magnifying glass. It's important to stay covered, when all we really want to do is shed more and more clothing. We sit and sweat and wish for the short-lived mean between the extremes of last month's cold and today's heat. Then the sun sets in a red blaze of color and the blessed cool of night slowly descends.

I dragged a sleeping mat up to the cockpit, but the benches are too narrow for comfortable sleep. After an hour, I was lame and sore and retreated down below, all clammy and sweaty despite a shower less than an hour ago. No sleeping tonight.

We took down the whisker pole today. It has done its duty, even in its handicapped state. It can be stowed now for awhile. We're almost to the end of this passage, and despite the heat, we're glad to be here. We should be anchored off Ile St. Joseph in Les Iles du Salut sometime late tonight.

Wait for it ... wait for it ... Arrival in Iles du Salut

St. Helena to French Guiana - Days 21 - 23

shiptrak 101
shiptrak 101

Day 21

Miles to go: 676

A full moon in a mackerel night sky...a change in the weather coming? The weather forecast shows more of the same for the next five days and the barometer remains steady. We'll wait and see what comes. The effect of the rippled, fish-scale clouds with the bright moon behind them was stunning. The moonlight was so bright, I took photos for sharing later.

Not having walked for three weeks is hard on our bodies. We do some exercising, but we're mostly sedentary, especially since we haven't even had to adjust the sails in days. Making the morning rounds on deck or climbing the ladder into the cockpit is not quite like walking for several miles a day which we tend to do when we're in port. It'll be good to stretch our legs. This has been such a benign passage so far (thank you, Neptune), we've gained weight instead of losing it. Bah!

By the way, our first foray ashore after a long passage is always a bit comical. We sway and stagger like a drunk until our bodies figure out we don't have to compensate for the roll of the boat any longer. No videos allowed.

We got an email reminder from NOAA today. Time to renew our EPIRB registration. It's easy to forget, but easy enough to do on-line (when you have Internet) and important to handle. I keep important renewal dates like this on a calendar, so they don't get overlooked. This sounds like a good  blog topic for sometime in the near future.

Day 22

Miles to go: 580

Two ships passed us during the night and we saw several more during the day. One came within 1.5 miles of us, and having the AIS display his course and CPA was reassuring. Some ships are probably heading for Belem or other Brazilian Amazonian ports and others are heading back across the Atlantic. It's odd to see so much ship traffic after weeks without seeing any at all.

We had a visitor during the night. A brown noddy hitchhiked a ride on the solar panels for several hours, spanning our watches. He'd do a couple fly-bys, lite for awhile and then fly off, returning in 10-15 minutes. He practiced the same routine over and over again, but was gone when I  took over at 0600. He must have found a better alternative.

Speaking of taking over at 0600, it was dark this morning when I started my watch...a sure sign that it's time to change the clocks one hour ahead again. We gained an hour this morning and we're now on Cayenne, French Guiana time, -3 hours GMT.

As I sat on watch in the early morning hours and contemplated the endless motion of waves and swell, that old factoid about 70% of the Earth's surface being covered by water came to mind. We've been sailing in pretty much a straight line, non-stop, 24x7,  for nearly a month and we haven't run out of ocean. In the Southern Ocean, a boat could sail endlessly to the east or the west and never hit land. So glad we live on a boat... and really glad South America is right up ahead.

We've picked up an adverse current that's slowed us down a bit. It's running between 1-2 knots. Hard to tell exactly since the speed transducer isn't providing through-the-water speed. We've checked the pilot charts and no countercurrents are noted. In fact, we should be seeing a favorable current. Instead, we're sailing along as smoothly as we have been and only doing mid-3s. Maddeningly slow progress.

Several ships, one hitchhiker, a time change, a countercurrent, and no flying fish. Quite the day!

Day 23

Miles to go: 440

A dog of a night! We've lost the ever-present southwest swell of the South Atlantic, but last night we picked up a confused wave pattern combining gentle, long period southerly swells that alternated with vicious, short-period, steep waves that hit us square on the beam and had us rolling gunwale to gunwale.  One moment, we'd be rocking gently and the next, the boat would jerk and lurch violently. The pattern repeated itself every 10 minutes or so throughout the night, making it lumpy, bumpy and quite uncomfortable for on-watch and sleeping crew alike.

PLUS we're heading southwest, not northwest! We managed to lose 18 miles of our northerly progress through the night between wind shifts and a southerly push. Luckily, we're doing it slowly because not only has the wind calmed to 8-10 knots, but it's changed direction to the east. We're blaming everything on the mighty Amazon River, more than 300 miles south of us, just because it's there. In actuality, it's all  because I had the audacity to say we were doing so well and Neptune heard. Note to self: Keep these thoughts to yourself...you know better.

Our hitchhiker was back last night...at least we think it was the same guy. He took over the solar panels as if he owned them, got settled in, pooped, and hung out for several hours. David said he took off just before dawn...leaving a voluminous quantity of poop behind to be cleaned up by the early morning crew. Yuck!

When David woke at 0900, we re-rigged the whisker pole to starboard and jibed. Now we're too high on our northerly course, but that's how it goes. Another jibe in our future. As David pointed out, at least we'll get to sleep on the other bunk/tack and relieve some of the lameness caused by a starboard heel for the past week.

One itsy-bitsy flying fish...still counts -19 total

Almost there ... stick with us ... Days 24-26