Fernando de Noronha
Fernando de Noronha is a small island off the coast of Brazil, with a single anchorage that is described as being prone to swell. We arrived at night and anchored on the outskirts of the main anchorage to wait for morning. In the morning we found ourselves a sheltered place to anchor inside some big rocks that I thought should block the swell, but we got moved again by the port captain because the swell was predicted to be bad and would come straight over the rocks. He told us to anchor as far out to sea as we could, so we moved to the centre of the bay and anchored in 21 metres of water.
I was a bit nervous about starting the outboard on the tender because it has not been running well on Brazilian petrol and in Recife I had to flip an emergency fuel enrichment switch to get it to run at all. However it started OK, although running very rough, so we took it to shore, rented a buggy for a couple of days of exploring and then sat down to a nice restaurant-cooked meal. It was dark when we set off back to Anastasia, so we didn’t know how much the swell had built up in the meanwhile.
The route back to Anastasia took us past a fishing boat moored against the sea wall before heading out into the waves. The fishermen on the moored boat were shouting something, but I couldn’t tell whether it was encouragement or warning. Anyway everything seemed quite calm as we rounded the seawall and chugged out, painfully slowly, into the anchorage. The first wave was a piece of cake. The second wave, on the other hand, was the kind that surfers dream about. It didn’t look much to start with but it built as it approached us until the sky ahead was obscured by the crest of the wave. It was probably only about three meters tall when it hit us, but it had a steep wall going vertical at the top.
We just managed to break through the crest without flipping over backwards, but we had a big drop down the other side. Daniel was in the bows and he took the biggest fall, injuring his wrist as he came crashing down. The rest of us were shaken and bruised but not injured. I dread to think what would have happened had we been a couple of seconds later and met the wave as it became a pipeline.
In the morning the swell was such that the surfers were out in force along the beach lining the anchorage. Noronha has some world class surfers, with good reason. The swell was still bad at the entrance to the harbour, but you could get in OK by timing the waves. Corinne and the girls together with the crew of Mr Blues took the bus to the beach. Andrea and I took Daniel to the hospital to get his wrist x-rayed. The good news is that it is just badly sprained. Brazil has an excellent and, unexpectedly, free health service.
Since then we have enjoyed the island. It doesn’t have a lot of exciting history (mostly it has just been a hub for transatlantic phone cables) but it has turtles and dolphins and, most importantly, some beautiful bars on some beautiful beaches.
The anchorage is overlooked by Morro do Pico
Looking down at the anchorage from Forte dos Remedios. Anastasia is the furthest from the shore.
The bar on Praia de Conceicao