Storm-bound in Caravelas

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sat 6 Mar 2010 01:19

Date: 4 March 2010

Position: Caravelas 17:44.68S 039:15.40W


The perspicacious amongst you will have noticed that three days after we set off for a 200-mile passage south, our current position is actually north of the Abrolhos Islands. This, sadly, is not a mistake.


The forecast we had received before our departure indicated wind of no more than 8 knots for the entire 36-hour passage (so light as to be hardly sailable in Mina2) and, indeed, that turned out to be absolutely accurate for the first six hours. Not thereafter. The wind picked up from the nor’northwest. 20 knots. Perfect. Sails out. Engine off. Clipping along.


Then, three hours later and completely unexpectedly, the wind swung round from the south. Pretty much bang on the nose, and increasing in strength. Over the next few hours we found ourselves battling against stronger and stronger winds until we were in half a gale (34 – 38 knots apparent wind speed) and launching ourselves over four metre waves – bigger than I had seen since we had been in a 36-hour gale on our way up to the Lofoten Islands at the top of Norway in 2004. Mina2 and I were having great fun but it was becoming increasingly miserable for everyone else on board. Tacking down the coast in these conditions had increased the passage time considerably. Along this coast the safe havens are hundreds of miles apart. Fernando, who has been sailing in these waters for years, said that a cold front like this would last for two days or more. We had two options: battle on like this for another 36 hours or turn tale and have a much more comfortable sleigh ride with the wind behind us and seek shelter in Caravella 85 miles to the north. We would be there in about 12 hours. The choice was simple. (To put this into context for sailors back at home, it is like setting sail from the Hamble for the Scillies and, having got as far as Dartmouth, deciding to turn round in a gale and return to Hamble again).


On paper the approach to Caravelas, which is a small old town some four miles up a river with a very narrow entrance, looks quite tricky but in practice (and using the excellent Brazilian charts I had downloaded off the internet), it wasn’t a problem even though we were entering it in the dark at 0400. We were all relieved when we dropped the anchor just before dawn.


After a well-earned sleep we took Mina2 to the town quay to replenish her fully depleted fuel tanks, re-anchored, then took the dinghy ashore to explore the small town. Completely off the beaten track, it has real charm. Once relatively wealthy (from God knows what crop which has since failed or fallen out of global favour), the streets are full of charming little houses, many brightly painted. The main industry now seems to be fishing and there is a fleet of small fishing boats which chunter out of the river every evening and return in the early morning.


After the trauma of her first two offshore passages, Christine was now agreeing with her family that this was indeed the experience of a lifetime and a particularly ghastly experience at that. Desperate to get off the boat, she was investigating bus timetables to ferry her to our next destination. Meanwhile, the others had found a place with internet access and were scrutinising the weather forecasts. All agreed that the wind was to stay from the south, and quite strong, for at least three days. We would stay anchored in the safety of the river until the weather changed.


The following day the DS and our three friends caught a bus to a wonderful sandy and deserted beach and spent the day chilling out whilst I stayed on the boat to do various odd jobs and to catch up on the blog.


Friday, and we are planning to hire a taxi for the day (no hire cars here) to explore the surrounding area.