Greece to Brazil

I have just made it to Salvador, Brazil. As I think I mentioned in, my last email I am currently on a 65 foot Swan which I joined in Greece for this delivery trip to Brazil. Enroute I have managed to visit Athens, Sicily, and Rome, all pretty amazing places but especially Rome. The wealth the Roman Catholic Church has accumulated in the way of churches, architecture and artwork is quite frankly little short of obscene, still I guess you've got to put it in its historical context, ultimately just part of the medieval power structure. Still it was great seeing all these buildings, sculptures, paintings, etc, so much a part of our Western heritage.

We left Rome in early December and headed for the Canary Islands out in the Atlantic. This was some 1500 miles which we covered in nine days, good time but it included a lot of motoring which we weren't complaining about as the Med is known for some pretty awful weather at that time of year.

We left Canary Islands on Christmas Day, the crew being a bunch of bachelors (geographically for Danny and Bruno) Christmas didn't constitute much of a celebration, though I did buy everyone a mug as a present, basically because this luxury boat has all the glasses and refined crockery in the world but only one decent sized mug between us. Bloody ridiculous!

After the Canary Islands we went to another island group, the Cape Verde Islands, though there is very little that is green that we saw, rather they are memorable for being completely brown and covered in dust. The whole place is covered in a brown haze blown from the African continent. The two islands that we saw were very arid and not especially attractive, though I believe it hasn't always been thus. You know the usual story where 'civilized' man goes, cut down all the trees and introduce damned goats to make sure even the roots are gobbled up. But evolution is unstoppable, I have seen some very interesting thorny bushes which presumably are pretty much goat proof, not pretty to look at but obviously effective. There were a couple of spots of greenery, one was a canyon which was a real oasis, presumably it must have had a unique micro-climate because it was luscious; palm trees and small crop lands all through it. Also I caught a bus up into the hills one day and here it was a little greener. I visited this major township, pretty poor really, apparently much like a lot of Africa, not a place I am tempted to want to settle down in.

I puzzled for a while on how they made a living here, as while on the surface everything looked pretty poor and there was no obvious significant industry, primary or otherwise, and certainly no tourism, there were plenty of cars, and goods were relatively expensive. Subsequently I found out that over half the population lives elsewhere and sends a lot of money home. Also each of the islands is 'sponsored' by another state, mainly European, and consequently the island's major source of income is foreign aid. It really is impossible for me to imagine what it must be like to live the life of most of these people. So while there is little industry no one is poor and apparently education levels are amongst he highest in Africa. I assume for the foreseeable future the only export commodity the islands are going to have is people, unstoppable Malthusian images spring to mind as the developed world struggles to keep control over global migration patterns. An essay I read recently (pre-tsunami) suggests that the high death toll in natural disasters is but a symptom of human over-population.

The next stop, our last one, was Fernando de Noronha. This is quite a small island which does live off strictly controlled tourism, I suspect rather like Australia's Norfolk and Lord Howe Island but more with the feel of a Queensland backpacker's beach town - lots of tanned youthful bodies in swim wear and flip-flops driving around in beach buggies.

Which brings us to Salvador, a very interesting place so far. Everyone has told me how beautiful the Brazilian women are but I think I have been associating with sex starved sailors for too long. Like anywhere there is your normal range, some beautiful, some fat, some skinny, some plain (as I do not suffer from any misapprehension as to my own good looks ugly is not a word I use with respect to people) and everything in between. Still I did meet a very attractive young woman first night in, bit of a language problem but that's another story. Carnival is coming up which Brazil and much of South America is famous for. The lead up celebrations and preparations are well underway and if they are anything to go by this is set to be an absolute blast.

The crew on Tangaroa are all very nice. Danny, the skipper, I originally met back in Cape Town in South Africa, has been a good friend. There are two full time crew members, Alfredo and Bruno, they are both from Madagascar. Alfredo is the first mate, young and pretty loud, mostly pleasant but not always the most thoughtful of people. Bruno is the cook and is one of the nicest persons I have met, nearly always smiling, nothing seems to get him down. He has a wife and children back in Madagascar and has been away from them for the past 12 months, but he is on a relatively good wage compared with what he could most likely earn back home. The last crew member is Fabio who has now departed the boat on our arrival in Brazil. He is an Italian/American and is a friend of the owner of Tangaroa. He is going to help me with the delivery of a catamaran from Brazil to New York, he is quite a good sailor and a good cook so it should work out well.

What's next? I am hoping to stay on Tangaroa for a while, in mid March I have the catamaran delivery lined up from Aracaju just north of here to New York. So hopefully that will keep me busy until late April and will provide me with a much needed top up to the cruising kitty. I have a few options from there - the possibility of more delivery work, maybe tall ship work in the UK or maybe work back in Australia, or of course to keep on cruising, which I will undoubtedly continue at least in between other things.

In the meantime poor old Sylph sits forlornly on the hardstand in Trinidad awaiting my eventual return, hopefully she is not wasting away too much. I really had not planned on being away so long, it was only supposed to be a month and now it has been four months and assuming this delivery goes according to plan it will be another three months before I get back. Then I will really have to do some work on her, but that is all part of the plan (if my current lifestyle can be called anything so organized), as I really needed to earn some money so I could pay for the work plus a few improvements.

Anyway that pretty well brings me up to date.