Onwards from Ascension Island


Monday 27 February 2017

Adina left Ascension Island on 8th February sailing in company with the catamaran Dreamweaver. The winds were moderate, the sea state calm; it was the perfect weather for spinnakers so we hoisted our parasailor. Dreamweaver owned by French couple Vincent and Domie has dagger boards that can be lifted and is a catamaran made for fast downwind sailing. They too hoisted their spinnaker but fortunately ours is larger and we could just about keep up with them. A small photo shoot took place as we sailed alongside each other. Evening came, we both dropped our spinnakers and Dreamweaver literally took off under white sails! Adina is no slouch at sea and performs well but we could not match a multihull with dagger boards.

Our target was the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha, a sail of 1100 nautical miles. We are certainly clocking up the miles on our way from Cape Town to the Caribbean. The winds picked up, the seas picked up and we ticked along nicely. Curiously, the flying fish that had been sizeable before Ascension Island were now tiddly little things. And there were a lot of them. Every morning we would go around and count how many were on the deck. Our record haul for a morning was fifty-two! Not worth keeping but we have heard stories of people cooking them. Overnight sooty terns would descend and hitch a ride on Adina. They would sit there and squawk away when not happy with another tern trying to steal their spot. Bizarrely you could walk right up to them and touch them before they moved. We couldn’t work out if it was a night vision thing or they are just not threatened by humans.

We hadn’t originally planned a stop in Fernando de Noranho and we’ve always believed in the importance of flying a courtesy flag. A courtesy flag is the flag of the country you are visiting and you fly it off your starboard spreader as a sign of respect. So, without one on board, Susie duly set to finding what pieces of material she could use to make the Brazilian flag. It’s not the easiest of flags but all credit to Susie she made a fine Brazilian flag. The days and nights ticked by as we sailed nicely downwind and after seven days of sailing we arrived in Fernando de Noranho, majestically standing out of the sea.

We had heard stories that is was a rolly anchorage and an expensive island. Both of these would prove to be true but it was a beautiful island and rushed into our list of favourites, something we hadn’t expected so late in our voyage. The Port Captain, Marcos, wins our award for friendliest official we’ve met, there was nothing he couldn’t do, not just managing official paperwork but he became our tour operator too. His lack of English didn’t stop him, he simply used Google Translate. Luckily for us many Brazilians have Spanish as a second language so Susie could once again use her language skills to full effect. The fact that every day Marcos would insist on making Tom a coffee ensured a firm friendship. As for costs, it was a whopping US$75 a day for anchorage fees and US$25 per person per day for environmental fees. And if you wanted access to the best beaches, a ten-day pass cost US$75 per person. Fernando de Noronha is a national marine park and has a limit of 400 tourists per day. And another quick google informs you Brazilians consider it to have the best beaches, diving and surfing in all of Brazil.

We threw our hands in the air and decided to make the best of it; this trip (and blog) doesn’t have long to go now so why not? The island is lush and green and had a nice relaxed, chilled feeling to it. Brazilians drove around in beach buggies with surfboards in the back, people took leisurely lunches and enjoyed sundowners over breath-taking views. Swimming was enjoyed on the numerous beaches in what must be said was eye-popping swimming apparel for the ladies – one’s bottom must be displayed!

So, we dived in the deep end and hired a beach buggy that could take us on the unpaved roads to explore all the bays and beaches. What a hoot it was – a beach buggy is now definitely on Tom’s 2017 Christmas present list. “Tom, that looks like a deep puddle.” “Shall we find out?” “On no – really!” We explored numerous bays and visited the famed number one beach Baia Sancho and agreed it was stunning. Numbers are probably limited naturally by the fact that to get to it you climb down a steep ladder built into the cliff face.

Back at the anchorage it was rolly and getting more rolly by the day as the swell moved around to the north, coming more directly into the anchorage. You simply didn’t want to be on your boat during the day. We pushed our limit in staying but it was soon time to leave as the swell was increasing and dinghy rides were becoming more challenging as we took lifts with friends Tim and Magda in their dinghy. On our final trip we had to sit and time our exit as large breaking waves were coming into the harbour pleasing the surfers who were now surfing in the harbour. The same day a tourist boat had taken three waves and sunk on its way out, fortunately with only the captain on board who survived.

Fernando de Noronha was a welcome break; we felt refreshed, we had enjoyed it, it was our perfect type of holiday destination.  Ahead lie 2020 nautical miles of sailing to Grenada. We’ve decided we will not stop on the South American coast like some are planning to (although never say never) and will push on. Ahead we have the doldrums and the equator to cross. The equator offers up periods of no wind mixed with squalls, strong winds and thunderstorms. Once we are in the northern hemisphere we will hit the trade winds which are typically from the north-east so that means sailing with the wind forward of the beam for our route. The seas build too. The final leg of our circumnavigation is not going to be a walk-in-the-park. On the positive side, we were delighted to hear Susie’s parents are flying out to welcome us in to the Caribbean as we will hopefully cross our out-bound track to complete our circumnavigation.


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One response to “Onwards from Ascension Island

  1. Sue from Haku II says:

    What a wonderful interlude. Please pass on greetings to Dreamweaver. We met them (or another cat of the same name) in New Caledonia. And best wishes for your Equator crossing. 🙂