Wednesday, 15 June 2016

South Atlantic Stopover – Fernando De Noronha

Leaving Ascension Island we had a series of small problems (read it here), including an anchor windlass failure and small tear in the luff of the mainsail.

The anchor windlass was easily repaired at sea - carbon dust buildup inside the DC motor end cap was shorting the supply to ground.

However we really wanted a stable platform to setup the sewing machine and handle the mainsail on deck.

Looking ahead at our course across the South Atlantic, we decided to pause our voyage for a few days at Isla Fernando De Noronha, a small tropical island just 3 degrees south of the equator and only a small deviation away from our planned course.

The island, and the surrounding marine park, is part of Brazil and we had had heard it was beautiful, safe and welcoming.

Only a small proportion of the passing cruising sail boats stop here, as it is kind of expensive – port fees and compulsory national park fees add up to around A$130.00 per day, for just the two of us on Crystal Blues. This was balanced by the need to complete repair work on the main sail, plus the possibility of celebrating our birthdays in style…which is exactly what happened!

The passage from Ascension was just on 1100 nautical miles, which we covered in 8 days, arriving at the San Antonio Bay anchorage late afternoon. On approach the island has a lush, green tropical feel and tourist boats of all kind can be seen working out of the small harbor.

We often find dolphins escorting us into new anchorages, but this arrival provided a completely new experience for us – the attack of the Frigate Birds!

A flock of female frigate birds circled us for half an hour, soaring on the updraft from the genoa and attacking our masthead in turn.

Their target was the static charge dissipater (lightning protector) that we have installed there – a stainless steel brush that is grounded to the hull and mast, and works to minimise static charge in the vessel.

The birds were trying to pull the wire bristles out of the fitting whilst hovering, fortunately without success.

Each time the boat rolled to a swell they would lose contact and move off, then turn and make another pass – they were being very persistent. Our friends on the catamaran Ceilydh (blog here) had their masthead wind indicator systematically picked to pieces by a frigate bird some time back.

As we approached the anchorage the birds flew off to other adventures.  We furled sails and motored towards shore, where we anchored on sand in 8 meters of clear water, about 400 meters from the harbor entrance. Perfect.

Relaxing in the cockpit, we could hear the music coming off the shore and watched dive boats returning with day trippers to the beach.

At sundown we settled in for the night, catching up on sleep, looking forward to our Brazilian birthday experience…

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