lauantai 24. joulukuuta 2011

December 23rd 2011

Suffering From Flu and Fish

It was a narrow escape from Natal as Pekka went down with flu the very next day we arrived in Jacare. We first thought it was some kind of allergy since he had suffered from flu just a few months ago in Trinidad but, unfortunately, it turned out to be the real thing. He has now made almost a full recovery and we look forward to continuing our journey towards Baia de Todos os Santos right after the holidays.

Since we arrived in Jacare, a couple of locals have got into the habit of coming to our boat for breakfast every single morning. They arrive around 5 a.m. waking us up and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. We don't know very much about them but this is not merely due to a language barrier, as they are fish. They stay for about an hour each time eating the seaweed or what ever there is growing below our waterline. We wouldn't mind this at all except for one thing; they are absolutely the worst behaving and noisiest breakfast guests we have ever had, splashing about and banging on the hull in their feeding frenzy! Because the river water is very murky, we have not yet managed to see them properly but many a time we have gone up on deck during the early hours of the morning in an attempt to get rid of these uninvited pests but, so far, in vain. The noise made by the fish resulted in that, in order to get enough sleep, yesterday we abandoned our newly renovated fore cabin and moved into the saloon (Riitta) and the side cabin (Pekka) where we have fans that effectively fade any noise coming from outside. But this separation also gave us new willpower to fight back and today, we scraped the bottom of the boat as best we could and are now looking forward to a Peaceful Christmas. And we wish you all the same!

tiistai 20. joulukuuta 2011

December 15th 2011


07° 02,149' S, 34° 51,423 W

The day before we finally left Natal, just after lunch, we heard a bang vibrating through the hull and, as we rushed up on deck, found a distressed looking Italian skipper standing on the swimming platform of his own boat and leaning heavily against Sarema thus trying to keep the two boats from colliding with one another (his was a brand new Swan!). The fact that his anchor was down and his dinghy on the other side of our bow did not make matters any easier. As a newcomer, he obviously was not aware of the strong tidal current's habit of turning one boat this way and the other one that way. While both men were pushing the boats apart, I brought the dinghy to the right side of the bow, after which the Italian was able to weigh anchor and move further away from us.

This reminded me of a similar incident that happened in Newport several years ago. At that time, we were the culprits as we had been dragging our anchor, and consequently caused some damage to the other boat. The boat had no crew on board, and it took us two days to locate the owners, with the help of US coastguard. We still keep in contact with them occasionally. So, Antonietta and Marco, if you happen to read this, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Later in the evening when the tidal current changed its direction, it turned out that the Italian was still a bit too close to us although not quite within collision distance. The following morning while weighing anchor, we could clearly see how relieved he was to see us go. And we shared his sentiments but, of course, for entirely different reasons. Our stay in Natal had been compulsory, and not a very enjoyable one, and we were more than happy that it was now over!

We left on the 14th early in the morning during high tide slack. As we were nearing the mouth of the river Potengi, which is quite narrow, the seas were getting higher and higher and soon we were motoring against ocean rollers so strong that we could hardly make any progress at all. While competing against the waves with conspicuous reefs on either side, we understood why every commercial vessel, big or small, entering or leaving the port of Natal were being escorted by two tugboats. We experienced a few anxious moments and as the boat's engine has not been exactly reliable lately, our stress level remained relatively high until we were well past the reefs.

When we reached the far end of the breakwater, the seas flattened considerably and from thereon, sailing was most enjoyable. The winds were from east/south-east with moderate seas and clear skies. We followed the shoreline at 15 to 20 metre depth with the coast visible all the time. Throughout the night, on the horizon, we could see fires glowing as huge areas were being burnt (deforestation?!). Above us, we had the moon, the billion stars of the Milky Way, and at least a dozen shooting stars intermittently flashing across the night sky. As always, every time we saw a shooting star, we made a wish. Even if only some of the wishes we made during the night will eventually come true, we are going to be one prosperous family!

Because we had decided to take it easy, we did not continue any further but, early next morning, entered the river Paralba, sailed for about five miles up the river, and are now anchored in front of a small fishing village named Jacare. We will stay here for a few days in order to get the generator support welded and to buy a few more impellers, pump sealing rings, and bearings. But we will also take our time to tour the two nearby towns, Cabedelo and Joao Pessoa, which are within easy reach by train, a one-way ticket only 50 centavos (= 20 euro cents!).

keskiviikko 7. joulukuuta 2011

December 7th 2011

Another Prolonged Stopover

We are still in Natal where we have been mending both our good boat Sarema and her hard-working captain. Pekka's blood pressure has sky-rocketed, clearly due to his constant worry about the boat and our schedule, and it should be stabilized before we can continue our journey to the south. But we have spent this compulsory interval most industriously. The boat's exterior has been de-rusted and patch-painted, and her cork flooring has been partly renewed, so that she now looks immaculate both inside and out. And all the pumps are working to absolute perfection!

So far, we have visited two Brazilian cities, Fortaleza and Natal, and have found both of them surprisingly skyscrapery. It is perhaps their age and history that misled us to think that they would reflect more the elegance of a bygone era.

The tour of the town here in Natal revealed the two opposite sides of Brazilian living which seem to be a million miles apart; ultramodern and dilapidated buildings standing side by side, the super-rich living in their magnificent homes protected against their desperately poor neighbours by high walls, electric fences, and armed guards.

Our taxi driver's favourite subject is crime. He keeps us informed which areas are safe and which are not, where and when the latest victim of crime was killed and why. Quite often the reason is simply that the deceased had a nice watch and a mobile phone that somebody else wanted. The driver also claims that the police are all corrupt and every other taxi driver is a criminal. This is probably true at least partly as the Yacht Club, for example, only uses two taxis that they know to be reliable. This practice was introduced after one of their members was robbed by the taxi driver who picked him up from the Club.

We are now perusing the three cruising guides we have on the South American east coast to find lone anchorages as far away from human habitation as possible. As we have always found the tropics not only uncomfortable but, at times, almost intolerable because of the scorching sun, we'll start heading south as soon as possible (doctor permitting) to the more gentle latitudes and hopefully more natural surroundings.

sunnuntai 27. marraskuuta 2011

November 25th 2011


05° 45,778' S, 35° 12,288' W

New Decisions

We arrived in Natal on the 23rd and are now anchored near the club house of Iate Clube do Natal on the river Potengi. The distance between Fortaleza and Natal is more or less 230 nautical miles which should have taken us no more than two days to complete. Instead, we spent almost six days sailing against 35 knot winds and oncoming seas tacking, tacking, tacking... and leaving behind a total of 461 nautical miles. It's actually quite fascinating how distances seem to stretch when you are sailing along the north coast of Brazil in the totally wrong direction.

Anyway, the reason why we are in Natal is that on our third night at sea, the water pump stopped working. And the reason for this was that the impeller Pekka had installed just before Fortaleza had broken to pieces after only about five days of use (Johnson of Sweden!). Because we by now had run out of extra impellers, Pekka had to replace the whole pump with an old one that we had kept as a spare (thank god!). As we didn't seem to have enough spare parts to go around anymore, we decided to stop at Natal in order to go spare part shopping, which seems to be the only way for us to see Brazil. So, the following day, we took a taxi and went impeller hunting. We first drove around from one chandlery to another trying to find an impeller of the right size but no avail. We then continued our search in small workshops that line one of the narrow streets in the old city centre and, after about four hours, we stroke gold. When we returned to the boat and tried to move to a better anchorage closer to the shore, after five days of continuous operation at sea, our good old Perkins refused to start. It appeared that the fuel system was blocked. Pekka used the rest of the day trying to figure out what the problem was and finally, after replacing the fuel injection pump with an old spare pump, managed to get the engine running again. We sincerely hope that this was the last of our pump problems for the time being as we now have run out of spares. The blockage was most probably caused by the sludge in the fuel that had managed to get inside the pump through three filters and two water separators and jammed it (how usual is that!). I am not going to bore you with any more details but the truth is that we really have had more that our fair share of both the more usual and the highly improbable technical failures during the past few months.

Because of the difficulties, or should I say in this case thanks to them, we have now come to realize that, firstly, our original schedule was far too tight and, secondly, somewhere along the line, we seem to have lost the feeling of adventure and contentment which are two of the most important prerequisites for a full and happy life at sea (or anywhere for that matter). After thoroughly contemplating our current situation, we decided to change our plans. Instead of rushing along as we have done till now, we'll slow down and start exploring the countless anchorages along the coasts of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. But, our goal has not changed, we are still on our way to Alaska, just less hurriedly!

keskiviikko 16. marraskuuta 2011

November 16th 2011

How Time Flies!

Since our arrival in Brazil, almost two weeks have passed and we are still in Fortaleza. Except for a mere two days, one of which we spent checking in and the other sightseeing, the rest has gone into emptying, cleaning, drying and refilling our tanks. Emptying fuel tanks shouldn't be such a big deal but you would be amazed! And it was not just the fuel tanks that we had to empty and clean but the whole fuel system including fuel lines, hoses, filters, valves etc. There was an astonishing amount of sludge and slime in the system which was scraped off with the help of Eugenio, a local fisherman who was small enough to squeeze through the narrow passage between the engine and the tank. To ensure that nothing of this sort would ever happen again, before refilling, we first poured fuel microbiocide into the tanks to kill all the bacteria and fungi that might still be lurking therein (and we call ourselves environmentalists!!).

Since there is no fuel dock at the marina, we arranged another local to bring 600 litres of diesel in barrels to the marina driveway. This he did with his tiny VW beach buggy that was almost crushed under the weight of the fuel. And as I write this, the barrels are being emptied into our tanks by means of gravity.

Despite the double breakwater, inside the marina, there is a continuous swell or actually a surge that is constantly pushing and pulling our good boat Sarema. The violently swinging pontoons even managed to cut two of our seven lines and dent the boat's swimming platform. So, now that everything seems to be intact and functioning once again, we are more than happy to leave Fortaleza tomorrow and continue our journey towards Rio de Janeiro.

lauantai 5. marraskuuta 2011

November 4th 2011

Finally in Brazil!

“Only three more days to Fortaleza!” exclaimed Pekka as he was looking at the electronic chart. That was exactly seven days ago! But eventually, we reached Fortaleza, and are now tied to the floating dock of the Marina Park Hotel. We arrived here yesterday morning and in the afternoon, fell into a 'coma' from pure exhaustion and slept for 14 hours uninterrupted (Latte included!).

We'll probably have to stay here for at least a week in order to empty and clean the fuel tanks, to sew the torn foresail, to get the lower stay fixed, to find out why there is water in the bilge, etc. etc. etc. But, it already seems evident that we are going to continue our voyage, however trying, towards Alaska!
It took us 27 days to sail from Trinidad's Chaguaramas to Fortaleza during which time we made a total of 2,583 nautical miles although the distance between the two amounts to no more than c. 1,600 nmiles as the crow flies.

Postscriptum: Tauno the Lizard perished during our voyage, and was given a burial at sea in accordance with the old Maritime Tradition. The fly called Tauno's Dinner, on the other hand, was last seen just before the insect invasion during which he disappeared into the maddening crowd and has by now, hopefully, migrated to South America.

October 29th 2011

Engine and Other Problems

For the past six days, it has been blowing 20 to 35 knots day and night straight on the nose (so much for the bribing of the gods!). And for the past five days, Pekka has spent most of his time in the engine room, day and night. It all started with dirty filters. Because of the continuous banging against the waves, the sludge at the bottom of the fuel tanks had become loose and started blocking one filter after another. Having changed seven filters, Pekka decided to install a so-called day tank of 40 litres where we pour clean fuel from the jerry cans (in which we only have 140 litres compared to the about 600 litres in the proper fuel tanks!). As we didn't realize that the gauge on the day tank couldn't be trusted, the tank managed to run out of fuel unnoticed and the engine sucked in air and had to be bled. When everything seemed to be OK and Pekka restarted the engine, the sea water pump refused to co-operate because, as it turned out, the impeller had no blades anymore. Then the V-belt started slipping and when that problem had been fixed (but only for the time being), it became evident that at least one of the four injectors was broken. After the engine problems, it seemed as if the disease was spreading all over the boat: malfunctioning communications, water in the bilge, torn foresail, broken lower stay etc. etc. etc.

The still ongoing leg has been so exhausting both weather- and equipment-wise that, for the first time during our travels, Pekka has started talking about lack of motivation, and I don't blame him at all. As he is the Captain, the choice will be his (I'm more into gardening anyway). But, we haven't turned around yet!

perjantai 28. lokakuuta 2011

October 26th 2011

Bribing The Gods

Have I, by any chance, given you the impression that we dislike the ongoing leg? If so, the impression is absolutely correct! Actually, the sailing per se has not been so bad and, occasionally, we have made very good progress indeed, but mostly in a wrong direction. It seems to be so easy to go anywhere but east!

At the moment, what we are lacking is a sense of rhythm, or routine if you prefer that term. For us, rhythm means stability at sea, i.e. a daily routine that holds everything together and will not break even during squalls or minor storms, and this applies to any long-term crossing (excluding the Northwest Passage). But here, everything is continuously unstable and, therefore, extremely tiring. It is as if we were in a race with strategies for making use of or battling the ocean, tidal, and counter currents, pre-planning how far we should go, and at which point we should turn back to avoid the current or find a current (just too many currents!). But, of course, it is nature herself that we are trying to compete. So, what can one do?

Last night at 3.50 am, we finally crossed the Equator. Because of the awkward timing, the celebrations were postponed till morning when we opened a bottle of sparkling wine. As usual, we also gave our offerings to AHTI and ILMARINEN, the ancient Finnish Gods of the Seas and the Winds, respectively. Now, we are just waiting for them to change the course of the ocean current and the direction of the wind. How difficult could that be!

maanantai 24. lokakuuta 2011

October 23rd 2011

Fighting The Currents

01° 01, 618´ N, 048° 25, 192 W

Before we left Trinidad, we heard of a sailor who after having sailed from Trinidad to Brazil had said that he would never do it again. We agree with him completely, we will NEVER EVER want to sail this leg again! It is not just the headwind and the ocean current that we have to tackle but also the dozens of fishing boats and their several miles long drift nets, not to mention the tidal currents of the numerous rivers that run into the sea all along the coast. Yesterday, while passing the delta of the river Amazon, we didn't realize that we were too close to the river mouth until the strong tidal current started sucking us towards the river. And for a while it seemed that whichever way we tried to escape it, the current was going to win the battle. Here straightforward tacking proved futile, and we ended up leaving all kinds of curious looking tracks on the chart.

We have now been at sea for sixteen days during which time we have sailed a total of 1,489 nautical miles. But we have only proceeded 1,040 miles towards our destination. So, more or less 450 miles have gone to waste and, as far as we know, the worst part of the leg is yet to come!

torstai 20. lokakuuta 2011

October 20th 2011

Like A Nightmare!

Last night, off duty and fast asleep, I suddenly woke up to a cacophony created by Latte causing havoc in the saloon, and Pekka shouting and running around waving his hands like a windmill. I was wide awake in a fraction of a second and learned that just minutes ago we had sailed through a thick cloud of insects of which at least a hundred or so had decided to invade our boat. There were huge dragonflies with a wing span of no less than fifteen centimetres, beautiful butterflies and other big and small insects of various colours and shapes flapping around us, and Latte the Hunter running amok amongst them. We managed to get most of them out but at daybreak, when I went up, the deck looked like a battle field. Our sweet Latte, aka Jekyll and Hyde, had clearly had the time of her life. It was such a shame and a waste of beautiful creatures but there was absolutely nothing we could have done to save them.

At the time of the incident, we were sailing about 25 miles off the coast. Why they had been so far out at sea, remains a mystery. One possible explanation could be migration, but the huge heterogeneity within the group makes us wonder. But, of course, we know very little about insects.

October 19th 2011


Because we have been forced to use the engine much too much due to the counter current and lack of wind, on the 16th of October, we stopped at French Guyana to get fuel. We anchored at the bend of the River Mahury next to the Marina Degrad des Cannes just off Cayenne, the country's capital. There was no fuel dock at the Marina and the nearest petrol station was more than ten kilometres away. The fact that because we were in FRENCH Guyana everybody spoke nothing but French, presented another problem for us. But with the help of a lovely young Brazilian sailing couple, Andreia and Matheus, we managed to rent a car and then using the good old Jerry Can Method, got our tanks full. This morning, we set sail again and are currently motoring against two knot wind and one knot current towards Brazil.

October 15th 2011

Pearls On A String

Since we left Trinidad, the days have followed one another monotonously as pearls on a string. So far there has been only one day that has differed from the rest and that was when we celebrated our 41st Engagement Anniversary. I don't know if people normally celebrate the date of their engagement, we certainly have never done it before but, as the Trinis say, Any excuse will do! So, on the morning of the celebrations, I awoke to beautiful blue skies and a turquoise sea, and was soon sitting in the cockpit with a glass of chilled white wine in my hand. While waiting for the pancakes Pekka was making in the galley, I was reading Vonnegut's Timequake where a timequake zaps everybody in an instant from February 13th 2001 back to February 17th 1991. Then they have to get back to 2001, minute by minute, hour by hour, experiencing all the things all over again. And it suddenly occurred to me how nice it would be if the timequake zapped this particular day back to yesterday so that we could relive it. But, of course, that didn't happen, and the following day was again just another pearl on the string.

maanantai 10. lokakuuta 2011

October 10th 2011

On our fourth day at sea, we discovered that we have a stowaway on board. It is a grey lizard which we have named Tauno. Tauno is a good, old Finnish name but, for some unknown reason, with connotations of stupidity and foolishness as, in this case, coming aboard a vessel that is going to stay at sea for several weeks. Under the circumstances, all we can do is to wish Tauno the best of luck and hope that he'll make it.
We also have another uninvited guest on board, namely a small fly, and he too has a name. He is called 'Tauno's Dinner'!