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!