perjantai 3. elokuuta 2012

July 28th 2012

Home Sweet Home!

The winds died sooner than we had expected, already in the wee hours of the 26th. We were drifting once again but with the difference that, this time, we had our tanks full (ha ha!!). Luckily, this lasted only for a few hours after which our speed increased from zero to close to three knots. After passing Cabo Sao Vicente, with the help of the afternoon breeze we managed to reach Lagos, and dropped anchor in the bay the same afternoon. Two days later, we were towed into the marina.

We were almost as lucky when crossing the Atlantic!
Surprisingly, despite all our troubles we are not yet tired of sailing, on the contrary. For next summer, we have great plans but first, we have to get our good boat Sarema back on her feet.

So, till next spring, we wish you all FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS!

perjantai 27. heinäkuuta 2012

July 26th 2012

Home From Horta, Slowly But Surely (stress on the word slowly!)

We spent five days in the lovely town of Horta waiting for the winds to return, which they never did. Despite our anticipation as we were already more than three weeks behind schedule, we enjoyed our stay enormously!

Although we had been to Faial before in 2003, we rented a car for a day and toured this beautiful island once again. It was as if we were driving along the paths of a lush garden as the roads were lined with luxuriant foliage, and the fields hedged with magnificent blue hydrangeas. The hydrangeas are perhaps the best known feature of the Azores, and have given Faial its nickname Ilha Azul i.e. Blue Island. The pant was originally introduced from China in the 18th century, and has since become naturalised. It is often thought that Horta was named after the plant's Latin name, hydrangea hortensia, although Horta actually owes its name to one of its early settlers, Joste van Huerter.

During our stay, we dined, wined and socialized at the legendary Peter Café Sport, elected the world's best bar for sailors in 2009. Ever since it was founded in 1918, Peter Café Sport has been a safe haven for sailors crossing the Atlantic. It's a bar, a restaurant, an information office, a weather forecaster, and sometimes even a charity organization, and therefore it has become a symbol of friendship for sailors from around the world. Besides, it has perhaps the cheapest G&T's of the whole Atlantic!

Since we had plenty of time to spare while waiting for the winds to pick up, we decided to leave our mark in Horta. Pekka volunteered to do the job which required a steady hand and artistic skills.

While Pekka was acting the artist, Latte and I went for a walk and, amongst the hundreds and hundreds of works of art that cover every available inch of the concrete quays and walls of the marina, we spotted several made by our sailing friends and acquaintances from different parts of the world.

As the weather forecast continued to promise nothing but flat seas and sunshine for the foreseeable future, we didn't have the patience to wait any longer. On the 17th of July, we said 'Adios' to Horta and embarked on our final leg of the season, this time equipped with enough fuel to take us all the way to Lagos, Portugal, if need be. Till the 22nd, the ocean surface was as smooth as silk, but it had its benefits too. Thanks to the calm seas and sunshine, dolphin watching and photographing was utterly enjoyable!

On the 23rd, as we neared the periphery of the high pressure area, we finally found the winds that had been avoiding us so far. To celebrate the occasion, we put Amalia Rodriquez on, and as we enjoyed the good music, the good winds and, as usual, the good food, we could see, in our mind's eye, the majestic cliffs of Cabo de Sao Vicente rise from behind the horizon. Henceforth, it was going to be plain sailing all the way to Portugal - or so we thought.

On the 24th, around noon, we heard a LOUD BANG!!!, and after a few seconds' confusion as to where the sound came from, we saw that once again the culprit was the forestay. This time it was the chain plate that had broken. The forestay with the Furlex was swinging loose, and all the 75 square metres of sail were flapping uncontrollably in the wind. During a single season, in addition to the numerous technical and other problems we have encountered, we have managed to rip our cruising chute, break the inner forestay, and now this! Although there was absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent any of these incidents, it doesn't make us feel any better. Now, as we only have about 200 nautical miles to Portugal, we most sincerely hope that this was the last mishap of this incredibly unlucky season!

Contrary to what we had hoped for, our run of bad luck continued! On the 25th,  while happily motor-sailing towards Portugal in moderate winds, when changing shift at 4 am we noticed that our speed was dropping, and was soon less than three knots. This time the source of the problem was the transmission, the same transmission that was repaired in Buenos Aires just three months ago. According to Pekka, we could now use the engine in reverse gear only, whereas going forward was impossible. As this information was a bit too much for me to cope with under the circumstances, I went straight to bed and told Pekka not to wake me until we were in Lagos! Pekka, persistent as he is, continued trying to solve the combined problem of no forestay and no transmission. When I woke up a few hours later, Pekka told that the transmission couldn't be fixed at sea but that he had managed to reinstall the forestay, and we were back in business. We are now making reasonably good progress, but what will happen when we reach the south coast of Portugal where the winds are expected to abate, and how we are going to get into the marina remains to be seen. So, stay tuned!

lauantai 14. heinäkuuta 2012

July 14th 2012

While drifting, a group of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins came for a visit but as we were not actually moving anywhere, they soon lost interest in us. Below is a photo that shows how flat calm the seas were in the windless Azores High.

Luckily, on our second day of drifting, contrary to all predictions the wind picked up a little, and with the help of the fuel we had saved for an emergency, which was of course there and then, we managed to reach Porto das Lajes in Flores. The following day, the wind brought four other boats from the Atlantic, among them the Norwegian boat with four extremely happy sailors on board.

In Lajes, we bought 140 litres of diesel in jerry cans which we dinghied to the boat, and the next day, continued our journey to Horta, Faial, which was our original destination.

keskiviikko 11. heinäkuuta 2012

July 6th 2012

40° 44,580' N, 37° 20,590' W

Today, at 7.30 pm, we had to turn off the engine to save fuel. We are now about 400 nautical miles to the north-west of Faial which is less than four days of sailing or motoring but as we have neither wind nor fuel, there is not much we can do to improve our situation. We are currently drifting in the middle of the Atlantic in a weak ocean current and the almost non-existent wind at the speed of one to two knots, and anxiously waiting for the wind to pick up.

July 4th 2012

Wrestling With The Azores High

When we left the Caribbean on the 16th of June, there were three major high pressure areas on the northern Atlantic, beginning from the coast of Florida and extending across the ocean all the way to the coast of Africa. So, it seemed that right from the start, we were doomed to fall victim to the infamous Azores High.

For the first week, the sailing was good but after that it was more or less motoring or, if we were lucky, motor-sailing. As our speed eventually began to drop, and our daily mileages were reduced accordingly from 130 to 98 to 73 to 62 to 57 nautical miles, it was two weeks to Horta, day after day after day after day.

For the whole of the second week, except for Sargasso weed, we had nothing: no birds, no fish, no wind, NADA!, and we were bored stiff. During our third week though, although the winds were still mostly absent, we caught a good size mahi-mahi, had numerous sightings of whales, and several groups of dolphins came to entertain us. One day, there was something swimming alongside our boat that I first thought was a small dolphin. But as it didn't surface at all, I soon realized it had to be a fish. After a while, this something made a drastic U-turn and jumped out of the water in pursuit of a flying fish, and I saw that it was a huge tuna! After catching the flying fish, it resumed its place along the side of our boat. Why it did this, I have no idea, but I found it extremely fascinating. The tuna remained there for the rest of the day, and I lost sight of it only after the sun was setting and there was no more enough light to penetrate the water.

For the past fortnight or so, we have also been mesmerized by two super-bright lights that rise from behind the north-eastern horizon at dawn when all the other lights in the sky are already fading. We think they are the planets Jupiter and Venus but of this, we are not absolutely certain.

Our current position is 39° 30,678' N, 40° 09,338' W, we have about four knots of headwind, and the barometer reading is 1033 mb, which means that we are practically in the centre of the high pressure area that has hindered our progress for the better part of our ongoing voyage. We still have about 540 nautical miles to go but as we are gradually running out of fuel, we'll need decent winds for at least two days in order to reach Horta. I must admit that I'm a bit concerned about our situation at the moment.

The other night, a Norwegian sailing boat contacted us by the VHF. They told us that they had about 20 litres of fuel left for emergency purposes and that they had been drifting for the past ten days with four people on board. We gave them the latest weather forecast which had nothing positive in store for them. I do hope they'll hail the next cargo ship and ask for fuel!

Since we've had ample time on our hands lately, we have taken up 'fender spotting and collecting'. The jewel of our collection is now a gigantic fender probably conveyed by the Golf Stream from the US coast. We've also been surveying the state of the ocean, and have come to the sad conclusion that most creatures of the sea have but two options, either to learn to eat and digest plastic, or to perish.

June 12th 2012

Le Marin, Martinique

What a fantastic leg from Salvador Bahia to Le Marin, Martinique! During our last week at sea, we broke our previous records of both mileage in 12 hours and mileage in 24 hours, which are now 102.1 nm and 203.8 nm respectively. That's pretty good considering the dimensions and weight of our good boat Sarema who is by no means a racer. When heading south, it took us exactly one month to sail from Trinidad to Fortaleza, Brazil, and now, thanks to the same winds and currents that made our lives downright miserable at the time, it took us only 19 days to sail all the way from Salvador to Martinique.

We left Buenos Aires on the 28th of April and arrived in Le Marin, Martinique, on the 11th of June. Of the 44 days, we spent 40 days at sea during which we made a total of 5036.4 nautical miles, 126 miles a day on average. 

It looks like we are back in favour not only with Ilmarinen, the ancient Finnish God of the Winds, but also with Ahti, the God of the Seas, as we finally managed to catch a fish. And this time it was a proper fish, both tasty and beautiful, although of a species unknown to us.

We'll stay in Le Marin for just a few days to refuel and reprovision and then, by tradition, stop at Petite Anse D'Arlets for a day of snorkelling before we leave the Caribbean waters behind. Next, we'll make our landfall in Horta, the Azores, where we should be at the beginning of July, provided we manage to avoid the Azores High.

maanantai 4. kesäkuuta 2012

June 2nd 2012

On the Way to Martinique

Gale force winds kept us in Itaparica for the next three days. On the 23rd of May, we weighed anchor in the pouring rain and sailed to Bahia Marina in Salvador. There we filled our tanks with both fuel and water, and then headed straight to the seas. Two days later, we finally found the trade winds and, as a bonus, a counter-current to the Brazilian Current tha tenhanced our speed by one to two knots. After rounding the north-eastern corner of Brazil, the strong Guyana Current came to our assistance, and we travelled between 135 and 155 miles per day. Sailing was enjoyable once again!

On the 1st of June at  5.58 am, we crossed the Equator and left both the southern hemisphere and winter behind us. Just a few hours later, it was as if someone had pushed a button as the winds suddenly died and we were left with only a gentle breeze and a light swell that rocked our boat. We had entered the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) or the doldrums as it is also called, an area in the ocean just north of the Equator where there are no winds to speak of. We have now been motoring for one and a half days and, according to the GRIB files, we still have two more days of motoring/motor-sailing ahead of us before we'll get to the trade winds again.

On crossing the Equator, Pekka also left his winter-look behind.

We have been fishing continuously but without much success. The other day, we again lost a lure, one of the few we still had left. The only fish we have managed to catch so far was a flying fish, but even that was clearly an accident as the hook had penetrated its eye. However, the size of the fish, circa 30 centimetres, made it a perfect lunch for two. This was the first time we have ever eaten flying fish as normally we return these charming ocean flyers back into the water whenever we find one flapping on the deck. This was also the last time we ate flying fish unless absolutely necessary as the crew's unanimous verdict was: edible but far from tasty!

Our current position is 00° 46,096' N, 42° 48,635 W, so we still have about 1,350 nautical miles to go before we'll reach Le Marin, Martinique, our next port of call.

maanantai 21. toukokuuta 2012

May 20th 2012

Salvador Bahia, not for us, thank you very much!

Tired and annoyed with the weather, we arrived in Salvador Bahia to refuel after three weeks of motoring on calm seas or alternatively battling against winds and currents. Our extremely foul mood may have saved us when we fell victim to an armed robbery at the anchorage between Salvador's two main marinas, just a few hours after we had arrived there on Saturday at 1 am. Luckily, the ordeal ended as an attempted robbery as we managed to scare the two young men off our boat. I don't have any idea of how people normally react when they wake up in the middle of the night and find intruders aboard their vessel. What I do know, however, is that in this case we were already utterly frustrated because of the rotten weather and now also absolutely furious about the possibility of being robbed, and we directed all our fury and frustration at the two robbers. We told them to get off our boat immediately, shouting at them aggressively. It was obvious that our behaviour was something the men had not expected at all, and they were clearly taken off guard. However, it was also clear that they had no intention of leaving our boat. For a while, it was a stalemate with the intruders standing in the cockpit and us down in the saloon. The situation remained stagnant until I climbed up and saw their knife on the bench, and that set the ball rolling. I grabbed the knife and yelled: “PEKKA, ASE, ASE, ASE!!!”, informing him that the robbers had a weapon. One of the robbers took the knife from me but, fortunately, that was all he had time to do when we all heard Pekka loading a gun in the saloon (it's only a flare gun but looks very much like the real thing, and is in fact lethal, I was told). When the men realized that we were armed, they panicked and jumped overboard leaving both their flip-flops and boat behind.

While Pekka was reporting the incident to the authorities via VHF, I scanned the sea with our powerful searchlight and saw one of the robbers swim ashore. I then took the boat hook and pushed their boat away from Sarema's side. Soon, the current got hold of the boat and it vanished into the heavy swell. I do hope it's going to sink!
The curious thing about this incident is that I had had a premonition that something like this would happen in Salvador (probably because we had heard of a robbery that had taken place at this particular anchorage the year before). The feeling was so strong that I even locked all the hatches before we dropped anchor so that no one could come in through them, and had looked up a few Portuguese words that might be of use (armado, assalto, bastardo... of which especially the last one proved to be useful!). We had also discussed the possibility of robbery with Pekka before our arrival. According to him, the standard procedure is that the rascals pick their target during day 1, draw up their plan during day 2, and hit the target during the second or third night. And, in any case, the swell is so heavy that they can't come on board our vessel, was Pekka's final comment on the subject. Unfortunately, he was wrong!

When Pekka was speaking with the authorities, the harbour master told him that the anchorage is dangerous (As if we didn't know that already!!! But isn't it strange that even though Capitania is located right next to the anchorage, they do nothing to improve its safety!!!). He also asked if anybody was hurt. Since nobody was, the authorities obviously lost all interest in our case as we have heard nothing from them since. From this, we concluded that armed robberies are so common in Salvador and so difficult to solve that the authorities just couldn't be bothered. In the morning, after a sleepless night, we saw a fishing boat come into the harbour towing a smaller boat which was that of the robbers'. What a pity it didn't sink, I thought maliciously, although the boat wasn't to blame.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? One thing that became clear, unfortunately, is that Latte the Boat Dog is no guard dog. She didn't even wake up when the men climbed on board, and when the verbal aggression began, she went under the navigation table and stayed there throughout the ordeal (I hope no pirates are going to read this!). The other thing we learned is that there are different kinds of robbers, and we were fortunate that ours were either inexperienced or just of the less aggressive type. It may even be that this was their first attempt on the way to become professionals. I sincerely hope that this was a lesson also for the robbers so that they would start seriously reconsidering their future career options.

The weather is still too rough to continue our journey, and as we don't feel safe in Salvador, we have decided to weigh anchor and go to Ilha de Itaparica to calm down and get a good night's sleep. We'll come back probably tomorrow to fill our tanks, then head back to the safety of the seas, and leave Salvador Bahia behind us for good!

keskiviikko 16. toukokuuta 2012

May 16th 2012

Homeward Bound

On the 28th of April, we woke up to a cold and rainy day. Pekka spent the morning wheeling jerry cans from the marina gate to the boat and emptying their contents into the fuel tanks, 700 litres in all, while I did some highly essential last minute shopping: ten litres of Argentinian wine and four wine glasses.

We left the marina basin at the one o'clock opening of the swing bridge in a light drizzle and headed for the tawny-coloured waters of Rio de la Plata. Just after leaving the harbour basin, we were nearly run down by a Buquebus, a water bus plying between the ports of Argentina and Uruguay. It appeared behind us quite unexpectedly like a hideous roaring monster. There must have been something wrong with its driver (I wouldn't call him a Captain!) because the bus neither slowed down nor altered its course but went right past our boat leaving us bobbing up, down, and sideways in its whirlpool wake, in the midsts of the black exhaust fumes it left behind.

Sailing-wise, South American waters were a pain right from the start and, unfortunately, this state of affairs has not improved much now that we are sailing in the opposite direction. During the first couple of days, we made good progress but after that, we weren't able to find any winds to speak of, despite our vigorous efforts. What we did find this time though was the Brazilian Current that would have helped us when sailing down the coast had we found it at the time. Now, the current is one to two knots against us!

After almost two weeks of motor-sailing, we now have winds that are blowing sporadically and at a rapidly changing speed between 15 and 40+ knots. Although our motto has always been “Better sooner than later”, three days ago we failed to take down our cruising chute (gennaker) early enough, and it split in two. That was more than disappointing! We are now short of two good sails as we lost our foresail already weeks ago when its inner forestay T-terminal broke. In addition, before leaving Buenos Aires, the compressor of our so far trustworthy deep-freezer broke irreparably but, thank God, this happened a few days before we were supposed to fill it with Argentinian beef. So, no succulent steaks to brighten our days during the long and lonely weeks at sea. If this seems like whining, it is meant to be just that!!!

Although we had the most wonderful time in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro etc. I am feeling a bit down at the moment. We began this voyage from the Caribbean, as part of the passage to Alaska, with enthusiasm and high hopes but ever since we missed the bus to South Africa, so to speak, too many things have gone wrong. As both the winds and the currents here seem to be against us whichever way we go, and due to the numerous technical failures and other problems we have been facing lately, I have seriously come to think that maybe we were not meant to take this route in the first place.

We have now been almost three weeks at sea, and our current position is 19° 02,600' S, 37° 51,488 W.

torstai 26. huhtikuuta 2012

April 26th 2012

Even though this was our first (but hopefully not the last!) visit to Buenos Aires, we had a circle of friends waiting for us here. Actually, they are the friends of my cousin but I like to think that now they are also our friends. They made us feel at home right from the beginning. They wined and dined us at their homes (that succulent asado prepared by Mabel and Joaquin, and Cami's wonderful embanadas!!!), they introduced us to Tango Argentino, took us sightseeing, to a boat ride in the waterways of Tigre, to the Ferias de Mataderos..... and when they had no time to entertain us, they recommended us things to see and places to go. And we followed their advice and enjoyed Buenos Aires to the full!

But now the time has come to leave Argentina, make a U-turn, and return to Europe. There are several reasons for heading back home, for one thing the boat is in dire need of a facelift and for another, her captain and crew are longing for a proper break in sailing. But the real reason behind this decision is that we have changed our minds about the route we should take to get back to Alaska.

This is not the first time we have changed our plans. In 2006, instead of continuing to the west from Tahiti as we had originally planned, we decided to sail up north to Kodiak, Alaska and that was by far the best idea we have come up with so far. We hope that our latest change of plan is another one of those great ideas!

When leaving Argentina, we will take a piece of it with us. On the expert advice of Pertti and Antonio, we bought a total of twenty CDs, all Tango Argentino. Although we know that we'll never learn even its most elementary steps properly, we have decided to give it a go and, in the spirit of Argentina, we will tango all the way back to Portugal!

torstai 19. huhtikuuta 2012

April 13th 2012

Puerto de Madero, Buenos Aires

34° 36,204' S, 58°21,909' W

On the 10th of April, we checked out of Uruguay as the winds had finally died down, and also because we were running short of days to spend in South America. After about one and half days of motoring in the muddy waters of the Rio de la Plata, we and about a zillion mosquitoes arrived in Argentina. We first went to the Yacht Club Argentino but as they didn't have space for our boat, we contacted the neighbouring Yacht Club Puerto de Madero who agreed to accommodate us.

We had to wait for an hour in the harbour basin for a bridge to open and let us through to one of the most protected marinas we have ever been in. And the best part is that Puerto de Madero is located in the very centre of Buenos Aires within walking distance of just about any place, Plaza de Mayo, Avenida de Corrientes, San Telmo, La Boca...

We will stay here a little longer than anticipated because of technical problems (this time it's the gearbox!) but it is hard to imagine a more interesting place than Buenos Aires to pass the time.

tiistai 10. huhtikuuta 2012

April 10th 2012

A Short Visit to Uruguay

Punta del Este, Maldonado
34° 57,486’ S, 54° 56,904’ W

Eventually, we got tired of motoring on the windless Atlantic and decided to pay a short visit to Uruguay. We spent the first day trying to locate a place where we could take photocopies because, according to the Uruguayan authorities, the Brazilian authorities had not given us enough copies of the documents. We kept walking up and down the streets in the town centre and when we finally found a kiosk advertising Fotocopias, it turned out that their copying machine had broken down already some days ago and would be fixed in the near future.

That left us with a much more laborious alternative to obtain the copies, namely using our own scanner and printer aboard. Hence, we returned to the boat, and while installing the copying equipment in place, the thus far pleasant weather turned into a nasty gale in just a few minutes. 50+ knot winds blew right into the Maldonado Bay and we were soon bouncing up and down on the white crowned waves. The violent movements of the boat snapped both our anchor chain securing lines, and during the night, we shifted about 40 metres from our original anchoring site towards the shore due to a combination of dragging the anchor and involuntarily letting out anchor chain after the securing lines had broken.

On the second day, we had ample time to take copies as the winds were still strong and the waves high and breaking. On the third day, the weather had improved enough for us to go ashore to report our arrival to the authorities, this time accompanied with the appropriate number of copies. When we returned to the boat, the wind and the waves were still harassing us so much that we decided to weigh anchor and seek shelter in the marina.
It appeared that the marina was a safe haven also for a group of South American Sea Lions. Both cows and bulls were huge but the bulls had a lion-like rusty-brown mane which made it easy to distinguish between the sexes. They slept on the concrete docks or on some unfortunate boat owner's deck, and were fed daily by local fishermen cleaning their catch in the marina. What an easy life!

perjantai 6. huhtikuuta 2012

April 2nd 2012

Southward Bound

We got to use our newly repaired foresail for only two days. In the evening of our second day at sea, the inner forestay T-terminal broke and left the sail swinging uncontrollably on its halyard. Because it was already dark, we decided not to take the sail down until the following morning, and tied it as best we could to the pulpit for the time being. A few hours later, we were hit by a strong front with headwinds gusting to 40+ knots and had no alternative but to heave to. We stayed hove to for the next 17 hours and when the front had passed, we took the sail down and stored it inside to wait for its resurrection.

As usual, we had been fishing uninterruptedly day and night. During the first day, we caught a piece of plastic and, on the second day, another piece of plastic, only bigger. But the thought of fried fish was so tempting that we continued fishing persistently and, on the third day, we caught … a shearwater or a Greater Shearwater (Puffinus gravis) - to be exact! The strange thing about this was that just a few hours prior to this incident we had been discussing how to prepare a seabird before cooking it in order to get rid of the strong, unpleasant taste of bird fat. According to Pekka, who as an ex-islander is more knowledgeable about the subject, the bird should be kept submerged in milk for at least a day.

Anyway, we had no intention of eating the poor thing splashing about in our wake. As there was practically no wind at all (thank god for that!), it was easy to reel the bird in and as soon as Pekka got it in the fish net, the hook came off its bill. When we lifted the bird out of the water, its wing got entangled in the net. I don't know about the rest of the shearwaters but this particular individual was extremely co-operative. In less than a minute, we had managed to get it free, and returned it to its own element unharmed as far as we could judge. Although the story had a happy ending, it meant no more fishing for us, at least for as long as there are any birds flying around. We are more than happy not to eat fish at all for the rest of our journey rather than risk catching another one of those beautiful shearwaters!

sunnuntai 25. maaliskuuta 2012

March 25th 2012

In the Wild

Ilha Grande, a remnant of the Brazilian Atlantic rainforest is the home of several threatened species, including the brown howler monkey, maned sloth, broad-snouted caiman, and red-browed Amazon parrots. Although, during our short visit, we didn't manage to see any of these endangered animals, it was still good to know that they were there, and that they have a chance to survive on this beautiful, protected island.

At sunset, we listened to the silence surrounding us and, after dark, to the enchanting sounds of the jungle, the shrieks, the shrills, and the squeaks of, maybe, frogs or insects or... we couldn't guess what. They were so different from the monotonous buzzing of big cities where we had stayed far too long, and we enjoyed them so!

From Ilha Grande, we sailed to Paraty, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest towns in Brazil, mainly for provisioning purposes but also to see the only town in the world we know of that makes use of the tide to clean its streets.

After Paraty, we sailed via Ilha da Cotia to Ilha da Anchieta, where we arrived late in the evening of March 22nd and dropped anchor just before a thunder storm hit the island. The next morning, we went ashore to see the island and its wildlife. More than anything else, we wanted to see the Capybara which is the biggest rodent in the world, the top recorded weight being 91 kg for a wild female from Brazil, and a close relative to chinchillas and guinea pigs. Right on the beach, there was a small family of capybaras, consisting of a huge dominant male, three smaller males, four females, and a group of young ones who gathered into a group as we neared them. In some areas, capybaras are hunted for their meat and pelts, and also killed by farmers who consider their grazing to compete with their livestock. But, not on this protected island, where they are free to roam anywhere they like.

Before going on a hike across the island, we returned to the boat to change our flip-flops to hiking boots after learning that the island's fauna also includes a number of poisonous snakes and spiders.

While in the forest, we tried to walk as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the animals but, since we are no Indians, we could hear them retreating before us as we came closer. During the hike, we managed to see one panicky capybara, a surprised marmoset, a lone hummingbird, and a few magnificent butterflies, all much bigger than the hummingbird. On the way back, it started to rain and, within minutes, we were soaked to the skin. At first, we tried to find shelter underneath the foliage of big trees but soon realized that it was of no use. As we continued walking along the winding trail, it dawned on us that, actually, there is no better way to experience a rainforest than to be there when it is raining.