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.