5 – 14 June 2018

It has been a while since the last blog update. Mostly because I fear that I will fail to adequately capture experiences in words and photos. So take everything I say with a pinch of sugar…it is impossible to exaggerate the journey Ongemak has had.

It has been remarkable to travel in convoy with fellow yachts and so we were determined to capatalise on as much companionship on the crossing between Ascension Island and Brazil as was possible. This even came at a cost of asking Muir and Oloff’s younger brother and his girlfriend to change their flights. We were no longer going to stop on Fernando de Noronha but head straight for Cabedelo, Brazil.

Because Ongemak is the smaller and slower of our fellow yachts, we set off earlier than everyone to gain headway. To follow was Inspiration Lady (a 47ft sloop built over 23 years by Jackie & Gary, Canadian) and Gaïa (a racer beautifully equipped for cruising by Gaelle and Phillipe, French Mauritian). Inspiration Lady was in visual sight for a lot of the journey. Gaïa – being the fastest of all – wasn’t in reach for as long but was very kind to pass us within shouting distance. These moments we will never forget. To be visited by wonderful friends and being the only 6 people as far as sensory space goes. No buildings, no cars, no other people, just us in an expanse of blue.

The conditions for this crossing was just wonderfully consistent. Our wind was steady between a beam and broad reach. Meaning, we could have both the main sail and genoa (front sail) up at the same tack for 85% of the journey. Suddenly, from our original ambitions of sailing an average of 5kts ph, we were doing closer to 6kts ph over 24 hours. We were flying and loving it!

When Gaïa came into view early on the third day, we were entertained most of the day by her approach until she came so close that the bubbles Isolde blew popped on her hull. Her approach was stately – a beautiful boat carrying two beautiful people and great friends. What a special encounter.

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Who would have thought that the one day the wind dropped would turn out to be the most eventful of all days. Perhaps there is some wisdom in slowing down in order to enjoy life at its best. Inspiration Lady was closely passing us and we decided it was time for our yellow weapon to come out. This is our asymmetrical spinnaker – a powerful force needing little wind to earn bragging rights – especially with spectators around. It was slightly embarrassing when the sail twisted around itself without us noticing (having all eyes on the magnificent Inspiration Lady at sail). Soon after, we had a bite on our fishing line and the weapon came down. Oloff had put the line in early that morning and we were all extremely excited and relieved to hook our first fish on the crossing. It turned out to be a Great Baracuda. Oloff brought it in quite easily and Muir bravely killed, cleaned and filleted the fish into meal-size chunks. We had no choice but to have another mid-Atlantic braai accompanied by the Biryani Isolde prepared.

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That wasn’t the only extraordinary event. On one of the days, while Muir and I were on shift, we all heard a faint whistling. Oloff enquired whether we were whistling outside and we again thought that the kettle may have been left on boil. When none of this could be verified, Muir jokingly commented that it was probably dolphins. Then a splash. Then a thrash. Suddenly we were surrounded by creatures none of us had ever seen – not in an aquarium, not on any dive. They were Porpoises! They differ from Dolphins in that they do not have long beaks but rather a rounded faces, earning them extra cuteness credits.

All in all, the crossing was fantastic. I experienced no queasiness at all and think that we had all finally completely adjusted to life at sea. It started to feel as if we were “living” on the boat and that sailing was not just a means to an end.

When Brazil came into view a day earlier than initially expected, we could feel for the first time the magnitude of what we had just left behind. An invisible trail from one continent to another.

Joao Pessoa rose up from the horizon like lego blocks and soon revealed its beautiful skyline of modern skyscrapers with the sun rising on our backs. The smell of land reached us long before we entered the Paraiba River mouth. We motored in against a lowering tide and a moderate current, passing thick mangroves on either side.

Jacare Marina is not accessible during low tide, which meant that we had to anchor in the river and make our way to land with our dingy for the day.

We were so happy to see that Noanka was still in Cabedelo and John came to greet us straight away. Once on land, we met up with Jackster (Jackie and David, English), Noanka (Katja, John and Jayden, South African), Inspiration Lady and Gaïa at our marina / new land home. We ordered endless caipirinhas and retired back to Ongemak for a bit of rest. I could’t sleep, knowing that we had to move into our mooring in a few hours. When the time came, I had to wake a very “deep sleeping” crew who rallied like never before to ease Ongemak into its new walk-on mooring.

ongemak in mooring

Experiencing Brazil is a whole other blog post soon to follow. Thanks for reading!