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Berto, our Brava Island Handler

Brava Island Obama fan

Fresh tuna and whaoo kept us healthy.

Neptune keeps getting older.

Fernando de Noronha,one of the most beautiful islands on earth.

When two million arrive for Carnaval our friends, Edwardo and Leslie, leave town.

February 15, 2013

Brava Island Cape Verde, 14°53N 24°40W

It is Friday night and we are just back from town. Jeannie is cooking the meal that we planned to have on shore but I did not pay attention when Berto, our self-appointed line handler, tour guide and bottom cleaner, volunteered to make a reservation for us. With my Chicago mind, thinking his offer involved some hidden commission, I told him I was not sure so not to bother. At 7:00 pm we motored up to the dinghy landing in the pitch black where Berto surprised us, waiting to guide us to the first restaurant where the proprietress told us it was not possible. At the second, the family was watching a black and white TV with a very grainy picture. Alberto spoke and everyone shook their heads-no. Jeannie and I are a little relieved - at least we know what we will be eating.

Berto, in his forties, about 5’6, no front teeth, wiry with black and red kinky hair in a ponytail, apologized but explained it was necessary to let them know in advance. His skin is medium black but his facial features show fine European features.

When we arrived two days ago Berto swam out from shore to take a shore line for us. When we met him on land he suggested an island tour and I took the bait. The price was 6500 escudos, “a good normal price” he assured me. When we returned I checked my Lonely Planet price, 2500. I knew I could negotiate but I could afford it and Berto, without even a canoe to come out to seek work, obviously needed the money.

Our transport was a beat-up small Toyota pickup with wooden benches lining the bed. Jeannie got shotgun in the cab so I climbed up the tire and took the bench along with Berto and a young man in a clean white polo shirt with a fake diamond earing and an ‘NY’ cap gang-style on his head. We were off. As we climbed the mountain we stopped along the way, picking up and dropping off riders. It was clear that Berto was banking favors, paid for by the Americans. Six kilometers later, all in second gear, we arrived in Nova Sentra, the sleepy capital. The town is high up and cool with a tree lined mini boulevard leading to a town square and a pavilion, around which were parked several trucks like ours; as many burros with cargo on their backs; and, here and there a woman with hips swaying under the basket on her head.

We continued to the other side of the island where far below appeared the other port as a two hundred yard long white ribbon carved into the bottom of the mountain, below the dark rock wall lining the deep blue sea. The Toyota descended, along the way dropping and picking up happy passengers. We continued through town and climbed again to the never been used airport. After it was completed it was discovered to have dangerous downdrafts that made landing impossible and destroying tourist development for the island.

Berto asked if we had children. After telling him of our children and grandchildren I asked him about his family. He has none, he cannot afford it.

The lights were on tonight. Last night the island was black due to a not infrequent electrical problem. Internet is also a challenge-there isn’t any in the port. Berto explained that I had to go to Nova Sintra, the main town, at the top of 99 switch backs above the clouds. When I awoke in the middle of last night I weighed up the pros and cons of going. My problem is that I think everyone will worry if they don’t hear from us. In truth, only Nancy Swanson would. She manages our lives while we are gone and she cares, especially in the middle of tax season.

Never the less, at 8:00 this morning I motored up to the dinghy landing and jumped ashore with my backpack carrying a portable hard drive. I was equipped with hiking boots and a quart of water, ready to mount the switchbacks but was met by Berto with a wide smile on his tooth challenged mouth. I rode up in his approved truck. The fare up was 150 escudos and 500 on the return. I know we will be missed.

February 19, 2013

At Sea, 8°08N 27°28.7W

We are in the trade winds and Onora runs downhill with her two headsails poled out, swaying back and forth with a rush of water as a constant soundtrack. Jeannie sleeps and I fish. We had two strikes yesterday but nothing landed. The sun comes through the hatch above as I sit here typing, barefoot in shorts and a tee shirt.

February 20, 2013

At Sea, 5°24N 28°30W

Just passed half way. At 150 miles average we are behind my plan of 170 miles a day. The winds have been a little lighter than I thought. I listen to the BBC and drink coffee. The Tuna Terror with its hidden hook trolls behind us. Jeannie sleeps and I worry if we will have a problem with immigration in Brazil. On checking into Cape Verde, I was told by the lone officer that he closed for the weekend, but was otherwise open 8-4. I returned to check out on Monday and waited in front of the locked office for two hours, encouraged by the police next door that he would soon be back. They finally called the immigration officer and told me he had closed for Carnival and would return on Wednesday at 8:00. I was advised to wait. We left that evening anyway. Our stop in Brava was illegal as they have no immigration and don’t care, but I am counting on Brazil not looking for the exit stamp. If that fails I will explain what happened and beg for forgiveness. Our last resort will be sailing to Salvador, our second port, where Leslie Moura, our friend, is the British counsel and must know an immigration lawyer with a loophole.

March 1, 2013

Twenty miles off the Brazilian Coast, 11°45S 37°06N

As we had ceviche for lunch (fishing has been good) I remarked that we had finished our second ‘Atlantic Circle’ when we arrived in Fernando Noronha five days ago. In 2006 we left Fernando heading north on our adventure that would take us to twenty countries, including north to Greenland and Svalbard and east to Russia. For the first time we did not have a fixed plan and so seven years have passed. We are definitely older. The aches and pains multiply but we have a great boat and are wiser so it does not take as much effort to sail it. Fernando de Noronha remains one of the most beautiful places we have been. We arrived early Sunday morning and after a long sleep-in I put on my long pants, collared shirt and headed into clear into Brazil, fingers crossed about the lack of a Cape Verde exit visa in our passports. The port captain greeted me and with his Portuguese and my bad Spanish, we communicated enough so that I understood to come back the next day. I needed money so he called a taxi and soon a young man in his 20’s with an earring and gold chain zipped up in a converted VW with a propped up suspension and open fiberglass body. After two attempts we found a cash machine that worked and I rented a buggy of our own that required a five liter fuel transfusion via syphon to get started.

Monday morning was spent touring the island only to find out that the best beaches are now part of a national park and require a separate pass that cannot be purchased at the beach. As it happens we could have had free passes as we are over 60 but the ‘checking in’ appointment was set for 2:00pm back at the port so we returned to cross our fingers and hold our breath as we handed over the passports. No problem. We did have to pay the island tax for us and our boat ($ 350) for three days but that was no surprise. We were happy we were not told we had to sail 1200 miles upwind to get an exit stamp.

We left Tuesday, the next day for another 700 leg to Salvador and will arrive tomorrow.

March 6, 2013

Salvador Brazil, 12°58S 38°31W

We arrived on Saturday and, on Sunday, caught up on the past seven years with Eduardo and Leslie over a lunch of African cuisine that lasted all afternoon. Eduardo is now retired from Xerox which he ran in this country but is in demand as the unpaid head of the regional sailing federation and as our provisioning executive. Salvador’s winding roads and streets are impossible for the non-natives. Everyone drives either fifty miles an hour leaving half a car length safety zone or zero when it jams. We closed our eyes and prayed while Eduardo zipped in and out to our supermarket

Checking in and out with the officials did not go as smoothly. I arrived at the Port Captain’s office to be told I needed to see the Federal Police first-I thought I had but that was the Federal Revenue Department, also required. We found the office after mile walk in the 90 degree heat and presented passports and papers to surly characters who became quite agitated when they discovered that immigration had forgotten to stamp my passport and a date was wrong on the Revenue Department documents. I retraced my steps to correct that and get a clearance from the Port Captain before returning to the Federal Police office that was supposed to reopen after lunch at 2:00 but it was 2:30 before anyone reappeared. Altogether, getting the approvals took a total of a day and a half and is required at each Brazilian port we visit. Brazil is the worst country on the planet for sailing regulations.

On returning to Onora yesterday we decided it was too late to depart and, instead, toured the old city, had a nice meal and we will leave today as soon as I finish this.




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