From Brazil to French Guiana; our longest passage yet

After leaving the Cabanga Yacht Club in Recife, Brazil, we had some of the fastest days of sailing we have ever had. We were pushed along the north coast of Brazil by a combination of winds and currents going in the same direction as us, and after 5 days of sailing we were celebrating being halfway to French Guiana. We, of course, were already looking forward to arriving five days later. By then, we were passing the delta of the Amazon River, and soon the winds became weaker, current seemed to be confused, and our speed dropped considerably. Bye, bye early arrival.


Esben takes out a reef in the main to speed up a bit

At 4 in the morning, Esben wakes me up. It is still dark, and before coming up in the cockpit, I grab an apple and find my life jacket. I clip in, and we briefly talk about Esben’s watch before he is off to bed. For the next couple of hours, I sit and watch the stars, or maybe I read a book on the kindle or bookmate app. We love having access to e-books, and all use them, even Mattis. I keep an eye on the AIS on the chart, which shows us if we’re close to any cargo ships. And every now and then, I stand up and take a look around to see if there are other boats around. There hardly ever are. We see maybe two per day on the AIS, but most of them don’t come close enough for us to see them in real life. Often, we can see that they change their course a little bit when they see the signal from our AIS transponder, while we change our course a little bit in the other direction. This way we are never close to hitting anybody, and Esben and I agree that the AIS, both transponder and receiver, are extremely valuable for safe navigation. We, of course, always have our navigation lights turned on during the night (and often during the day too), but the fishermen don’t necessarily follow the same procedure. One morning, I had the shock of my life, when strong lights were suddenly turned on, not far from us. A fishing boat was passing us, and apparently started working and thus needed the lights on deck when they were next to us. I guess they figure that they will just stay clear of everybody else, and therefore don’t need the navigation lights turned on. Not sure that I find that a great idea…

The kids tend to wake up quite early, like around 6. Runa reads a bit, while Mattis just messes about. After a while they ask if we can have breakfast, and I tell them that we will have breakfast at 7. We could easily eat earlier, but by keeping the meal at a certain time means that we don’t move our rhythm of night and day too much. I usually prepare our breakfast in the cockpit, and the kids hand me the food; oatmeal, müsli, yoghurt and milk. We take turns eating from one bowl, because it’s the easiest way when it comes to cleaning up afterwards. And yes, it’s very important to remember if it was Runa or Mattis who got to eat first yesterday, and who gets to eat first today. Once we are all done, the kids put the food back in place and I wash the bowl up. Esben usually wakes up around 8 and makes himself some breakfast, and then goes back to bed to relax some more until I ask to come and take over the watch at 10.

Depending on the weather, and the state of seasickness onboard, I will put out the fishing line when the sun rises, in the hope of catching fish for dinner. We love fish, but we only try to catch them if we feel like doing all the work to prepare them for dinner.

The worst part of our day to day sailing in the tropics is definitely the heat during the day. We are lucky that the boat is insulated, and that we have fans installed. And opening the forward hatch also helps (unless the weather is bad), so the temperature down below is okay, but it’s brutal in the cockpit. Esben often puts up some sun shade during the day, but also spends a lot of time down below. He doesn’t enjoy just sitting and waiting for time to pass, so he tends start project after project during his day watch. Firstly, he is the one preparing yoghurt for our breakfast the next day, from milk powder. He has tested many different techniques, and pretty much has it down by now. Secondly, he makes bread in our Omnia stove top oven if he feels like it. We don’t have a normal oven, but don’t miss one because of the Omnia. Thirdly, the fish usually bites just in time for lunch, so preparing fish also keeps him busy some days (though on the trip from Brazil to French Guiana, we didn’t catch any fish until the last day for some reason). And lastly, he cooks lunch. We usually have a warm meal for lunch.


Yoghurt preparation – an important task

The kids don’t do much during passage, they play on their iPods, read and play with their stuffed animals – which all have names and personalities. In the afternoon, when I have taken a nap, we spent some time in the cockpit together. Have a cold drink (non-alcoholic) and maybe a shower. In the heat, it’s nice to rinse off every day.

At 16, my watch starts. Sometimes Esben stays up a bit longer, and sometimes he goes down to sleep. Before he leaves, we assess the amount of sails we have up, and try to either reef in and out for the night. We can not know exactly how the weather develops during the night, but we do make an effort to try and prevent the need to go on deck during the night. I prepare dinner, something light, like soup, a salat from the vegetables that need to be used or I make something from the leftovers from lunch. After dinner, which we again eat in turn from one plate, the kids get out a cold drink each, and come up in the cockpit to drink it while I read out loud for them. Before leaving, we make sure to download a number of books for my e-reader, and the kids take turn choosing a book. We have read almost all the books from “The Famous 5” series by Enid Blython, many of the rewritten classics, like those by Jules Verne, and many other books. This is actually our favourite part of the day, sitting together in the cockpit while the sun sets, and it also means that Esben has some peace down below to fall asleep.

After brushing their teeth, the kids go to bed and read until I tell them that it is time to sleep and we turn off the lights. I usually continue reading my own books once the kids have gone down below, and watch the stars coming up. On the trip to French Guiana, the first star we could see was actually a planet, namely Jupiter. At 22.00, I wake Esben up, and he takes over for the night. He spends the night resting and reading, normally only interrupted by lookout and AIS checks.

And at 4 in the morning, the whole thing starts over. A simple life.


From Recife, Brazil to French Guiana; 1400NM

To see our most recent position, click here and scroll down.

4 thoughts on “From Brazil to French Guiana; our longest passage yet

  1. One bowl, now there is a family that does not like doing dishes.
    We have the complete collection of the Famous Five on DVD, Jonah loves it.
    I love the angle of the curtains while Esben is making the yoghurt.


    • It was a shock to realize how much time we had to spend on stuff like doing the dishes after moving onboard! 😉 We tried to figure the age of Julian out in the last books, but have failed – and have read somewhere that J.k. Rowling made Harry age on purpose to save him the eternal youth that Julian is forced to live…


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