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Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30, 2012-Drinking with Russians

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Russian Sailors can sing too

Twenty three years ago, in July 1989, a group of six Russian sailors, who said they were the first sailors permitted to go cruising from Soviet Russia, and one translator, arrived in Seattle aboard a boat owned by their shipping company employer in Vladivostok. We found them circling outside Shilshole Marina on our return from Barkley Sound that late July afternoon. They had spent over 40 days crossing the North Pacific and they had just arrived in the USA and didn’t know where to go. We led them to the transient dock.

We were the first Americans they met and they became friends of ours.

We took them sailing on Wings a few nights later along with about seven other sailors from the Sloop. Lots of vodka was consumed on a tour around Winslow Harbor and the spinnaker reach back was a bit wild, the Russians sailing the boat and the rest of us riding. It turned out they knew how to sail and it was a memorable and fortunately uneventful trip, considering the chances we took with a few marks and navigation aids, all passed a bit close and one on the wrong side much to the consternation of Judy, who got quite frantic when they insisted on taking the inshore side of one of the green bouys in Eagle Harbor. “No Problem, No Problem” they said, ignoring her wild gestures to go on the other side of it, but we made it and with the pole on the headstay we reached hard into Shilshore Bay and stormed inside the breakwater with the kite still up, all hands to the takedown. Again, luckily, no incidents. Same for the “wodka “ drenched meal for 17 in Wing’s cabin afterwards, a record number of guests never since matched. My hang-over was also unmatched.

Those Russians were good sailors, good singers, good eaters and great drinkers.

Last night in Fortaleza we had a party with another bunch of Russian sailors. They had arrived in Fortaleza on a big inflatable multihull, bound for a round the world record for inflatable boats. There were also seven of them, (six official adventurers and one guest added here in Fortaleza) mostly scientists from Siberia, but the Captain, Anatoly, is a boat builder, navigator and the creative genius behind the trip. Given where they have been (they started in Thailand and expect to end up there as well) and their wild and exciting rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in 50kts of wind (they showed us video footage of it) and where they are headed, (Across the Pacific and back to the far east), we can presume that they must also be good sailors. Although we did not get a chance to go sailing with them we can say from our experience last night that that they are good drinkers, eaters, musicians, and singers. Judy and I joined six other cruisers and the Russians on the afterdeck of their vessel for a long night of “wodka”, sweet wine, warm beer and a lot of music. The Russians had a guitar and it seems like all of them could put it to good use. They serenaded us with Russian songs for hours. When they sang the Beatles’ “Let It Be” we all joined in and one cruiser, Robert, from the Dutch yacht, Mary Elisa, had brought his trumpet and also joined in.

I enjoyed the music and food but stuck to “wodka” for my drink. Remembering my previous experience with Russians and “wodka”, or maybe just being older and wiser, I paced myself and had no hang over today.

This morning the Russians headed out going north up the coast with a planned stop in Sao Luis, Brazil (where we plan to stop as well) for provisions and their next major destination is the east coast of Mexico. After that, the Pacific, Easter Island, and then on to finish where they started at Phuket, Thailand.

We wished them well.

Click here to see more photos from our party with the Russians.

Click here to read the log book page from our trip with the Russians in 1989

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Fortaleza, Brazil

Energy Diet HD, Departed March 30 from Fortaleza for Sao Luis, then Mexico, (port undecided)

Anatoly Kulik (Tola),
Evgenii Kovalevsky (Jack),
Yurii Masloboyev, (Gold Tooth)
Evgenii Tashkin (Video)
Oleg Blinov (Big)
Stanislav (Stas)Berezkin
Alexander Gainer (Professor)

Click here to go to thier web site

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Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26, 2012-The Story Behind this Photo


wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sailing The African Coast

This photo is the screen saver on my computer. I look at it every day, probably 20 times, or more. It still compels me.

What is the story behind this photo?

I took it on the way down the Africa Coast. It was just a two day run; Durban to Port Elizabeth.

Should be easy but we knew there was a southerly coming, the forecast said so. They said it was going to be 10 to 20 knots out of the south, but for only half a day, and then the northerly would fill. We felt we could handle that and we needed to get south, so we left.

But the southerly hit harder than predicted; 25 to 30 knots and more. And after half a day it was still blowing solidly.This was not what the forecast said.

Still, it wasn’t so bad. After all, this was Wings’ weather, we could beat into 25 knots. And the waves, while big, were manageable. We kept on.

And I took the photo.

But in the back of my mind there was the Agulhas Current to think about. In a southerly the Agulhas Current runs against the wind and the waves can mean trouble; they can get big. This was what had been spooking us about the African coast for a couple of years: rogue waves, ship killers, it gave Judy nightmares as far back as Thailand. Now it could be happening to us. I couldn’t chance it.

We tuned into the weather service. They warned of “abnormal” waves.

That did it, we hadn't seen any "abnormal waves" but it only would take one. Now it was time to be scared.

Next piece of wisdom: When the wind runs against the current, get inshore. We eased sheets and headed for the beach.

About two miles off the coast we got out of the current. It was still rough but the danger of wind against current was over.

We turned back to the south.

In a few hours the wind switched and we got our northerly.

And we breathed a big sigh of relief.

So what do I see when I look at this photo? I see the bow headed for the sky as we climb over the next big wave which looks like a mountain peak off to starboard. I see the #4 jib, close hauled, filled and pulling and a reefed main. I see seven turns on the primary winch and a double handle silhouetted against the spray and foam, standing ready.

I see the sea, the boat and the sky. I see big power, big waves, and big danger. I see all of this and I remember. And I remember that we got through it and that is what counts.

Until the next time.

Click here to see the other photos from that trip.

Click here to read the original story.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Fortaleza, Brazil

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Monday, March 19, 2012

March 18, 2012- Fortaleza, First Thoughts


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Fortaleza

The Brazilians from down south say this is not Brazil; they say Fortaleza is not representative, for the real Brazil you must go to Rio or Salvador.

Maybe, but Rio or Salvador we won’t ever see, not from the deck of this yacht anyhow.

No, for us Fortaleza is Brazil, so what are our first impressions?

At a first look, we like what we see: Beautiful people, beautiful Brazilian Portuguese language, and a beautiful city with tall buildings and beautiful sandy beaches. There are old churches, cathedrals, and soccer fields everywhere. Also we see high prices, traffic jams, pickpockets and dangerous barrios, of course, but despite that there is a zest for life in this town which we picked up the minute we arrived and when we hit the streets of Fortaleza we started to see all sides of it.

On the sidewalk we saw the desperate young men from the barrio whose furtive eyes watch for an easy prey and for that reason, if no other, we know we need to pay attention on these streets.

On the other hand we also saw the upper class in the expensive restaurants and exclusive shops, or just riding in their motorcars, comfortable men of power and position with elegant women at their sides, so we see who is paying those high prices.

But most of all here we have been seeing the ordinary folks around the town, on the beaches and in the shopping malls and supermarkets, and we have seen taxi drivers and shopkeepers with ready smiles. Everywhere we see middle class Brazilians, of all ages, simply going about their lives.

In that way Fortaleza is like a lot of other cities.

But Brazil, unlike some countries, is a nation rising, one of the BRIC’s, the future. And we see both the dynamism that has earned it a place in that club, and its paradox. The paradox is that despite the fact that it is an economic powerhouse, where we see the hustle and bustle of businessmen on the move and construction everywhere there is the seemingly slow pace of everything. There is the daily two-hour siesta when shops close. There are the officials who, however polite and incorruptible, work at such a leisurely pace you want to tear your hair out, and there are the clerks in the stores who will happily spend twenty minutes or more with you while other customers are waiting. You can’t hurry these people.

We need to stay here a while and try to understand these things better.

So, we’ve signed up for a month at the marina and we’ve started a daily routine of swimming in the pool each morning, and we will go out on most days to try to get the real feel of the pulse of this enigmatic Brazil.

Which is why we came here.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Fortaleza, Brazil

PS: We arrived on March 16, Docked at Marina Park, Randy & Laura signed off, and we are on our own and settled in already.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012-Final Run to Fortaleza

We are now sailing the last leg of our Atlantic Crossing, the run from Fernando de Naronha to Fortaleza Brazil. This short leg, only 364 miles, is awkward for us because of it's short duration and the fact that we wish to both leave and arrive in the daylight. To do so we have to sail slowly otherwise we will be approaching the port of Fortaleza before dawn tomorrow. In fact slowing Wings down has not been easy. We have not set the jib at all, and the winds have been light, but our average speed has been over six knots due to a following current. Had we know of this we might have changed strategy and sped onward from the beginning to try to complete the passage in two days in stead of two and a half, but now we are stuck, sometime in the next twentyfour hours we must stall our progress for about three hours. We'll manage I'm sure.

So tomorrow morning we will arrive in Fortaleza, having sailed something over 3600 miles across the South Atlantic Ocean with Randy & Laura since leaving Cape Town. At this point it has been the definitive "good passage". We have sailed from Africa to South America, through thirty degrees of latitude and fifty degrees of longitude. We've gone from icy cold water to equatorial conditions. We have had five very nice stops along the way. We will arrive on schedule, healthy, and happy, with the boat intact, have had no storms or significant problems, and not too much to fix when we get there, however we will have a bit of laundry to do.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, South Atlantic Ocean

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Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012-Oy Querido (updated)

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Beach Bar

“Oy Querido, My Darling, I'm on the bus”, said the transvestite named Anderson into his cell phone as he plunked into the back seat of the bus between Randy and Laura. His friends on the bus thought that was hilarious.

This being the 6:30 bus and the beach bar having closed at 6:00, the bus was packed with locals going home after a day at the beach drinking cervesas and eating fried fish and listening to loud Brazilian beach music. We were there too and got some sand in between our toes now we were going out to dinner in town but nobody on the bus was really ready to call it a day; after all, it might be dark but it wasn’t even 7:00 PM. Even on Sunday and a small Brazilian town that is a bit early.

Anderson’s friend Kevin told us there was salsa dancing later but it might not be “appropriate” for us.

“I’m sitting next to the most beautiful man”, Anderson said into the phone, which by now everyone knew wasn’t even turned on and so they were rolling in the aisles. Randy, the object of his affection was just hoping he wouldn’t put his hand on his knee.

“But he has not got black enough skin!” complained Anderson. And the bus's passengers cracked up.

We were going to Ousodia Restaurant but Kevin told us about another good restaurant so when we got off the bus we headed that way instead and everyone on the bus stuck their heads out the widows and said, “No, No, the other way, Oy Querido.”

But Kevin’s recommendation was right on and we had a wonderful Brazilian dinner and Portuguese wine and too much food with friends from Avitar, Mark and Fiona, and finally we decided to skip the salsa dancing and go back to the boat at 11:00PM.

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura), SV Wings, Fernando de Naronha

Click here to see first photos

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March 12, 2012-Photos Posted of Atlantic Sailing

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Sailing to Brazil

Click here to see photos of the sailing to Brazil from Saint Helena

As you will see it was an easy trip.

Fred & Judy (& Randy & Laura), SV Wings, Fernando de Naronha, Brazil

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10, 2012-Fernando de Naronha

We sailed into Fernando under 3/4 oz kite, pole to the headstay and flags flying; we arrived in style. The anchor splashed down at 11:45 local time and by late afternoon we had completed our clearance, found an ATM and got a pocket full of Brazilian Reals, and we were having cool beers at a cafe overlooking the harbor.

So the Atlantic has been crossed.

They say there is no Internet here, or not any which you can use, so we might not be able to post photos yet, but they are coming. Stand by.

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura), SV Wings, Fernando de Naronha

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Friday, March 09, 2012

March 9, 2012-Motoring toward Brazil

It's the last night at sea in the South Atlantic Ocean.

The wind is gone, the sails are furled, and we're motoring at five and a half knots; we've got a clear sky, a full moon, and very calm seas.

The batteries are gone, good thing we're motoring, but we could make it sailing if we had wind; we can manage the battery problem.

We've got food, water, fuel, and a good engine, so we can motor for a long time if we need to but Fernando de Naronha is close, 65 miles, we only need to motor for 11 more hours.

Tomorrow Brazil, a new country, a new continent. We'd rather arrive under sail and if the wind comes up at all, we'll turn off the motor and rasie the sails.

No sign of that now; I guess I'll run a weather forecast.

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura), SV Wings, South Atlantic Ocean

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

March 8, 2012-In Our Own Words

I asked each of our crew on this passage to write their thoughts. Here they are.

Judy:

When we crossed the Pacific Ocean to the Marquesas in 1998 I told Fred, "If all of our passages are as good as this one, I could cruise forever." Well, in the following 15 years we faced more challenging conditions and less benign seas, and often it caused us to ask the question, "Why are we doing this?"

Upon making each landfall we knew why: another culture, another country, another adventure, another Island to explore, and it made the difficult passages worthwhile. We became addicted to the new landfalls, but there have been some tough oceans to cross: The trip to New Zealand, the South China Sea, and more recent ones.

Our first attempt to cross the Indian Ocean was so daunting that we turned around and almost vowed to quit cruising. Since then we have crew aboard, always good friends, to ease the load.

With Pierre we crossed the most challenging of oceans, the South Indian Ocean. The ocean was dreadful but sailing it with Pierre was great.

John and Jennifer joined us for the leg from Mauritius to South Africa and helped us cope with days of 40+ knots of wind and huge seas. They were tough.

And after Fred & I sailed down the renowned South African Coast to Cape Town alone Randy and Laura, joined us for the Atlantic crossing.

The Atlantic, likely to be our last ocean crossing, has been the best ever. The sailing has been easy, with rarely even a sail change. In addition to the great sailing conditions our 2 hours on, six hours off, watch schedule, affords us much rest and plenty of time to read, play cards, and think about all the world's problems, and the friendship has been wonderful. Life doesn't get much better. What more can I say?

Laura:

Sailing across the South Atlantic Ocean has been windy and wild, mellow and mild. Night watches have been mostly graced by a full moon and a galaxy of stars & planets; nights so clear that I feel I could grab a star and tuck it away in my pocket.

Hours on watch thinking of this & that (all sorts of stuff actually) makes us realize that we are but a tiny speck on this vast ocean.

This trip aboard 'Wings' is really about the journey, not the destination, though the thought of wandering along a beach in the coming days is a welcome thought, as is a diet coke with heaps of ice, and a crisp green salad.

Randy:

The southern Atlantic has been the easiest of the three oceans I have crossed. 'Wings' has taken us across this ocean with speed and grace; our former yacht, 'Pollen Path' would have loved this trip.

Fred:

Each passage has a character, like each ocean does and each vessel. Some passages, however optimistically they are commenced, can turn out to be rancorous and petty, the tone is sour, based on the people aboard and how they relate to each other. On other passages, and this passage of ours is one of these, the mood and feeling is one of cooperation, accommodation, and generosity; it is a happy ship.

On this passage it has all has been about the crew; We are all seasoned sailors, exceptionally competent, and well used to the close quarters of life at sea, and knowing that on a small ship it is only kindness towards the others, acceptance of each person's individuality, and accommodation to their needs even when they don't coincide with our own, which keeps a ship a happy ship, as this has been. Judy, as ever, has been consistently cheerful, optimistic, generous, hard working, and easy going, and always, a back-up to me. We all rely on her judgment. Laura has been adaptive in the face of adversity and new surroundings, resourceful, helpful to everyone, also generous and uncomplaining (and a great cook). Randy is one of the world's natural born sailors and I think he now knows how to sail Wings, and fix it, as well as Judy and I do, and he is always willing to pitch in and do anything that is needed, whatever it is.

This is an exceptional crew and we have all worked hard together and worked hard to stay together. In this we have been very lucky.

And so, with an easy ocean to cross, a great ship to carry us, and a very special crew, the character of this passage is one of happy contentment.

It has been, so far, and I expect it to be to the final landfall in Brazil, a very, exceptionally, excellent passage.

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura), SV Wings, South Atlantic Ocean

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

March 7, 2012-Race to Brazil

I've turned this passage into a secret race. Secret because neither I nor my competitors have openly mentioned it, but we all know. Not only do we all want to get quickly to our respective destinations but we each want to get the best of the others. So far on Wings we've been doing well but everyone is still in the game.

On Monday night we made our move; decisively.

We'd gone south for a week, we'd passed the imaginary turning mark on the chart, and we had successfully skirted the lightest of the winds around the low up north. We had gained a good slant on the boats behind which were stubbornly still sailing a direct course right through the low. But we were now over 150 miles to the south and that represented a lot of distance to make up and there was new wind coming; the South Atlantic High was rebuilding. If that filled in if we weren't clearly in front this would simply turn into a drag race which we could easily lose. We had to consolidate.

The wind was still light when we jibed over and at first going north wasn't easy. The breeze was fitful, the seas awful, and through the night we struggled. I swore at the gods of the sea as we put sails up and down and started the engine then turned it off, but we made some distance and in the morning it dawned clear and there was a cool, fresh, new wind.

I set the spinnaker and we pushed hard for another day; I was at the helm for the better part of ten hours working the boat through the waves and gusts, trying to find the best angle, determined to make another hundred miles. Judy asked me if I wanted to keep it up and I told her, "Don't doubt my resolve, I will get this done."

And we did. By Wednesday morning we were back on the rhumb line, 300 miles directly ahead of the next boat; between them and the mark. We'd sailed around the low and around the fleet. It felt good.

Now we can just take whatever line is best to Fernando de Naronha, our expected landfall. There may be more challenges, and I am still pushing the boat hard, but now we have the luxury of choosing our course.

Electrical Problem.

If only the electric issue would resolve itself that nicely. Like my sis' commented, we are the energizer bunny, we just keep going, but the power situation is grim: we expect to have to shut down all non-essential power either on our arrival in Fernando, or before that.
But we'll get there.

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura), SV Wings, South Atlantic Ocean

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

March 04, 2012-A Southern Strategy to the Atlantic Crossing.

We've run down wind south of the rhumb line for two days now pressing the boat harder than before with a full mainsail and a big genoa, polled out, and 20+ knots of wind and moderate waves, the speeds hitting eights and nines. We are trying to make the most out of the breeze before the influence of the ITCZ hits us later today or tomorrow. When that happens we can expect, based on the weather files we've been getting and the reports from the other boats on the net, lighter wind and slow going. Our strategy has been to stay south in the good wind for as long as possible then reach up in the light stuff to what we hope will be NE winds on the other side. So far this southern strategy has been working, we're about 200 miles ahead of nearest of the boats behind us, most of whom went north early. In fact our distance from the fleet has meant that we can no longer pick up the radio net they are on and must rely on the nearest boat to relay the information.

Another reason to hurry along is that our batteries are failing and we probably need to get to port as soon as possible. The new silver calcium batteries we bought Luderitz were supposed to be very good and for a few weeks they were. But recently they have been losing capacity. We've been all through the charging and electrical system, multiple times, and found nothing so the conclusion is that the batteries are failing. At this point the only impact is that we have to run the engine for 30-40 minutes (any longer is a waste since the batteries stop taking charge after that) every four to six hours. If the batteries fail completely we will still have the power from our engine but some things, the freezer is a notable example, which have to be shut off. We'd like to avoid that.

Otherwise we are doing fine: the sailing has been good, the food has been excellent, the watches easy, and we feel like we are having a good passage.

Now all we have to do is get to Brazil before the batteries fail.

Fred & Judy (and Randy & Laura), SV Wings, South Atlantic Ocean

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Friday, March 02, 2012

March 2, 2012-Looking Lighter Laura

"It's looking lighter Laura." By which I informed my relief what to expect in the weather for the next couple of hours.

For the crew of Wings this passage is turning out to be one of simply standing our watches and not much else. We've jibed a couple of times but we haven't even had any sail changes since we set the genoa and main upon departing Saint Helena, other than six hours one day when we had the kite up, which besides being a lot of trouble and requiring significant attention, rewarded us with an whopping extra 10 miles that day, so we haven't repeated that. The wind has been steady and for the most part, reliable.

Even the watch schedule itself is easy: we each stand three watches a day of two hours, and the rest of the day we laze around reading or sleeping. Sometimes something needs to be fixed, and, of course, there is cooking and washing up to do. We share these tasks. Every 4th day is shower day which we welcome.

Looking Lighter Laura.

My watches, especially the night ones, have been pleasant. Each night when I come up for my dog watch (10:00PM to 12:00AM) the first thing I see is the Southern Cross. How many years I have loved to see that constellation and how many times I have been frustrated by clouds and rarely able to find it? But now it is laid right out over our stern and I can't miss it. It is beautiful. Then I turn forward and see the moon. We are running before the Southern Cross and towards the bright, setting, moon. The moon beams on the waves make a road for us to follow. My two hours pass quickly and then I do a log book entry and wake Laura (She, in turn, calls Randy, Randy calls Judy, Judy calls me again, six hours later). I might give Laura a brief report, like, "It's looking lighter Laura." She says "OK". And then she takes over and I go to bed. Last night I told her I was saving some moon for her (Up till now it has been setting by the time she is on deck) which she appreciated.

Bad Fish takes out the men.

Randy caught a small Mahi Mahi yesterday which we cleaned and fixed into a ceviche. Randy and I ate the bulk of it. By 16:00 we weren't feeling too good, and within an hour we both heaved our guts out, which brought some relief, but we still weren't feeling too chipper. Good thing we have Judy and Laura to run the boat while we recover.

Ever the competitors.

There is a radio net for a dozen boats crossing the South Atlantic with us, including four catamarans and a few mono-hulls like Wings and some which I don't know. Each morning at 08:00 we check in and share position reports and weather information. Of course I immediately began plotting the other boat's positions and comparing our daily progress. I can say that we are beating them all by 10-20 miles a day. Mostly I think it is the routing which is helping us because we are not pushing the boat hard; we've taken a course south of the rumb line where the wind is stronger. Mary Eliza is also doing this and they are the closest competitor. A change in the weather situation could reverse our good fortune, so we watch the weather as best we can.

Stove stories.

The stove has been out and onto the bench four times since leaving Cape Town. I can't tell you how aggravating the Force Ten stove has been and how piss-poor the service. Due to lack of parts we have been reduced to fabricating the pieces we need. Yesterday it was out for four hours while I made some new pieces to seal a leaking gas line. The repair worked and it is fixed now but for how long, nobody can say.

So that is the routine aboard Wings these days.

Fred & Judy (and Randy and Laura), SV Wings, South Atlantic

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