Coasting Along Brazil and a Scary Boat

On Monday morning, before the crack of dawn, we passed the northeast corner of Brazil and passed a significant milestone both literally and figuratively. We finished crossing the wide open part of the South Atlantic Ocean, reached the South American continent, and entered the famed Brazilian current – which added more than a knot to our speeds as we sail along the coast of Brazil. The most significant part of the milestone for us though, was the fact that we reached the halfway point to our passage to the Caribbean from St. Helena – almost eleven days from our departure on the Thursday before last.

We had numerous squalls in the day and a half before we approached this milestone, which caused us to put away our spinnaker because it is a light sail and could have been damaged if caught in significant winds. This reduced our speed a bit. We also had been seeing a number of ships on our radar and AIS who were also coming around the corner of Brazil. But, the most memorable event happened in the night before we reached the corner while 45 miles east of South America.

We had a squall go by and caused the wind to shift requiring us to adjust our sails. Karen was on watch and woke me up to help. While I was adjusting sails, I looked out ahead of our boat and saw a tiny light ahead. I pointed out we had a boat our there that wasn’t on our AIS or radar. Karen looked with binoculars and said she could see colored lights, red and green. This meant the boat was comin towards us, and not a significant distance. I continued adustin the sails and had a look as well. Probably a fisherman I thought, and I saw the boat turn another direction. Tried adusting our radar to determine his distance, but he was too small and far away at first.

We adjusted course to windward to keep our distance, but each time I did this, the boat adjusted his course and came towards us again. Clearly the boat wanted to get closer to us. A bit disturbing, and an unusual action this far out at sea at midnight. We only had 10 knots of wind and were only going 5 knots or so at this point, and Karen and I were getting concerned about this boat’s intention. We had the boat on radar now and he was ony 1.5 nm (nautical miles) away. So, I started up an engine and motor sailed us up to 9 kknots and went higher upwind. He again adjusted course towards us and seemed to speed up. He got within .5 nm, and I told Karen we were going to tack (turn the boat and sais to the opposite side of the wind). We made this a quick one and while we were turning the boat tried to cut across our bows, now only .25 miles away! We turned almost 180 degrees away and as we made the turn, I cranked on Tahina’s second engine. With both engines and the wind, we were making 12-14 knots! He turned back towards us again, and tried to catch us from behind. I could see the profile of the boat was a typical fishing vessel, he wasn’t able to match our speeds thank goodness. He dropped back to .5 nm and almost held that distance for a couple of minutes.

I think at this moment he noticed we were on a converging heading with a ship headed west that was only 6 miles ahead and rapidly converging. I intended to call this ship and alert him to the situation, but the boat suddenly turned away and went off out to sea. We don’t know what his intentions were, but we are glad we have a fast boat and were to windward when he tried to converge with us. In Thailand, the fisherman would try to cut across your bows because they believe they get good luck to their fishing if they do. This guy might have just been trying to have some fun, or he might have had more sinister intent. Either way, we nuzzled our way within a couple miles of the US tanker nearby and continued at high speed away from the area.

We had slightly higher winds than forecasted as we went pass the corner of Brazil, and some nice periods of sunshine between the occasional rain squall. I even put out some fishing lines, but didn’t catch anything. A day and a half later, we finally got a bit of the tradewinds we were expecting and are now cruising along at 8-9 knots with the help of the Brazilian current.

Our friend Guy on s/v Sanctuary had his forestay break due to an invisible crack and corrosion in the metal at the base. He devised a temporary forestay, but his furling unit for his jibsail was damaged. He is diverting to a Brazilian island to effect repairs. He has been in regular contact with the other boats also out here and some are offering help at the island he is going to.

We are looking forward to reaching our destination after nearly two weeks at sea. Just another 7 days or so to go if all goes well. We hope to avoid any serious gear failure, and I have been vigilant in inspecting our equipment and doing maintenance where needed. Karen has been preparing our main meals, and she did some baking a few days ago to make some wonderful blueberry muffins which we ate for a few days at breakfast. Hopefully we’ll catch a fish we can add to our diet as well.

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2 Responses to Coasting Along Brazil and a Scary Boat

  1. llamajourney says:

    I remember the story of another boat on collision course back with y’all’s first boat. Late at night, the auto pilot taking you towards the boat even though you directed it otherwise. Rebooting was the only way to get the auto pilot back. And then you out ran that boat. Yes, I’m glad you have a fast boat.

  2. Paul Oriente says:

    Hair raising stuff to converge with another boat at night. Seems the intent wasn’t to chat. GLAD you had plenty of speed and another vessel nearby.

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