So here we are, just sailed up 6 n miles up a huge ocean river and we have tied ourselves to a mooring ball on the west shore outside a small marina in South America on the tip of Recife, in Natal. The western shoreline opposite us is undeveloped and has forest sloping right down to the shores with beach sand and looks natural and beautiful and as we arrived the river splits so the western fork of the river runs into deep forest and natural areas. The eastern shoreline has unusual white in colour city sky scrapers, and as we entered the river it had old rusty fishing and tug boats with small humble homes in between of people living on the river. Beyond us is a huge city we can see the skyline of the city scrapers and from the yacht we can hear car hooters, motorbikes, the sounds of bird calls, and as sunsets the sound of a musician playing a saxaphone into the sunset and we can smell Starlight jasmine and Frangipani flowering.
The last 6/7 days of the passage was challenging. It was a long passage, and for those who wish to venture on a continent crossing of this kind we will share a little this morning. One has to become accustomed to the continuous motion, and rocking of sailing and be able to function doing every daily task with one hand for the boat. It is the equivalent of breaking an arm and then having to dress, and cook with only one arm – this is easy enough, however there are some long periods where the motion increases on days you wish it to settle, and the last 6/7 days were just this, so to end a long passage like this then becomes a real test of character. The largest challenge is that you also can not sleep or rest properly and when weather and elements increase you have to be more on guard, more on watch for ships and fishing boats, more attentive to holding course, so the demand for peak performance increases while the elements give you no rest and the pantry has only basic not wanted food types left over. Therefore this journey is not to be undertaken by the feint hearted, as there is no ‘give up’ button. To reach shore you need to have absolute faith and focus and Tim displayed this perfectly.
Tim made a tough decision for reasons of safety and timing, decided that he would slow us down over the last 3 days of the trip so we would reach shore only at daylight as a night entry with large swell, current and rain would have been a treacherous way to end the trip. The weather elements indicated that all these were on the increase the closer to shore we came. The wind over most of the journey increased at night, so we reduced sail and by doing this it made the journey very bumpy with sharp jerks both vertical and horizontal for a long period when your body and mind needed it least of all. We were both reduced to very little talking and all focus between us was on our mileage and position, weather, wind, ocean swell over the last days, with both of us not having much energy or wanting to eat much of the same food, while long run out of favorite foods. A tin of peas or lentils did not have much appeal to either of us or lift our spirits, and one precious condensed milk (for coffee) can emptied itself into the fridge. During 3 hour shifts one person rests while the other watches, so you do not actually have much interaction with each other as you are both so exhausted the focus is all on the progress and during a 3 hour watch the distance covered is only around 8-10 n miles, so it really is slow going. During the day, Tim would maintain his routine, I would lie in the V-birth not able to sleep.
So discussions between us on the elements and challenges for the last part of the journey had essentially put the fear of God into both of us, well in me anyway, and we both had to remain awake and focused. We were both expecting large ocean swell and wind and the final 40 nautical mile day was bumpy with sections of ocean which resembled the wild Indian ocean, but there were sections with good paced swell and we managed to proceed 1 nautical mile at a time from day all through the night.
So around 6am on the final day, Tim started up the good old Yanmar diesel, and we made slow progress at first heading to the way point marker we had been watching on the navigation screens since departure in Cape Town. The smell of land was most apparent around 35 n miles offshore, and low lying shoreline was visable around 10n miles, with a depth and colour change in ocean around 5 n miles. Around 10am had Tim got us directly to the markers that lead you into the river and I was on watch for both markers and other vessels as we made our entry. Yes, the feeling is that of wonder and awe as you enter a strange land with bat winged komorants flying in the air as you sail up the river. I was half certain we received a number of welcome boat hoots and salutes from the locals as we sailed up. As we neared Jacarna Marina, a light tropical rain washed over us, as if a small blessing from the heavens, and later a perfect rainbow appeared over the Marina to remind us of the promise to prosper. So stop thinking about how stressed you are and remember how blessed you are.