Passage: St Helena to Fernando De Noronha, Brazil

The time had finally come to say goodbye to our friend Andre and our new friends the Benjamin’s. On The 30th of December 2018, Catching Up lifted her mooring lines and set off for Brazil. Originally, we were set to travel to Fortaleza, Brazil however, due to the increasing crime rate it was decided that Fernando De Noronha would be a better option. After contacting St Helena radio to inform them of our departure, they quickly responded with a relay message from SV Bahati a fellow Knysna 500Se (hull 88) that was inbound. Malcolm Van Der Merwe was skippering Bahati to Barbados and then onto Florida and held some of our spares. St Helena radio patiently played back and forth to let us know that we needed to wait a few hours so Bahati could catch up and deliver our spares. After going adrift for a few hours, Bahati finally was around the corner and made radio contact. Malcolm carefully positioned Bahati so her bow was on our starboard side and the box was thrown to us and landed on our trampoline. A few short hello’s and a chat later, Catching Up was off to Brazil!

The first day was as usual mixed with excitement and nervousness at the 1500-mile journey lay ahead of us. Our watch schedule would remain the same so soon it was back into the routine of wake up, eat, sleep watch and repeat. The first night moved on very fast and it was time to celebrate the New Year on Catching Up! On-board we set all our clocks to UTC so we have no issues confusing time zones; as such, we commenced our countdown with 10 seconds to go. We had a Cargo Vessel just passing us as the clock ticked over to midnight. Suddenly a faint little voice on the radio popped up and said “Woo happy new year!” and then silence. It was nice just hearing other boats around the area were celebrating as we were, in the dead of night at a shift change. The days continued to blend together with the only other major highlight being the fish we caught.

A few days into the passage, we decided to put our fishing line. We have had horrible luck in the prior passage with only a single squid being our major catch. Everyone was lounging around and relaxing when the distinctive whiz of the reel caused everyone to jump into action. I still happened to be sleeping at the time so in my underwear I run out, grab the reel and begin the fight as Dad and Werner begin to slow the boat down. Once the boat was at a slower pace, I handed the rod off to Dad so he could land the first fish. After a short battle, we managed to bring a 6kg Yellow Fin Tuna on-board. A nice fish dinner was enjoyed that evening and the rest of the Tuna was frozen for later use.

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The rest of the journey was uneventful bar a few squalls that required us to drop sails, furl and put in reefs but it helped keep the days moving. In our off time, we would take to reading, listening to music, watching movies and procrastinating about writing these articles. Passage making tends to be a complete blur when it comes to events. Sunsets are constantly incredible, stars litter the sky to the point where there is no open space and squalls darken the horizon creating terrifying yet incredible storm clouds.


Soon the monotony turned into excitement, as we got closer to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Few people actually are blessed with the opportunity to travel in the first place, even less are blessed to do it using a sailboat. The horizon soon gave us the first glimpses of the distinctive protruding rock from Fernando De Noronha. The feeling of elation having successfully transited the Atlantic Ocean made everyone giddy. To top off the excitement and happiness, a pod of the most playful dolphins came straight up to the boat doing large leaps into the air and spent a few minutes playing off the bow of Catching Up! We are beyond proud of ourselves for having completed our first ocean crossing. At times it was challenging but looking back at it now it was a lot less daunting than it first felt leaving Saldana Bay in South Africa.

The playful dolphins we encountered
The iconic pointy rock of Fernando De Noronha


2 thoughts on “Passage: St Helena to Fernando De Noronha, Brazil

  • What a journey! One learn much about self in silence and space. We are thankful this passage treated you well and safe. We pray blessing and protection over SV Catching-up and crew for the next passage.


  • Am re-living our Atlantic Crossing all over again reading your dairy! Agree with Sarkie Scheffer one mediate in silence during a crossing – de-clutter from city life, traffic, rates and taxes! The best way to “detox” from the city- rush is to go sailing. Best lifestyle ever!


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