Caribbean Gem: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

After a lovely long month exploring Grenada it was time to sail north to bluer waters. We cleared out in Carriacou and did a short sail (5miles/ 1 hour) to Union Island. Union island is one of the southern most entrance points for the Grenadines. What was was unique about Union Island was the little anchorage was almost a water Roundabout/Traffic Circle. In the centre of the anchorage is a giant circular reef with a channel surrounding it. We found a tiny sandy spot off what’s called roundabout reef and Dad and Dantelle went ashore to clear in. Soon enough they returned to come collect us and take us ashore.

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Fernando De Noronha to Grenada: Celebrations, Confused Seas and Close Calls PART 2.

Most people have heard about piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia but few have heard of Piracy in the Caribbean … and no, I’m not talking about the exploits of Captain Jack Sparrow and his desire to attack the English fleet.

Off the coast of Venezuela near Trinidad and Tobago, there has been an increase in illegal approaches and attempted boarding’s of yachts. Apparently these people just want to steal your possessions either to aid other illegal activities or to make money from sell the goods. Most of these boats come from of Venezuela, where there has been some serious economic and political unrest. For this reason, it was recommended that everyone making passages towards the Caribbean take extra precaution around the waters of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, which is exactly what we did.

The passage continued to be as bumpy and rocky as ever with the non-stop waves hitting the side of Catching Up. At this point, we had been at sea for about 12 days so it was getting slightly irritating being unable to walk in a straight line without bruising your hip against a counter. We were finally entering the “danger zone” as I like to call it. We sat down and decided that there was no point in going  to Tobago or Trinidad and opted to enter at the top end of Grenada at its northerly island called Carriacou. Our new track pushed us North Westerly way above the original reported areas of pirates but it still meant we were about 100 miles off Trinidad and Tobago.

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Fernando De Noronha to Grenada: Celebrations, Confused Seas and Close Calls PART 1.

Firstly, we are so sorry for the missing articles! We have been having a blast cruising up the Caribbean. In between the cocktails, cleaning and exploring islands we have had little time to write. Not to mention the wifi has been less than satisfactory. Anyway heres the next one. Enjoy!!:

Leaving the iconic rock of the Brazilian island behind us, once again we set off on a long passage with one less crew member. Now only having 5 people on board we decided to change our watch schedule to 3 on 6 off. Unfortunately, this watch schedule did not work very well and quickly we returned to the 3 on 9 off watch schedule we were used to. This was at the cost of me losing Dantelle as my watch buddy. Yet again, it was back to the monotony of doing long distance passages. The nights got broken with squalls and the odd container ship that would pass near by. We were warned about possible debris in the sea and the countless fishing boats that hug the coastline up to 100 nautical miles away from land. We opted to sit about 200 miles off the coast. The passage did give us good fortune with a huge current pushing us along Brazil’s coastline. Read more

Fernando De Noronha

It’s time for another slightly different perspective on this adventure. Dantelle has written this story.

I have been welcomed into a country in many different ways, but one experience that will always stick with me is the one we had in Fernando de Noronha, a small island off the coast of Brazil. As we were approaching the anchorage we were greeted by a playful pod of dolphins, jumping out of the crystal clear, turquoise water, doing flips. A truly remarkable sight! After anchoring next to the local fishing boats, we set off to Customs and Immigration. Besides the language barrier, it was a delightful experience. 

The local port with all the fishing boats out in the back

After a good night’s rest, Lloyd and I set off to explore this stunning island. With snorkels and flippers under each arm we headed to the Marine Park. It is home to turtles, dolphins, reef sharks, manta rays and many more tropical fish. 

Our first stop in the Marine Park was Sancho beach, known as the most beautiful beach in Brazil and popular for its snorkelling. I have never been snorkelling, so I was buzzing with excitement to have my first snorkelling experience. What brochures tell you is that you walk through a forest-like trail for about 5 minutes and then you’re greeted by a spectacular sight, what it doesn’t tell you is that you have to descend down two ladders of about 5 metres, through narrow rock tunnels and then walk down steep steps to get to the actual beach. It felt like Jacob’s Ladder from St Helena island all over again. 

The incredible view from Sancho Beach
White sand and turquoise water

After a snorkelling lesson from instructor Lloyd, we made our way to the water. I have to admit, I wasn’t blown away by the sea life that we saw. A few colourful fish here and there and some rocks, but nothing worth writing home about. We decided to check out some of the other beaches in the Marine Park instead, with hopes of finding some better snorkelling spots. 

We walked 3.5km to Sueste beach, yet again, a beach known for its snorkelling. We arrived there at about 3:30pm, thinking we would have a chance to snorkel, only to be told that the beach closes at 4pm and that we could not hire the mandatory float vests to go snorkelling anymore. We walked along the beach instead, taking in the beautiful sight when Lloyd commented on the murky water in the small bay, saying it was a perfect spot for the nursing of sharks, he was right! Not even two minutes later we saw many baby black tip reef sharks swimming in 10cm shallow waters. Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed that we couldn’t go snorkelling anymore, because mama shark could be lurking around. 

We found the rest of the crew on the way back to the boat, stopped at a restaurant and had some Caipirinhas, a traditional local Brazilian rum/lime drink (very strong), before retiring back to the boat for the night.

Enjoying some drinks on the beach

Waking up the next morning we had to say goodbye to one of our crew members, Monica, who has been on the boat for a good 3 months. We were sad to see our MasterChef leaving as she made some incredible meals on the trip, but she was on to a new adventure. Werner went along with her to the airport while the rest of us went snorkelling in the port, which is not part of the Marine Park, yet had more sea life than the other beaches we had been to combined. 

We saw a turtle before even entering the water and that was only the beginning. The 28°C port water was home to many pufferfish, crabs, zebra fish, disco-looking fish and rock cod. A manta ray made its appearance a short while later. I was very relaxed, looking at some astounding sea life, until Mr1.3m nurse shark swam right under us, and yes, I know it wouldn’t do anything to me, but you try keeping a calm composure with this animal passing so close to you and this is merely the second time you’ve been snorkelling.

We spent a few more days exploring the island and stocking Catching Up with some of the finest Brazilian fruits, vegetables and foods. One of the favourites that was discovered was a wafer biscuit called Bis. It is a chocolate covered wafer biscuit that is incredibly addictive. Other interesting foods were these tear drop shaped fried pastry foods stuffed with potato and chicken. Fernando De Noronha had an excellent selection of fresh fruits like bananas, mangos, pineapples and as many limes as we could carry. After stocking the yacht, it was back to exploring what the island has to offer. 

We sat at the Port Control making use of the free WIFI available when our friends from Elcie, that we met in St Helena, showed up to clear in. They stopped at Ascension Island before making their way to Fernando de Noronha, hence their later arrival. We invited them to have some traditional South African Bobotie onboard Catching Up. They brought us some lovely Mahi-Mahi that they had caught on the way to the island. Having only caught a 6kg tuna the whole trip, we were happy to have some fish, that we didn’t take out of a tin, onboard. After the meal, they went back to their boat and the 5 crew on Catching Up prepared the boat for the passage the next day. A saying in Afrikaans ‘Haastige hond verbrand sy mond’ (all haste no speed) became a reality, when trying to tidy up the boat in a haste, I dropped the aft locker door on my hand, fracturing it… You live and you learn.

I really liked this little island and I didn’t want to leave so quickly, but the Caribbean was calling our name and were ready for the next leg of our trip.

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.

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