24 September 2013

Day 8 - Paradise in Danger

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I slept terribly last night. Actually, I don’t think I slept at all, not even the double ration of rum (which we only get when we are anchored) helped. It wasn’t the rolling of the boat, or the rain, or the winds howling very loudly -- a bit scary/fun -- I could not find a place to lay on that wasn’t hurting. I have soooo many bruises and after the last 3 days of bruising over bruises is getting really painful. Due to pure exhaustion I fell asleep early in the morning.

I woke up to a gray rainy day -- too bad because this is the snorkeling paradise of South America.

After breakfast, a young man on a motorized dinghy asked permission to come on board. Francis belongs to the Abrolhos National Park and he came to give us rules and information about the park. Him and his wife are volunteers at the park.

Abrolhos is the largest coral reef in this side of the ocean, it is not as big as the Australian, it is actually 1/6 of it’s size. Contrary also to the Australian reef which is 100% protected the Abrolhos is only 1.5% protected. The main island, the one with the lighthouse, belongs to the Brazilian Navy and all the others belong to the park. We are not allowed to throw anything over board, not even organic matter, to prevent genetically modified food from getting into the ecosystem.

During the Portuguese colonization era, many ships were wrecked on this reef and on the map sailors wrote a warning for the ships traveling through this area: “Abra os olhos”, translated it means “open your eyes” (you are in shallow water). When the official mapping of the reef was being made by the French, they noticed the warning on the maps and misunderstood it as the name for the place, and this is how Abrolhos got its name.

We don’t have a ready-to-go dinghy on the boat, and Francis was super-nice in offering to take us to Cacimba, one of the islands where he and his wife give nature talks and a short tour. On our way there the motor on our boat gave out and while Francis fixed it, we drifted over the beautiful reef with it's see-through water.

Tropical Isle

While we are hanging there in the boat trying to make the engine start, Eric tells us a true story of Dr. Granville. Dr. Granville was crossing the north ice plates with his dog sleigh when the ice broke off and he was being floating away from land. There was no way he could ever get back onto land and death was certain at that point. He then took a drastic measure; he killed his dogs, sewed their skins together to make a sail and with their bones he built a mast for the sail. Rafaela, our guide for the island, said with a broad smile “well, who volunteers to be our sail?” We all laughed (nervously.)

The sun had come out by then and the beauty of this place was revealed.

We had plans to visit the main island with the lighthouse at the end of the day, when they turn on it’s lamp at around 5pm. One needs permission from the Maritime Police to get on the island and once you request this they come and get you with their boat and give you a tour.
Francis was warning Eric about a big storm is brewing in a couple of days. Eric, John, Louis (French sailor) and Jon (Dutch sailor) were all worried about getting to Vitoria -- our next port -- before this storm hits. It was a big bru-haha, the men all talking about 6-force winds coming from the South, nothing John wanted to get into details with me. I wondered why.

Our plans to visit the island were ditched when Eric and John decided that we need to leave now. As Eric puts it “I don’t want to get you kids into a storm”. We agree with him 100%, and so by 2pm we left Abrolhos in direction to Vitoria.

On our way out, whales were all around the boat, splashing and jumping and diving. At one point I saw about 4 puffs next to each other. Nice sight. It wasn’t John’s lucky day, because no matter where the whales were he didn’t get to see them.

Again the full moon is out and I have the first watch from 8-10 and then from 2-4am. The Captain predicts we will be there in about 36 hours (another 2 nights on the go).

It is 2:53 and the crew is sleeping, counting on me to protect them from other boats. The waves are hitting the boat from behind and we are surfing them. It seems like fun, but the waves are quite big and unfortunately, the boat swings from side to side forcing me to do my oblique crunches non stop. I am getting a great work out, out here.

Vitoria marks the half way point of our adventure. Here, we are still going!!

Next Episode:  The Cruising Life

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