Editor’s Note: Port Charlotte residents Dan and Agnes Long sailed around the globe for over a year. This is the second half of their sixth and final update since venturing out to sea in October, 2017.
Flying the new gennaker sail and the fishing were the two biggest challenges on the Atlantic. At first there was a learning curve with the new sail and then we had problems with the halyards breaking. Twice the entire sail went into the ocean; it is always difficult to pull a large sail filled with water back onto the boat.
The second time it tore in several places and Dan needed to get in the water mid-ocean to free a line from the prop. We had it repaired and now we can sail in a lighter, downwind direction at a good speed.
With the new solar, inverter and gennaker all working, we are a fully powered boat again while using less diesel. Fishing has also been interesting. At one time we had a fish on that took lots of line out and broke the rod holder, another time Dan landed a nice mahi that slid off the transom step. We caught some small fish and then a nearly-7-foot, white marlin. The marlin took over 20 minutes to reel in, it had a long sword nose and we got two huge fillets. That was exhilarating!
Our first stop was at Walvis Bay, Namibia in Africa. Walvis Bay is synonymous with Flamingos as well as being the ideal stop over from which to explore the Great Namib Desert and historic towns on the skeleton coast. Reserving a 4X4, we stopped at a lagoon to observe some of the strangest and most gorgeous birds, the pink flamingos. At the Namib Dune Belt we climbed Dune 7, one of the highest in the world. Going deeper into the desert we went to the Moon landscape and Goanlkontes Oasis where huge granite plains were carved into canyons and gullies. The afternoon was spent off roading through the desert and stopping at the quaint German coastal town of Swakopmund. Walvis Bay was a great stop and World ARC has added Namibia to next year’s route.
Situated in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, St Helena Island is one of the most remote places on earth; it is a small British overseas territory. Our second stopover was on this sub-tropical paradise which included some spectacular hikes as well as an amazing whale shark encounter.
We visited the three main sites that Napoleon occupied and climbed Jacob’s ladder comprising of 699 steps rising from the deep valley of Jamestown to Ladder Hill Fort. We got close to whale sharks during one of the popular snorkeling tours. It was exhilarating to swim alongside these gentle giants while they were feeding close to the water’s surface. Our hikes comprised of an impressive range of trails through rolling hills and rugged coastlines including old military routes, flax plantations and pastureland. There were stunning views at the summit with sheer drops down to the sea.
Before departing St Helena, we started taking turns hosting dinner; “Influencer” had everyone aboard their yacht for a BBQ while “Mad Monkey” held a pasta night.
Ascension Island is a tiny volcanic mass hidden in the vast Atlantic approximately 700 miles north of St. Helena, also a UK overseas territory. The population is just 800 and the main employer is the U.S. military Air Force Base. While on Ascension we experienced one of nature’s natural wonders, visited the residential and military fire stations, did some hiking, touring and snorkeling as well as work on our boats.
During a night tour we observed a green turtle lay a clutch of eggs. Walking the beach early one morning, we watched a turtle crawl out of her nest pit and make her way back to the sea. About 25,000 turtles nest on the island each year before returning to Brazil every three to four years. A favorite hike was Elliott’s Pass, a walk around the top of Green Mountain, the world’s only man-made cloud forest. This unique path through dense ferns and hanging vines had several short tunnels. The pass was opened as a lookout for the Marines Mountain Detachment. “Smoke and Roses” had their turn hosting dinner and held a fish fry with mahi, yellow tail and jack, feeding 16 crew members.
Approaching Fernando de Noronha from the east, I was awed with the stunning natural beauty of the islands unique high, rocky peaks and endless sandy beaches. Thirty percent of the island is for civil use, the rest is a strictly controlled Marine National Park. The number of visitors to the island at any one time is limited and most things are very expensive. Meeting at a lovely beach bar/restaurant for dinner, some of the people we were sailing with coordinated a very special mock “Prize Giving” complete with fun prizes for everyone. While in Fernando we watched an international surf competition and walked some of the best beaches in Brazil.
We met up with the World ARC fleet of 17 yachts in Cabedelo, Brazil which is situated approximately 100 nautical miles south of Natal where the Rio Paraiba enters the sea. Brazil has the second largest manufacturing sector in the Americas. Yet there is extreme poverty, in part attributed to the country’s economic inequality.
Brazil is struggling after emerging from the worst recession on record and has serious problems with crime. We went dinghy cruising in the shallow estuary of the river and attended our first carnival in nearby Joao Pessoa. The carnival was a fun time with street vendors and a parade while people were drinking and dancing in the street. The bigger carnival was in Recife, with over 1.5 million people. Walking the street during the Dawn of the Rooster Parade, four guys working together stole Dan’s gold chain necklace.
The food in Brazil did not agree with me, the sea bed smelled bad, the no-seeums were relentless and it was hot. In spite of preparing for a long leg on the Atlantic Ocean, I was ready to leave Brazil.
Leg 17 from Brazil to Grenada is the last leg of our World ARC Cruise; we sailed for 2,000 nautical miles from the South Atlantic, across the equator into the North Atlantic and then the Caribbean Sea. We made one stop at Devil’s Island, eight miles off the coast of French Guiana. Our course line, on this leg, follows the shelf of deeper water along the coast of South America where there is a 2 to 3 knot current helping us. Unlike the relaxed ocean sailing of most of the South Atlantic we experienced inconsistent weather that was mostly cloudy with light rain and frequent squalls. One squall had 37 knots of wind; Dan sailed with a fully reefed main, no forward sail and followed the storm going downwind to reduce the pressure. A couple of boats reported some minor damage.
With the wind on our beam most of the time we are sailing fast, occasionally the wind moves forward and waves splash over the starboard hull. We are grateful for our side curtain that keeps the salt spray and rain off the helm.
On March 14 we crossed from Brazilian waters into French waters. Although the weather is still very inconsistent, the second part of the leg had a little more sunshine and bright moonlit nights. One day, Dan spent nearly 30 minutes fighting a large yellowfin tuna that eventually snapped off at the transom. Our course and sail handling decisions were spot on, this was one of our fastest and best passages.
The French penal colony known as Devil’s Island was established in 1852, it’s a network of tiny seemingly serene islands that have been mostly forgotten about by the rest of the world…unimaginable things happened here. Over a period of nearly 100 years around 70,000 convicts were sent there. Doomed to a torturous existence, most never made it off the island. The islands were scenic with lots of tropical foliage, the stone roads and buildings were produced using prison labor. Visiting the ruins we walked among countless rows of tiny, dark cells where prisoners were kept in solitary confinement with enforced silence. Although beautiful there was an eerie feeling about the place, Dan could sense the souls of the miserable lives that were lost here…it was an interesting stop.
Grenada is in the Caribbean and having visited many islands here, it almost feels like home. It is great to be back in the Caribbean! Known as the “Spice Island”, Grenada’s rich agricultural land produces nutmegs, mace, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla and more. We visited Dougaldston Spice Plantation, snorkeled an Underwater Sculpture Park, hiked the Shoreline Trail and to the Seven Sister’s waterfalls in a lush tropical forest. Docked stern to at Port Louis Marina, someone boarded Smoke and Roses one night and stole our laptop computer, fortunately and unbelievably we got it back. From here there is two weeks of free cruising/ island hopping through the Windward island chain of The Grenadines back to where this all began, St Lucia, to cross the finish line.
Enjoying the short sailing distances between islands we stayed at five different islands for two to three nights each. Carriacou was our first stop; it has a long history of wooden boat building. We did a hike here to the end of the island. Sandy Island just off Carriacou, is famous for palm fringed white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. We snorkeled a lovely coral reef.
On Union Island we went to a happy hour at Happy Island just out from our very busy mooring field and watched some very talented kite surfers. This unique bar is built on a bed of conch shells. Next we moved to the quieter Chatham Bay with a huge sandy beach. On the north of Mayreau, we anchored in the picturesque Salt Whistle Bay and took the trek up the hill to enjoy breathtaking views behind the Catholic Church. The Tobago Cays are an archipelago of five uninhabited small islands and extensive reefs as well as home to a protected marine park. We snorkeled a turtle sanctuary and Horseshoe reef, there were lots of starfish near the boat.
Hiking several cays, we had stunning views of the surrounding islands, reef and clear waters. Bequia is the largest of the St. Vincent dependencies and its terrain is volcanic in origin. We hiked to Mount Peggy through pasture, dry bush and rainforest with 360 views at the summit of Admiralty Bay. Strolling along the scenic Port Elizabeth there were numerous small shops, bars and restaurants as well as a nice boardwalk along the beach.
Sailing alongside the islands the wind is very inconsistent, there are strong gusts and then it’s very slow. We motored then sailed and motored and sailed, on the 60 nautical mile trip to St Lucia to meet the World ARC fleet at Marigot Bay. St Lucia is best known for its Deux Pitons, two volcanic sugar loaves. We were happy that our daughter Alicia could join us again for the end of our world cruise and part way home.
Touring near La Soufriere we walked a nature trail with views of the Pitons, visited a drive in volcano and sat in some sulfur springs. The finale was a “Parade of Sail” from Marigot Bay to Rodney Bay with all the boats dressed in code flags. A very festive welcome was held on the dock with live music, drinks and appetizers, everyone was elated. There was a formal final prize giving party at the Royal St Lucia Resort and Spa where all boats were presented with a World ARC Circumnavigation certificate and a nice photo book. It was all over, after 16 months of sailing together we would all soon be going in different directions.
The cruise was an amazing experience. Even though our catamaran was the perfect boat for us, we are looking forward to going home to family and friends. We will miss the many great people we have shared countless extraordinary experiences with for the last 16 months. The challenges of living on board with constant maintenance and breakages, sailing across oceans, amazing wildlife encounters, experiencing other cultures, eating new foods, watching a myriad of sunsets and sunrises from different latitudes, continuously changing currency, courtesy flags and languages, endless conversations about the weather and sailing strategies, touring, snorkeling and hiking mountains together all around the world. Always having a party somewhere, supporting each other when a parent passed away, a grandchild was born or someone got sick, always willing to help each other with different skill sets including some doctors, a dentist and several with amazing maintenance and repair abilities.
As we part we have exchanged land emails and planned reunions. Home for some means crossing another ocean, for us it is making our way through the Caribbean, currently in the BVI, we should reach Florida about mid-May. Our total trip will have taken 20 months logging over 28,000 nautical miles. Our home is rented until June 1 and we will go back to work chartering Smoke and Roses in southwest Florida. It all seems a bit surreal.