Season 1 ends

DSC_1711Well, Shoestring is all shut down and put to bed, and we are back in SA. She’s swinging on a mooring where she will be checked on regularly, opened up to breath, and all systems run to keep her alive and healthy.

I miss her already, and once I’ve completed the shopping list of things she needs, I know I’ll just want to get back to her. I’m sure all sailors have the ideal yacht in their minds, one that ticks all the boxes so to speak. I reckon I hit gold first time with Shoestring. As a sailing vessel she not only impresses me, but any experienced crew I’ve ever had aboard have also, without fail, complimented her behaviour and performance. Soft riding and solid feeling, yet with a good turn of speed. As a home I don’t think I could have bettered her, not without spending considerably more. I’m not sure that longterm guests would agree, but for the two of us she had all the space and facilities we could possibly need. Operating her as a couple presented no problems despite having to manually raise a heavy anchor and chain every time we moved. The electric motor for the windlass failed on Day 1 in Brazil, and a whole new system is going in the day after I get back to her. I don’t know how many kilometers of chain I’ve cranked up these last 3 months, but my shoulder joint says it was too many!

Pringle Bay greeted us with wind, then stronger winds, then howling winds accompanied by a sprinkling of rain. Now it’s a lovely Spring day, and soon it’ll be Summer again. We are blessed!

On The Road – Comparisons

For a change there will be no sailing talk this time. Rather, I thought I’d record my observations about driving on Brazilian roads, and the comparison to South Africa. I must point out that I’ve not so much as sat behind the wheel of a car here, just been a passenger in both cars and busses.

The first thing that stood out was the amount of visible and active policing of traffic that happens here all the time. You just don’t see the traffic police dozing off under the shade of a tree here, they are all on the roadside, out of their cars, and checking for infractions. Many cars are pulled off for roadworthy or paperwork checks. A lot of the cars look pretty dodgy, much like South Africa, but I guess that mechanically and administratively, they are okay. There is such a big anti-corruption drive going on here that I doubt there is any bribe taking happening.

The other form of policing that stands out is the control of traffic speed. There seem to be fixed radar traps whereever you look, all seem to be marked and some even give a readout of your speed as you pass through. If that wasn’t enough to slow you down, there are continuous speedbumps that force you to behave. The busses literally drop down to 1st gear for the bumps. Only once you are on major arterial freeways do the bumps vanish, but not the radar. In all my road travels here I can’t say I’ve seen a single piece of dangerous speeding.

My impression of a well behaved road population was shattered the day I took a bus to Rio to meet Pat on here arrival here. It was a late afternoon trip that was meant to take less than 3 hours, and ended up taking 6. The roads were wet and the traffic heavy, so inevitably there was a fender bender, which inevitably led to several more. It was getting dark, but this was when the general Brazilan road population started putting our South African minibus taxi drivers to complete shame. Firstly the 3 lane freeway became 5 lanes wide as cars used the tarred verge on either side to try to jump ahead. That then became 7 lanes wide as the dirt on either side of the tar was used. It quickly grew into between 10 and 15 lanes wide as cars, trucks, and even busses took any route they could find. It looked like old aerial film footage of early Paris-Dakar Rallys where there were vehicles fanning out all over the place looking for the quickest route to the finish. Anyone familiar with the areas alongside the N2 near Cape Town Airport, where the kids play soccer and the cows and goats graze must now imagine those areas covered in cars racing to get ahead. Totally wild. It’s now raining and dark and then suddenly a young kid appears on a big old bicycle with his even younger sister sitting on the handlebars making his way home in amongst this anarchy, with not even a candle for a light. Somehow it just seems to work!

The last amuzing activity I saw was when taking a taxi out to the airport, which is on an island in Rio bay and fed by looooong elevated roads, bridges in reality, over the water. I started noticing cars stopped on either edge of the freeway, eventually there being no space at all to pull off the road. Innocently I thought that something must have happened in the water that had created a throng of spectators. That was until I noticed that EVERYONE had a fishing rod in his or her hand. They were all fishing from the edge of a freeway, half blocking the road in places! Really bizarre but at the same time completely Brazilian.

The Skipper

16 Sept 2017


Tempus Fugit

The title is Latin and means “Time Flies.”, just in case you weren’t one of the lucky scholars who had to struggle through Years of Latin at school. Actually, I’m glad I did. It helps in so many ways when you’re trying to understand another language. not that my exam results ever reflected that!

So, we’ve had a fair amount of wintery weather here, interspersed with simply amazing days and nights of perfection. Every time we’ve moved anywhere, I’ve been quick to get at least some canvas drawing energy from the light winds, and sometimes things have even become quite boisterous. Today was a perfect example, where we started out in a light breeze, but it slowly built until we were running downwind with a preventer on the boom, and other yachts falling slowly further behind us. We’re now back at ICAR, a private yacht club that makes us feel like royalty. The Bus Stop is directly outside their entrance, and we’re off to extent our tourist visas. This involves a couple of visits to the relevant office, and once I have mine I then have to extend Shoestring’s visa to stay in Brazilian waters. Finally I then have to visit the Navy’s local office for them to record this. I’m expecting a loooong and probably frustrating day. Did I say that we also, at some point, have to go to a specific Bank to deposit our payments for these visa extensions.

Whilst we’re away, some guy will be fitting new sacrificial anodes to my propshaft, as well as cleaning the hull underwater. I’ve done all the cleaning I can manage, but the keel is getting a bit grotty. Tiny little barnacles are appearing, and the noises they make all night have to be heard to be believed. It can sound like hailstones landing on a tin roof!

Later this week I’ll be collecting another set of spare clutch plates to keep for ‘just in case’. I listen to the motors noises ALL the time, not trusting my repairs totally yet, and this afternoon things did sound a bit rough and ominous when we used the engine whilt dropping sails and manouvering to our mooring. Fingers Crossed!!!

I’ve almost finished the last of 3 special books I brought along for re-reading. “A Giant in Hiding”, “The Wind is Free”, and “My Way Takes Me Seaward”. They cover the life and adventures of Frank Wightman, one of South Africa’s least known sailing legends, not just for his sailing life, but maybe more so for his ethos and view of life and the human race. Just my type of man.

Bye for now,


On The Move Again

What a relief to be able to resume our cruising dream! Sitting at anchor in our secluded little bay was fine, plus we were living amongst a turtle population that draws tourists there every day, but you can only chill out for so long. The interruption did get me to start reading the few real books I’d brought along, rather than the newspapers and Facebook, but I was itching to do the repair and get going again. I had been told by Philipe, who ordered the parts for me, that they were expected on the 12th, so after breakfast on the 11th we upped anchor and motored the 3 miles to the beach alongside Paraty, going astern (that’s backwards). No wind, flat water, so no problem. No sooner had we dropped anchor there, than an email came thro’ advising that the parts had indeed arrived. Yippee! Up at 6am the next morning, a quick trip across to the other side of the bay in the dinghy, lock her to a lamppost on the jetty, a five minute walk to the bus terminus, then 90min in the bus to Angra dos Reis where the dealership is, collect the parts plus a bit of extra shopping, reverse the process with a visit to the supermarket included, and I’m back on the boat by 1330. Relax for the rest of the day, plus take the whole following day off (it’s my Birthday). Monday the 14th was to be the big test for me.

To cut a boring story short, the repair went absolutely fine. The couple of tools I’d modified in preparation worked as intended, all the little springs, plungers, and loose ball bearings did exactly as I expected them to, and sprung, unplunged and rolled out of their correct positions many times before I had the gearbox back together. From beginning to end, including tidying up, it was a four hour job. A handy billy makes a fine engine hoist, and not a drop of blood spilt. The only test we could do was to engage gear in both directions and give a brief burst of power. Propwash appeared in the expected bits of sea around us, but the real test happened the next morning when we upped anchor to move to the spot we were heading for when this whole drama started. In short, all was fine. Of course, in my self-doubting mind I was wondering if that was it, and the problem would reoccur the next time we used the motor. Well we’ve used her three more times and she’s still fine, so I think I can now relax. I just need to get another set of parts to keep as spares which will avoid the big delay we had to endure.

One unusual thing that has been happening here is that the weather, for almost two weeks now, has been pretty awful, much like we would expect back home. Cold, wet, and dismal. Some big weather systems have been active out in the Atlantic, producing wild conditions and we are getting the spill off. Finally it seems to be over and we can get back to life in Paradise. A cold shower in the cockpit each night is fine in 22deg weather, but not when it’s 15deg and windy. We’ve both decided we need a few nights at ICAR yacht club again, where the showers are hot, and the restaurant/bar can keep our tummy’s  happy.

The rigging changes I made whilst we were anchor-bound have made my life much easier, and any little breeze has me leaping to the lines to get the foresail unfurled.


The Skipper


Keeping Busy

So, another week has flown by, Shoestring’s only movement has been swinging around her anchor due to wind shifts, yet I feel that the time hasn’t been wasted.

We were originally going to move closer to the marina where we’ll reside whilst I do the repairs to the engine’s transmission, a nice little beach in shallow water, with fresh water and a cold shower on your doorstep, but our spot is so peaceful from 5pm to 10am, we have plenty of water, enough to shower with fresh water every evening, anyway, that it seemed like the wrong choice to take. Instead we’ve kept busy tidying and changing things where necessary, applying sandpaper and brush to exterior woodwork that needed it, and generally making life more comfortable. It’s left plenty of time for reading, swimming, tanning, eating, sleeping, and all life’s other pleasures.

One ‘spur of the moment’ change I’ve made, which I guess only sailing people will understand, and that I’m very keen to try out, occurred  whilst I was busy tidying up the foredeck. Sailors will perhaps have noticed from photos of Shoestring that she has a masthead cutter rig. The staysail is not on a roller furler, but is kept hanked on and ready to raise at fairly short notice in a long sailbag tied to the rails. One sees this quite often on cutters, but with the sailbag being much more compact, and living at the base of the inner forestay. My staysail is made of fairly heavy-duty material, plus the sail has battens, so this is not possible. The issue that’s bugged me from Day 1 has been tacking with this setup. Getting the genoa to thread its way between it’s forestay and the inner stay has usually been a slow and very energetic exercise, often requiring a trip to the foredeck to physically haul the flapping canvas through this narrow wedge of an opening. Now, the fact is that I very seldom use the staysail, she’s perfect for heavy winds and weather, and in those conditions would be the only foresail in use. Five minutes with a pair of spanners, a little encouragement to the clevis pin holding the inner stay to the deck fitting, and the inner stay is now wrapped around a lower shroud and tied out of the way. Tacking will now be quick and effortless, when gybing I’ll be able to focus on the mainsheet until the boom is safely across before dealing with the genoa, again quick and effortless, and our normal sort of day sailing will be much more fun. The inner stay can be reattached in ten minutes if it’s needed, and a pelican clip would make it a two-minute job so that might well make it onto the Joblist. Now we must get moving again so that we can try our new rig out. Can’t wait.

Many years ago I was told that ship’s engineers always kept a supply of sanitary towels/pads in the engine room. Small oil leaks could be caught and absorbed by the skillful attachment of these items, and the machinery would stay smart and clean. Modern times have brought changes, and towels became pads, then slimline, then slimline with wings, and the engineers have migrated to disposable nappies. For many years my racing car was equipped with a thin aluminium bellypan under the motor, which held a couple of nappies, and kept the scrutineers happy. Always a clean dry bottom! Two packs of nappies made it into Shoestring’s stores, but the engine needs to leak MORE to stop her continually building surface rust. However, there is a tiny but persistent leak of diesel coming from somewhere on or near the fuel tank. I’ve searched but can’t find it. Someday the tank will have to come out to find it, but not now. Anyway, this has provided a use for the nappies, and they’ve performed perfectly, but eventually I ran out of them. Yesterday’s trip to the supermarket had me hunting down the biggest and cheapest replacements. Guess what? Adult incontinence diapers are much bigger AND cheaper. On top of that, where I used to use two at a time, now I’m only using half a diaper. You Live and Learn.

The last item I’ve attended to, has been to make a flexible but easily useable side ladder for swimmers. There are permanent ladder steps up the rudder, a clever safety feature, but they can get slippery and the angle you climb at requires a bit of extra arm strength. The existing side ladder stopped short of the water and is meant for climbing from dinghy to deck. My new creation, designed by moi, involves solid wooden rungs clamped to a single stainless steel cable that runs down the one side and up the other. It hangs well under water, but can be bent up out of the water when not in use. It still needs finishing off, but more importantly it needs me to jump in the water to test it first. Today is cool, cloudy, and not conducive to such a test. I need to persuade the 1st Mate to be the guinea pig!

My next report should give news of successful repairs to the transmission, as well as effortless sailing manouvres.

Still Smiling,

The Skipper.

Trouble in Paradise

If you’re going to have to wait for repair parts for your boat, this is about as perfect a spot as you could choose.

So, here we are, another week has vanished into the memory bank, and this time I have mechanical maladies to talk about. I suppose it had to happen at some point, but you always hope it won’t. Still, it could be much much worse, we are still afloat, and well provisioned, and also have a yacht that’s fairly mobile.

Basically, we can sail her with the pointed bit ahead, and motor her with the squared off end up ahead. Our ability to motor forward is severely restricted by a worn and slipping clutch that engages only foreward gear. There is a separate clutch for going astern which is still fine. Luckily I had to open up the gearbox and replace these clutches myself two years ago, and have the tools I need to do the job onboard. The parts have been ordered, and surprisingly are much cheaper than back home despite much higher import duty. They should take about ten days to arrive. I did try to carry out a temporary repair of swopping the clutches over but was beaten by four well buried nuts I couldn’t get a spanner on properly, so gave up. That night, as usually happens with me, I woke at 3am with the solution. Half an hour with a grinder the next morning had the spanner fitting perfectly. I’ll save it until I have the parts, then move, backwards probably, the 3 miles to the nearest marina. Apart from the night we arrived in Brazil, this will be the first time I’ve had to pay, but you do get hot showers, shore power and water, so it’s not completely wasted.

We must have looked really odd the day this problem happened. We had started out at 9am to sail  to Paraty. The wind died after 20% of the distance covered so we atarted motoring. An hour later the speed started dropping away, and after identifying the problem we hoisted sails again, now into a headwind. No problem, we had plenty of time. Well eventually we were lookin short on time and the water traffic was getting hectic. That’s when we dropped sails and started motoring the last 3 miles in reverse. The water was absolutely flat, the boat’s handling was stable and comfortable, and we could easily maintain 3.5 knots. I guess we stood out from the crowd, because as soon as we had dropped anchor, a couple in an inflatable arrived from the next little bay to offer help, which we declined. Half an hour later they were back, this time in a beautiful 53foot sloop, making sure we were fine. This led to swopping phone numbers, and yesterday enjoying a wonderful beach barbeque with all the yotties, mostly young, self employed, and having thrown off the shackles that society tries so hard to imprison you in. On top of that, they could braai every bit as well as us Japies.

Next week on Tuesday, I am now entered in a yacht tender race with these guys. There are 4 classes, 3.3hp, 5hp, over 5hp, and rowing. I fancy Shoebox in both the 5hp and rowing category, but the competition is stiff! More news sure to follow.

Gin and Tonics oil the keyboard

I was surprised to see it’s been almost a fortnight since my last writings. That may have something to do with the fact that I’ve been drinking beer mostly during this period. Finally, however, we have ice trays for the icebox, and now G&T’s, with two slices of lime and three blocks of ice, can fuel my thought processes. Every other posting has been accompanied by a glass of the same, not as cold though, so maybe the effects will differ.

I seem to remember mentioning in my last post that I was missing nice fresh breezes here, and that seemed to have the required effect. The very next day our movements were assisted by goodly winds, even exceeding 20 knots at times. That was all wonderful, but what wasn’t quite as appreciated was the winds we had at a bay/beach spot we chose for the night. We were anchored in 7m of water with the wind blowing us offshore. I set an anchor watch on the iPad but without the alarm, and checked our position every few hours, and we seemed to be well attached to the sea bed. The wind died late in the night and so I relaxed. When I felt it pick up again at 6am I didn’t bother checking and dozed until my bladder forced me out of bed at 07.30am. Looking out of the portholes, I couldn’t pick up any landmarks, so I went up on deck to find us drifting out into open waters, a couple of hundred meters offshore, and heading along the coast of Ilha Grande. This created a very quick change in the crews’ dawn tempo, and within a minute the motor was running and the skipper was cranking away at the windlass. Did I mention that one of the first things to break on arrival in Brazil was the electric motor for the anchor windlass? Well, doing the job manually is okay in water up to 6 or 7 meters depth, but thereafter the weight of the chain plus a 27kg anchor becomes hard work. Now I had 20 meters of chain plus the anchor hanging like a big fish hook off the bow! It was a long slow hoist with Pat chugging us slowly parallel to the coast. Job done, it was carry on around the corner to one of our favorite spots where we cheekily hook up to someone else’s vacant but permanent mooring. We happen to know that he is cruising currently much further South on the continent, so he’s not going to arrive and chase us away.

Anyway, that episode rather hammered any growing confidence in my anchoring ability! As I write this we are again anchored in a dodgy spot where a wind direction change in the night could put us onto rocks if the anchor were to drag, so guess who’s gonna be up regularly all night, checking.

In the time we’ve been here, we’ve pretty much travelled from end to end of the cruising area, and spent time in many gorgeous spots, but have nowhere near covered the area in much depth. The rest of our time here, whilst we’re aboard anyway, will be spent not only returning to some of the best discoveries, but also delving deeper into the unexplored parts. The only time we go near a marina is to fill up with water and diesel, so living costs are proving reasonable. We did go and check out a yacht club with a reputation for the friendliness of their welcome, and spent 5 days there. They gave us a mooring to use, all their facilities were free to use, and the restaurant and booze prices were good. Plus they gave us a visitors card that all our food and drink was charged to. I just had to settle up when we left. Fantastic hospitality and keen to help us wherever they could. I left an empty gas cylinder with them for filling and must return for it in 2 days, when they just happen to be having a cheese and wine function. I  may just be persuaded to spend another night there!

As far as provisions on Shoestring go, we are now down to 38 toilet rolls, enough sugar and condensed milk to make another 10 batches of fudge, enough tinned breyani, corned beef, and mackerel, to cross another ocean, but NO MORE Mrs Ball’s chutney. They have no such thing here so we are going to have to improvise. A BAD mistake this and maybe I’ll have to sail back to fetch more!

No shortage of Gin, Tonics, or Limes I’m pleased to say. Pat says the pink wine she’s tried from both Chile and Portugal has been very acceptable!


Chum (aka – The Skipper).





Cruising Observations

The skipper has had his 1st Mate with him now for over two weeks, and it’s allowed him time to observe a couple of things.

The 1st Mate brought not only an aeroplane virus with her, but also rainy and cooler weather, rendering the skipper sickly and off colour. This lasted almost a full week, during which time we didn’t move around much. I had left Shoestring moored up against a local sail maker’s jetty whilst collecting Pat from Rio, and upon return the first thing we did was to refit the main and genoa sails that had been removed for minor repairs after our Atlantic crossing. How cool is it to be able to sail to the sail maker! He  had found plentiful tiny holes in the main that could have appeared long before the voyage, and the sail now looks a bit like we’ve sailed through a war-zone! He also solved a couple of chafing issues, and I can’t say anything but good things about the service Dalmo and Anna of Tlaloc Sails rendered. Once fitted, with the staffs’ help, it was a quick stop at the fuel jetty for a couple of litres of diesel and a fill up of the water tanks, and then anchoring outside the marina. Evening involved a Shoebox trip back into the marina to a restaurant that serves amazing Argentinian steaks, along with the inevitable caipirinhas.

Next morning it was a motor across to Piratas Mall, situated in a marina fairly close by. Two hours of free mooring, and pretty much all you might need right there. A word of advice, don’t leave your mate alone for too long there or you’ll get the sort of greeting I got the second time we went there, “Darling, come and look at a couple of lovely little tops I found on sale just around the corner.”. Potential Danger Everywhere! Another motor brought us to Ilha Grande, the centrepiece of this whole cruising area, and picking up a mooring at Praia da Tapera. Here we sat out my virus, as well as some crappy weather, for several days, until the cruising started in earnest. Since then we’ve covered the Western third of the Bay, but not in any great detail, rather checking places out for a later return.

Philippe, crew and designated “tactician” on our crossing, joined us with his lovely and overworked wife in their yacht for a long weekend, and we were shown many of the nicer areas. Now we’re back on our own again and growing in confidence all the time.

Now for the observations the title promised (you notice how I drag these things out).

  • Victualing a yacht for a voyage bears no resemblance to the requirements for cruising with your wife! I had insisted that the one non-edible item that we could under no circumstances run out of, was toilet paper. Well we sailed from Cape Town with 54 rolls of the stuff, enough to deal with permanent tummy upsets for the whole crew. It turns out that sailing changes or regulates the human digestive system to such an extent that we arrived in Brazil with 46 rolls still awaiting the call of duty! A male only crew probably made all the difference, because the attrition rate has shot up since the 1st Mate stepped aboard. Nevertheless, there’s still enough on board to last a year. Bad planning!
  • Again as to the victualing, it appears that Lucky Star’s Middle-cut Mackerel is not the hit I thought it might be. I heard it being called catfood as well as other even less kind things. Other items I felt any responsible skipper should provide his crew and that weren’t house favorites, were tinned breyani, corned beef, tinned peas, and a few other things. Funny how the 48 slabs of chocolate were only complimented, as were the countless packets of biscuits. The instant coffee it appears should really be made by Douwe Egerts, but then we were one of the very few yachts worldwide equipped with an amazing device called a Handpresso. This clever little chap, which I bought online a year ago, looks rather like a small bicycle pump with a bulbous growth on the one end. Boiling water, a paper real ground coffee sachet, and vigorous pumping until sufficient pressure is stored within, a press of a button, and a perfect espresso is delivered into your cup. We left Cape Town with probably 100 sachets, which are all used up now. Luckily Philippe, who owns two of these devices, has already delivered another 150 sachets, so our mornings are well-started.
  • This area, the Baia da Ilha Grande, complete with hundreds of small islands, and countless anchorages, is paradise. There is one thing I do wish there were more of, and that is wind. As a rule the days start out wind free, a breeze building up from midday, and dying out as the sun sets. That is about perfect, except that the breeze is a bit too light for someone more used to Cape Town weather. I never thought I’d say this, but a bit of spray, a well heeled-over vessel, and maybe even a reef or two in the sails, would be welcome once in a while. Who knows, maybe it’s still to happen.
  • Finally, given the choice of my ocean-crossing crew or my 1st Mate, there’s absolutely no doubt which I’d pick. Sorry guys, the mate wins by a country mile!

Time to sign off, turn off van Morrison, a quick cold cockpit shower, and turn in for the night.

The Skipper.

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