An interesting weekend for Dee Caffari aboard Aviva as she pirouettes her way down the Atlantic

Date18 December


Saturday was such a complete change from the last few days it was refreshing. Dawn bought a clear sky with only high stratos cloud and a steady breeze that developed after we gybed at about 0600hrs.

We made a good heading of 225 – 230 degrees all day. The difference was in the sea state though. This steadily increased over the course of the morning, leaving us with a large quartering sea that created quite a rock and roll environment to live in.

I began with servicing the main halyard winch, while I was busy I could sense that the breeze was building and the sea state was worsening. It was quite an uncomfortable motion and I could hear the cups in the sink sliding from one side to the other with the motion of Aviva.

The wind had risen to 22 knots by the time I had finished the main halyard winch. It wasn’t settled, more in a 5-knot range and the breeze was still aft of the beam so I wasn’t too worried about reefing just yet, however the motion of Aviva due to the sea state was making me concerned. I set about servicing the lazy runner winch and had just taken the screws out before lifting the housing when the boat screwed to windward on a wave and as the autopilot fought for control the boat headed off deep down wind on the back of the wave and carried on. It was almost like slow motion the next stream of events, yet I was moving as quick as I could. I leapt behind the wheel, as Aviva was dead down wind. The autopilot wasn’t getting her back and I turned him off and grabbed the wheel to engage it.

By the time I had control the sails had all gybed and Aviva was doing a little pirouette on her own. I had to go with it, so we turned a full 360 degrees until the sails were on the right side again and we were heading in the right direction. I looked around and the remains of the winch and the service box were scattered across the grating above the gas locker. Great I thought, how many screws have gone swimming? Also, I looked along the deck both sides and saw two stanchions bent by at least 50 degrees from the preventer line squashing them. I was annoyed because apart from things not working I hadn’t actually damaged anything myself and now I am going to have to replace two stanchions along the deck. The good news was that the preventer line had made the mainsail gybe very soft and will have probably stopped any battens in the mainsail breaking against the opposite runner.

I was a little shaken up from this so I drove for a while until I had calmed down and then re set the autopilot. Once he was running and happy, I put a reef in the main sail and then I retrieved all the bits to the winch I was servicing. The wind steadily rose during the afternoon and topped at about 30 knots. The breeze itself is fine although it is a might frustrating that for days I suffer with little wind and then I get loads and I’m busy putting reefs in again. But it was the motion from the waves that made life stressful from what would have been, if fully crewed some awesome sailing. Aviva now has two reefs and some headsail furled away and the breeze ranges from 20-30 knot. It’s direction is still just aft of the beam and the waves are coming from my starboard aft quarter, so we are still rocking and rolling but making some good progress at 9 knots.

The VHF has become alive with the sound of voices all day long. After it being silent for most of the journey it has almost become an invasion of my space now and what is worse is that they are all talking in Portuguese, which is understandable being off the Brazilian coast, but I can’t understand it except for the odd ‘obrigado’ Still it sounds very busy in these waters and I think many of the communications are with the Ports along the coast. I am just south of Sao Paulo and the nearest port for that city is Santos, which definitely keeps getting mentioned on the radio. There is still no one showing up on my radar.

The breeze should build over night and then reduce during the day to become very light tomorrow night, so we are not looking good for getting much sleep at the moment. This sea state we are in is also most unnerving and uncomfortable too, so I am glad for the company of voices on the radio to keep me awake.

So we shall see what lies in store for the last night of our fourth week at sea.

Date17 December 2005


Well, apparently I’m off the coast of Brazil and today it felt I was more likely to be off the coast of the UK. The cloud was so low and grey and a complete covering, no postage stamp size of blue in Friday’s sky. It drizzled all day long and when it wasn’t drizzling it was raining. Very depressing. I ended up gybing three times and had to change my shorts twice. Sitting in wet shorts is not good for my peachy bottom!

Making it past Cabo Frio has been very testing. There has been a depression a little further south and that has been travelling ESE with a front curling back towards the coast and I seem to have been stuck in the clouds and rain of the front for most of the week. Fingers crossed we can clear this and be in more stable breeze soon.

I have stayed further offshore this time down this coast line and looking at the chart today reminded me that when we sailed to Buenos Aires last year we ended up sailing through the Oil and Gas Fields off Cabo Frio. They are just off the coast and it made for some very difficult sailing at night, identifying all the lights and deciding what was moving and what was stationary. I am relieved to have not had to deal with that.

The good news about all this rain today is it is doing a great job of rinsing all the salt off Aviva, which will help and save me a job when checking all the blocks on deck. The bad news is that all the hatches are shut and that makes below deck very stuffy.

It’s just typical though, you spend all day in the rain and then when it starts to get dark, it stops raining. That is what happened early Friday night. I couldn’t believe it. I can still see some mean looking clouds around so I would imagine this short respite from the rain will not last for long. Then as the clouds moved overhead there was a little drizzle the wind shifted from all directions and as I went on deck to see where the next cloud was looming, the sky light up as if some flash photography was taking place.. There was a sky full of lightening. There was no thunder and no heavy rain, just the sky lighting up every so often. Fascinating to see, however a little daunting to be in alone.

So another weekend already. From my darkest moments last week to now seems as if time has moved very quickly. I have made plans for the weekend though already. I shall finish up the last minute Christmas shopping and then get myself a new little number for the Christmas party next weekend! Okay, well maybe I will take some time to make Aviva more festive for next weekend. I’ve got a tree to decorate and the cards to put up, so I should be busy.

Dee and Aviva