3 months have flown by and they were really not enough to get to know what more than a country is a real continent.
One nation and 1000 cultures, casual encounters, extraordinary people which I shalll not forget.
This last stretch from Natal in Brazil to French Guiana 1.400 miles long, was one of the most comfortable ever.
With the favor of the winds, that in this period still blows with a southern component, we made it in 6 days and 12 hours, not bad considering that in the last 30 hours the wind was always below 6 knots.
A very easy crossing weather wise but dealt with a bit of concern. Unfortunately the Brazilian coast from Fortaleza till the estuary of the Amazon river has been lately theatre of some piracy. Before leaving, we have also asked for instructions and advice to the Brazilian Navy Base in Natal, but we have been told that they were not aware of any piracy dangers along the coast of Brazil. Unfortunately the reality is different and on the internet you can find various testimonies of boats chased and cught by pirates. I have no desire to relive the experience we had on November 24th, 2014 when, off the coast between Honduras and Nicaragua, we suffered an attack from a pirate boat,.
So to avoid as much as possible this risk I have developed a strategy on 4 points: 1. Stay out of trouble. The vessels used by this type of piracy, at least in this part of the world, are mostly fishing boats which assalt the sailing yachts crossing their fishing area. So in order to avoid their areas of work, I drew a route to remain ouside the 1.000 meters deep countours and at least 100 miles off the coast of Brazil. 2. Blend in. There are a few things to do in order to avoid being seen in the sea, the first is to be out of sight, the second is to overshadow the Radar Deflector (normally an artifact in metal that boats bulit of composite material or wood use to be visible to other vessels's radar. The third is to leave the navigation lights off at night. 3. Identify the enemy. I have outlined a safety zone around Angelique II with a radius of 8 miles and I set an alert on the radar in order to be informed of any vessel entering this zone. 4. Run away. If the vessel entering this safety zone would be anything but a sailing boat or a bigh ship, I would have changed course and speed with the aim of bringing the intruder again out of the safety zone, meaning running away and putting as much distance as possible from the potential pirate. With this strategy and a little bit of anxiety we left. It's the anxiety the saddest aspect of this whole thing. Aware of the quality of the vessel on which I sail and of my knowledge, I never develop anxiety when we set sails for a long passage, even when we face the Golfo de Pena, Cape Horn or the Drake Passage. But these bloody pirates put me on a really unbearable anxiety mood. I spent 4 days of tension and every time that the alarm played I relived the moments of that 24 November 2014. I run in front of the radar, trying to locate on the screen the boat intruder in relation to our course. Than I run on deck with binoculars in hand, trying to spot visually the intruder to determine if he is a safe intruder or a risky one 8 times out of 10, the boats which entered our safety zone were at risk. So I had to choose the route which considering the wind and the position of the suspected vessel would allow me to develop maximum speed and to increase the distance with the intruder. Target speed 14 knots. All this normally last 20 minutes, after which the distance between us and the boat was again safe and mostly the intruder most of the time risulted to be on a different course.
The first stop in French Guiana was the Ile du Salut, 3 Small Islands, sadly famous for their criminal bath that inspired the famous novel "Papillon" of Henri Charrière the namesake movie with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. We stayed a couple of days and than we covered the last 100 miles up to Saint Laurent Du Maroni from where I'm posting. For the first time in these 5 years I've dealt with a crossing without my wife on board. I am the commander and I have all the necessary experience to lead our Angelique II in any part of the globe. However, all of a sudden I understand how important is her presence on board. I'm not talking about the obvious reasons of the heart, the fact that having been together for almost 10 years which 5 of these sharing our life h24, which makes me feeling as someone cut and took away half of my body. I am thinking instead about the relevance she has in respect of management of our boat. Any maneuver I decide to do, even if I don't ask for help, she would always be there ready to intervene, knowing exactly what to do if something goes wrong. When aboard her senses amplify and I have not yet understood for what primitive instincts, but she can perceive sounds or even, vibrations which i would not and which as a rule are signs that something is not working in the right direction. Not to mention her reptile "instinct" thanks to which she feels the presence of other boats even before the radar. And then questions like, are we fixing the running back stay?Is the Alarm Radar on? What about using the dagger boards? I would answer: of course my dear I was right on the point of doing it. Where, instead, 90 times out of 100 I hadn't even thought about it. Thank God just other 600 miles and she will be back on board.