We left Buzios in a hurry. Not because we wanted to, but because the cold front was fast. REALLY fast.
We blasted forward at a whopping 8 to 11 knots with the wind gusting up to 40 knots in places. It felt good to be sailing at this speed, but also nerve racking. Shang Du was built for this, but were we?
Sails and rigging took the force well and the boat leaned to the side, but in our minds mulled the questions: “Isn’t she leaning a bit much?” or “That noise? Should it be there? What does it mean?”
Frans stayed in the cockpit throughout the night, dozing off now and then. The rest of us did our normal shifts. It was always exciting to see how many miles were covered when one came back on duty, but somehow in the cockpit it remained tense. A continual checking of the instruments and the relief when any strong gusts died down for a bit. Add to this the usual seasick-pills haziness and it all became very surreal.
Fortunately, the force of the Cold front abated during the next day and we had some good, but uneventful sailing ahead. In two days’ time, we would reach Abrolhos where we planned to do some diving.
When we contemplated safety procedures at sea, we made the decision to install an AIS system on Shang Du. This system sends out a message to all other vehicles with AIS. The message contains information on who you are and where you are. It is mandatory for all large ships to have this, but for sailing vessels it is optional.
We have never regretted choosing AIS. While on our way to Abrolhos we received a call on the radio. A Container Ship wanted to inform us that it would be passing us on our Starboard side. We were to enjoy our stay at Abrolhos and please to make sure that we steer carefully around the shallow reefs. We thought this was really neat!
Alas! Abrolhos itself was not to be.
We reached Abrolhos early in the morning, but the seas were rough and there was no sign of life on any of the flat islands. We could summon no one with the radio and couldn’t even find the mooring buoys that visiting yachts were supposed to pick up. There seemed to be no real shelter from the still strong wind and seas, so we decided to continue on to Devil’s Island next to French Guyana.
It was a VERY heart sore captain and disappointed crew that sailed away from Abrolhos. The place that was known for its whales and great diving.