Things of a Traditional Nature
by Roy McBride - Cape Town, South Africa
http://www.ckdboats.com/

Hout Bay YC, October 2006

Within the various yacht clubs of the cape, is an established specialist association, named ‘The Traditional Boat Association’, this is a voyage of a members yacht and family, from Cape Town to Salvador, Brazil and on to Devils Island, French Guiana, ending up in Venezuela and Trinidad.

The aim of the TBA (traditional Boat Association) is to uphold interest in things boating connected with tradition, this may not always be actual boats but more about things and places connected with them. Around 1988 the family McBride set sail for places west of Cape Town, the girls actually flew across to Salvador, Brazil and Roy and three good friends John Holmes, Alec Notman (notty) and his daughter Simone (sam) sailed the Endurance 37,’Ocean Cloud; across to Brazil. Visiting St Helena (18 days) Ascension (5 days) and Salvador (11 days) apart from a rather slow first section, the sailing was just brilliant blue water sailing the way its supposed to be (we have a VHS Video and a DVD)

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Ocean Cloud
Royal Cape Yacht Club, with a prime mooring in front of the main club house.

Sailing with all canvas set; Main, Geneker and a Spinnaker Staysail, we stayed our first night out on anchor at Dassen Isle to recoupe from the weeks of preparation for the trip. We were off early the next day only to find a light North Wester, which was to last a whole week. Beating into this often required the motor but as evening fell, the wind would increase and we would sail without the help of the diesel engine.

John Holmes, stowing halyards after raising light wind sails

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Salvador, Bahia, an historic sea port that seems to have hardly changed in decades, the old city is as it was for centuries, with a new one built higher up the hill.

After a period of rest and discovery in Salvador, which is much to be recommended if not a bit of a culture shock. We took off north, stopping at places like Maceio then a short trip further north to Cabadelo, the main port for the city of Joao Pesoa; once connected to the sea itself but a massive flood silted up its river. Staying some while on our own anchor, a minor refit took place. The assistance of Brian Stevens, the British owner of Cabedelo Nautica, always ready to source materials and equipment to assist the visiting cruisers. I made a suggestion that as the river had no haul out site for the larger boats ,we could collectively build a drying out stage? Brian soon made that happen and Ocean Cloud was the first boat alongside to take advantage of the rivers tide rise and fall, around 2 meters sees the keel completely dry out, making a new antifoul job easy.

After more than enough weeks at anchor and the new paint job, we then headed offshore some to Fernando de Noronha, which is a marine national park known for its schools of Tumbler Dolphins. After a few days there we went straight down wind to another Brazilian Isle, Rocas,

Janet and Jean sailing to one of the bays in Fernado do Noronha.

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Swimming in the Rocas lagoon. Roy, Janet and Lorna

We enjoy our trip ashore, swimming in the shallows and watching the shoals of bright tropical fish. This may be one of the few islands in the South Atlantic (just) that is actually coral. The British Admiralty Pilot book mentions to beware of Rats, Scorpions and Lice. We saw lots of the last two but no Rats!

Jean enjoying the warm water of the Rocas lagoon, with our yacht anchored off in the background

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The sail from Rocas back to Brazil’s mainland north east coast, was a fast if not bumpy trip. We arrived in Fortaleza feeling a little shaken but soon settled in for a nice stay at the local yacht club, who on seeing our arrival soon handed out A4 information sheets, advising use of the club. On the sheet was an admonition to not use the swimming pool. We were not alone as a visiting yacht, six more were with us and most from the HBYC, this was by no prior arrangement it just worked out that way.

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Mucruripe, Fortaleza, Brazil. A traditional Brazilian sailing boat, they are all enginless and sail like the wind, check how close winded the boat can sail.

Collectively we had many children and the sight of a pool full of water but with no one in it as a banned swim pool was doing them no good at all. On discussing the matter with the manager, we found out the ban went back a year or so when a French yachtsman decided to take his sails into the pool and wash them, he himself being quite naked. The members of course objected, hence the rule which in our case was then lifted and all was well - that was until a French yacht anchored and the rules were re applied!

Tea Time for Janet,

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A young Janet with one of her friends

From Fortaleza, which is the port most east on the coast of Brazil, we sailed on north toward Sao Luis, which is a port once significant but heavy silting has long since closed the general shipping down and only large tankers can now lay to terminals built specially for them. The place is full of very interesting people. The old city is quite Italian in style, pure sailing vessels ply the rivers working the very fast tides caused by a seven meter tide, we had to anchor in plus eight meters to be safe.

Lorna at a Brazilian family braai we were invited to in Fortaleza. All the South African cruisers were invited, we were so many, seven yachts ,that we collectively rented a Mercedes Bus to get us all to the event.

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The art of tacking when it really matters! Just outside of the old port, Sao Luis, Brazil

As a family we had a nice if not overlong stay in Sao Luis, waiting for expected mail that just never arrived. The Commodore of the yacht club -Clube de Reggata- bought a large leather bound visitors book and asked Lorna to do the first entry. This was a nice family sailing club, as many are in Brazil.

Prize giving at the Clube de Reggata; that’s the Commodore handing out the prizes and just look at the size of them!

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All sailing is done right of the beach at this club, the massive tides mean no keel boats that can not be trailered down to the water, multihulls are favourite for obvious reasons.

Leaving our by now lost mail behind, we sailed out on a flood tide,10 knots over the ground by what was then a Walker 412 SatNav. Remember those days! The sailing was easy and fast, the current was moving us along at 170 miles a day. We passed the Amazon River around 120 miles out to sea. Our next destination was to be that place of legend, Devils Island. We had the most easy passage on this trip and we eyeballed the group of three Islands as we arrived, then saw them disappear from view in the one and only rainstorm we encountered on that leg of the sea; sods laws at play I assume?

Fishing along our route:

Where ever we sailed, fishing for supper was a part of what we did. Often the lure would just vanish by being taken by large fish which we never saw. This Tuna is just the right size. With refrigeration aboard we could then stop fishing until the need to catch more.

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Devils Island itself, is in fact not in this picture; we are looking from the seaward side to Royale, then St Joseph Islands. The notorious Devils Island is just out of the picture to the left.

Picture by G Delabegerie

The best anchorage is just off St Joseph, on the inside, some use a of a rolly anchorage may be made on the inside of Royale but its not to be recommended as the open channel to the North (left) brings in a swell and current.

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A faded copy of the only chart we ever found, at some 52.35w and 05.17n we had now sailed some 4658 nautical miles from our Cape Town home. The indicated three anchors of St Joseph mark the best place to stop.

The main buildings that can be seen on the islands, are the old hospital and officers quarters which is now a boutique hotel. No water exists on any of the islands, you have to sail to the mainland and Korru, to fill up there.

DEVILS ISLAND! This is the missing island from the previous picture and taken from St Joseph Isle.

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THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL.

By Panther Books,1970 Also as a movie with Dustin Hoffman as the lead role.

The island was, as most people know, a prison island of some repute, if that’s the correct term. The story ‘Papillion’ by Henri Charriere, told the tale of the living hell the inmates went through. I can tell you that anyone who has watched the movie has seen exactly what the place looked like. The film set used, was a perfect copy of the real thing. We had the surreal experience of one of the fellow cruising yachts having the movie “Papillon” aboard his yacht. The soundtrack was in German but one evening we all went ashore, invited by the French Gendarmes, to watch the movie in their barracks on St Joseph. It was a most goose tingling experience knowing that the very buildings and people we were seeing enacted out in film, had happened for real, just yards from the front door!

Today, the main prison, which was on St Joseph has been taken over by massive tropical growth roofs are either gone or falling in but the guards over head Iron grate catwalks are still as solid as ever.

Sonia Notman off the Cape Town yacht JACANA, a Fortuna 37, standing at the entrance to one of the buildings.

This photo and those that follow by Alec Notman

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The main island of Royale was the place of residence for the warders and management to the prison, quite a grand place in comparison to the other islands. The hospital was on Royale too.

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The entrance to the hospital. We saw evidence of a major attempt to repair the building. A new roof was in place but the building was generally open.

These drawings are on the walls of the Hospital:

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The horror of medicine back then, may be seen in these pictures. One can only imagine what is being worked on, The patient is naked, the doctor clothed.
 
We eventually sailed on and this is ‘Ocean Cloud’. Janet and Jean sailing one day into Venezuela’s Punta Pargo, which is just a day sail away from Trinidad, West Indies.

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Except when mentioned All words and pictures are by the Mc Bride family

Roy Mc Bride
Yacht ‘Flying Cloud’ (Dix 43)
Hout Bay
South Africa

Copyright, no portion to used without consent of the writer or family.

SAILS

EPOXY

GEAR