Friday, 29 August 2014

Time to relax now.

     What a crazy two weeks we have had. Our heads are spinning ,there is sooo much to take in.      

     After checking out of  Argentina with Santiago’s help, meeting our captain (Pikin) and crew(Anna) and attending our lunchtime Asado ( a delicious BBQ held  for the employees at the factory to thank them for building our fabulous boat) we pulled out of the Yacht Club Argentina just before sunset on August 11th. Pikin had set up a watch schedule as we would be sailing thru the night, two hour watches followed by six hours off, so nice with four people. I can’t remember much about that first night so it couldn”t have been too bad, there was a full moon which was lovely and we had wind from behind so a nice motion for the boat. The second night I do remember. We had wind gusts of up to 45 knots ( that’s a LOT for you non-sailors) we were flying along. Again, the wind was from behind, and a full moon. I managed my watches fine, sea sick pills fortunately work well for me! When you’re on passage  the time is spent either on watch, sleeping ( in my case a lot since previously mentioned pills make me even more sleepy than usual) or eating. Generally, we would all be in the cockpit together in the afternoon but otherwise you don’t see a lot of each other.

     We pulled in to the Rio Grande Yacht Club, Brasil,  about 48 hours after leaving Buenos Aires. Rio Grande has a large shipping port and we were arriving at night but with Pikin’s help Ian did a great job of getting us onto the dock.  We spent three full days in Rio Grande waiting for the wind to change direction. Fortunately for us, Pikin doesn’t believe in crashing into heavy head winds. Finally the wind obliged and we left in the afternoon of Sunday August 17th. Unfortunately the wind was now nearly non existant so we motor sailed and then just motored. When I came on watch that night ( ten til midnight) there was zero visibility. You could not even see the bow of the boat, yuck! It is a spooky feeling to be charging forward but unable to see a thing.  Thank goodness for radar.   When near field gains are properly set, even most small fishing craft are visible. We set an alarm zone at night, between .7 and 1.2 nautical miles from the boat so that anything coming within that zone will sound an alarm.

     After two days of travel the scenery abruptly changed. From flat rather ordinary coast line suddenly there were mountains coming right down to the sea with frequent stretches of long white sandy beaches. The sun was out and the views quite spectacular. The weather was getting noticeably warmer as we headed north, blankets were removed from beds and I no longer needed three layers on at night when on watch. 

     Finally, eleven days after leaving Buenos Aires we reached our destination for this leg of the trip, the cruising area of Ilha Grande. Our first night was spent anchored in the harbour at Paraty. We dingied in for dinner that night. What an amazing old town! Built in the 1700’s,a maze of cobblestone streets. The Cachaca Festival ( cachaca is the booze used in the Brazilian drink Caipirinha) was on and the streets, lined with knick-knack stores, were full of people. A really neat, happening place. 
For the next three days we did a pit stop tour of this area with Pikin showing us his favourite anchorages.  The island of Ilha Grande apparently has eighty six beaches and that doesn’t include the ones along the mainland coast. We plan to see a lot of them over the next month as we cruise this amazing area of lush green mountains, white sandy beaches and turquoise- green water. 

     Pikin and Anna left us this morning for their flight back to Buenos Aires. We had such a fun time with these two people. At all times we felt that we were in extremely capable hands. We ( obviously) couldn’t have made it here without their help and guidance and we are extremely grateful to both of them. Pikin , as well as being an amazing sailor and very gifted Mr. Fix it ( we knick named him McGyver) turned out to be an amusing and fun guy, who knew!!!  Anna was the perfect crew person, very easy to be around, AND she made great Caipirinha’s !!!!  Mucho gracias to both of you.

      I will  add pictures to this post when wi-fi becomes available.  

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Initial thoughts on commissioning and first voyage

     Just thought I would throw together some thoughts about our recent acquisition of hull #46, Zooropa, as we cruise up the Brazilian coast. This is geared to those owners yet to acquire their boats and probably will hold no interest to existing owners. (So stop reading!)

     First we all owe a great deal to those who have gone before us – especially, in our case, Mark Silverstein, Eric Maynard, Jason and Gail Shell, Ed and Maite Pratt, and Carlos Diaz. You can see their influence on the newer boats. The knowledge they imparted to us greatly eased what is a major undertaking.

 BA visit strategy.

      We made 3 trips including final commissioning trip. You probably need this many to get all your stuff into storage. The first will be likely early to convince yourself that boats are actually being built in San Fernando (they are!) as you begin transferring your wealth to Antares. The second will be when your boat is in the finishing factory where a final close review of your work order will be priority #1.
      Looking at your boat in fiberglass and finishing factories is, in my opinion, a waste of time. Nothing to see. I suggest you make sure your trips are timed to boats being commissioned in the water (or an Antares U). Being able to visit with Jason, Gail and Eric on Two Fish and Live Wide was really helpful, not only with WO but also deciding what to bring down. Final decision will be when to depart for BA the last time. We waited until we got the thumbs up from Antares after Memo had taken the boat out for shakedown cruise. Our paradigm was that if a significant problem arose requiring parts from offshore, combined with sail captain and weather window timing, it could be 4+ weeks before sail away date. Fortunately we had only a few issues arise with our boat and, if anything, the process when by too quickly.
      Commissioning process Our interactions with Santiago, Memo and Rob were fantastic. (Make sure Rob and/or Jeff come down for part of this time – the more input at this stage the better)) The process of revising work or replacing parts was effortless and stress free. I had the impression all along that their primary concerns were making us happy and providing the best boat possible. Review of our consultants concerns was collaborative with occasional input from Ted Clements. Again, very pleased with Antares response to our concerns.

      Moving onto boat.

      I suggest first thing you do is have Sancho setup your LAN and wifi booster (really happy with the Rogue Wave so far) so you can get connected. If you have a KVH, setup your account before heading to BA and activate as you head down.
      You will need to update firmware and satellite definitions before the system works. KVH support by both phone and online is superb and they will get your system up and running. When you do get on the boat, try to flip the switch on as many systems as you can.
      Again we were very pleased with our boat but as expected there were a few glitches which could easily be overlooked.
      From our experience, I suggest you do following
 Test VHF hailer function – our hailer needed to be replaced.
 Anchor in River Plata during one of your trips with Memo. Bridle setup needed to be changed. Find the wash down stuff.
 Make sure you try as many functions of the radar, CP and autopilot as you can. Settings may need to be tweaked.
 Get into all compartments and tighten all hose clamps etc. This is a good way to familiarize yourself with mechanical layout.
 Make sure you know how to access the impeller on Onan – not easy. Several boats have eaten impellors. Pray it doesn’t happen in heavy seas.
 Add “Antares to supply 4L Volvo CVS premixed coolant and 4L Rimula R4 15W-40 oil” to your WO. This will alleviate stress of having to find the stuff locally.
 Check your anchor rode. My primary and secondary anchors came with a swivel connected directly to the anchor shank. It’s my understanding that if you are going to use a swivel there should be a shackle interposed between swivel and shank. Something for you to think about. I added the shackle myself.
 Bring large sponges. Can’t find them locally.
 There is a black delrin fairlead std side mid boom for main sheet. Mine was misaligned resulting in chafe on mainsheet. Check. You may have to sand edges down.
Bring a good supply of absorbent bilge cloth.
 While ridiculously expensive, Kato Marine ratchet clamps should be considered. It is imperative the dingy is secured properly when underway. Pikin demonstrated an easy fixation system using just 2 lines.
 We had 2 plastic screw ons that help immobilize our trilens radar reflector break and fall off. We found replacements at a plumbing store in Angra and Pikin went up the mast for the fix.
 Getting a full repertoire of flares locally is problematic.
 Have 3 – 4,000 Bra Real with you (for cash diesel purchase)
 Our freezer is problematic. Sounds like same issue as Calypso and several boats.. Will check coolant levels in Angra though doubt this will be problem. ?Coastal climate control – they say our model is not the same as one giving problems in past?? Consider not installing them until problem with freezer actually identified and fixed.
 Suggest you don’t bother with Quick windlass counter. Not sure what it is measuring but does not appear related to length of anchor rode deployed. (probably just needs recalibration)

First Cruise

El Capitain y el Commandante - Another tough day at the office
      Hire Pikin. He will get you and your boat safely to Angra or beyond stress free.You will learn lots of seamanship from him. He will tweak the setup of the boat. I think the tv series McGiver was styled on Pikin. He seems to be able to fix just about everything – non-functioning compass light, squeaky helm wheel, non functioning fuel guage. There is a lot of respect and trust between Pikin and Memo/Santiago, which makes fixes on the fly with their input much easier. Pikin can cook, dance and get you a Brazilian sim card. Great guy. Highly recommended. We asked him to bring along an additional crew member, Anna, who smooth’s out communication with Pikin. Suggest you crew with 4 on initial cruise. 2 on 6 off – easy peasy! Don’t make this hard on you and your partner. Lots of time to rest, play around with the systems and learn from Pikin. The dynamic with 2 male 2 female on boat was, I think, a very good thing for Philippa.
So in summary

      You’re gonna love your boat. Try to eliminate all deadlines and time constraints before you go. Don’t get system/manuals paralysis – don’t worry because …….. you’ve hired Pikin (or someone of similar qualification) and he’s going to look after you!

      Initial impression of Isle Grande – fantabulous! We have changed our plans accordingly and hope to cruise the area for a month. The upside of those getting their boat in NA summer is this is the quiet season here and the weather is amazing. (vs rainy season in Dec Jan)
Surprising things about Brazil
 1 It's huge. Long distances between cruising areas. 2 It's spectacular. 
As you will see in future blogs. The meeting of hills/mountains with ocean and beaches is amazing.

 Cheers Ian

Saturday, 16 August 2014

First Voyage - Buenos Aires to Rio Grande, Brazil

Pikin, Memo, Ian, Santiago and Pippa!
     After a final sail on the River Plata, feverish provisioning of Zooropa and a farewell celebration (asado) with all the folks at Antares Buenos Aires it was time to sail away. Years of planning were coming to fruition, the whole thing feeling surreal as we stepped onboard Zooropa with our sail captain Pikin and crew member Anna on the afternoon of Monday, August 11

      Our weeks in San Fernando (a suburb west of Buenos Aires) had been taken up with familiarization with our new home and the numerous systems that make her tick. Provisioning took Philippa many trips to local supermarkets. Three shakedown day cruises helped identify potential issues. Throughout the process, Memo and Santiago, the two key players at Antares Buenos Aires, were incredibly helpful and responsive to our concerns and needs ensuring final touch ups, fixes and alterations happened efficiently.  Rob Poirier of Anatares Yachts also took the time to fly down to Argentina to smooth out the final process.  Thanks Rob.

      Our only regret was that, as a consequence of boat readiness and a reasonable approaching weather window, we had to leave before we could tick off bucket list items such as downtown Buenos Aires and Igauzu Falls.

Strong winds from South West
     With light winds and little wave action, we motored along the southern coast of Uraguay past Montivedeo and Punta del Este before entering the South Atlantic and heading North East. Then the winds picked up - 35 to 40 knots, with gusts topping out at 46 K. Fortunately, both winds and waves were following, producing an exhilarating sail, with sail plans running from full main and genoa to a handkerchief from the forestay. Pikin didn't get much sleep for a couple of days ensuring Zooropa and her inexperienced owners behaved themselves.

Busy place, this South Atlantic

     We had hoped to sail on to Florinanopolis along the Brazilian coast but the winds were projected to turn sharply to the NorthEast (on the nose) and therefore captain Pikin decided discretion  was the order of the day, and we turned for Rio Grande - entering this busy port Wednesday night.

      We have spent a few days here at the Rio Grande Yacht Club. Winds are projected to weaken Monday and the plan is to motor on towards Angra.

Phase one of three - checkin Rio Grande Policia Federale

     All our communication equipment appears in order (except SSB radio which we have not tried yet) - our KVH satellite phone/internet; Iridium Extreme sat phone; UHF radio; LAN with WiFi booster as well as cellular internet thanks to a Brazilian sim card. Consequently, we have been in easy communication with friends and family. We have now activated our SPOT tracking device allowing position information to be transmitted to the net.

     Pikin has been troubleshooting a few hiccups as well as entertaining us with his bon vivant.   We have had technical input from Memo and Santiago from BA and the gremlins seem to have been slayed.  Key component, the water maker, appears to be working well.

Adios, Tchau and cheers    Ian

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Settling in

We have lived on board for a week now and are settling in nicely. Bit by bit projects seem to get accomplished. Ian has been very busy finding storage space for all his tools, he seems to have an awful lot of them!.He is slowly adjusting equipment on the boat to his liking, setting up the KVH satellite  internet, getting all safety gear in order, securing the dingy, etc, etc. He now knows every inch of the outside decks having spent several hours this afternoon with a bucket and mop.

I have been making daily trips to the grocery store, with my trusty trolley in tow. Once there I go up and down each isle with my list and Spanish translation notes in hand. It sure helps when the labels have pictures . I have cooked up a storm and then frozen many meals, we have enough food onboard to sink a ship ( lets hope not!) I am, after all, a girl who likes to know where and when her next meal is coming!! The washing machine has been run and the heads have been cleaned.

Apparently we are starting the first leg of our long trip to Trinidad tomorrow( we have yet to meet the Captain who is taking  us to Angra). The weather looks good for the trip North, with south and south east winds to blow us up the coast. Fortunately for us there is currently a full moon so the night passages, if skies are clear, should be brilliantly lit. We are hoping for a smooth passage but i"ll be getting my seasick meds out and started either way.
Downwind sailing River Plata with Buenos Aires off starboard beam

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A visit to the 2th Doctor and flying the Asym.

 This past Friday we decided to take a break from boat related activities and pay a visit to the dentist where I had two teeth yanked, while fully awake, yikes! It actually went very smoothly. The dentist did a great job, the wisdom and molar teeth were out in a flash. The price for this service you ask? One hundred U.S dollars!  Many, many thanks to Santiago, who arranged for and transported me to the appointments. Along with running the boat factory he surely didn't realize his job description included looking after his customers medical care.

 Back on board Zooropa on Saturday we had a very nice afternoon sail. This time there wasn't much wind so we were able to fly the asymmetrical spinnaker, what a great sight!

Our plans as of now are to move onboard tomorrow.