Atlantic ocean

Alizé's (halfway) round-the-world tour - Second stage: Brazil / Tristan Da Cunha

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At sea, our occupations are more varied than you might think: you eat, sleep, cook, play sports, taste, admire, read, learn the knots, put the world to rights, check the weather, put the gennaker up, take the gennaker down, gybe, then gybe again, take in a reef, make rice, and start all over again. Although not necessarily in the same order... All that makes our beautiful days more pleasant. In fact, I was very apprehensive about finding myself with my father, my man and my best mates on a catamaran. There's no tougher test than life at sea to find out whether you can or cannot get on with someone. It's make or break. On board, there's no way out - apart from one of the forepeaks or even the masthead for the most reckless among us. You have no choice but to take it on the chin. Taking it upon yourself to talk as soon as you feel the slightest tension and immediately lancing the boil is for me the key to a healthy and peaceful relationship. It's a great experience. And when it works, a lifelong magical bond is formed. However, it's not easy to get through every day: with our strong and different characters, sometimes we all need to put our egos to one side.

Four-star service: let's eat!

On board Maitai, we complement each other rather well; just like little ants! There's never one who does more or less than the others. And when it comes to eating, we're like a well-oiled machine. One of us cuts the zucchini while the second one catches the fish, the third one washes the salad and the last one peels the cucumber. We must all spend two hours a day cooking up some culinary delight. What's great is that the catamaran is over-equipped in terms of cooking equipment and energy, so we can enjoy ourselves and use all the tools we want. Thanks to the three solar panels with their 990 W! On the menu you will find multicolored salads, homemade bread, pancakes, all-purpose cakes, lentils, pumpkin soup, desserts, gratins, pizzas and homemade fish rillettes with the catch of the day if you don't mind! Well, we still have the advantage of having a 4-star chef on board. Thank you Lisa! We pamper our Captain! It makes up for all those moments when we scream and jump around. Or all the rubbish we talk...

One less mattress on the bimini

For the Northern transatlantic crossing, we took the liberty of installing the mattresses on the bimini. They are custom made and are attached with snap fasteners. However, during a squall, a 40-knot gust ripped them off. We were only able to save one at the last minute, which had got caught on the solar panels. Before the mattresses flew away, this had been our evening spot. We would sit up there and stare at the water that surrounded us. Out in this great blue expanse with a beer in hand we would watch the sunset and put the world to rights. We'd talk about projects like, "What are we going to do next? Why not buy a boat and throw some crazy parties? Should we make some kind of goofy summer music video aboard Maitai, singing an old hit song? Or should we just make films about our wonderful life? What are we good at? Being happy and living simply, it would seem. But what should we really do?

A festive crossing of the Equator

Luckily, there are still the trampolines left to lounge around on - leaving big marks on our faces or butts as souvenirs... It really was a pleasant and beautiful transatlantic crossing to Brazil. We didn't even have to worry too much about the winds and sails, thanks to the constant trade winds, which were mostly in our favor. If we'd known what the southern transat in the other direction was going to be like, we would have made sure to enjoy it even more! Crossing the Equator? A great moment! In Cape Verde, we'd bought a lot of stupid accessories in a Chinese shop. High socks in all colors and matching bandanas for everyone, a fluorescent green buoy with lots of wacky animals on it, caps, a plastic dummy for the Captain as a joke to replace my mother during the journey, and most importantly, our official mascot! A kind of mix between a donkey and a four-legged blue sausage quickly christened Gwiny - a long love story. Dressed in all this paraphernalia, we prepared the champagne and rehearsed our onboard anthem: “Oh Lala” by PNL. The countdown could begin: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... that's it, we're all upside down!

Brazil caliente caliente

We arrived in Brazil at dawn. I love getting the smell of the land before I have even seen it on the horizon, especially after two weeks at sea. Before we docked at the small Terminal Nautico de Salvador marina, just opposite the Mercado Modelo, we of course put on our famous outfits. I don't need to tell you that we certainly got noticed and made Dominique, the marina manager, laugh...

I immediately fell in love with the beautiful cobbled streets of Salvador de Bahia and was pleased to speak Portuguese. And then of course there is the music - and what music! For me, it's an essential part of life, happiness and just keeping people going. Music brightens a street and creates a magical atmosphere in less than two minutes! It was Carnival time, and it didn't take long before we had been painted from head to toe...

Ready for the South Atlantic

Our stay in Brazil was short - a little too short for my taste - but intense all the same. It was time to get serious though as we needed to start thinking about the South Atlantic and its lurking depressions. Our objective before casting off: to stock up for a month at sea at the incredible Feira Sao Joaquim market, a riot of colors and smells. We made friends with the saleswomen and wheelbarrow men (the guys who help carry the groceries with their wheelbarrows). They were amazed at the amount of stuff that we were buying! No matter how hard I tried to explain our trip to them, they found it all rather ridiculous: it's simple, I emptied their stalls and even their stocks! The crew had just about had enough, except for my Caesar, who never gets tired or worn out. I ended the stockpiling with about forty bottles of Cachaça - a Brazilian rum known for being an ingredient in a Caipirinha cocktail, a favorite on board Maitai. It's no exaggeration to say that we came back with at least 100 kilos (220 lbs) of fruit and vegetables. There was every sort you could imagine: mangos, coconuts, pineapples, passion fruit, papayas, guavas, spinach, salads, pumpkins, butternut, beans. There were even things that I bought without knowing what it was! When the Captain saw us arrive with all this stuff, he stared at us in amazement - it's a good thing Caesar and Max didn't end up buying the goat that they wanted to bring back to Maitai as a joke! My companions responded to his dazed look with a chorus of "it's Alizé". Very funny! They would thank me later right up until our last day of sailing! We organized some nets to store everything and bleached the area to avoid any unwelcome critters on Maitai. As for my father, he brought fifteen 20-litre (5 gal) containers of diesel on board in addition to full tanks, just to be on the safe side in case we hit any calm weather, which was always possible.

A steady 40 to 45 knots, gusting 60

The Captain was right: the beginning of this crossing was fairly easy-going. We even had four days of dead calm. As a result, in addition to our games and other silly habits, we found ourselves a new activity: as we were under motor, each time we had to change from the starboard motor to port, we'd take a 5/10 minute "motor break" and off we went, making a big splash in the vast expanse of ocean. But as is often said... it was the calm before the storm.

Captain's Log: Tuesday 5th of March: "It's 2:20 am and I still haven't slept. But we couldn't say that we weren't expecting this one. We're in the process of facing down a nice little depression with the kind of sea that goes with it". My father had told me about these famous depressions that stagnate in the south in the summer and rise again around March when the colder weather arrives. That's why we had to get a move on. So, on March 5th we had to deal with 40 to 45 knots of wind, gusting to 60. We'd anticipated the conditions with three reefs in the mainsail and the genoa fully rolled up. Maitai was still running at 7/8 knots with some nice surfs at 14 and even peaking at 18.3 according to the GPS. The waves were huge - on board it was a bit like Space Mountain. It felt as though the boat was going to break up everywhere with all the loud thumps and thuds that sent shivers down my spine. But in the end, I started to enjoy it: the dark, raging seas are just part of the game. Besides keeping me awake, it really made me feel alive. In fact, the Captain preferred to stay with me in the saloon rather than lying down in his cabin, telling me "I won't be able to sleep anyway". I put our fleece blanket on him because he was cold, and let him know that he could rest easy as I was keeping an eye on the squall... Two minutes later, he was sleeping like a baby.

No more wind mode!


Suddenly, there was nothing on the screens regarding the wind strength and direction. It was inevitably at the moment when we needed it the most that the electronics let us down! And we therefore found ourselves in trouble because obviously, in such conditions, we were sailing in wind mode. It was very practical as we had put the autopilot with the wind at 140° downwind to lighten the catamaran. What's more, the wind was turning SSE - on the nose - when before it had been WNW. Without instruments, I tried to use my eyes and ears, to come up a few degrees as soon as the wind came more on the beam. How did they manage in the old days? We tried to do as the sailors did in the past - although no doubt we were much less effective. It was 4:00 a.m. Only three hours to go before daylight. I tried to sleep but it was impossible with all the noise and huge waves crashing into us. I got out of bed at 7:00, as soon as it started to get light. The daytime show left me speechless. In four years of circumnavigating the world and sailing, I'd never seen a sea like this. At night, you could imagine how it looked with all the noise and movement. But I think that seeing it is even worse. Worse than you can ever imagine. The breaking waves were monsters that rushed towards Maitai like gigantic mountains. Some of them were so big that they made the boat crash down into the water after surfing. That was scary. But it's sublime, too... To think that a week ago, we were swimming naked in a dead calm sea!

100 nm north of our route

Max and Lisa finally woke up. I don't know how they had managed not to come out of their cabin before: at the front, it was like a rollercoaster ride! They didn't get too much sleep either though. As a result, they got up and found the three of us in the saloon: César, my father and me - drinking Ricard and eating andouillette. We weren't going to let the conditions get us down! The wind started to drop a notch as the day advanced. The aftermath of this difficult night was that we had had our VHF antenna ripped off. We thought we'd also lost the anemometer, but the wind information suddenly appeared again on the instruments. It must have just been a poor contact... In the end we lost two days. Dealing with the storm meant that we were now 100 nautical miles north of our route. Thankfully though, we hadn't damaged our catamaran. The advantage of our "little" detour was that Tristan Da Cunha was now on our route. An unexpected stopover among the world's most isolated inhabitants was suddenly a possibility. 277 inhabitants made up of 7 families live there. The Captain would perhaps have preferred not to stop, as the anchorage is known to be a rolly one. On average only five boats a year stop at this forgotten archipelago. One of the islands is even called "Inaccessible Island", which gives you an idea of the place!

An unscheduled stopover at Tristan da Cunha

After our discussions we decided to stop just for the day. We anchored at 8 o'clock in the morning. The crew checked three times to make sure that we were well-anchored in 20 meters (65 feet) of water. We then followed the procedure described in our guide for arriving at Tristan by boat, which is to call the doctor by VHF. A check is then carried out to ensure that the crew is in good health before landing on the island. The doctor answered, we introduced ourselves, and then he said, "Is your crew well?” My father said, "Yes". So, just like that, we had the doctor's approval to land on the island. I don't think that I've ever seen such an expeditious crew-checking process before! Three sailors came to pick us up with a beautiful wooden fishing boat. We were happy to see each other and say hello. The person in charge of immigration introduced us to the island and explained a little bit about its history. We were even allowed to visit the small museum. We bought small key rings, Tristan da Cunha stickers and even sent postcards. The island, surrounded as it is by a raging sea is as magnificent as it is magical, with its mountains and rich, majestic vegetation... At the end of the day, we were offered a good bottle of Bordeaux - it seems that alcohol consumption in Tristan is pretty high... When we were brought back on board Maitai by the "chiefs" of the island, one of them insisted on taking pictures. We gave them a few coconuts and rare foodstuffs that they couldn't find on their island. It was then time to say an emotional goodbye. Night was already falling and it was time to weigh anchor!

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