There is a sultry sexiness about Rio. Exhilarating, festive, fun.
I am sitting in the sticky heat, on the deck of the gorgeous Sovereign 54 that we are going to hopefully, repair and will sail back to Cape Town, with the Sugar Loaf mountain directly in front of me and Christ the Redeemer keeping watch from the Corcovado mountain behind me. The bay is beautiful, fringed by apartments, cafes, nightclubs (where the music thumps away until the sun comes up) and we are surrounded by many luxurious yachts. Planes are constantly screaming directly above our heads as they slowly curve to approach the landing strip of Rio’s International airport.
When I was a young girl, aged 12, we sailed to Rio from Cape Town on a Castle liner called the Reina del Mar. We went up the Sugar Loaf mountain in the world-famous (James Bond – Moonraker!) cable cars and I clearly remember looking down at this bay in awe, I never ever would have thought I would be sitting here one day on a yacht!
I will get to the yacht repairs in a second, just a few ramblings about our airport adventures.
We checked in at Cape Town International airport really early, at 11.30 am although our flight was only at 4.20 pm, partly because I hate to be late and partly because Captain Mike was salivating about that first cold beer in the lounge.
At check-in, the beaming official asked us for our yellow fever card….our whaaaaaat? A mad dash in Uber to closest pharmacy, a 40-minute ride away, sharp prick in the arm, dash back, all is well, check-in and off to British Airways lounge where we literally did” lounge” for 3 hours. A fantastic experience that lounge. Captain Mike felt like the King of England when we walked out, waving his business class ticket at anyone who glanced his way…..anyone.
On to Angola, if I offend anyone I am sorry, but they have the most unfriendly, downright rude staff at Luanda airport. With the Angola/SA history I am not really surprised. However it was not only the South Africans they were rude to, it was everyone! Not a good experience. Air Portugal lounge was pleasant enough, we met a group of very excited youngsters from Mozambique who were travelling to Sao Paulo for the Grand Prix. They shared all their “homemade by Mama” delicious food with us, what a treat!
The check-in. Nightmare. Disorganized, no air-con, queues, and queues of people pushing and shoving, chaos and no English or signs giving an idea of what is going on. Captain Mike lost his King of England calm demeanour and pushed and shoved with the best of them, waving our tickets and shrieking in quite a panicked high falsetto “Business class, Business class”. It helped. We were helped. On to the plane off to Sao Paulo several hours away. All good, slept well, quick one hour flight to Rio (whizzed through customs with all our many many tools and equipment). Oh, Captain Mike was body searched in Sao Paulo, not a happy chappy as it was done by ferocious looking mean man.
First impressions of Rio were the usual you experience in most big cities of the world, poverty, graffiti, a dusty dinginess on the buildings close to the airport, miles of highways with bumper to bumper traffic, motorcycles flying down the highway with a constant ” beep beep” to warn the ever swopping, lane changing drivers they are zooming past, sirens, police cars squeezing through minute gaps. No dents on the cars here, these drivers know what they are doing. Shut my eyes a few times.
Then we entered downtown. Gracious green trees arching over the streets creating a calming, secret tunnel, buildings more upmarket, people on the sidewalks, pretty girls, aloof men, on to Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, our home for the next few weeks.
Set in one of the most prestigious areas of Rio, it took an hour for our travel-weary, bedraggled looking selves to be allowed in. Met the previous skipper and crew, chatted to the marina manager, had a few beers, found this glorious boat and settled in for a night of catching up and discussing boat and problems with the previous crew.
Spent a day or 2 familiarizing ourselves with the club here, how to call the 24/7 dinghy to get to and fro (swing moorings only), get a local sim card, find a supermarket, drink several caipirinhas, etc. I have to wait for Monday before I am allowed to use the massive, sparkling pool, need a medical from the on-site doctor before I may swim! Bloody cheek, with their mozzies here a national hazard, I feel insulted! The crew left yesterday afternoon, we unpacked properly and Captain Mike was up bright and early today to assess and inspect and make his famous lists.
One of the first and main problems we have discovered is power. This obviously affected the previous crew, the autopilot was not reliable, the bilges were filling (another concern) and there is only one functioning pump, basically everything seems to revolve around the power issue. Or the lack of it.
Except for the crack in the bulkhead. We will get to that.
We ran the engine for an hour now and she was charging at only 30 amps which is really insufficient considering there is no real alternative way of charging the batteries. We will need to invest in some solar power and perhaps an inexpensive smart charger that will boost the capacity when the engine is running.
Batteries. Lifted cabin floor in the main cabin to reveal battery banks, used DC current clamp meter to see the charge rate on parallel batteries, it seems that 2 of the batteries are in a relatively good condition totalling theoretically, 300 Amp-hours, the 3rd battery was not accepting any charge and will need to go to battery heaven. Effectively we have a usable capacity of perhaps 50 usable amp-hours as we will be drawing about 10A on average. Considering that the previous skipper ran the fridge 24/7, it’s not surprising that he ran into serious power issues. i.e. you can only draw what you put in. The fridge is now off!
Solar panels. There are none. The owner has agreed to purchase 2 x 150-watt solar panels. Brought a regulator with us from SA in anticipation of this. Will buy the panels and rig them up asap, will take care of our daily usage without having to run the engine all the time.
The inverter will be tested later today once the batteries have settled as we disconnected them all. Waiting a few hours then we will measure the voltage on each battery and determine charge/state condition. Inverter seems like an old model rated at 150 watts. Will assess this later, need this to charge satellite phone and other navigational instruments. Might need to upgrade. The bulkhead problem. The chainplate attached to the glassed over a piece of plywood is a problem. The glass has cracked, about a 30cm in length crack, and about a 1/2 cm wide crack close to the bottom of the hull has formed (directly in line with the mast) and this crack flexes to double its size even with low loads. It’s not falling apart, the stays have been tensioned and have not “given” in in any way but the crack is obviously a concern.
Captain Mike has usually sailed solo, so in this instance, on his own boat, he might risk it, lighten the load and set sail for Cape Town. However, being responsible for 4 other crew and someone else’s boat, he is going to repair and fibre-glass the crack and reinforce it with bolts. As he is not a fibre-glass guru, and it appears to be worse than we thought, we might approach the local guy in the marina who specializes in this kind of repair for his expertise, under Captain Mike’s supervisionHeads problems (the loo), there seems to be a problem with the breather, not a pleasant experience pumping out the heads, an unpleasant topic so won’t go into too much detail, suffice to say it needs to be fixed before 5 people set off on an ocean crossing of perhaps 30 days!
So, on this very sunny Sunday (heavy rain the previous 2 days) we are lolling on the deck of this beautiful boat, hypnotized by cable cars, church bells ringing, boats gliding past, making lists for this coming week, pondering a dinghy cruise along the coastline to the other side of the Sugarloaf mountain to suss out the world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. Captain Mike has packed. Binoculars. (I have renamed them pervoculars). That’s all!
Will report on the actual repairs and progress soon.
Ciao from Rio de Janeiro.
Captain Mike and Nikki.
Jump to our final preparation in Rio de Janeiro here.