Welcome to the blog of the sailing yacht Sea Bunny.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


It's been a busy four months since our last post in August.

At that time we were heading from Brazil up to Tobago. We spent a delightful 10 days in Man of War Bay in Tobago before moving down to Powerboats at Chaguaramas in Trinidad where we hauled out for the damage sustained in Tuzi Gazi in 2015 to be repaired.

After another few days we left Sea Bunny in the care of the yard and various contractors while we flew back to the UK for our second visit of the year.

One of the activities while in the UK was to start house-hunting for a base when we finally return there - which will, hopefully, be in 2017. We had been searching online in an area roughly from Exeter in the west north-east to Hereford and eastwards to East Kent, with a separate area around York. After looking at a couple of new builds around Exeter we concluded that this was further west than we really wanted to be.

Josh and Jake at Portland
Fortunately our son Nik and wife Lou had just bought a second home in Poole on the south coast and we were able to base ourselves there while looking in central southern England. This enabled us to meet up with the New Forest branch of the family.

Suffice it to say that we visited an estate agent in the Dorset town of Shaftesbury (home of the Hovis bread advert featuring a very steep cobbled street see here). They claimed to have "the very house for you" on their books. About 6 weeks later, having delayed our return to Trinidad, we own it!

Light show at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh
While the machinations of the process of buying a house in England ground on we made our second trip of the year to Scotland.
Our new house
We had about 10 days in the house between completion of the purchase and flying out - arranging contractors for some urgent work, purchasing all sorts of domestic items (e.g beds!) and sorting some of the more urgent areas of the garden that will have grown rampantly by our return in June 2017.

Very friendly neighbours are keeping an eye on the house and it is only an hour or so from James and Jane in Bransgore and from Nik and Lou's Poole house.

Returning to Sea Bunny in Trinidad on 2 December we moved into a different type of work mode, getting the boat ready for the move up the Caribbean and hopefully the Atlantic crossing in May/June..

We are now back in the water, but still in Powerboats..

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Passage Brazil - Tobago

The passage posts we managed to send to an incorrect address - so here is a synopsis.

On the 4th day out from Jacaré ( 31 July), still in good down wind conditions, Sea Bunny crossed the Equator for the 4th time (with us) at 0013 ship's time (0313 UTC) at latitude 43 24.228 W. Celebrations were of the fruit juice type.

Mostly we were making good speed with 200 nm days over the ground courtesy of 2-3 kn of favourable current. Crossing the wide mouths of the Amazon 300nm to port.

Then off the coast to Suriname the wind and current both eased off a bit but still making 7+ knots over the ground.

In the passage planning we had to include not passing Iles du Salut in French Guyana when there would be launch activity for the European Ariane space rockets. As there was enough wind to keep the sails drawing when we passed and we were well rested, Sea Bunny did not need to stop at the islands.

Soon after we entered the  ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone - used to be called the Doldurms), so the Iron Topsail had to come on. There was enough fuel to keep her going until Tobago where we will stop for a week or so. We ran out of the strong Guiana current (2-3 knots in the right direction) and found an east-setting counter-current for about a day, slowing us down dramatically.

On the last evening the weather looked a bit unsettled although there was no rain showing on the radar. We put in a second reef as a precaution for the night. Half an hour later we were hit by a 45-knot squall with torrential rain.

We rounded the north of Tobago at first light and entered Man of War Bay, anchoring at 0750 local time on 8 August.. Unfortunately arrivals outside Customs' office hours 0800-1200 incur a charge, so the 10 minutes cost us USD 50 $5 a minute! We didn't get away with "about 8 o'clock"!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Brazil, Jacare - Sail repairs and music

When we took the genoa down in St Helena to put the twin headsail running rig up we noticed a few areas requiring attention.
As far as we know Jacaré does not boast a sailmaker. However, the Marina Village does have a large undercover floor area where a sail can be spread out. Rather than taking the sail down below on Sea Bunny we opted to use this area, which had the advantage of being right by the bar, with cold beer.

Movin the sail
Transporting the sail there was easy with our folding sack trolley. It would have been less easy the next day when the local authority dumped a lot of rubble and dirt to "repair" the road before the festival of São Pedro.

Project Director aka Chief sail repairer
In fact the repairs took a quick 3 hours by hand and no beer for the repairer (but one for the trolley pusher)..

Party boat

Every evening at about 1630 hours
just upsteam from the marina a small boat puts out from the shore and a saxophonist plays Ravel's Bolero. He has been doing this for, apparently, 25 years and is the Guinness Book of Records. Tourist come on party boats up the river  to witness it and dance on the way. It is a good marker for us as it is mosquito beware time.

Everywhere is Brazil there is music, in the streets, from the shacks it gives a happy feel.

Today,in the supermarket the police were handing out leaflets about their powers and how they work well with other authorities.

Yesterday we went to the Policia Federal to get our passports stamped to leave and customs to clear out the boat. Today we went to the Port Captain's office in Joao Pessoa to get port clearance as the office in Cabadelo, next to customs, has apparently been burnt down.

Brazil - Manaus

With disembarkation from Tucano occurring at 0715 we effectively had two days to explore.
Inside the rubber baron's mansion.

Before going there we had not realised that the French, not the Portuguese, dominated Manaus during it's glory years.

Our first trip was another boat excursion, this time some 10 km
up the Amazon to the Museu do Seringal Villa Paraiso. This is a reconstruction of a "rubber baron's" mansion (made for a film) and includes an overview of the rubber production process and how the staff and indentured labourers mainly from the north of Brasil lived.

Trying on a rubber tapper's lantern

Richard tried on a helmet that would have been worn by the labourers as they went into the plantations at midnight when the rubber sap was rising.
The municipal market in Manaus built in 1902 is close to the port. It is a copy of the Halles market in Paris. A most impressive structure - constructed of iron from the UK.

We purchased the most wonderful tasting nuts - Brazils naturally.

The fish market

All sorts of products on sale. Perhaps not the same!

Market - ceilng

One of the highlights of Manaus is its opera house. Constructed in 1896 at the height of the town's prosperity it was based on La Scala and the Paris Opera and has apparently the second-best acoustics in South America.

We went to a modern dress performance of The Divine Comedy We may not have followed the expressive dialogue but it was evidently very funny.

The next day we did the excellent tour.
The ceiling panels were painted in Paris and shipped out. The centre represents a view from under the Eiffel Tower.

Model - 36000 pieces of Lego!

Interior of Igrejia Sao Sebastian.
The opulence of some of the churches also reflects the city's former wealth.

A bit OTT?
The Igrejia Sao Sebestian had tightly packed bunches of white flowers everywhere!

Street entertainment.

We worked out how this is done while filling the coffers of a juice vendor.

Manaus is an industralised port city that is trying to gentify itself and recover some of its former glory. Just over 1 million GBP is being spent to renovate the park outside the cathredral

Monday, July 25, 2016

Brazil - Rio Negro,

As implied by the name the Rio Negro is a "black river". The water is reasonably clear and coloured by tannins which run off from the rainforest through which it flows. Just downstream from the city of Manaus the Rio Negro joins the Amazon.

We joined the MY Tucano for a  4-night cruise up the Rio Negro in the Anavihanas National Park, one of the world's largest fluvial archipelagos.
Taking up to 18 passengers, on our trip there were only three other guests, so we were given a cabin upgrade - promising start!

Sunrise over the Rio Negro
Sunsets and sunrises were spectacular without another boat in sight.
Canoe heading into the jungle
The structure of each day comprised a wake-up call at 0530 or 0600, coffee and porridge, a nature-watching trip in one of the canoes, breakfast, a morning jungle walk, lunch, an afternoon activity and a night canoe trip either before or after dinner.
The canoe trips explored some of the smaller tributaries and the night one, in particular, was exciting as it got right into the flooded forest.
Spot the small caiman here - left end of the log. Seen by the guide at about 100m.

Amazonia has the largest biodiversity and lowest density of flora and fauna in the world. So given the dense canapy wildlife is much more difficult to spot here than in more open countryside. By opting to go with Souza, the guide, in the canoes rather than on our own in the available kayaks we think we actually saw more as his eyes were much more attuned to spotting things than ours. Frequently it could be a minute or more before we could make out a creature he was pointing at.

Pair of night hawks
Much of the fauna spotted was birds, often at quite a distance, making photography difficult even with zoom lens. Just to be in this setting was absolutely magical.
Black tailed trogon- on the branch
Yellow rumped cacique

Green beetle
Also quite a few insects. With one square mile of rainforest housing up to 50,000 species detailed identification is difficult!
Spot the stick insect

Cricket or grasshopper
Always slightly conscious of all the nasty creatures that could fall into the boat or on to someone This harmless fellow landed on Richard's back on one of the morning trips.

Lace cap or stinkhorn mushroom (possibly phallus indusiatus)
There are, of course, lots of fungi helping to convert dead vegetation back into carbon dioxide and water.

Tree frog
On the night trips we heard numerous frogs. Souza spotted this one at a distance during the day.

Spiders could be induced out of their holes under trees using a stick.

Rat in tree
Mammals were hard to spot - again Souza's sharp eyes came into play.

Bare faced squirrel monkey
There was a troop of some 50-100 squirrel monkeys travelling through the forest. Catching one on camera as it jumped across a gap in the foliage was challenging!

We never got a good shot of the river dolphins, despite seeing them quite often.

Susan with piranha
One of the afternoon trips was piranha fishing. Susan caught the largest of the group and followed up by eating it later.

Settlement - note the satellite dish!
Another was a trip to visit a family who had settled on the riverbank. Apparently a claim can be made and if the land is developed the government will grant title. This family had a plot measuring 1000 m x 250 m (25 Ha or about 62 acres) and were mainly growing manioc (cassava). The fairly involved family activity of processing the tuber to remove the toxic juice and end up with a grain-like substance was explained. They had just cleared more land and were about to plant pineapples. These are so sweet here.

Most transport here is necessarily by water. This "school bus" has been in operation for the last 10 years.

Fast trip to school

When we were young a speedboat ride was a special holiday treat - here it is a daily occurrence for the kids.

Ponte Rio Negro, central section
On the last afternoon of the trip we passed under the bridge across the Rio Negro just upstream of Manaus - air clearance 55m. The bridge, 3.5 km long, links Manaus to Iranduba on the Amazon. 

Meeting of the waters
The "meeting of the waters" where the Rio Negro flows into the muddy Amazon is quite marked and persists for some 15 km downstream.

Finally - the crew of the MY Tucano, who were all excellent but did not add to our understanding of Brazilian Portuguese!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Brazil & Argentina - Iguaçu Falls

Hotel dos Cataratas
Stayed at the hotel in the national park, where from the room the roar of the falls can be heard. The 70 year old birthday boy was relaxing. Good time of year to be here cool and not crowded.

Devils Throat. The viewing platform is very wet!
Worth doing both the Argentinean and Brazilian sides.

Dried off!

Lots of rainbows in the spray

All these are in Argentina

Devil's Throat from the top on the Argentine side

Looking down the throat

Can't get much closer than this!

Even some of the wildlife not scared away by the crowds. Yellow rumped cacique
Most of the falls are in Argentina

Quite a view for a birthday lunch!

Birthday boy!

Interesting feat of balance. Chilean flamingo.
and don't forget the super bird park!
Red breasted toucan
Blue and yellow macaw