Fortaleza – Cayenne in pictures


Photos by Killian, who joined the crew in Fortaleza.  Half Moroccan, half French, Killian cycled from Morocco to south africa, got in a sailing boat from Cape Town to Salvador Bahia where we met. Cycled up country Bahia and joined our crew in Fortaleza. Now cycling, doing puppet shows with his hand made puppets and looking for work in the jungle in French Guyana! Amazing story! And photos! His website is

Skipper’s update, Sunday 14 April

Jan Olsson

Jan Ollson , crew from Korou to Azores

Skipper’s update, Sunday.  It has been quite tough sailing. we are sailing into the waves and wind, so  beating north, while keeping as far east as the winds permit. Later when we get the Azores High the winds will change and we can go along the north edge of the High to the Azores, we hope. But the route is a big curve, so it will take us longer than we hoped.
We also lost the fridge and the freezer, so fresh stuff is a challenge. we thought the guy would fix it in Kourou, but in fact he made things worse. Still we have lots of beans, peas, rice, pasta, etc, and also dried and tinned meat and fish. Also some tinned Ratatouille from Fr Guyane!  So we should be ok as long as it does not take too long!

Further update, Tuesday 16th: We are sailing faster now thank goodness! Will reach 18 degrees North today and keep going North until the wind shifts to W, NW or N. Its about 20ktd, and we have three sails up. A bit lumpy, so hard to cook etc, but we get our sleep. The wind vane steering has been on all the time so we do not need to steer.

Last Day in Kourou



It’s sometimes very frustrating on a boat!

It was fine to clear out this morning at 0800 from the customs office near the road bridge.

Our fridge man also came as promised and fitted the electronic controller that Janne brought with him from Sweden, However, the compressor is still not functioning correctly at lunchtime.

We still have to service the generator, because it will reach 150 hours after the last service when we are on the ocean, and it is hard to do the service when the boat is moving about so much.

And when we know if we have a freezer or not we have to do some last minute fresh food shopping and bring the bike on board. Killian also must disembark in the early evening.

Killian will stay with Isabelle, a French teacher he met. Isabelle came for a vegetarian meal with us last night and filled us in on the local social and economic issues, which are not too promising.. We ate Baba Gounosh (made with BBQ’d Aubergines) on home made flat bread, followed with Tabbouleh, and then lemon biscuits that Isabelle brought. Some Bordeaux wine was quaffed alongside!

Update – Mahuri River , French Amazonia

After the fast sail from Brazil, we are now in the Mahuri river tied alongside on a pontoon at Marina Degrad des Cannes, S of Cayenne, which is a small town on the coast. The river is part of French Amazonia, and flows swiftly. It is a muddy colour, as in this entire watershed. We have two nice French couples with young children as neighbours, one of the couples being friends of Valerie and Francois on Cybele, whom they met last year in Tromso.

Skipper, 20 March

Hello to French Guyana

We had another great 24 hours sailing, and are now on the approach to the marked channel into the Mahuri river near Cayenne, the main town in French Guyana. We will clear into the EU/EEA here before proceeding to the island and then the Kouru river where we will try to tie up at the pontoon belonging to the Space rocket launcher for Ariandne rockets.
Just a couple of hours over 6 days to sail 1000 miles, which is not bad. I will report on average speeds etc once we are settled.
The fridge/Freezer needs attention again here, as does the electrical system, We have had a few problems starting the generator. Luckily we have a couple of weeks..
Skipper, 18 March


Skippers Blog

14 March

Yesterday was a terrible day! The wettest since leaving Stockholm on May 12th last year, and with light and cyclonic winds very had to sail with. We had to resort to the engine for nearly 14 hours, and try to stay under cover. Everything was getting wet or at least damp, and we had nowhere to dry things. So we were very happy when this admittedly short experience of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) ended after dinner last night, the wind picked up from the NE and we got sailing at 7,5 to 8,5 knots again under Genoa and mainsail. The rain stopped, and some stars even appeared.
On the positive side, we are a good team, get the sleep that we need, still have lots of lovely tropical fruit, and also ample food supplies to keep us going.  Also good cooks on board. We bake our own bread, make our own kefir, and at 6am enjoy a very fruity breakfast with muesli and oats, kefir and coffee. Often we have a later second breakfast (a habit picked up in rural Catalunya) with bread, cheese, marmalade and honey. Last night we had some Okra (Jumbo) with Garlic, Olive Oil and Pomegranate molasses, together with the remains of some pork and rice.
Tonight we are a Vol Du Nuit, flying along with the help of the stars, and once again in our comfort zone! We don’t like heavy rain, even if it means free showers! Crew member Killian, who has cycled from Morocco to Namibia, also talked about the desert skies at night. Saint Exupery who wrote Vol du Nuit about the early days of commercial flight from France (he also wrote Le Petit Prince) also used the stars and a sextant to navigate.
We are lazy. Yes we have learned to take sights of stars, planets, moon and sun using a sextant, and have tried to do so. Generally we get a position a few miles away from what the more accurate GPS gives us with much less mental effort. So yes we get lazy, and rely on the GPS too much. We need to keep the skills, because one day, maybe, the authorities controlling the satellites that give us GPS may decide to switch them off!

Skippers Blog:  Leaving Fortaleza, Brazil, for the 1000nm sail to Cayenne, French Guyana.

Skippers Blog:  Leaving Fortaleza, Brazil, for the 1000nm sail to Cayenne, French Guyana.

On 11th March my new crew arrived, Thomas Thiis, and Killian Dadi. Jan Linquist disembarked on the morning of 12th March. Thanks to Jan for coming to do the duo-sail from Salvador to Fortaleza.
We (the new crew and I) had to visit the three offices in order to clear out of Brazil and from the state of Mucuripé – federal police and immigration (passports to be stamped), federal fiscal office (temporary importation of boat signed off) and the Port Captain. Then a bit of last minute shopping before returning on board to enjoy a welcome/ farewell supper for crew change.
We had an engine problem to fix before leaving Fortaleza, because when we arrived, the engine would not stop, and we had to starve it for air to get it to stop.  This was a new one for me. We then discovered that the control panel for the engine was completely dead, and an engineer came on board in the early morning of 12th March to fix it. In the end – and as so often in the case of diesel engines – it was something simple, namely the large cable with all the wires from the engine to the control panel had become disconnected. We think it was when Jan and I were fixing the sound proofing for the generator set; the cable joint was in a black box, and so we did not notice. All was well in time for us to leave about 10am with the outgoing tide.
Since leaving we have had some tropical downpours and squalls, but mostly good NE winds, and a current taking us towards French Guyana (about 335 degrees magnetic). So in the first 24 hours we made a very respectable 140 nautical miles towards our destination, passing many fishing boats, tankers, cargo ships and oil rigs on the way. We enjoyed a mostly starry sky with a small moon.
The crew seems happy, and with three of us we can get better sleep.
We have allowed 10 days to get to Cayenne, but at the present speed it could be 7 or 8 days. No doubt we will experience several changes in weather. Now we are about 2 degrees or 120 nm south of the Equator, and 40 degrees west of Greenwich. We should cross the equator tomorrow, and will need to make offerings to Neptune to ensure a safe onward passage!

Life on board Svalen

8 March 2019


We created a couple of videos that hopefully are entertaining and gives some insights of what life is like onboard Svalen.  It was tougher  to sail with the same waves during the night. During daylight you at least see the waves.  WARNING: You may get sea sick from watching the videos!

Summary of trip between Salvador and Cabadero

Cooking on svalen

Greetings from,
captain John and crew member Jan (Sweden)

 Skippers Blog from Itaparica, 19 February 2019

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Photo: Elisabeth, Alan, Gabriela and Me at anchor in Itaparica, January 2019. Photo, JMB

I last wrote just after Lisbeth had left to return to Colombia on 18 January.  Elisabeth, our Saxaphone playing friend from N Jutland, came on board and we sailed together to Ilha Bom Jesus da Cases, anchoring for the night. Next day we sailed on to Itaparica where Gabriela Aranda from Chile and her Brazilian boyfriend Alan Christi joined us at anchor bearing charcoal, beef, and Chilean wine. We had a nice BBQ on board and chatted a long time. Next (22nd) morning we swam twice before sailing back to Salvador.

I then spent a couple of days locating and fitting a through-deck fitting for the anchor up/down remote controller. I finally found this in Electrica e Electronica Popular near to Sao Joaquim market. In Salvador there are clusters of shops all in more or less the same business and side-by side in particular streets and districts. But e-popular was full of stuff, and not expensive.

Yann, the solo french sailor friend in a lovely S&S from the 1960s, was away sailing with his daughter Clara and Mercedes a sailing friend from Patagonia. He called asking if he and Clara could stay the night on Svalen on 24thas his anchor was stuck, and Clara needed to catch a flight back to France. That was very nice, and we had a nice dinner and chat together on board with wine . On Friday, Clara left early, and Yann caught a ferry back to his boat in the middle of the day. Yann is now en route to Cape Town from Rio, once more on his own.

Yann and Claran on Svalen

Yann and Clara on Svalen. Photo JMB

Meanwhile I got to know the young Dutch couple Bram and Petra (ON the small steel sloop HAFSKIP: see even better, because Bram soldered the electrical connections to the anchor remote for me with his efficient kit. So Bram and Petra came for a supper of stuffed aubergines that night, and Elisabeth also joined us. On Saturday, I gave Bram and Petra an extended tour of the old town as far as Sao Antonio. We had Acarajé at Liu’s stand in the square and later ate as  cheaply as we could at a too-expensive restaurant just up from Caflier (which had a very long queue!).


S/Y Hafskip: Bram and Petra en route to Patagonia. JMB.

My friend Viviana who was supposed to be coming sailing next week writes that both she and Alice now have whooping cough, so it looks as though I will be without crew for most of February. Elisabeth returned to continue her pedagogy studies in Aalborg, but she visits quite regularly before leaving, also with various friends from Chile and Brasil. Her boyfriend is also returning from Cuba, where he has been playing his Bass.  I think they make a good couple, and they plan to get married in July.

A couple of new boats arrive from France. Siegfried was one of the crew, and the captain told me he had been talking about a Hallberg Rassy 49 all the way across the Atlantic, only to find me on Svalen on arrival! He, Siegfried, plans to sail around the world with his wife after he retires from the French air force next year, and his current crossing was a test. Of course I invited them on board for an inspection, and have since answered a lot of questions and sent many photos, because he is a potential buyer for Svalen after we get home.

Yes Karen and I have decided to sell Svalen as she needs to be sailing oceans and not stuck in a harbor, and we cannot afford her now that I am really retired. We also still have Aldarion in dry dock in Denmark, and she will be fine for the sailing we plan to do in future. She is wooden, and although a classic style, she is very hard to sell. I will also tell Kristian and Diego who have also expressed an interest in Svalen.

At the end of January, we were still tackling the fridge and freezer, with help from Mario. However, the fridge now works well, but the freezer does not, and it seems that a new compressor is needed, which is impossible to find here.

By the beginning of February, it seemed all the friends and family who had been around had left again, and suddenly it was rather lonely! Bram and Petra left for Uruguay, via Rio. On 6thFebruary, I sailed solo to Itaparica and managed to get into the inner part of the harbor by arriving at high tide. There I got tucked in. I met a nice sailing couple from Rio – Lucia and Marcello –  who had good English, and helped me get settled. Lucia is a restaurateur, owning the quite well known Celeiro Culinaria in Leblon for 30 years, and Marcello has a sailing school and deals in yachts. We had an evening together later on, before they left to return to work.

Local boat handiman, Irismo, offers to scrub the weed and shells off my hull, clean the topsides, and clean the dinghy all for Rs 300 (about 60 pounds), so I jump at the offer. He spends most of two days t this and is very cheerful, working hard and doing a good job. We are now amigos.Svalen in Itaparicamarina

Svalen in the corner of the inner harbour, Itaparica. February. Photo: JMB

I also met another French couple Isabelle Harlé and Ariel Waksman on Skol( Skol is a modest sized aluminium sloop designed by Isabelle’s grandfather (a naval architect) in La Rochelle. They have been sailing the world for five years, most recently spending two years in Patagonia exploring the remote areas in Southern Chile and Argentina. They catch and cure their fish, using salt. They also have a canner on board. They came to a deal with the local Poussada of chocolate fame to pick up fallen mangoes in the large garden, and have canned a lot of mangoes for the next sail. And they have sourdough culture and kefir grains to make bread and kefir (kossak mare culture yoghurt!). I was the beneficiary of many these goodies, including Kefir grains, and sourdough!

But sailors inevitably sail on. Isabelle and Ariel left with the tide early this morning to sail north to Jacare, after which they will also sail to the Azores where we may meet again in May or June.

Meanwhile I have sewn a small repair in my mainsail which might have got worse when we next sail, cleaned the boat inside, kept up the laundry and stores, and worked a bit on our next fundraising campaign, which will be about cleaning the oceans. My next crew, Brazilian-Swede Jan, is helping with that a lot, and is even bringing T-Shirts for the purpose. Trying not to think about the awful-ness that is Brexit, and its personal consequences for me, which in addition to everything else, involve both trouble and expense. It makes me too angry!

I  have also finished four books – the wonderful Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, which Karen brought me for Christmas; the powerful book about the Japanese wartime effort to build the Burma railway linking Malaysia to China called The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanigan; Wliiam Moberg’s  first volume of The Emigrants, about the large emigration from Småland in Sweden to the USA in the first half of the 19thC, and a couple of new Rebus books by Ian Rankin. Now I am half way though Alvah Simon’s book about sailing to the Canadian Arctic via Greenland, North to the Night. I will soon run out of books, but there is not much time or energy for reading when sailing.

I especially enjoyed Karen Blixen’s account of the night skies in the Kenya highlands – so like those in mid-Atlantic, dark, clear and starry! But all of the aforementioned books are excellent!

Thankfully Jan will arrive on 25thFebruary, and on 26thwe will talk to the local Rotary club about doing something together on Ocean clean up, and also hear about their social projects in Salvador. We will leave for the north on 28th, so studiously and advisedly avoiding the biggest party in the world, which is said to be Salvador’s week of Carnival. We still hope that Viviana will also join us at least to Jacare, and hopefully all the way to Fortaleza.

Here is the plan for homeward bound between here and the Azores, in brief.

  1. Salvador to Jacare/ Cabadelo , 472 miles non-stop. Leave on 28thFebruary from Salvador and arrive 4th
  2. Cabdelo/Jacare to Forteleza, 353 nm non stop. Leave Cabadelo on 7th March to arrive in Fortaleza on 10th.
  3. Forteleza, Brazil to Cayenne, French Guyana.1001nm  (Rhumb line.  Leave Forteleza Leave 12 March 2019, arrive by 23 March.  Thomas Kringlebotn Thiis and Killian are crew.
  4. French Guyana to Azores, About 2400nm. Depart about 10 April 2019, arrive around 30 April. Janne Olsson is crew.


I am looking forward to sailing again, and to a visit from Karen in the Azores. meanwhile, I usually have a morning and evening walk or cycle around this pretty village at the north end of the Island where the small Marina is.


Mermaid mural, Itaparica. Photo JMB


itaparica front

North eastern shore of Itaparica. Photo. JMB


Itaparica Fort

The Dutch Fort, N Itaparica. Built 1711 by Dutch ‘Raiders’ who must have been here a while!

blue tiled entrance

Nice entrance with old Portuguese tile work well preserved in Itaparica. Photo JMB.


Bahia Brazil – Christmas 2018 and New Year

by Karen Refsgaard, January 2019
Three weeks vacation on Svalen, Bahia in Brazil – such a nice experience. Why?

  • Because our little family got together, Morten, Lisbeth, John and me which is not very often!
  • Because Brazil shows such a diversity of people, food, music and another approach to life!
  • Because exploring the world from a sailing boat is connecting continents, people, and experiences.

Brazil is a real melting pot:  The people come in all sorts of colours and shapes and classes, but what seems to unite them is music, exciting (street) food, mangos and a relaxed and informal lifestyle with few norms and an incredible welcoming attitude to us. However, racism still exists. According to some of our sources about 60% of the populace is illiterate (less than 4 years of school). And as life is easy, there are only marginal needs for housing, clothes and with cheap and accessible rather healthy food it is rather easy to keep people at their classes – little need for mobilisation through knowledge or power in order to achieve more equality!

We spent time on the boat as a family, sailing between the islands Ilha Parica and Bom Jesus, in the bay Todos o Santos, and exploring local coastal life. Mornings always with mangos, oranges, passion fruit if we we are lucky and müsli. The small local shops were our favourite places to shop – getting the local deals and always fun to check out what they could offer. The best experiences were the large beef carcasses, just being cut according to our need. Had also a small dive to see a small coral reef and especially long swims which in the end nearly ended to be together with Dolphins hunting for fish. On Christmas day we had a little celebration dinner, pebernødder from DK (two varieties as my parents compete) so we voted and 3 in favour of the Hedegaard variety and 1 in favour of the Bjerregaard variety! And with gift exchanges of books and Havana sandals!

The many dinners – as the evenings were the most preferred – in Salvador, on the boat or on Ilha Parica gave rooms for some nice talks – especially between Morten and Lisbeth, who had fun together.

Salvador is a large city. It was the entrance for the majority of slaves to South America, and so roughly 80% of the population here is black today, often working in the service industries. The beautiful old town of Pelourini with weathered Portuguese architecture was a nice experience with lots of local food and loads of tourist shops where all sorts of drums, leather, African and Brazilian fabrics of all types and colours, dangles and dingles and services to braid one’s hair were sold! But also great music at the squares in the evening, Capoeira and things for all the senses.

We experienced the more well-off class of Salvador! Got access to the yacht club through Viviana and immediately got invited from a older couple to join them for the day. I think this is typical Bahia. Despite all advices about crime, mugging etc. we have met only very friendly and helpful people here – from the Uber taxidriver to the very well off !

On a sailing boat being in harbours you meet a lot of people travelling across the world. This is a world on its own – culturally great. French Yann e.g. sailed alone across the Atlantic, was finished with the easy life in Europe and continued on to South Africa – in a small sailing boat, fixing things himself and not using much! Or Elisabeth from Hjørring – travelling like Lisbeth – became our new friend both in music, South American culture and sailing.

And being on the sea also shows a different world – all the life that happens, whether it is transport of ice, mangos or people, if it is a small fishing boat testing the nets early in the morning or a partyboat a 3 at night. You get it all.

We got a taste of the Atlantic salty sea, the hot sun, we turned brown – although John beats us all, so dark when we arrived! Lucky although that the younger the wiser in protecting your skin against this boiling sun!

Thank you for three great weeks exploring Bahian life at sea.