Thursday, May 4th, 2006
It seemed that from St. Helena to Fernando de Noronha that it took the Picton Castle at least three years to get there, it was in fact only 16 days. Why certain passages seem longer than others is always a mystery to me. But the crew of the Picton Castle were going slightly stir crazy on that passage to Fernando de Noronha. This made our arrival at Fernando a very exciting moment!
From the sea Fernando de Noronha is not a big mountain sticking out of the water, like so many Islands we visit, but a series of jagged peaks and very lush and green. It is so green that from 20 miles away you can see how green it is. It is striking, with the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Big, wide expanses of fine, velvety sand and fierce surf that is great for playing in the waves like a five year old. Fernando de Noronha has special protection to preserve its environment, its endemic species, and ecosystems; it is a Brazilian national park and has a population of just over 2000 people.
They also have cold drinks! Honestly, it was the first thing anyone wanted. Cold juice, coke, beer, milk, anything cold.
Second, we needed dune buggies or “boogies” as the islanders called them. Most everyone drives a dune buggy. Severely basic, they hold 4–5 people and don’t shift gears very well, hence the sound grrr, cruch, grrrrr you hear everywhere, but they will drive over anything and are great for Fernando de Noronha, where the roads are paved only part of the time. Top tip: you must hold on, it’s a good idea.
Third, the crew wanted to eat. Eating is very easy in Fernando. They have these great buffets at lunch and dinner, where you pay for your food by weight or the set buffet price. There is lots of fresh fish and a local specialty that is like curry with coconut milk and vegetables. Or you can go down to the beaches, where you will find little beach cafés under tarpaulins with their BBQs heated up ready to serve you fresh grilled fish “caught just now” or houloum, cheese grilled with herbs. Yummy!
Then, when you aren’t thirsty and hungry and you have the appropriate wheels, you go exploring. The diving is excellent on Fernando de Noronha and they have two wrecks you can dive on, or a general dive to see the amazing array of fish and sea life; the water is so warm wetsuits are not needed. They have a huge variety of sea life with 30 types of coral and 3 types of fish endemic to the island. There is a protected variety of spinner dolphin that literally goes straight up out of the water spinning around. You can watch these dolphins in the bay of Golphinos, where they come in to hang out and do gregarious, spinner dolphin stuff, but you are not allowed to swim with them. Fernando also has a project that specializes in protecting the sea turtles; you can go snorkeling with them (but no touching) and they are huge!
Fernando has a large range of flora and fauna with every color of hibiscus you can imagine. It is a gorgeous place and so well looked after! The beaches are really clean and good for more than a whole day of frolicking, sunbathing, playing Frisbee, getting beat up by the surf (I am still sore. I played like a 5 year old, and now I feel like a 50 year old!). There is so much to do, but nothing to do really. Does that make sense? It is full of relaxation and getting wet in the squalls driving around in a dune buggy, swimming, sleeping late, and eating. Sounds good? It was.
There is also very old colonial architecture and ruins, fantastic sunsets with something cold to drink in hand. The locals all enjoy their island almost as much as we do, with beach picnics and lots of dancing. Lots of wooden fishing boats are built right on the beach at a small shade tree shipyard with tilting band saw. All hands had a great stop at this friendly Brazilian island—but we are also anxious to get to Grenada and the Caribbean. We can sniff the Caribbean from here!
Two and a half weeks now until Grenada and this morning a note from Neptune arrived. It seems that an awful stench of Pollywog has reached him—there may be trouble ahead!