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Cat Goes Back In Water!

Date: 2003-10-13

WildlifeSAIL NEWS FLASH 13 October, 2003


1. One new log report (No. 48) is posted at
2. Welcome to Students and Teachers
3. Cat Goes Back In Water! Crew Need Showers! ("Living in Rio Dry Dock")


1. One new log report (No. 48) is posted at NEWS LETTER reports update you on newest web postings, including log reports, photo and video galleries, and educational sections.


2. Welcome to Students and Teachers
WildlifeSAIL is a project designed to bring the "Adventure of Marine Conservation and Exploration through Sail" into classrooms in the United States and around the world. The sailors in the field wish to give a warm welcome to Students and Teachers who have begun to follow our voyage! Welcome aboard! Our website at reflects our experience at sea as honestly as we life our exploration in the field. We'll see you on the web! And don't hesitate to email if you have any questions.


3. Cat Goes Back In Water! Crew Need Showers! ("Living in Rio Dry Dock") "15 centimeters to impact" I hear a voice shouting outside the boat next to my ear. Startled I stir my heavy eyelids and squint through the porthole (window). The sun burnt face of a fisherman is staring directly back at me. It is 5:30 a.m. and he is smoking a cigarette . His face is half covered by a yellow hood, dripping from the pouring rain. Instinctively I nudge Wildlife crew member, Danie, who is slumbering in the bunk directly next to me. We both slip into our rubber boots and stumble outside. The rusted 40-foot fishing boat next to us is captained by one of approximately 20 fisherman who tie up their craft at the dock, which currently hosts our Wildlife catamaran as well. All night long the fisherman play bumper cars with their weathered boats. The result is a massive flotilla of interconnected vessels that reaches from one side of the lagoon, all the way to the other. Jockeying for position, as boats come and leave, creates an environment with much nudging, untying, retying, turning, backing-up, revving engines, and sometimes shouting, which may be accompanied by crushing sounds as boats grind against one another. New boats, which are returning from the sea, or from market, force their way into the in-situ "floating island of hulls." Sometimes this operation is nerve-wrackingly close to our Wildlife catamaran.

I am actually relieved and glad to tell you about our boat's current awkward position, because after all, this is no place for a yacht. But I can proudly say that after 3 weeks of intensive work in dry-dock, our Wildlife catamaran is back in Rio water, waiting for news of a good weather system that can take us over 1000 miles south into Argentina. Today we will re-anchor in a different part of Rio de Janero Bay so as to stock with food that will last us 6 weeks at sea. This done, we are out of here, taking with us many new unforgettable memories, and also yachtsman-ship-repair-nightmares.

In summary I want to say the following. The last 3 weeks we learned much about boat repair, the spirit of persistence (in getting the job done), and the extraordinary pollution in which many citizens of Rio live. 3 weeks ago we lifted our Lady Wildlife from the rancid and oily harbor water and placed her on heavy timber and steel beams. She rested there while we undertook fiberglass repairs on the hulls (in and external) changed gear oil on both her diesel engine drives, as well removed her underwater antifouling. Wildlife then received 5 new layers of paint on the bottom of her hulls to protect her from marine growth that attacks her skin.

All this we did in the heart of Rio's commercial shipping zone, not voluntarily I might add, but more out of necessity. There is no other outfit in Brazil which can host our boat for this type of work. So, we accepted the location and the project was on... and many stories unfolded. Because I am writing from the heart, I deem it appropriate to be honest about the true nature of our experience. As this is a News Flash and not a book, I will be brief.

Between the barking dogs, landscapes of massive rusted metal plates, human waste, household trash, oil and paint spills, discarded hazardous material containers, noxious harbor water order, diesel smog, dead rats, and the chaos of human activity, there lies a white catamaran, our boat. And, we are living on it. We have no running water due to constant pluming problems in the town or on the dock. To save electricity we have shut down our on-board freezer and are only running the refrigerator, for in our 3-week stay we depended entirely on power generated by Wildlife's six 110 Watt solar panels. Over the days our boat turned from it's original brilliant white, to grey, and finally to a putrid brownish color.

Then there was the issue of personal hygiene. With blue clouds of smog bulging through our living quarters we began also wondering about other necessities, besides fresh air. Bathroom and showers! Our boat was in mid air, accessible only by a 15-foot ladder. Our facilities aboard were definitely out of commission, 'cause flushing the toilet onto our workspace below is something we care not repeat after a little "incident" back in Spain when my father visited. I won't expand... Back to the problem at had, a bucket and plastic bag became our salvation. The operation looked something like this, and, I've been assured by our whole crew that no one took to this idea lightly. Procedure as follows: Grab blue bucket that is usually used for bailing and deck cleaning, find plastic bags (preferably use at least 3 for appropriate environmental sealing), recon safe and quiet place on boat where work is currently not being conducted, insert plastic bags into bucket, squat over bucket, brace yourself against wall or sink, aim, and pray. I write this to you not in a half hazard attempt to be trite, but rather to describe our experience as it was. For upon completion of the private deed, the three-layer-bag needed to be discarded. Oh, yes, and for the first week our boat yard was not in possession of essential waste disposal facilities, only a pile of garbage on the ground that all dock workers used. 30 feet from our boat this reeking mound was marked by its tenants of dogs and rats. There we were asked to discard our waste, as well. And so it was... You must understand that our boat yard is on the outskirts of one of Rio's slums. Since we were the new kids on the block we followed directions as set by the yard superintendent, careful not to break tradition. Initially it was easy to joke about the absurd situation, but all our mustered humor dissipated when scavenging dogs began ripping through all the waste. One morning I smelled a smell that was even worse than any other. I didn't think this was possible! The dock workers had decided to burn the trash, rather than dispose it! Back clouds of smoke oozed! Right next to us! These guys were really burning human waste and hazardous materials 30 feet from where we lived! I took a hose to the fire, explaining to the confused superintendent how poisonous the fire really was, and that this just plainly went against our culture. He resisted initially, but finally smiled and said, "Se Deus quizer!" (If God wants it this way!) and let me quench the fire.

I am proud of my team for all their work, coordinated efforts, patience, and resilience. As with many aspects of sailing, my favorite quote remains that of Ernest Shackleton, the English Explorer, "With endurance you shall conquer!" We have conquered the technical and emotional aspects of lifting our boat. Now we will point her back out to sea, seeking a fair wind in the South American spring weather systems. We are looking forward to new adventures to come.

The Wildlife crew sends there regards to the School Teachers and children who are joining our Science Adventure into South America's Ice Limit and Patagonia. Thank you for following our journey on, we welcome you aboard!


For more information and to track the WildlifeSAIL science adventure, visit us on-line at, or email us at

With respect,
JF Thye, WildlifeSAIL Director


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