Posted by: catamarantwooceans | March 21, 2014

Sailing Along the Brazilian Coast

8.3.14 – Saturday – The last few days were spent resting, enjoying what Fortaleza had to offer: Brazilian food, ICE CREAM after long abstinence and the fast internet in the hotel’s pool area. We even had a glimpse of the local Carnival, watching a street stage performance of song and dance.

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The marina at Marina Park Hotel is not of a high standard, badly planned and executed. The floating pontoons are made of steel, the piles they are connected to by metal hoops or just plain thick ropes are on the wrong side, endangering the moored yachts. The marina has a breakwater around it and is on the inside of a small port, but still an unexplainable surge is always present, the pontoons banging into the piles and each other with a lot of noise.

The marina manager, Armando, a smiling, nice guy, sent a laundry service to us. We neglected to ask the price in advance and the next day were surprised by a 240 R$ (more than a hundred bucks) bill for our 13 kg stuff. It turns out they charged by the item, not by kgs or machines; lesson learnt!

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The We did some jobs around the boat. The main item was installing new carpets using a material called Flotex, which we brought all the way from South Africa and was very easy to work with; the end product looked just fine.

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Cutting Flotex

Gili flew in yesterday and today we did the obligatory Capitania do Porto clearance to go to Sao Luis and at 1215 we were out of the marina. First leg was to the northwest to get away from the shallow area which goes out a long way offshore – more than 25 miles in places. Then west along the coast, where we could put the sails wing and wing, jib poled out, as is our favorite configuration with the wind from astern. Gili, straight from airplanes to the boat, was not feeling too well (big understatement), but insisted on doing a full three hours watch. A lot of fishing vessels were sighted al through the night.

9.3.14 – Sunday – We were going fast on the first 24 hours – 169 miles – pointing to a nighttime arrival into Sao Luis. The flow of fishing boats kept on coming, among them a few sporting Lateen sails, going north to some far away fishing ground..

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10.3.14 – Monday – Still going fast, ETA around midnight. We entered the big bay, which is fed by a few big rivers, a half moon lighting the scene. Sao Luis is a big harbour and quite a few ships were at anchor waiting to go in. I tried calling the port control but got nowhere with the radio operator. After some hesitation as to the place to anchor, we ended up dropping it 35 minutes past midnight, north of Itaqui port, which is a place ships load iron ore at.

11.3.14 – Tuesday – We did not have detailed information about Sao Luis, so first thing in the morning we raised the pilot station on the VHF, inquiring as to whether there was a marina in Sao Luis and where would be a suitable location for a yacht to anchor. The pilot sent us to the south of Itaqui, where we anchored in the company of pilot and tug boats. There was a place to tie the dinghy with consideration given to the large tidal range (2.5 meters today).

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Walking to the Policia Federal (immigrations), which is near the port’s gate we were stopped by a security guy who told us that having no hard-hats we cannot proceed. A solution was found by calling a local pickup which ferried us to our destination. The immigrations officer was very nice and helpful; we found out that Gili’s landing card was left on the boat and had to go and fetch it. The officer lent Dany and me two hardhats and we hurried to bring the missing document. It was 1130 and the officer went for his lunch break. Back an hour later our passports were stamped.

Next for customs, which in the afternoon would be available between 1400 and 1630, so with the help of one of the security guards, we obtained the services of a friend of his, who assumed the role of a taxi and drove us to town; we had a few targets in mind, one of those was to find out whether there was a marina in Sao Luis. The first stop was at the Capitania do Portos, which is located in an impressive, old building in the interesting Historical Center of the city. After doing their part of the arrival – departure procedures, they confirmed that there was no marina in town; but our taxi driver said he would take us to one and we decided to let him make good on his promise.

Driving into a modern, residential area, with a lot of high-rise buildings, he  brought us to “Marina Aven association of sail and nautical sports”. A few catamarans were tied to shore, partly aground on sand with the ebbing tide, a bridge led to a platform where a small clubhouse stood and to a floating dock able to accommodate four yachts. According to a formidable lady, who seemed to be in charge, we could come in at any time and the cost would be a reasonable 30 r$, rainwater to fill our tanks included.

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Next stop was a supermarket and then back to Itaqui  tackle customs. They let us simmer for about forty minutes until completing the paperwork. Now, in order to get back to our boat, the security guy lent us three hardhats; “leave them near the dock” he said but as we got there a man was waiting to take them and that was a good opportunity to take a picture of Gili with her fashionable red headgear.

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There were water pipes near the dinghy dock but the local people said they were not potable. Too late to go to Aven Marina, so we decided to do that the next day, on our way out to French Gyiana.

12.3.14 – Wednesday – We were in no rush to go out as we had 700 miles in front of us, which would take about five days. At 0800 we set out to find Aven marina where we wanted to take water. Yesterday we asked the marina lady for coordinates but the language barrier was too high and we got none. I took the position using my smartphone but somehow bungled it as we found out when we got to the place and saw no marina and no yachts. People on a small fishing boat pointed the direction, behind a spit of land with a breakwater; in Dany’s opinion, they signaled that there was not enough water to get through. It was one hour before low water.

We tried to approach, locating the marina with the binoculars; alas, all I could see was sand blocking all access to it.

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                Masts and boats behind the trees on the left

Nobody thought we should wait for high water; we had our starboard tank full, the port not yet depleted and 45 liters in containers, that should be enough to get us to our destination!


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