||We'd spent some time in the rivers and bays around Camamu.
Life here if very waterborne (sort of like Venice without the buildings) the
first ferry boat arrives at 6am to take the kids to school
and that kicks things off. We arrange with two other cruising couples to take one
of these ferry boats to explore the town of Camamu (too shallow to take the
yachts). We all met up on Samarang and waited for the ferry to arrive. We
waited and we waited, it was late, this was Brasil, what's new.
Finally a ferry boat poked it's nose around the end of the island. We waved like
loonies (this being traditional), the skipper gently nudged up alongside us and we all piled aboard.
Just before we cast off I thought I'd just ask the stupid question - Camamu - Si?
Err actually Camamu, No! They were actually going somewhere else we hadn't heard
off. No probs, we're all adventurous people. Just one more question though
- You return tonight - Si? Err actually that's another no, just twice a week.
Well adventurous we may all be but going somewhere unknown for an indeterminate number of days was maybe a step too far, so we all
piled back off the boat and onto Samarang and off the ferry went with much
laughter and waving.
What to do now. We decided to go to Camamu anyway, but
use our dinghies. It was a long way, but two of us had RIBs with
big motors that could plane as long as we didn't overload them, so a bit
of reorganisation, change of clothes etc and off we went.
|Across the bay, between the islands (Carefully noting which islands - we've done
this before!) and up the river - avoiding large rocks strategically placed to
prevent 19th century British invasion and never removed. The tide
was with us and in about half an hour or so we were there, trying to wedge ourselves
between the ferries and other boats on the bustling town wharf. Of course
there were dozens of young guys happy to help us moor/guard the boat/be our
guides/carry our shopping, for a small consideration, naturally - this is free
market economics in the raw. Actually these guys were worth employing,
especially in these out of the way places well off the tourist route. They
didn't want much, they would keep everyone else off your dinghy and move it
around to allow other boats to come and go. And really, in the tropical
sun why not let
someone else carry all your heavy shopping back to the dinghy - all for a lot less
than you'd have paid to park the car in a town centre back home, whilst in a
small way contributing to the local economy.
Going back to the anchorage was a bit less fun. The wind
had picked up and the tide was against us. It was a very, very wet trip.
With the yachts in sight we discovered that the tide had fallen so far that we
couldn't get the dinghies back through a channel between the islands
(the right islands!) we'd taken on our way
out. Two choices, retrace our steps and motor round the north of the
island - several miles and exposure to open sea, or we could tie to a
small village jetty we had just passed where we had spotted a local bar, have a
beer and wait for an hour for the tide to rise enough to get us home. Hmm
- tough decision.
The bar was quite busy as these things go, though as usual very
few of the people could actually afford to buy a drink (gringos excepted of
course). This hadn't apparently prevented the owner from acquiring a
Karaoke machine for the night though, god knows from where. An interesting
evening, much laughter, much bad music and much apologising from the proprietor
to the gringos for the "molestacion" - we were after all just about the only
people buying drinks.
|Well this section is supposed to be about the trip down to Rio
so we'd better get started.
We planned to stop at Santo André (nr Cabrália) where Joachim, a sailor we'd
met in Salvador and his wife Hanna, had a house on the river. It was a
sheltered anchorage in the river, behind the reef, but
a difficult entrance. However, Joachim had done it several times now and had detailed
GPS positions for the route as well as some aerial photos taken by a friend in a microlite. He'd given all of this info to Werner and Emmy on Afun Davu who
were sailing with us. The only fly in this otherwise perfect ointment was that
they had got tangled in a fishing net the day before and were now someway behind
us and out of radio range. We didn't expect this to be a problem though,
the pilot gave good old fashioned sailing directions for the way in and also
said that there was a decent fair weather anchorage outside the river mouth.
Our plan was simply to drop the anchor, wait for Werner and Emmy and follow them.
|When we arrived at the bay it was blowing a hooli, there was
quite a sea running and the anchorage really didn't look very pleasant.
Looked like we'd have to try and go in the old fashioned way following the
sailing directions. Hurrah!
We dropped the sails and slowly motored in, trying to identify
the starting point in the pilot. "Do you think they mean that 'little grey
house at the bottom of the hill' or one of the other little grey houses at the
bottom of hills we can see?" Just then the VHF spluttered into life,
faint but clear, "Samarang, Samarang, here Werner". You know there are
times when hearing a German accent can be just perfect. Barry explained our
position and Werner read a long list of detailed waypoints, whilst Lindy
helmed back the way we'd come to get us a bit more room to manoeuvre. Then
armed with the waypoints we headed back in, Barry below - sitting at the navigation
computer and Lindy in the real world on the helm.
It was a little hairy -
not much water and both the beach and the reef seemed awful close at times, but
soon we were anchored in the river where a local fisherman had indicated, behind
some permanent moorings and outside what looked like a decent restaurant.
The shore seemed a bit close to us, but the fisherman had been very definite,
(maybe, we thought, if we were further out we'd block the channel) so we decided
to let out a lot less chain (15 metres as instructed) than normal (like most cruisers, we generally prefer
more rather than less) and watch how things went.
A couple of hours later Afun Davu arrived, circled around to
find a spot and dropped behind us but a bit further out in the river and of
course was therefore able to let out more chain. We looked at his position
a little enviously - the river bank and rocks still looked awful close to us. A quick VHF
conversation and we arranged to meet at the restaurant for an early dinner - we
were all quite tired. Dinner turned out to be the best meal we had eaten
since we'd been in Brasil, so we were all feeling pretty satisfied when we left
to head back to the boats. As we were leaving, the restaurant owner walked
out to the dinghies with us and we had one of those odd partially-understood
conversations that happen in a foreign language. He seemed to be saying
something about Werner's position in the channel. It was late, dark and we
were all tired and had drunk several caiparinhos so Werner took what seemed to
best decision - which was to stay where he was and look at the situation in
daylight tomorrow and move then if necessary.
We'd only been back on the boat a few minutes when there was a
tapping on the hull. It was Werner "I'm aground"! A quick glance confirmed
it. Afun Davu was leaning over at an unnatural angle and a quick
calculation showed that the tide still had about another metre to fall - we
later discovered there was a very large sandbank near the middle of the river
and Werner had swung over it - (so that was what the restaurant owner was trying
to explain)! We
helped him to lay a second anchor to hold them in position when the tide lifted
them and then went back
to bed until 4am when they floated and we were able to pull the boat clear on the second
anchor. They would reanchor later that day - but not before we'd spent a few happy
hours untangling the two anchors/chains. A bit like crochet, but with chain and
30Kg anchors instead of thread and hooks and all performed in a small dinghy!
|Well we spent a couple of enjoyable weeks at Santo André.
Joachim and Hanna have built a truly stunning home amongst the mangroves
(mosquitoes not withstanding), and the nearby town of Cabrália is a nice place in a dusty sort of
way. As an aside, Santa Cruz de Cabrália (as it's more correctly known) is
named for the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álveres Cabral who actually discovered
Brasil without even realising it. He was blown ashore here in 1500 on his
way to Cape Horn, but thought it was just an island - nothing
to do with the new continent that had just been discovered! So he just
celebrated a quick mass and set sail again. As a result he now has a small
town in Bahia (rather than one of the largest countries in the world) named
after him. And I'm sure that things like that happen to each of us nearly
It was time for us to head off now as well. Werner and Emmy would stay
for a few more days with Hanna and we would visit Vitoria via the Abrolhos
Islands. We would see them again at Guarapari.
Leaving would be easy. We had our exact GPS track on the
computer and we just needed to follow the same track out, simple. And then
we ran aground! It was only for a few minutes - we were on a rising tide,
but it was an indication of how tight things had been on our way in. We really
wouldn't have enjoyed doing it by taking bearings on anonymous small grey
||The next step was quite a long hop. Most of the limited
possible stops were either difficult, unattractive or both. One decision was
whether to stop at the Islas Abrolhos. This is a national park and one
isn't allowed ashore, but it is a famous whale watching
location. Whales come up from the Antarctic to breed and feed in the rich
waters before heading south again when the calves have built up enough layers of
fat. The regulations state that you may not
approach within 50 meters of a female and calf, but this rule is apparently
impossible to comply with because there are so many. The Abrolhos are one
of the "Must See" sites of Brasil.
However, as is often
the case we were in the wrong place at the wrong time and this late in the year
the whales would be long gone. So since it was the middle of the night, we
were not permitted to land, there
weren't any whales and we had good wind the decision not to stop was an easy one
to make. We'd try and catch the
whales on the way back (figuratively speaking of course).
|It was just south of the Abrolhos that we had one of those little
moments. It was just after dawn, we had the wind behind us, we
were making good progress with the sails poled out on both sides (ie we
weren't very manoeuvrable) and Barry was on watch:- "Everything
happened in very rapid steps. I spotted something in the water a
few hundred metres ahead. Almost immediately I realised it was a
pair of whales, mother and baby, apparently stationary on the surface,
probably sleeping. We were going to be very close! I ran
below and added 20 degrees to auto pilot, the most I could manage with
the sails as they were, and leapt back on deck.
|It was too little too late. We were going to hit them!
Now Samarang is built of steel and strong, but a collision with
something of this size would still do a lot of damage and probably
wouldn't be much fun for the whale either. But there was nothing I
could do, I felt horribly powerless. We were going to hit them!
the very last moment, when I felt I could almost touch them, first the mother
and then the baby - in what seemed like slow motion - very gracefully curved their backs and
beneath the keel. Amazing! A minute or so later they resurfaced behind the
yacht and I just stood there with my mouth open, transfixed, as they slowly faded
into the distance."
2 days of very good wind and we were in Vitoria a major harbour
and noticeably wealthier and more European
than further north and the
population had shifted, equally noticeably, from black to white - a pattern that
was to continue as we travelled south. Hard to say exactly why, but we
liked Vitoria very much. Perhaps because at heart we are really European and
that's what it felt like. It was clean, had nice shops and restaurants and we
could have been in a town on the Med - except for the beans of course. We
learned later that apparently Vitoria has an exceptionally high crime rate, even
by Brasilian standards, but we saw no evidence of it. An aside here for
any sailors reading - the marina is a nice place, but horribly exposed to the
prevailing wind, which generates a very nasty surge (mooring is stern-to a fixed
jetty with a buoy/ + anchor). Best to anchor behind
the marina - shallow, but possible.
We'd been in Vitoria a few days when we spotted another cruiser
making her way into the harbour. We did a double take, because it seemed
so unlikely, but at the same time we were certain. We instantly recognised
the boat. It was Svenya - Rene & Viola who we had last seen in Gibraltar
4 years earlier and it's certain that at that time neither boat had any plans to
sail to Brasil. Small world once again.
|On to Guarapari where we stayed for over two weeks in the
company of Afun Davu and Svenya. A pretty
ordinary seaside town, but with lots of anchoring possibilities with shelter from
any direction if the wind blew up and very long fine beaches. We stayed so long as we were struggling
to find a big enough window for the next longish hop south between what
seemed like a constant flow of cold fronts. We passed up a possible
window just after we arrived because we weren't in any hurry, but now the
pressure was beginning to build a bit. We had a long way to go, the
notorious Cabo San Tomé to round and we had flights booked!
|Finally, we left, the window was tighter and a bit less
favourable than we would have wished, but at least we should have good weather
at San Tomé, and of course we had those air tickets! Sadly this was also
to be a parting of the ways with Afun Davu, Werner & Emmy, who we'd been sailing
in loose company with for a couple of months. Their plan was to sail
down to Buenos Aires, so we hoped to meet up with them again at some point.
At the time of writing this from our apartment in Buenos Aires, we still
haven't, but as we keep proving, it's a small world.
Next stop was Buzios, allegedly the playground of the rich and
famous of Rio, and worth the trip. Maybe we're becoming cynical, but we
have heard that just a few times before.......
Anyway, Buzios is a huge bay strategically located before the
last cape between us and Rio, so sophisticated or not, it was a natural place to
stop. As it's a huge sandy bay we would have no problem anchoring there if
we arrived at night even though there was next to no moon. As soon as you
read that sentence you know something's about to happen don't you. And it
It was almost pitch black, and we were making good speed across
Buzios bay. Expected to anchor around 0200 which would be good. Because
it had been quite a short trip (36 hrs) we hadn't got into the rhythm of
night watches which in turn meant we were both tired, and Barry was on night
Then we stopped. Nothing dramatic. No bangs or
crashes, nothing. Just that we had been doing 7 knots and now we were, well,
stopped. The wind was still blowing, but we weren't going (sic).
Well as explained we were tired and it took a while to rationalise
what seemed to be completely irrational. The log said we were stopped.
The GPS confirmed it. The wind was blowing. We hadn't hit anything.
Except of course we had. We'd hit a very long fishing net (several miles
long it later transpired). After some torchlight investigation it was
apparent that we had sailed over it, it had slid under the boat then popped up
when it reached the end of the keel and was now caught on the skeg of the
rudder. A bit of a problem. We couldn't risk starting the engine to
try and manoeuvre off as we couldn't risk picking the thing up in our prop.
We had a cutter on the prop to stop this from happening, but it was unlikely to
be able to cut something like this and anyway we didn't really want to cut
someone's nets if we could avoid it. There seemed only one option -
into the wet suit, tie on and go over the side to try and manipulate the
thing past the rudder. Oh bliss! Apart from all the practicalities
(dropping the sails etc), well it was very dark and we've all seen Jaws right? Now in the rational side of my brain I (almost) knew there weren't going to be
any sharks or anything else just because it was dark, but the other half of my
mind was completely full of floating body parts.
Then, a miracle, we were moving again and Lindy was helming us
away from the net! Had the rope
parted? Quick check whilst it was still visible - no it all looked intact.
We think one of the larger waves had lifted us just far enough and just quickly
enough to let the rope pass below our rudder. All other options seem to
involve divine intervention!
Well after all that confidence was just about subterranean and
any thoughts of anchoring in the dark were right out of the window (that should
be porthole I suppose). So we spent a very uncomfortable several hours
sailing very slowly in the wrong directions so as not to arrive near the
anchorage until dawn. This was all for the best as it turned out.
The preferred anchorage listed in the pilot was chock full of schooners.
Anchorages #2 & #3 were now full of mooring buoys and we ended up anchoring well
away from the area we would have headed for if we'd arrived earlier. Makes
you think doesn't it - perhaps that glass of champagne we poured to Poseidon as
we crossed the equator was still paying dividends! Svenya arrived the
following night and managed to spot our mast, anchored and we awoke to friends nearby.
And Buzios? Well yes, it was a pretty up-market place.
Once a traditional fishing village and now all smart bars, restaurants and
hotels - though the fishing community (or at least those of them not now
running tourist schooners) was still very much in evidence. Not cheap by
Brasilian standards, but you could actually eat food without beans! We
Much as liked Buzios we still had those air tickets (and a job
list to complete before we mothballed the boat). So as soon as a weather
window opened we were off again. Actually, getting out of the bay and
round Cabo Frio was an extremely lumpy, cold and drizzly few hours, but then it all settled down
and we bowled our way down to Rio, poled out with reefed sails.
And how was Rio de Janeiro, playground of Brasil and highlight of
South America? Err, well actually, we didn't stop. Lindy was on
watch before dawn when we actually passed the entrance to the bay and the famous
Sugar Loaf. She didn't wake me.
"So how was it?" I asked later that morning. "Like in the
pictures", she shrugged.
Well that's that then!