We had been frustrated during our four days in Rio de Janeiro attempting to clear-in. We were tired of being passed from office to office, back-and-forth across the harbor in mid-30º temperatures. On Friday afternoon, the 23rd of March, on the brink of a weekend that would grind the already-stagnant bureaucracy to an absolute halt, we had topped-off Sequitur's diesel tanks at the pier of Iate Clube Brazileiro in Niteroi. Then instead of crossing the harbour to Marina Gloria, where we were told we might be able to clear-in, we turned eastward, to seaward through the harbour entrance.
As we motor-sailed out through the entrance several naval warships made their way toward us from seaward. We were relieved to see them all continue past us, as they returned their crews to home port for the weekend.
The water reeked of petroleum, and had a sickly yellow-green colour. We assumed there had been an oil spill and that we were going through a chemical soup that had been added to the water as a coagulant or dispersant or whatever. Our water tanks were low, but we knew this was no place to flash-up the watermaker. We kept looking over our shoulders to see if we were being chased.
Shortly before sunset as we headed between a pair of islands about ten miles from the harbour entrance, we passed Etesco Takatsugu, a huge oil drilling ship, moored and apparently busy sinking another well. We wondered whether this was the source of the slick we were passing through.
Throughout the evening we passed through a parade of cumulonimbus systems, some of which were unavoidable and hit us with torrential downpours and twisting winds into the upper 30s. We continued motor-sailing, about 20º off the wind with shortened sails, bucking the Brazil current. At 0700 we 6.6 miles south of Cabo Frio and more fully into the southwest stream of the current, making 4.8 knots with turns for 6.
Noon on Saturday found us in outside the 12-mile limit east of Cabo Frio, and aiming for the gap between offshore oil fields and Cabo Sao Tome. As we motor-sailed into the now stronger current, we bashed into increasingly confused seas, which I resolved as being from an interference between the Brazil Current and the water flowing over Banco de Sao Tome. In the evening our bumpy ride was compounded by the parade of squalls, several of which hit us with downpours and gale-force winds.
By sunrise on Sunday we were reduced to 3.5 knots at 2400 rpm, turns for 7 knots. I altered course to close the land around the end of Banco Sao Tome and seek some inshore relief from the Brazil Current. When Edi arose from her post-watch kip, she prepared a wonderful ham and eggs brunch, which we enjoyed in the relatively calm waters we had entered north of the bank. We were then onto a broad continental shelf of 15 to 20 metres depth, which buffered the ocean swell and reduced the current.
North-northeast winds increased through the day, until by sunset they were above 20 knots, directly on the nose. We had lost the protection of the shoal water, and we were again into a stronger southwest-flowing current. We decided to put into an anchorage to wait for more favourable winds, and we shaped our course toward Guarapari, a large city with, according to the charts, two bays that appeared to offer good anchorage.
At 0950 on Monday we came to 20 metres on the Delta in 5 metres of water in Enseada de Peroca, off the beach of Santa Monica. The bay is lined with upscale estates and houses above a broad, sandy beach, but the headland is very low and offered us no protection from the 20 to 25 knot winds which howled all day and into the night. It did; however, provide no fetch for the waves to build.
In the evening I prepared dry-seared beef tenderloin with béarnaise sauce, served with gnocchi in a portobello, shallot, garlic and cream sauce and a butter-sweat julienne of carrot, zucchini and poblano. With dinner we had a superb bottle of 2008 Aurocano Humo Blanco Lolol Pinot Noir from Sequitur's cellar.
The wind continued to howl out of the northeast through the following day, so we decided to stay-put and relax. We awoke with the dawn on Wednesday to find the winds down to NNE 10 to 12. With the assistance of the cockpit windlass, we weighed at 0616 and headed out under skies decorated with streaks of cirrus.
We encountered small wooden fishing boats, singly and in clusters. None of these had radar reflectors, and they began painting intermittently on radar at about 1.5 miles, and offered a rather trackable paint at a mile. This was no great problem during the day, but at night it really exercised our eyes, particularly since most of these boats, if they have navigation lights at all, have extremely weak ones, often not visible outside a mile. Compounding this is their habit of anchoring or simply drifting overnight and sleeping, with or without lights.
At 0945, as we motor-sailed within 10º of the wind, we were slowed to 1.5 knots with turns for 5, so I upped the revs to 2200 to make some better headway. In the early afternoon as we approached the entrance to Puerto Vitoria the radar screen grew increasingly cluttered with contacts. These strong paints were definitely not fishing smacks; they were huge oil tankers, apparently waiting to load.
We weaved our way through some four dozen tankers. At one point we were able to count 27 above our horizon.
We were moving along generally in the middle of the 20 to 25-mile-wide continental shelf in 35 to 40 metres of water, trying to remain outside Brazil's 12-mile territorial limits. Frequently we passed through huge oil slicks, which are apparently the legacy Brazil is leaving the world in return for extracting deep-water oil.
Shoreward from us were several enormous columns of smoke. We were too far out to sea to see whether these were from land-based fires, but the smoke was too white to be from oil, so we assumed they were either from forest fires or from deforestation burns. To this point, Brazil has not painted too rosy a picture for us, neither administratively nor environmentally.
We continued motoring into the wind while fighting a strong opposing current. The seas were steeply choppy and confused, I assumed from the southwest flowing Brazil Current and the easterly swell fighting each other as they met the edge of the continental shelf. We decided to head closer in, and to find shelter and wait for better winds. On the chart was a port with an excellent set of aids to navigation, including a lit channel and leading marks. This was good; we were not going to arrive at the entrance to the port until four hours after sunset.
At 2145 we lined-up on the entrance transit and entered the port. The waxing crescent moon was low on the horizon and added to the eeriness of the scene. There was an acrid odour in the cool, humid air and there was a large following swell in the basin. The green navigational beacons moved back and forth as we tried to orient ourselves, and then we realized the entire contents of the basin were surging back and forth, not the beacons. Our throats and nostrils were stinging from the pungent air. We decided to leave immediately.
I carefully turned, trying to get a sense of the rhythm of the surge and maneuvering to avoid the beacons. We escaped without incident, quickly rejigged our dinner, watch and sleep plans, and carried-on up the coast. On Thursday morning Edi prepared another wonderful brunch after she arose from her post-watch snooze. We are still enjoying the delicious beef bangers we bought in the Falklands, as well as the farm eggs Sibie had gathered for us from her friends.
When I took-over the watch at 0600 on Friday morning, Edi had brought us to the southern edge of the Abrolhos Reefs. These are a complex of shoals, coral reefs and islets running 36 miles to seaward of Ponta de Baleia. Northward for over 100 miles, a 25-mile-wide shelf, mostly 25 metres and shallower follows the coast. The eastern edge of this is charted as dropping sharply to 1000 metres and then continuing steadily to over 2000. I saw this shoal water as offering respite from the southbound current, I and eagerly began threading a course through the maze of charted, but unseen reefs lurking beneath the surface. My confidence was boosted by the two charted aids at the southern edge of the complex passages; they were both visually and by radar exactly where the chart indicated they were. Once we entered the shoal water, our speed over the ground more than doubled.
Among the things we have to occupy our time on watch, and to keep us from getting bored and nodding-off, are our computer games, books and movies. Most days I play the fresh selection of thirteen games on Sudoku Daily, an iPad free download. I also play a few dozen matches of backgammon on iGamon, another free app. The games last just long enough to break the time between checking the horizon, the weather, the sails, the radar, the instruments and the gauges. As we were threading our way through the reefs, I had my best game ever, double-skunking the computer expert in a re-re-doubled game.
Saturday morning dawned glumly, with a sky full of nimbostratus and a radar screen full of rain cells parading toward us. What little wind there was came from astern and barely filled the sails, but at least we finally had winds with a southerly component. It alternately rained or drizzled or thickly misted, at times lowering visibility considerably. From this cloak of precipitation, little wooden fishing boats popped out without first announcing themselves on radar.
In the early afternoon the sky cleared, but as we approached sunset, we were again heading into a thickening and darkening northern horizon. Shortly after midnight it began drizzling again.
At 0222 in a steady light rain we came to 20 metres on the Delta in 5.9 metres of water in the basin in front of the Marina do Brazil in Ilheus. The tide was near its crest, with 0.8 of a metre to fall. There was a gentle easterly wind and the surge of the reef-filtered remains of the open ocean swell rolling into the open roadstead. We quickly shutdown, closed-up and went to bed. It was April Fool's Day, reminding us that in eight days we had bashed our way another 675 miles along a hostile coast.
After a very rolly sleep from the surge, we awoke midmorning to look at the scene the in daylight. A passing fisherman made us think we were on the Nile, instead of in coastal Brazil.
Because of the uncomfortable surge, we decided to weigh and look for a more protected anchorage, likely behind the breakwater in the southeast corner of the bay. With the aid of the cockpit sheet winch we weighed and slowly motored over to take a look at what protection the breakwater afforded. Also we were in search of a fueling facility, and we thought the most likely place would be inside the inner harbour. We were also looking for a wifi signal; we had seen none for over a week.
It took us a while to realize that the entrance to the inner harbour had been totally walled-off with a new breakwater. There was no entrance. The owners of the facility must have campaigned for the wrong side in the last election. We went back and anchored closer to the landing float in front of the yacht club.
We launched Non Sequitur and rowed in through the surge to the dinghy float. The surge was nearly half a metre up and down and washed about three metres back-and-forth, so landing was a tad tricky.
The yacht club appeared closed; there was nobody around in the yard, the offices, the workshops nor in the bar. It was Monday, so that likely explained it.
We found a gate and went through it into the street and walked toward what we thought to be the commercial area. At a Shell station a couple of blocks along, we asked about getting some diesel for the boat. We were motioned along up the street that led away from the water. I showed the fellow the fuel line from the Tohatsu outboard and asked about repair or replacement. This elicited the same set of arm waves.
A block and a half along we passed a very large supermarket, and then in another three blocks, we came to a second Shell station. Inside we met a young man with good English and a very helpful attitude. He told us he had worked at McDonald's in Southern California for two and a half years. He went out and called over three colleagues and they had a conference. One of the group also spoke English well, and he showed me a tank on a trailer that they regularly used to refuel boats. Diesel was R$2.00 per litre, CA$1.10 and there was a R$30 delivery charge. I had brought my iPad, so on the Navionics chart of the basin, we located the fish pier, where they did the refueling; it was in the crook, immediately east of the yacht club. He said at high tide there was sufficient water; I looked at the tide chart on the iPad and saw high at 1248. Knowing that we could easily take 300 litres, but likely not 350, I paid for 300 and arranged for it to be delivered at 1300, giving us sufficient time to stop at the supermarket on the way back. I also showed the fellow the Tohatsu fuel line and he made a phone call. He said the appropriate part would arrive at the pier with the fuel at 1300.
We walked back to the supermarket through the mid-30º midday, and were relieved to find a wonderfully stocked produce department. We bought a huge bag of green beans, three large cauliflower heads, six green peppers, a dozen Roma tomatoes, a big bunch of bananas, four large mangoes and two huge avocados. We bought a few other grocery items, but gave a pass to the salt cod, which was arrayed in aisle displays throughout the store. It must still be leftover from when the Portuguese depleted the cod on Newfoundland's Grand Banks.
We arrived back at the yacht club to find that the gate through which we had had come out was closed. We continued around the peripheral wall looking for another entrance. The only other one was also closed, and there was no reply to our pushing the door buzzer.
By then we were close to the fish pier used for refueling, so I walked over to look at it. A rickety narrow finger to a pair of crumbling concrete posts appears to be all the fishermen have left after the fill-in of the inner harbour. I spoke with the toothless guardian and indicated that we wanted to come in to take-on diesel. He told me to come in beside the yellow fish boat that was Med-moored there.
We walked back around to the club gate, and I managed to get it open. Back onboard, Edi stowed our produce while I re-rigged the anchor rode to the cockpit winch and prepared to weigh. As we were weighing a blue fishing boat came in and moored in the slot we were told to use. There was no more room on that side. The yellow boat on the other side had finished pumping its catch ashore, but showed no signs of leaving. Complicating the situation, its bow line was floating in a big arc from a mooring buoy and blocking our ability to back-in on our anchor, least we snag and cut it. The only alternative we saw was to head bow-in and raft on the yellow boat.
The surge was as big here as on the yacht club float, and the depth sounder showed we were bouncing to less than a metre under the keel. The yellow boat's skipper made it very apparent he didn't want us alongside. Eventually, he decided to leave, or was told to by the guardian, and he waved us off so he could pull his boat out on the mooring line. His mooring line was around our stern, nestled in the crook between the top of the transom and the davits uprights. This was a solid place, so I backed against the mooring line and allowed it to push our stern around to a proper orientation so that we could back-out clear. Properly turned and backing away, our a-cock-bill anchor snagged on the mooring line, so I stopped, went forward and hung over the side to clear it with my foot.
After the yellow fish boat had cleared the pier head, we turned and backed in, dropping the Delta on the way. As Edi paid-out the rode, I backed toward the finger, getting close enough to pass a line from the starboard stern cleat. With Sequitur balanced in the surge a couple of metres off the finger, we pulled a hose across and the operator turned on the pump on his trailer. After about five minutes, a joint in the hose parted and our diesel was being pumped directly into the bay for nearly a minute before the operator could run back and switch-off the pump. Nobody ashore seemed the least bit concerned that ten or twenty litres of diesel had spilled. At home, a stray drop from the nozzle is enough to get boaters and fuel station attendants scrambling to get absorptive pads and dispersants.
There was enough length of hose remaining to pull it aboard and continue fueling. Half an hour later the pump on the trailer ran dry, the attendant and the toothless guardian walked a hump of hose along out to the pier head, draining it of the last of the diesel. Our main tank gauge was showing seven-eighths, about 500 litres, about 70 litres short of full. The auxiliary tank and four jerry cans were full, so we had about 850 litres aboard. With a knot or more of current behind us across much of the northern coast of Brazil all the way to the Windward Islands, and with the prevailing winds abaft the beam, we will not need anywhere near as much fuel as we have been using to this point.
We passed the hose back across the gap, then pulled across a bag with our new Tohatsu fuel line fitting. They had bought bulb, line and fitting, rather than just the fitting, but we didn't mind paying the R$108 for the piece we needed. We sent R$110 plus the R$30 for the fuel delivery across on a jackline, plus a tetrapak of Chilean wine for the helpful toothless guardian.
We had been fortunate in meeting a McDonald's customer-service trained young fellow and his cohorts at the Shell station. They were extremely helpful, as was the toothless guardian at the pier; however the remaining aspects of our fueling stop were a real hassle.
Whenever we think of hassle, we are reminded of Edi's friend Isabelle, with whom she had sailed on three occasions in the Caribbean. Isabelle is Quebecois, and her use of English is at times rather comical. Edi often heard her use the term hassle to describe people and events, pronouncing it with the silent H as "assle". It wasn't until Edi received an email from Isabelle with the term spelled asshole that she twigged to the cross-over usage. Since then, hassles have taken-on new meaning.
Although we weren't fully ready to continue, and would have loved another day's break to catch-up on sleep, the surge in the anchorage made a restful sleep impossible. At 1406 we slipped the line from the pier, weighed and continued north. The sky was crowded with nimbostratus and occasional cumulonimbus, and we couldn't avoid some rain showers. The winds though, were east-southeast at 9 to 12 knots, and we moved along on a beam reach under jib and main making 4.5 to 4.8 knots into the night.
As we sailed we baked the four loaves of no-knead bread Edi had started the previous day, and while the oven was hot, two baguettes. For dinner we stuffed ourselves with fresh baguette slices and cream cheese.
To take advantage of a slight countercurrent, and more gentle seas, we remained within six miles of the coast, just in from the drop-off at the edge of the continental shelf. Overnight we encountered very few fishing boats, assuming most were out at the drop-off. However on Tuesday morning as we crossed a canyon, we passed through a few dozen scattered little boats, most of which would be deemed unseaworthy at home.
The skyline of Salvador was already well above the horizon at 24 miles out. The wind was still near the beam, but it had eased to around 6 knots, so we motor-sailed, maintaining just under 5 knots. We ran the watermaker to bring our tanks to full.
At 12 miles south of Salvador the scale of the built-up area of the city could be more clearly seen. Many of the towers appear to be 40 or 50 stories tall, and they are densely packed.
At 6 miles we could see that many of the towers are residential, and those rising from what appeared to be seaside parkland along the southwest corner of the city look rather upscale.
At 1537 we came to 20 metres on the Delta in 6.8 metres of water in a small bay off the entrance to a huge marina filled mostly with powerboats.
We were just below, and in full sight of the Palacio do Governo and the Capitania do Portos. We figured that if we were going to sneak in, we may as well do it through the front door and sit on the front porch.
We relaxed for the remainder of the day, and in the evening I prepared skinless and boneless chicken breasts in a butter sauté of julienned red onion, shallot, garlic and cubed portobello mushrooms. We went to bed early and slept soundly for the first night since we left Rio. On Wednesday morning Edi prepared bacon and eggs with béchamel sauce and basil served with lightly toasted fresh baguette slices and sliced Roma tomatoes.
After breakfast I assembled the new fuel line fitting and did a test attachment to the outboard. It fit. Mid-afternoon, after the temperature cooled to the mid-30s, we launched the dinghy, fitted the motor and went ashore to the marina. We walked along beside the freeway that had usurped the waterfront, much like in Seattle, Valparaiso and I am sure in many other cities with misguided planners. The very upscale marina and two restaurants intermingle with vacant and derelict buildings. Among these few respites from the waterfront slum is the headquarters of the 2nd Naval District. Otherwise the infrastructure is tired, decayed and crumbling.
We walked into the area around the old civic market to find broken sidewalks and broken people. We were accosted by aggressive beggars; we did not feel safe. We walked back through the square and followed the local example of forcing a way through the six lanes of unstopping traffic at the crosswalk. We continued through the crowd of beggars to the turnstiles, where for 8 Centavos, we bought passage up the elevator to the upper historic centre of the city.
We queued in a jostling crowd in a cramped, airless passage waiting for the lift, all the while very mindful of the wonderful opportunity the place provided for pickpockets. After a lift of a hundred-or-so metres, we emerged into another confining rabbit warren of airless passages that led to the outside. The elevator structure appears to be rather new; however, it suffers from very old design, with we suspect inputs from the pickpocket community.
We escaped with wallet, cameras and computers intact, and at the exit we went into a visitor information office to ask directions to a wifi signal we could use, and to a supermarket. All three young men at the counter spoke English well, and the one who served us showed us directions to Shopping Centre Lapa on his desk map. One of the other fellows offered to give us a map, but the one serving us waved him off and instead, scribbled the name on a scrap of waste paper.
We took the scrap of paper and scraps of memory of the route to follow and headed out. When the sidewalk was wide enough to walk on, it was either broken and holed, or littered with storefront overflow. The area was very crowded, with an aggressive, jostling and rather unsavoury mix of people, most of whom walked in the street, challenging the rushing traffic and being challenged back. It was chaos. Making it even less comfortable was the upper 30º temperature. There were many street scenes we would love to have photographed, but we felt so unsafe that we dared not take out our cameras. Of the 150-or-so countries that Edi and I have together and separately visited, few have given us this degree of uneasiness.
By showing the name scrawled on the scrap of paper to a guard, a police officer and a helpful lady, we finally made it to Lapa. Inside we found Americanas, but it is not a supermarket, but a department store, and it was crammed with a frenzy of shoppers doing their last-minute Easter shopping. Easter shopping here appears more chaotic than last-minute Christmas, or early Boxing Day shopping at home. No one we asked knew of a Bom Preço in the area.
We carefully picked our way back out of the area, heading northward looking for signs of an escape back down to the harbour. Edi recognized a church or convent we had seen from our anchorage, and we followed a winding lane down past it. The lane appears to have once been a very fashionable address, before the divided highway along the waterfront below turned the neighbourhood to a collection of derelicts and slums.
There are signs of squatters or transients living in some of the ruins. A few of the more solid old buildings have been restored and have expensive-looking security walls, gates and hired guards.
Partway down the hill we had a wonderful overview of the marina, off which Sequitur was anchored. Powerboats predominate here, far outnumbering the sailboats, of which we counted only six among the hundreds of moored boats.
Back onboard Sequitur, we continued to be bothered by the wakes of the powerboats racing through the anchorage to get to the marina entrance, or accelerating to maximum speed immediately they had left the marina. It was the Wednesday before Easter, and we figured the boat traffic would increase dramatically on Thursday as people slid-off early for an extended long weekend.
There were navy frogmen training in the anchorage around Sequitur, and we wondered if they also train their boarding parties by practice boardings of yachts at anchor. Thoughts like this came easily to mind with the tenuous nature of our presence in the anchorage.
We decided to head up-harbour on Thursday morning to see if there was a quieter and more secluded anchorage, hopefully one with a small community where we could find a supermarket and some wifi service. While the chart showed shoal water of one and two metres depth lying a mile and more off the entire 50-mile eastern shore of the bay, we were hoping to find a dredged channel through to a small suburb. What we found instead was no break in the urban-industrial sprawl and no signs of boat-friendliness.
After an hour and a half, we turned around and headed back out, having decided to continue up the coast another 280 miles to Maceio and try our luck there. By this time the tide had turned to flood, and we bucked it as we motor-sailed 20º off the wind out of the harbour. On our way out we met a 30-metre or so German-flagged ketch inbound from the north.
As we clawed our way into a 2.8-knot current and directly into the wind toward the race between Ponta de Santo Antonio and its off-laying reef, the engine temperature moved up from its normal range of 70º to 74º. When it reached 80º, I became concerned. I went below and removed a plastic bag and other bits of detritus from the raw water strainer. The temperature remained high, so I removed the cooling water intake hose from the seacock and after some resistance, managed to blow a wad of crud through it and out into the strainer bowl. The engine temperature came down a bit, but continued hotter than usual, and we attributed this to the high temperature of the dark brown sea, which the sun had warmed it to just over 40º. Once we were past the cardinal buoy and out into less polluted water, the engine temperature came back to normal.
We continued for hours past a seemingly unending line of high-rise buildings ashore. When the sun set at 1733 we were still passing the sprawl of Salvador as we bucked directly into the wind and the current. At midnight we were abeam Ponta Acu da Torre and able to bend our course a few more degrees northward. The wind continued from the northeast for the next two days, leaving us no option but to motor-sail a few degrees off it. A port tack would add too much southing to our track, a starboard tack would quickly put us on the beach. Early afternoon on Saturday we rounded Pontal da Barra and were able to bend our course another ten degrees northward.
At 0931 on Easter Sunday we came to 20 metres on the Delta in 3.5 metres of water in eastern side of the harbour in Maceio. The chaotic squalor of the fishing boats and their shoreside infrastructure reminded us of Paita, Peru, where we had had our dinghy and motor stolen and Sequitur's decks looted as we were ashore clearing-in. We had an uneasy feeling.
The tide was predicted to drop another half metre, then rise 2.5. We had a scope of over 3:1 for high tide and more than 1.5 metres under the keel at low. About an hour after we had anchored, we felt an occasional thudding. As it increased in frequency, we realized our keel was bottoming in the swells. We scrambled to rig the cockpit winch and within three minutes had weighed and motored off the shoal and dropped the anchor in 4.5 metres. An hour later in a wind gust, we dragged anchor 1.5 cables until it bit and held. We certainly miss having the Rocna easily available.
In port with us was the Brazilian Armada's tall ship, which had long lineups for an apparent Easter open house. Because of the unsavory aspect of the fishing boat culture next to us, and the tenuous hold of the anchor, we decided it was not wise to leave Sequitur, nor could we see a safe place to land ashore and leave our dinghy.
For Easter dinner I prepared tarragon chicken with green beans almandine, steamed baby potatoes and sliced Roma tomatoes with shaved sea salt. With it we enjoyed another bottle of the 2008 Los Haroldos Cabernet Sauvignon we had bought in Ushuaia.
On Monday morning there was a low overcast of nimbus-whatever, out of which it variously drizzled, rained or downpoured. As we were having breakfast, I sensed movement outside, and went up to the cockpit to see a near toothless black in a ragged bathing suit stern-sculling a derelict wooden skiff a few feet from Sequitur. He had a beat-up ball cap embroidered with Capitan de Puerto, but the half dozen fish in the bottom of his boat convinced me further that this was not an official visit. He told me we should move closer in, onto one of the mooring buoys next to the fishing fleet; it was more protected from the wind there. I thanked him and said we would be moving within the hour. It certainly sounded like a ploy to make it easier for them to plunder Sequitur.
At 1040 we weighed and headed out to sea. When the anchor came up, the chain was wrapped around it and it was tangled in a piece of wire and some nylon line. No wonder it had dragged. We had very uneasy feelings about our security in the port, and even although the weather was unsettled and squally, we deemed it much safer at sea. Noon found us having rounded the buoy marking the southern extent of the reefs and heading up into the wind along the seemingly interminable Brazilian coast.
Through the day we dodged most of the squalls, being hit only a few times. The wind slowly veered until we could enjoy a broad reach, and by evening a beam reach. We remained on the shelf within six or eight miles of the coast, and out of the main current, the swell and the shipping lanes. A few large ships passed well to seaward and we met a few flimsy fishing rigs, which were more like two or three-man surfboards.
These little rigs were heading in toward the coast from to seaward of us, likely from eight or ten miles offshore at the drop-off of the continental shelf.
It amazed us that the locals take these flimsy rigs so far to sea, and it was a delight to watch their skill in balancing them in the three metre swells, the blustery 12 to 20-knot winds and the wind-generated cross seas. We surmised that this is what some of the local windsurfers do for a living.
For weeks we have been beating against the wind and the current along the Brazilian coast. At 2034 on Tuesday the 10th of April, we rounded the nearly inconspicuous Ponta do Seixas, which is the easternmost point of the Brazilian coast, 4 cables south of the more prominent Cabo Branco. We were around the nose of Brazil and finally able to begin making some eastings. This would, according to the guides and pilot also more consistently put both wind and current abaft our beam.
At noon on Wednesday we could see the new wire-stayed cross-harbour bridge, Ponte de Todos in Natal, which was shown on our iPad Navionics chart as having a vertical clearance of 55 metres. Our 2009 Navionics chip in the chart-plotter did not show the bridge. As we approached Natal, we were joined by several fishing skiffs, windsurfing their way toward port with their catches.
There is a warning on the chart stating that the bar and channel giving access to the port are subject to strong currents and vortices and demand local knowledge. I had timed our arrival to coincide with low water slack, and we crabbed in through the less than a cable wide entrance with a 2-metre swell on our port quarter and the 20-knot southerly winds on the beam. With us sailed a two-man fishing surfboard.
We soon found the lee of the breakwater, rolled-in the sails and motored up-harbour in search of an appropriate anchorage. We were pleased to see a small collection of sailboats anchored off the yacht club, and we poked around among them trying to find sufficient swinging room. The water depth demanded too much scope for us to safely swing in the few empty spaces there were, so we turned and searched toward the other end. Our aim was to be sufficiently close to the yacht club that we could pickup their wifi signal. Another loop through the moored and anchored boats left us with no option but to anchor at the northern end, beyond the last boats and the wifi. At 1440 we came to 40 metres on the Delta in 12 metres of water, and I backed-down at 2800 rpm to ensure the anchor was firmly set. There was another 1.5 metres of tide to rise, taking us to just shy of a 3:1 scope.
The place looked peaceful and we were well away from any potentially malfeasant fishing boat slum. The yacht club looked a bit upscale but not snooty. Nobody seemed to take any great notice of or care about our arrival, and we were not bothered.
We opened the hatches and portlights to allow the 15-knot breeze to blow through Sequitur and cool her interior. We variously napped and relaxed, had a celebratory bottle of Undurraga Brut Royale with dinner and reflected on where we were and where we had been. Since leaving Vancouver, we have covered 15,166 nautical miles, which is just over 70% of the distance around the earth. Almost a quarter of our travel, 3500 miles has been in the past seven weeks since we left the Falklands, and most of it through adverse and contrary conditions, both ashore and at sea. We needed a break.