Brasil Rond Two
28 October 2011 | Natal
July on the coast of Uruguay reminded me far too much of the east coast of Ireland in November. The days were bright but it was very chilly every time the wind came off the sea. I had just arrived back to cold shock after a five week passage to Grenada.
But I had my “magic carpet” and it took me less than a week to have her well stocked up, a new AIS installed and the anchor windlass refitted after a service and all ready to go.
The fronts from the south were coming in regularly and the trick is to balance your need for a fair wind with the administration of the ports. The ports are closed whenever there is thirty knots of wind forecast, and the fronts normally last two or three days. Ideally you want to let the first day , often up to forty knots with rain, go through and then take the “train” of bright cold air of maybe twenty or twenty five knots behind it. The ports open on forecast not actual conditions and are often twelve hours behind the times.
My weather window opened and I went to get my clearance papers from the Prefectura. The officer on duty agreed to fill them but not to sign them as the port was closed. I then took the bus to the airport to get my passport stamped out with immigration and was back in Piriapolis in time for a last enormous pasta lunch in my favourite and incredibly cheap restaurant, the Alba. When I got back to the Prefectura office at two the port was officially open. I got my papers signed and headed back to the boat. Two hours later I let the ropes go disturbing a penguin as I went, definitely a sign to sail somewhere warmer.
My timing was good and I managed to get six hundred miles in four days from that weather “train” and by then I was in t-shirt and shorts, mission accomplished. Two days of light head winds and one days motoring and I was clearing into Brasil at Angra dos Reis in 25 degrees of sunshine.
I had a short two weeks around Ilha Grande and Paraty before my daughter Heather and her boyfriend were due. They flew into Rio and I had booked a transfer for them direct to Abrao on Ilha Grande. It worked a treat. They arrived so quickly that I missed them off the boat and we spent nearly an hour missing each other around the tiny village! Of coursed with visitors from Ireland came two days of rain, the first I had seen in two weeks.
Their visit flew with all the anchorages and walks that I had to show them. The third week I took advantage of a southerly day to go the 150 miles up to Buzios. It was hard on the crew as they did not have time to settle into a passage and it was a bit rolly.
Buzios is very chic for the Rio “set” in season. I was glad it was off season and my visitors were able to enjoy the beaches without huge crowds. The clear water and the turtles make for a very pleasant anchorage and we had company with an interesting German couple who had been onboard for eighteen years.
The weather gods were smiling for me and two days before my visitors were due to go home the next “train” north was due. Heather and Michael kindly agreed to spend their last two days with a Brazilian friend of mine and once they took the bus for Niteroi I bought some fresh and waited for a new crew member, Maggie, who was coming from Rio by bus. When she turned up late in the morning we headed straight out.
We had enough wind to get us up and past the Sao Tomé oilfields the first night and by the second day we were surrounded by humpback whales. They were blowing and breaching all around us. The wind was easing but I decided to keep sailing and we passed Abrolhas without stopping. The next night though we were be-calmed . We had made good time and I was patient enough to drop all sail and sit and wait for wind. We had about twenty hours to wait for a ruffle that became a breeze. The sailing just got better and better, fast and without a lot of sea, dolphins for company and tuna for dinner.
We arrived a few hours ahead of ourselves in Recife and picked up a buoy at the Pernambuco club down in the main harbour for a few hours sleep before we took the early morning tide up to Cabanga, the club that hosts the regatta to Fernando na Norhuna. It is not the prettiest location for a sailing club in the world, close by a main road and murky estuary water but it turned out to be a real oasis.
An oasis that was full of friendly members, helpful staff and great facilities. I left En Passant for two week, happy that she was completely secure and when I returned the quiet club had been transformed with the arrival of the fleet for the “REFENO”. There was work going on boats, safety inspections to pass, people to meet, group charascos (bar-b-qs) each evening where we all chipped in and Augusto , the larger than life , Argentinian, cooked all around him. The club too put on casual events for us. All in all it was a great two weeks of working hard preparing boats and partying.
I had been looking for crew for the run to Norhuna and I found three Brazilians via the clubs website. Liro was the only local one and he turned out to be a real gem, friendly, helpful and full of enthusiasm for his first sailing adventure. The other two flew in from Sao Paulo and on the day before the regatta, Clint a Californian came looking for a berth and found one with us.
Flag raising and naval bands, big official dinner accompanied by a very loud cover’s band and a final day of briefings. Saturday morning and this crew of mine had never set sail on En Passant before, good job that Clint had shown up otherwise I would have had to do everything myself. We made a great start but I had not followed the briefing well enough and passed a buoy the wrong side, a quick jibe and a tack and we re-rounded it again and were heading for Norhuna. It was just a run to the island for us, not a race but the blood does rise a bit.
The whales came and performed for my green crew at sunset, fantastic. The wind was light, all plain sail set by night, and the gennecker by day. A nice dorado the next morning and then we were nearly there. We made a very respectable forty hour time and arrived at dawn to an anchorage full of spinner dolphins.
Norhuna really is a gem of an island and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The only drawback is the relatively high anchoring fee if you arrive yourself. A cruising boat with two people on board would have to pay a €100 a day. As part of the REFENO we were covered for five days, great.
The beaches and the landscape are stunning and there seems to be a real effort to uphold the protected status of much of the island and it’s surrounding waters. All too soon it was the prize giving, a big night of music (of course) and it was time to sail back to Recife. We were closer hauled on the way back but everybody onboard stayed well and they ate, and ate. I was hard pushed in the galley to keep up with them.
A very early Sunday morning arrival back in Cabanga and I put them all to work on a big clean up before a final Café de manana. Some twenty boats had sailed on for Natal and so Cabanga was nicely busy, not over crowded. A couple of weeks of slowly winding down , of getting to know Recife a bit better and then it was time for my own departure for Natal and my rendezvous with Eileen who has not been aboard for six months.