TIGER LILLY'S AMAZON DELTA CRUISE - PART 2C
09 October 2013 | BELEM - Cruising Notes
Tom & Lilly
BELEM CRUISING NOTES
Although we write these cruising notes with follow-on sailors in mind, perhaps the "Earth People" will find the description of the practical side of our lives interesting.
MONEY: In September 2013 2.4 Brazilian Real One US Dollar. Our primary way of getting local currency is using an ATM. We were told that local banks do not service international accounts. We used the HSBC machine in the Estacao Dos Docas on the waterfront downtown to withdraw Brazilian Real. Since our first stop in Brazil was Soure, we already had some Real to get downtown. Josie, the manager of the Marina B and B will change / hold some dollars for Real so that you can pay a taxi or bus fare to get downtown.
FOOD: Our principal source of stores and fresh provisions in Belem was the Lider grocery store, just a short walk from the Marina B and B. When you come out the gate of Marina B and B cross the Avenida Bernardo Sayao, turn left, and walk down to the traffic circle. At the traffic circle turn right onto Avenida Alcindo Cacela. The Lider grocery store is down about four blocks. They have two ATM's, however, neither machine would accept our Navy Federal Credit Union Visa debit cards. Down town on the waterfront, the Mercado Dos Ver-O-Peso is a huge colorful town market with plenty of fresh food.
FUEL: Marina B and B has a floating fuel dock moored in the river about 150 meters off their facility. Both diesel and gasoline are available. In September 2013 diesel cost very close to one US Dollar per liter.
TRANSPORTATION: A taxi to downtown costs about 20 Real ($8.33 USD). The gate guard at the Marina B and B will call a taxi for you, or you can just walk out to the street and hail your own. We used the taxi for the check-in process, and after that we were comfortable taking the bus. Bus fare was about 2.5 Real per person, and there is a cashier station / turnstile in the center of the bus to collect the fare. The purple bus Number 308 marked Guama on the side got us back. The key to getting around Belem was a map (available at the tourist office in the west end of the Estacao Dos Docas) to get where you are going, and a Marina B and B business card to get back to the boat. Almost no one speaks English, but everyone we approached was willing to help us get on the right bus, or find our destination on the map. School kids were the most likely speakers of English, and they seemed to enjoy talking to Americans. One day at the bus stop we asked a young woman which bus we should take to get back to the Marina B and B. She said, "Just follow me" and she boarded the bus with us. She got off the bus with us at the Marina B and B, wished us a plesant stay in Belem, and then crossed the street and got back on a bus headed for downtown - she made absolutely SURE we didn't get lost! On our last trip into town we hopped on one of the private mini vans that pick-up passengers and transport them downtown. The fare was only 2 Real (a bit cheaper than the bus), but the route was circuitous as the driver and his "conductor" worked every little side street and corner looking for additional fares, and the driving was actually dangerous - we will stick to the bus.
NAVIGATION: The C-MAP NT+ and Navionics electronic charts were pretty accurate for navigation on the Rio Para and the Rio Guama. The Navionics charts (on our iPad2) have a much greater extent of coverage in the region. We are headed into the Amazon delta, and with the exception of the ship channels, the C-MAP NT+ charts don't have any coverage. The Navionics charts are better, less expensive, and have far greater coverage - but of course we did not know that eight years ago when we specified the C-MAP NT+ system for our Furuno chart plotter. Another case of live and learn.
MOORING / ANCHORAGE: Until you get a feel for Belem's waterfront, we STRONGLY recommend that you moor between the buoys in front of the Marina B and B on the Rio Guama at 1-28.6S 048-28.6W. Rates for the Marina B and B vary between 40 Real to 20 Real per day ($16.66 USD to $8.33USD) depending on how long you stay - we were here a month. When we consider that we had the use of two mooring buoys, a good dinghy landing (important in 11 foot tides with muddy river banks), security, potable water, Internet access, the Marina B and B floating Bar and Restaurant, a Brazilian delivery address, good security, and a telephone translator (Josi the manager) - we think we got very good value for our money. It is a manageable situation for a visiting cruiser, but close attention must be paid to both vessel and personal security. We believed the multiple sources that told us that we needed to come under the watchful eye of the Marina B and B security system. Unlike most night watchmen - these guys actually watch and pay attention. The Rio Guama has a lot of current - in excess of 3 knots at max ebb, and it can get a bit rough when the flood tide is working against the predominant southeasterly wind coming down the river. If you choose to anchor, anticipate these conditions. (As we write this, a Coke can just flew by Tiger Lilly on the ebb like it was powered by an outboard motor.) Here is contact / courier address info for the Marina B and B: Marina B and B, Yacht Boat Name, 3568 Avenida Bernardo Sayao, Belem, Para Brazil, South America, Zip 6606S-120, Contact Josi at email@example.com or telephone (91)3269-4975 or 8129-0001 (http://www.marinabeb.com.br/).
SECURITY: Thus far we have had no security problems in Brazil. It did take us a few days to become accustomed to the heavy amount of boat traffic, large and small vessels of every description, passing close by Tiger Lilly on the Rio Guama. A word about recreational power boat wakes in Brazil is perhaps in order. If you take the meager navigation and boat handling skills of the average Florida power-boater, and combine them with the Latin macho-camacho South American male mentality - you have a Brazilian power boater. These guys will pass less than 20 feet down your side at 30 knots, with a friendly wave and a smile - they have not got a clue! The police boat, being large and powerful, is probably the worst. We have learned to HANG ON, and just grin and bare it. (Lilly sez: That's a joke, I can hear the enamel popping off Tom-Tom the Sailorman's teeth as he grins and bares it!) We had a close call while we were sound asleep at 0130 one morning - Lilly suddenly shrieked "SOMEONE HAS HIT THE BOAT" and we went to General Quarters, naked and armed with a boat hook. (Lilly sez: That would be a naked Tom-Tom - I have found ANOTHER advantage of sleeping in my tasteful PJ's.) It seems some idiot power-boater, with a boat-load of drunks, tried to go between our stern and the mooring buoy - with about three knots of flood current running right up Tiger Lilly's skirt. Predictably he got set-down and then hung up on our wind vane self-steering gear. His solution was to throttle up full ahead (which is all the average power-boater understands) with his inboard / outboard fouled on our mooring lines, and of course that just made matters worse. It wasn't until Tom put the boat hook within 6 inches of his nose, and issued a few simple declarative sentences that he decided to listen to reason (while the power boater's girl friend stared up wide-eyed at the man on deck with a look of wonderment and envy on her face), and then we got the damn fools clear of us. Lilly spent the next few days apologizing to anyone and everyone in the marina about the naked mad-man on Tiger Lilly with the boat hook.
COMMUNICATION: Since few people in Belem speak English, communication was a real challenge for us. At Marina B and B we would use Google Translator on our IPad2 at the Bar, or Josie's desk top computer in her office to communicate. This really worked well, and we found another use for our indispensible iPad2. Josi would make phone calls for us while we sat at her desk and typed out English - she was so very helpful and cooperative. On the street, the school kids were eager to practice their English on us. Lilly loves kids, and she had a ball with the Brazilian teens-agers. It was just too hard explaining where Green Cove Springs, Florida was located (in a cow pasture, just outside of Podunk, and south of Crackerville) so she told everyone that we were from MIAMI; and of course that got a rise out of the kids - they LOVE MIAMI! Miami is the center of the universe for the Brazilian up-and-comers, and of course the Internet has glamorized everything about America for the folks in developing countries. Brazil is definitely developing - there is a buzz of vibrant activity here. Brazilians are a strong, proud people, they have a huge country rich in natural resources, and it is evident that if they can keep their politics on an even keel that the Twenty First Century will see significant gains in Brazilian prosperity and influence.
YACHT SUPPLIES: There is very little support or supplies available for a sailing yacht in Belem. The brother of the owner of the Marina B and B has a small powerboat chandlery in Belem, and he sent a driver over to take Tom there. We needed some winch grease and a bow roller. They had a waterproof boat trailer grease we used for the winches, and then the driver took Tom over to a large Yamaha dealership by the air port to buy a trailer roller which we cut down to fit our anchor tray. Another example of kind Brazilian's helping out the visiting Gringos. On Arisitides Lobo Street downtown (off Avenida Presedente Vargas) we found a Singer Sewing Center and were able to buy parts for our Class 15 sewing machine (Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1).
ATTRACTIONS: We thoroughly enjoyed walking around downtown Belem. The check-in process was our introduction to this beautiful city with an old-world charm about it. The waterfront with the refurbished warehouse and docks - Estacao Dos Docas - and the town market Mercado Dos Ver-O-Peso was colorful and interesting. Many of the narrow side-streets in the downtown area are lined with private vendors selling everything imaginable. Finding a park bench in the well-maintained neighborhood squares and parks, and interacting with the people was a highlight of Belem. We walked from Marina B and B downtown via Avenida Alcindo Cacela and Trav. Padre Eutiquio (to the absolute amazement of the locals), walked around downtown, and then took the bus back to the Marina B and B. We walked a few miles down Avenida Alcindo to Avenida Magalhaes Barata and toured the Parque Zoobotanico and the Museu Paraense Emilo Goeldi (The Museum of Amazonia). At the zoo they had a brochure with English explanations of the exhibits, and the place was packed with school children - all of whom wanted to talk to Lilly and get their picture taken. Belem has a large Catholic church on just about every block downtown. These huge structures have very elaborate and ornate interiors, and are quite interesting from an architectural stand point. We did not expect to find SCUBA diving as a major recreational sport in the Amazon Delta - of all places, but the familiar Diver Down flag was everywhere. It seems that the folks who live in the state of Para are quite proud of their state flag, and they display it on virtually all vessels, and on many buildings and store fronts around town. The flag of the Brazilian state of Para, where Belem and the Amazon Delta are located, looks very similar to the SCUBA Diver Down red flag with a white diagonal slash across it - with the addition of a small blue star in the center. It took us several days to figure out that the Amazon Delta, with its thick chocolate-colored, zero-visibility mud-like water was in fact NOT a major diving region! What were we thinking?
Although we did not plan on calling at Belem, Brazil, we are certainly glad that we did. Belem is a big city with a small town feel. By observing usual cruiser common sense security precautions we felt safe everywhere we went. The people of Belem don't seem to get many international visitors, particularly English speaking visitors, and we were treated like royalty everywhere we went. We hope that you will get a chance to see Belem one day.
Life is full of little idiosyncrasies - as a seaman, Tom-Tom absolutely abhors the mind-set, culture, and unsafe actions of the landsmen (mostly young whipper-snappers) who careen around the water on jet skies. Yet it was Belem's Mister Jet Ski himself, a fellow by the name of Leonardis (who owns the Sea Doo dealership in Belem), who gave us the information we needed to make the decision to venture further into the Amazon Delta. Each year Leonardis, a 66 year-old Portuguese man and a very successful businessman, leads a flotilla of jet skies into the Delta to circumnavigate the huge island of Ilha Dos Marajo, which dominates the outer region of the Delta. Leonardis spent quite some time at his office talking to Tom about navigation, logistics, and safety in the Delta. (Once again, we were glad to have our iPad in-hand with our Navionics charts on it.) We also found a post on the Noonsite website from the crew of Voyager, an American sailing yacht that had been through the Delta last year, and between these two sources of information we decided to give it a go. Tomorrow we are heading into the Amazon Delta, followed by a 1500 mile passage north and west to the ABC Islands in the southern Caribbean, and will be out of touch for most of the month of October. We are excited about seeing more of the remote areas of the Delta, and will report back on what we saw when we get anchored in Curacao.
To see Tiger Lilly's photos of BELEM, BRAZIL, click on the PHOTO GALLERY link at the top-right of this page and follow the logic tree as follows: Main / Ports of Call / South America / Brazil / BELEM - see you there!