After exploring on our own for a few weeks we had some appreciation of the unique and beautiful area around Ilha Grande and were looking forward to the arrival of young family members with whom to share our experiences.
Pete had earlier sent them a shopping list and when we collected them at Marina Piratas in Angra dos Reis, he was embarrassed to discover that one full check-in bag had been dedicated to his boating needs.
The bus terminal was fortunately just around the corner from the marina, adding to its great convenience. Earlier during the day we had filled up Moondust’s water and diesel tanks as well as the larder, all from the one-stop marina with shopping mall and fuel station.
Since the bus was late, it was dark by the time the youngsters were organised with internet connectivity, and all four of us clambered into our river raft ‘come dinghy’, which was tied up just outside the mall. With all the luggage there was hardly place for a mouse and Colin had to sit on the tubing right in front!
With Moondust fully stocked we set off the next morning to make the most of the next few weeks, having total freedom since we could produce our own water and electrical power, and thus being able to anchor wherever we felt it was safe.
Snorkelling proved to be a favourite pastime so we spent two to three hours in the water each day. Chilled by then our keen appetites were sharpened by the scrumptious aroma of baking bread, so we would wolf down sandwiches piled with egg mayonnaise or delicious sliced cold meats and salad.
Tasty dinners were always preceded by sundowners; the notorious and potent Brazilian caiparinha made with lashings of vodka, cachaca, ice and fresh limes proving to be a favourite.
We were lucky enough to have some nice breezes in the afternoons and would debate, usually over lunch, if we wanted to move on. We tried to avoid the more popular spots over the weekends.
By the end of the family visit, we had identified five prime snorkelling spots, most of which were in the very sheltered bay of Ilha Grande. We saw some amazing sea life and were spoilt with variety and abundance.
(Please view our video below in high resolution by setting the quality in YouTube to 1080.)
Exploring the bay of Paraty
On moving west to the Paraty area we encountered a huge school of perhaps 200 dolphins spread out over a wide area, so we stopped Moondust and dived in. It took a while to realise that they would surface for air some way off and then swim under us, turning on their sides and showing their light undersides as they circled around. We could, however, hear their calls under the water.
A fjord-like coastline is found just south west of Paraty which we wanted to explore, so we anchored in a sheltered spot at the entrance to the first of these inlets. It was a holiday weekend, however, and all through the remainder of the afternoon and evening a procession of pleasure craft passed us.
We took the dinghy up a nearby creek as by now we had mounted the 5hp Yamaha outboard and were able to go further afield up to an area of mangrove trees. Preferring the peaceful, slow progress with the oars we rowed back along the forested shore, finding an overhanging tree in full bloom. Megs picked one of the white flower buds and was astonished so see it pop open when she touched the petals. Unfortunately we haven’t yet been able to find out what this magical tree is.
Needing a few supplies and wanting to see the historic town of Paraty, also renowned for its waterfront streets which would partially flood at the upcoming spring tide, Pete found a track to which we could travel by dinghy and from there walk into town. We moved to a closer anchorage and the next morning piled into the dinghy with our backpacks for a day of exercise and sight seeing.
We stowed the dinghy on a deserted beach and from there followed an equally deserted track to the main road into Paraty. The first three kilometres meandered through beautiful vegetation before it joined the wide, tarred main road.
After provisioning in a huge supermarket and storing this in lockers, we made our way to the centre of the old town, enjoying a picnic lunch under large shade trees opposite the old church. Then we ambled down to the waterfront to view the effects of the tide.
Intimidated by the weight of our fully loaded backpacks, we hired a taxi to take us back to the turn-off from the main road. Fortunately by then we only had three of the total of 15 kilometres left to walk with the packs.
Enjoying an unique island south of Ilha Grande
A brisk breeze the next morning persuaded us to sail around the seaward side of Ilha Grande. We headed for Ilha Jorge Grego which lies about three kilometres off the seaward south east end of the main island. We rightly envisaged that the water would be clear and the sea life unspoilt due to its inaccessibility to the tourist ferries.
Anchoring safely caused Pete a few anxious moments as it was deep and we would have to let out about 90 metres of anchor chain, with no experience of our ability to lift the resulting mass. Furthermore we had removed our anchor safety line that morning after it fouled the propeller, but fortunately fears that the anchor would stick irretrievably in a rocky cleft proved unfounded.
Ilha Jorge Grego proved to be perhaps our most unique stop in this area. The crescent shaped island is home to a great many birds which roost in the trees and breed on the more sheltered side. As we anchored a vast host circled above, hoping for fish scraps but meanwhile bombing our decks with excrement.
By now our Eustachian tubes had enlarged and we were able to dive to the depths required to peer under rocks and get a good view of the fish. We spent two rather roly nights there, as some of the ocean swell curves around the island.
Next we moved to Praia Lopes Mendes where we had our first experience of landing the dinghy through the surf. We sat off the line of breakers and counted the sets, then when a gap appeared we powered ahead, making it to the beach before the next wave arrived. Walking across the narrowest part of the island we reached the bay where we had first made landfall in Brazil and found an internet signal which enabled us to communicate with Oli, another family member, who had just finished a work assignment and would arrive to join us the next evening.
The remainder of our time together was spent in similar fashion, apart from Oli who was determined to diagnose the cause of the port alternator failure and fix it. So his head was either underwater with the snorkel or in the engine compartments, where he triumphed much to Pete’s relief. Colin also did his share of technical work on board, helping Pete to establish the correct direction of flow for the new salt water pump and fine-tuning his tardy computer.
All too soon just over two weeks had sped by and it was time to drop the youngsters off in Angra dos Reis for their jaunt to Rio. It had been really wonderful to have young, energetic, inquisitive company on board and we would surely miss them.
Over the last few days we have done some planning for our onward travels, re-provisioned Moondust and cleared out of Angra dos Reis. As soon as the wind is favourable to sail east, we’ll head for Cabo Frio and from there head north for Salvador, Cabadelo and, finally if time permits, the island off the north coast of Brazil, Fernando de Noronha.