It was a beautiful, peaceful morning, at first light, when we sailed from Enseada das Palmas on the north eastern side of Ilha Grande. We were rather sad to leave this beautiful area after having explored and enjoyed it for almost two months.
We had to sail directly east, past Rio de Janeiro, to round the cape at Cabo Frio before we could head north. We were grateful for good wind of 16 -20 knots from the starboard aft quarter to push us along but the sea was boisterous and lumpy with short, steep swells and breaking crests, the odd one drenching the boat. If it wasn’t for our canvas covers the cockpit would have been totally soaked. Karin got terribly seasick again and I got only about two hours’ sleep that first night, partly as I was by now unaccustomed to the noises of ocean sailing.
We hoped to spend a day or two at Arrial do Cabo, a beautiful and popular area close to Cabo Frio, but we rounded it just after midnight on a pitch black night. One of the cardinal rules of cruising is to never arrive at a foreign harbour (or anchorage) at night, so we pushed on, seemingly having to thread our way between the little islands and hoping that the electronic charts were accurate; a pretty good bet however for such a well-known area.
Buzios to Salvador
Short as it was, it had proved a challenging passage, and both being fatigued, we decided to pull into Buzios at about nine o’clock the next morning. Then, after a good night’s rest, we both woke up with itchy feet and decided to lift anchor to utilise the pleasant zephyr of a breeze. The sea had flattened out in the shelter of the cape and we cruised along gently, enjoying morning coffee and banana loaf which Karin had baked, using bananas that I thought should have been consigned to the bin – but apparently are best for this recipe. This time we were ultra cautious to prevent her from getting sick again, so she spent as little time as possible down below.
We hoped to sail offshore to pick up some breeze, but as the wind direction changed in the late afternoon, we decided to find shelter for the night at Ilha de Santana, which is about 8km off Macae. The latter is the operational shore base for the nearby offshore oil rigs and this area is busy with service boats, tankers, barges and ferries. However, we found a peaceful anchorage just off the main island of the Sant’Anna archipelago, an environmentally protected area.
Running along the coast, 40 nautical miles offshore and stretching for about 60 miles, is Brazil’s biggest oil field, with about 100 rigs in operation. They are fortunately easy to see at night but one has nevertheless to be careful to stay well clear.
A bit more challenging were the local fishing boats that don’t have the correct navigation lights and with crews that sleep at night. Whenever we saw a boat with one single white light which didn’t show up on our automatic ship identification system (AIS), we were extra cautious, mindful that they could have lengthy nets strung out. Complicating matters was the fact that our AIS system tended to go on the blink, always it seemed when we most needed it at night.
At Vitoria the rain started and from there on, for the next four days, we had many squalls with accompanying rough seas, gusts and spray over the boat. On one of her night watches Karin noted a blast of 26 knots and was thankful that we had reefed the main sail and reduced the genoa before night fall.
Salvador and Itaparica island
We again felt quite fatigued by the time we reached Salvador and headed across the big bay to the northern point of Itaparica island where the quiet little village of Itaparica is situated. We dropped anchor around midday and I had a short rest before changing the engine oils and filters.
Whilst I was busy finishing this, Karin realised that the adjacent boat had came dangerously close. Nobody was on board and it was dragging its anchor, so we had no choice but to raise our anchor amidst a hectic rainstorm and move Moondust to safety.
We mainly spent the next week or so at Itaparica doing maintenance jobs, filling up the larder, going to Salvador by ferry to clear in and out and to do some boat shopping.
Thankfully, albeit after rewiring the AIS system, I deduced that the intermittent fault was caused by radio frequency emissions from the power saving LED globe that I had put into the mast head light which affected the VHF aerial alongside it. Karin winched me up the mast once more and I inserted the old incandescent globe – the AIS problem was solved!
Itaparica is a surprisingly quiet village, relative to Mar Grande and Bom Despachio from where the ferries leave for Salvador.
We enjoyed going for walks whilst exploring the village and often whilst enjoying a sundowner, game fish were out hunting, causing shoals of smaller fish to repeatedly surge out of the water and sail through the air on masse.
We had plenty of rain during our stay here and it was partially that which encouraged us to move on. We sailed across the bay to Salvador to get an early start with a good weather window the next day, spending the night anchored near the marina, before heading north for the Caribbean. However, we still have to cover about 2 000 nautical miles of the enormous Brazilian coastline…..