Heading north up the Brazilian coast

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.

Map Rio to Vitoria

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.

IMG_2495 (Copy)
Santa Anna Island, the biggest of the three islands in the archipelago.

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.

We had one or two days of fair winds and good weather in which we could even put up our hammocks!
Passing through the holding area at Vitoria we counted 42 oil tankers on the AIS, all lying at anchor, awaiting loading.
IMG_2520 (Copy)
The skyscraper skyline of Vitoria was quite impressive but we were relieved that we could avoid it and were able to manoeuvre through the host of ships during daylight.

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.

IMG_2568 (Copy)
Itaparica as seen from our anchorage.

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.

Moondust at anchor at Itaparica.

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.

IMG_20180606_105739 (Copy)
The Salvador skyline as seen coming in on the ferry from Itaparica island.
Buying fresh fruit for lunch in Salvador.
View from the elevator taking us from beach level up to the old city.

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!

We made very good use of the sandbank just off our anchorage at Itaparica to get some work done on the hulls.
IMG_2557 (Copy)
Measuring the exact length of our anchor bridal with fellow South African cruiser, Mark.
Getting rid of unwelcome passengers!

Itaparica is a surprisingly quiet village, relative to Mar Grande and Bom Despachio from where the ferries leave for Salvador.

Map Itaparica and 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.

The Fort of Sao Lourenco was built by Dutch colonials in 1647 and reconstructed by the Portuguese in the 18th century.


Colourful buildings in the historical part of Itaparica.
Strolling down the quiet promenade.
One of the many little fresh food stalls.

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…..

Our view of Salvador from our anchorage.


20 Replies to “Heading north up the Brazilian coast”

  1. Hallo you two and thanx for the update. Special thanx that you added the maps Pete. It makes it much easier to get the full picture of where you are and how you are moving. As always we love to hear about your epic experience. Much love from a fairly cold Cape Town. We cannot wait to get the next blog entry. Xxx


    1. Hallo Beth and George,
      Glad that you are still with us….. even more wonderful to hear about the good rains in Cape Town!
      Klink my jul het self ‘n opwindende ervaring in die Kgalagadi gehad. xxx


  2. Thanks for the latest as always very interesting blog . Keep well and safe sailing . Hope Karins sea sickness will improve . Love Roger and Lorraine .


    1. Hi Roger and Lorraine,
      Glad you enjoyed the latest blog; we’re just off Recife where we picked up some cell signal to enable a response. We’ve made a quick passage north and luckily I didn’t suffer as much as previously from the sea sickness.


    1. Hi Frank,
      Yes, we certainly are heading for the Caribbean and the Venezuelan pirates are apparently no joke around Trinidad, so were are hoping to head to Tobago and then north to Grenada.


  3. Really enjoying your blogs, and surprised at the architecture close to Rio. Also thought the u-tube when scuba diving which brought back some pleasant days some years ago. great pictures and views from the boat and I liked the one of getting rid of unwelcome passengers. When do you expect to get to the Caribbean, as you say it is a long way off. Regards, Barrie & Pam


    1. Hi Barrie,
      Thanks very much for your comments and glad you enjoy the content. We are on our way north and are writing this just off Recife. We hope to reach Tobago by July/August but can’t enter the Caribbean proper until after the hurricane season in November. Best wishes to you both.


  4. Hello Guys
    Great to hear all the adventures are going well
    Keep up the blog and have fun
    Give us a heads up to your future trip plans
    Cheers for now


  5. Hi Pete & Karin

    Happy new year and best wishes for 2019.
    Brilliant account of your sailing adventure, just caught up now., thinking back when you started off looking at a few boats with the idea in mind, great to see it all happening, well done.

    Have you had any problems when leaving the boat when you go shopping or sight seeing in terms of security ? Just wondered , as always conscious of this aspect being in SA.

    Enjoy the sailing and take care, all very envious! Cheers chris

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: