Ilha dos Lencois is on the seaward side of an archipelago (about 18 x 10km across) on the north coast of Brazil, consisting of 13 islands which nestle together closely. They are mostly mangrove covered and separated by narrow creeks that fill and empty twice daily with the 4m tidal range.
Pete had read about this special island, so we decided to stop by en-route to Tobago. Well, it wasn’t quite as easy as that, as we were cruising nearly 200km offshore and, beginning two days prior, had to carefully plan our speed and hence our arrival in Lencois Bay in daylight, two hours before high tide, to make sure that we wouldn’t get stuck on one of the sandbanks that surround the island.
We wanted to anchor on the west side of Lencois so we would be sheltered from wind and current and had had a few tense moments going up the channel when our depth sounder read zero metres. However, we never touched and made it to the anchoring waypoint, in the lee of a huge sand dune. We were the only cruising boat for hundreds of nautical miles!
What an amazing island…. It has a prolific birdlife of which the most eye-catching and extraordinary are surely the Scarlet Ibis which stand out against the verdant green of the Mangrove trees. They frequent the exposed sandbanks during low tide; feeding on shrimps, crabs and crustacea, which apparently give them their brilliant colour.
We marvelled at the difference the 4m tidal variation made to the landscape. The water ways between the islands would fill up at high tide to make them easily navigable by dinghy or small motorboat and then drained at low tide to expose metres of sand and mud.
There were no other cruisers, powerboats or jetski’s around, just fishing boats putt putting along and fishermen in canoes patiently casting their nets and hauling them in.
The people on the island are friendly when you approach them, but they otherwise left us alone. Twice we asked people about buying fish and on both occasions were given some, payment being refused.
As this was the last area where we would encounter significant tidal range until after the Caribbean, we made use of a sandbank in front of Lencois village where most of the local boats dries out at low tide. It was less than a month since we last rid Moondust’s hulls from unwelcome passengers but in these warm waters barnacles grow fast, especially with ageing anti-foul paint. Whilst work was underway a youngster, Ulisi, drifted up and kindly offered to help. We couldn’t communicate much but the job was done in half the time.
A short while later two youngsters walked over from the fishing boats nearby and helped Pete move the anchor. When he asked them about fish, the older one immediately went over to his father’s boat and presented us with four small Snapper.
Although initially declining payment, they accepted our last 5 Real note and a packet of biscuits, which were wolfed down in no time by all the fishermen. Witnessing Pete’s apparently ham fisted approach to cleaning the fish, the sixteen year old, Adriano, asked for the knife and gave us a demo on how it should be done. Whilst indeed much quicker, we had to chew our way past residual bones later that evening!
The most amazing feature of the island is its extensive dune system with fresh water lakes. The sand on these massive dunes, reminding me of their Namibian lookalikes, is beautifully wind sculpted into interesting patterns.
We also enjoyed a visit to the rustic village of Lencois. No vehicles mean no streets or paved roads; just sandy paths between the houses, frequented by people, donkeys, chickens and goats. Three wind generators provide power which is distributed to homes enabling many of these humble wooden dwellings to have satellite TV. Water comes mainly from wells in their yards.
We were really sad to leave this beautiful island behind. To us this was the most special stop on our voyage thus far!