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Six Months Cruising Brazil

By SY Ariadne — last modified Oct 24, 2013 01:14 PM
We cruised in Brazil from January to June 2013 and offer below some comments as well as information which updates the Pilot.

Published: 2013-10-23 23:00:00
Countries: Brazil

Formalities

On first arriving you need to check in with immigration (Policia Federal), Customs and Capitania. We were not required to submit to health checks – I think this has been dropped except for arrivals from particular areas.

The Policia Federal is a large organisation and only a handful of offices, at docks and airports, handle visas. They are not always easy to find. In contradiction to local opinion in Recife, there is a PF in the docks, but it is in a restricted area and not even taxis are allowed. You need to go to a pedestrian entrance in Avenida Militar (near Fort Brum), show your passport to security and you will find PF and Customs a short walk inside. In Salvador, the Terminal Nautico office gives out a map with the key locations, and the Club Naval Charitas, near Rio de Janeiro, similarly provides written directions.

You will receive a visa for three months and customs clearance for the boat for the same period. When it comes to renewal for a second three months do not follow the advice in the pilot and other guides. If you apply well in advance you will lose the time remaining on your first visa period. We were told by one official that the lost days could be reclaimed after the date of first expiry, but other officials denied this, and we lost over two weeks from our maximum allowance.

To extend your visa, you go to the PF website section for Estrangeiros – only in Portuguese when we used it. Print out a payslip, one per person, take them to the Banco de Brasil and make payment. Take the receipt with the usual passport/papers to PF, along with “proof of funds”. I took a bank statement and credit card statement and this was acceptable. Note that in Rio, the PF in the docks can give you the first visa but for an extension you have to go to the international airport, accessible by direct, but slow, bus from Niteroi.

When you check out with PF, moving on to another state or leaving Brazil, you sometimes get a “saida” (exit) which states that you have 72 hours to leave, at other times there was no mention of a limit or deadline.

The Capitania are run by the Navy and a decent standard of dress is required, otherwise there will be an argument or you will be perhaps sent away. The quality of service varied from excellent to poor, since the offices handle a large number of local services and some staff were used to yacht arrivals while others had to seek assistance. There is sometimes a dedicated desk for estrangeiros – worth checking out. The Capitania are also a source of charts, but we found them to be generally poorly stocked – more below.

Recife

The old yacht club, to port as you go up-river, is cheap and welcoming, if a bit remote. Best access to town is on a ferry, powered by a home-made outboard, about 15 minutes from the moorings. Access to shops is difficult and although you can get to some supermarkets by bus, if laden a taxi is really required to get back to the boat. Diesel and water need to be taken to the boat by dinghy. There is a small pontoon, but only lightweight local boats were tied up.

Salvador

The anchorage outside Terminal Nautico is now effectively filled with boats and the fuel barge. We did stay one night on arriving in the dark, but there is a better option outside Marina Bahia. The Terminal Nautico was “full” when we arrived as they were awaiting a rally fleet. We booked into Marina Bahia which is expensive but does have some chandlery, again expensive, and an excellent yard if you have to lift out. Access to supermarkets is best by taxis, fairly cheap. The office in Terminal Nautico directed us to a computer/print shop where the owner has a large stock of digital charts. The vintage varies greatly but he will print on demand, and they worked out about seven pounds sterling each. The official Brasilian digital charts are available free, but note that even these do not keep up with the rapid developments in offshore gas and oil fields. These did not really present many problems, though the supply boats move around the fields at high speeds and they may not be very predictable.

We stayed in Terminal Nautico on our return trip northbound. It is much cheaper than Marina Bahia with helpful staff, but the infrastructure is in need of upgrading. Laundry (not self-service) is available at both marinas.

Rio de Janeiro

The Marina Gloria near the city has a poor reputation and is expensive. It no longer has a fuel pontoon, though access to fuel at the Club Brasileiro is now very easy, contrary to the pilot. Most of the yacht clubs have their own moorings so the most common option for visitors is to anchor. Boats on the Rio side of the bay have had some security problems, both at anchor and with the dinghy ashore. We elected to go to the Club Naval Charitas in Niteroi, across the bay from Rio. You can anchor off, or go bow/stern to a pontoon. There are fast catamaran ferries to Rio and we found an easier motion at anchor from their wash. For the senior citizen, the ferries have the benefit of being free!

The club is very welcoming and one of the members, Susy, is extremely helpful with visitors, having good Portuguese, Spanish and English. Supermarkets are best done by bus out and taxi back. The Paodeacucar supermarket nearby was our best find. The Club has bars, restaurant and a swimming pool. There is plenty of help and advice about yacht bits and supplies. We got Camping gas butane and Calor propane cylinders filled with butane, at the Club.

Baia de Ilha Grande

This cruising ground is about 100 miles west of Rio and very well worth a diversion. On Ilha Grande the main (only) town Arbraoa now has better provisioning than indicated in the pilot. The marina at Bracuhy, on the mainland, is remote and expensive, but has good trades and we used a rigger and canvas worker there. At Paraty, our furthest destination, the marina is again expensive, but again appears to have good trades and a choice of chandlers. At the fuel berth we just got away on the top of a falling spring tide – and we draw 2.1 metres.

General Notes

We found Brazil surprisingly expensive, probably as the result of recent inflation. Provisioning for passages was more limited than in the European ports we have been used to, though there were some novelties to try. Payment for fuel, and for some trades, was sometimes cash only, so best to check in advance.

Despite going in the “right” directions at the “right” times, offshore passage making was a mixed experience. For the trips between Recife, Salvador, Rio, back to Salvador and from there non-stop to French Guyana, we ventured well offshore to be free of coastal weather effects. The sea area forecasts were often of the form “wind NE/SE occasionally SW 3-4 or 5 ….”. The net effect is that we sailed about 60-70 percent of the time, often slowly, and motored the rest. We had reasonable success with Sailmail accessing the Rock Hill SC station.

Personal security figures prominently in some guides. We were diligent about lifting the dinghy at night, and locking it while ashore. On shore we were fairly vigilant about our movements and certainly would avoid some areas after nightfall. We had no real problems and felt little threat. Indeed many people, on buses, in shops and on the street were polite and helpful, as well as curious about us, where we came from and what we thought about their home country.

Iain and Meg Buchanan
SY Ariadne

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Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Dec 10, 2013 01:53 PM

The pilot in question is "Brazil Cruising Guide" by Michel Balette published by Imray, and translated from the French. For a one-man show it is quite good and I think the differences are more developments over time, rather than basic errors. It was originally pulished in 2008, so reflects data from 2007 at best.

CaptainRon
CaptainRon says:
Dec 07, 2013 08:03 PM

This report seems to be based on the inaccuracy of 'the pilot' but doesn't say which pilot.
This site makes it quite clear that anchoring outside the marinas in Salvador is not advisable (Report 2012).
Clearance formalities vary from State to State, office to office and are open to the interpretation of the officer attending you on the day. I say this based on many years cruising and living in Brazil.
Abraao (correct spelling) is not the only town on Ilha Grande. Proveta on the SW side is worth a visit. There are quite a few other significant settlements.
I found no new or useful information in this report- it appears the authors spent most of their time in expensive marinas.
Ron Llewellyn
SULA.

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