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Cruising Brazil to Argentina

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 06, 2010 09:37 PM

Published: 2010-01-06 21:37:24
Countries: Argentina , Brazil , Uruguay

Our thanks to Joan & Graham Todd of SY Karma for this excellent report.
SY Karma is a Callisto 435 (L 13.1M, D 2.2M, B 4.1M)

On deciding that we would cross (the Atlantic) to the Brazilian coast rather than the Caribbean, we spent some time trying to find some up-to-date cruising info. This proved difficult and with the increasing number of yachts deciding to cruise in South America before the Caribbean I thought I would put together some information gathered in the last year while sailing from Maceio in Brazil to Buenos Aries, Argentina.

Atlantic Crossing
We crossed the Atlantic from the Canaries leaving in the last week of January. We called into the Cape Verde Islands, which we would highly recommend, a week in each of the three northern islands, Sal, Sao Nicolau and Sao Vicente. Here you can get most of provisions that you need for the next leg of the trip to Brazil, expect to pay about double of prices in the Canaries including diesel and petrol. The formalities in the Islands are relatively easy and are well explained in the Atlantic Islands Pilot.

The trip to Maceio in Brazil took 14 days and we had a text book passage, 25-35kn of E-NE winds for the first three days decreasing daily as we approached the equator, 2 days of light or calm weather from 2 degrees S to 5 degrees S then picking up E 10-15kn which also died as we approached the coast. We set out to cross the equator at 25’W to allow for the west setting current and to have a better slant on the SE trades, we ended up crossing at 26 and a bit and would have been better crossing at 28.

BRAZIL

These are the harbours and anchorages we stopped at, from North to South. For actual navigation I have given a list of pilot books and charts - some free to down load from the Internet. This is only a small collection of the possible anchorages, but as our visa only lasted 180 days we had to miss out quite a lot.

Maceio
The anchorage here is good with better protection than looks on the chart; only southerly winds would be a problem. You can anchor close to the local yachts. There is also a local guy who will direct you to a buoy, although he might paddle out in a canoe and look a little scruffy his moorings are good and he can be very useful for water, diesel and provisions. We stayed a week on his mooring and used him for both drinking and tank water. He also went to the garage for diesel, at the end of this time we gave him 30R (3R = £1 approx)

The yacht club is very friendly and is a good place to leave your dinghy, inside their compound, there is no landing stage; do not leave it on the beach for any length of time.

The town has good shops and several large supermarkets, a rough rule is the further south you go the more choice but the price increases. The ocean beach is well worth a visit especially at the weekend, be careful some bars will charge for the seats as well as the beer, but the multitude of vender’s are usually trust worthy.

Always use a taxi after dark even if it´s for a short distance, mostly around the town they are about 6R.

Salvador
We spent three months here and still only covered a small part of this large bay. The city downtown has two marinas, an anchorage and some buoys.

The Bahia Marina, which can handle yachts up to and over 20M, has excellent facilities and would be about 90R/ night for us. The area just outside this marina can be dangerous and I would advise the use of a taxi even for short distances day and night.

Centro Nautico is directly down town only a few hundred meters from the elevator to the upper town. This is a state run marina and not as fancy but safe, although there is some swell from the adjoining ferries which run from early morning to about 22:00. Here we paid 40R per night, there are good showers, Wifi and laundry. The area directly around is much safer and well patrolled by the police. There is also a fuel barge behind the breakwater - the fuel here is good.

There can be various grades of diesel in Brazil and I have found Petrobas to be the best, the cheaper brands are mixed with alcohol and other undesirable substances.

The anchorage is between the two marinas and there is only a very dodgy beach to leave the dinghy and the moorings around the Centro Nautico appear to be run by the guy that does the laundry and odd jobs in the marina.

Riberia is an area just north of the city, there are several good marinas here, the one we stayed at Peir Salvador was excellent. This area is accessed by a narrow channel and at low water there is only 1.4M, we have passed several times at half tide and we draw 2.2M. A lot of people who are leaving their boats do so here as the area is well protected from the weather and the security on the pontoons is very good. Here we paid 28R/ night and there is a good restaurant, laundry, small shop and chandlery with good wifi on the docks. This area is a little out of town but there are buses just outside the marine, which connect to the entire town including the airport.

Aratu is a small bay about 10 miles north of the city, again accessed by a channel, but this time well buoyed and deep. The first facility as you enter the bay has been a factory of some kind and now is a marina and haul-out which is still in its construction stage. At the south end of the bay is the yacht club with moorings. The club has good facilities and good restaurant and wifi even on the buoys. Here we had 4 free nights after which it was 16R/night - they also dissuade yachts from anchoring by themselves.

Itaparica is a large Island a few miles west of Salvador, the anchorage and marina are in the NW corner of the Island. The marina is again run buy the government and is very small with only showers and toilets ashore 24R/ night. The anchorage just off the marina is excellent and the marina staff do not appear to mind dinghy’s using the pontoons (even though your are supposed to pay). You can also pay 10R for a day at the pontoon which is great to fill up with water and plug in for a while. There is also a private quay here, which can be hired to dry out against, for us @2.2 we reckoned that there was not quite enough rise and fall even at spring tides, although the locals assured us there was!

Maragojipe is about 10 miles up the Rio Paraguacu, there are lots of good anchorages in this area. The town has a long piled pier and when we left the construction of a floating pontoon at its SW corner was underway. The town itself is worth visiting and the Saturday market is the cheapest we visited in Brazil. The near by town of Cachoeira is also worth a visit, buses leave from the square but easer is a taxi. Taxis are easy to organise also at the square, just ask at the bar and most of the guys in the bar suddenly become taxis.

We left Salvador in May which is slightly late as the wind is mostly SE at this time of the year, but if you wait for a low pressure to pass you should get a day of calm and 2 days of N before the SE wind starts again. Because of this we moved down the coast quite quickly calling into Caravelas and Vitoria then Rio.

Caravelas
The channel here is well marked and the entrance is easy. We chose here rather than the Abrolhos Islands, which are just offshore, as the wind was strong from the south for the next week.

The town is very quiet as May is the start of the winter and the tourist season has passed. There is a yacht club marked on the chart, this is really a small hotel with a dock and boathouse. The hotel was closed for the winter but the staff were quite happy for us to leave our dinghy at their dock, the downside was that the town was about 2-3 miles away. The pilot book did not recommend anchoring off the town although I could not see why. There is also a good pier right in the town with water and fuel, at this time there was very little traffic on the river and the dock was very quiet so I am sure that there would be no problem tying up here for a few days.

Vitoria
This is a large city in the state of Espirito Santo, with a very busy port. The entrance here is also very easy and well buoyed. The club is very good, although you are only allowed an occasional day at the pontoon. Normally you can anchor or pick up a buoy. While we were here the marina was being extended and there should now be double the number of berths, how this will effect the visitors remains to be seen. The charge for using the club and all its facilities was 5R / day/ person and the club had excellent facilities, swimming pool, sauna, steam room and excellent restaurant. The club also has very good diesel on the dock, it’s a bit tricky to reach as its right at the head of the dock, but well worth it as it was the cheapest diesel we bought in Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro
This has to be one of the prettiest cities in the world. We decided to stay at the club Charitas at Niteroi, here the club gives you a cheap 3 days (17R) then 34Rfor the next 15 and after this it went to 50R: if you leave the club and come back after a few days it all starts again at the first price. The facilities here are also excellent with fantastic pools, sauna, and steam rooms and good restaurant. From the club it is a very easy walk to the fast ferry, which takes you to downtown Rio (cheaper outside rush-hour). At the club they also have a relations officer in the form of Suzi, who is a tremendous help to the cruisers, she is invaluable when it comes to filling gas tanks, dealing with the officials and general advice for the area. Together with her husband Renato they live on a yellow steel sloop at the end of dock 2.

We left Rio to spend the rest of the winter cruising down to Uruguay and Argentina, as Brazil only allows a visa of 180 days (two 90day visas).

The next area is the highlight of cruising Brazil. The whole area of Baia de Ilha Grande is fantastic, with hundreds of good anchorages on the continent and the Islands; many people stay here the whole winter and leave to go directly to Uruguay. The harbour of Angra Dos Reis is very good for provisioning with good supermarkets and chandeliers; also the Town of Parati is well worth a visit.

Saco Ribeira
Moving further south we called at Saco Ribeira, which is behind the Island of Anchieta, which is a National Park and has a good anchorage (although a little rolly). The anchorage at Saco Ribeira is good but if you anchor you will have quite a trip to the shore, the yacht club will usually give 3 days on a buoy free to foreign vessels (the marina in front of the striped tower). You can also rent a buoy from several firms on the shore who run water taxies. The small village ashore has a good supermarket and a couple of good chandlers, + a Swedish guy who has an excellent stainless steel fabrication shop and in the near by town of Ubatuba you can usually find most of the things you need.

Sao Sebastiao
Not much further south is the Island of Sao Sebastiao - here there are several of the premier yacht clubs in Brazil. We stayed at the Ilha Bella Yacht Club, this was probably the fanciest club we stayed at, here we had 4 free nights after which it was 110R/ night. A local yachtsman told us that the other yacht clubs would also give visitors some free nights, this is very handy as the anchorages are a wee bit exposed to the south. The Island itself is very beautiful with lots of trails and there are several companies who run tours to the east side of the Island, where the best scenery is.

Santos
Next we called into Santos; this is a very busy harbour with no anchorages but lots of commercial marinas. We were interested in a lift out and to try to price shot blasting the bottom, for this we went to Supmar. The price to lift was 1400R and 65/ night ashore, but we were allowed to stay onboard while we on the hard (marina per night was also 65R). This area is very good for lots of things marine and in the area around the marinas there are lots of chandlers, engineers and S/S fabricators. We would not have called here had we not needed to.

Cananeia
We had friends living on their boat in Cananeia so this was our next stop. Two islands shelter the town; Comprida to the east and Cardoso to the south. The entrance information and waypoints can be downloaded from this site (www.cananet.com.br/centronautico/waypoints.html). The whole area is a matrix of rivers most of which are widely used by the locals and connected by a series of ferries. With the right information or nerve a lot of time could be spent here among the rivers, the small town has most of the things needed with a good market on Tuesday and several good supermarkets. There is a very useful fuel dock at Central Nautico who have a small dock where you can leave your dinghy safely as they have 24hr security. We moored a little off this dock and although it is outside the town it is much quieter than off the town quay, where there are a lot of tripper and fishing boats.

Paranagua
The next stop south was Paranagua, again this is large area of Islands and rivers and it would take quite a time to explore it all. It is 10Km from the entrance to the yacht club and town so it is worth having the tides with you, as there can be 2-3 kn of tide. We chose to anchor at the Paranagua yacht clubs out station on Ilha da Cotinga, you can also anchor off the yacht club but here it is quite busy. The club may also have a space on the pontoon but these are usually taken, a price of 60R/ night was quoted for our boat. Our anchorage was several Km from the town but the club ran a ferry 4 times a day or it was 20mins in dinghy, they were also happy to let us use the Internet and showers free of charge. This harbour is one of the busiest in Brazil so the town is a bit industrial but also a good place to provision as the supermarkets are close to the yacht club.

Sao Francisco Do Sul
Sao Francisco Do Sul was the next stop, again a matrix of rivers and Islands. As we were only staying a few nights we went to the Capri yacht club which is only a few Km from the entrance. The small channel that leads to the Y.C. is very shallow although well buoyed and I would not attempt it below half tide. The club has good facilities, showers, restaurant and wifi, but the pontoons are on the Island side so to get to the club you still have to take the club launch or your own dinghy. We were given 3 free nights here after which it was 60R/ night. The town is some distance and the bus is the best way there, there are not many from the club but if you walk to the main road there are plenty. You can also moor off the Town, which has a very pretty waterfront including an excellent marine museum.

Porto Belo
Porto Belo was our next anchorage and also our favourite in all of S. America, I am not sure why this is but it is certainly a very pretty and sheltered bay. The yacht club here was between 90 & 100R/ night and no free nights were mentioned, water, diesel and the rest of the club facilities were offered to us for a small fee. The anchorage off the town is much more convenient and the town has a good supermarket and restaurants. The bay is well used by fishing boats and its advisable to keep well to the SW of the fish dock, which is beside the YC. There is another very pretty bay only a mile away - Enseada Caixa D’Aco. Here try to anchor as far into the bay as possible as it is exposed to the N & NW.

Pinheira Bay to the south of Ilha Catarina is a good place to wait for a good forecast to reach Rio Grande. The bay has two anchorages in the north and south; unfortunately the northern one has now a large mussel farm, which covers the best shelter. This area has very unpredictable weather patterns and the wind from all directions is somehow greatly increased and can change through 180deg in a matter of minutes and blow hard (this was October). In the south of the bay there is a small town with a shelving beach which depending on the swell can be difficult to land on. The town has limited facilities but you can get diesel at the garage although it is a good walk, and there are 2 small supermarkets.

South of Pinheira there are two ports Imbituba and Laguna, the first we were not in but have been reliably informed by several cruisers that it was a good anchorage.

Laguna
We visited Laguna and were very fortunate to get in and out with no problems. I would not advise this harbour to be used except in flat calm conditions and no swell which just about rules it out entirely!! In case you do use it there is a large covered rock right in the middle of the channel entrance, an unlit green perch marks this, I was also told by a local yachtsman, that there was a second rock but we could not find out where it was!!

The trip from Pinheira to La Paloma in Uruguay is about 500Km and can be difficult to do in one hop, (due to the changeable weather patterns). In our case it was travel plans that forced us into Rio Grande.

Rio Grande
This harbour is a very busy port with lots of traffic, the entrance can be tricky as with northerly winds there is a 4-5kn tide running constantly out and with depths of only 15M there can be quite a bar that runs for several miles from the entrance. If you do approach this harbour it is best to call the pilots, who will advise you of the conditions at the entrance and also the ship movement. It is not unusual for the harbour to be closed for several days especially in the winter.

The trip from the entrance to the Y.C. is about 10km and with the tide usually against you it can take a few hours. The up side to this harbour is Lauro, he is the director of the Oceanographic museum and has become famous with the cruisers who have passed through Rio Grande. His dock is just before the YC and on passing he usually hails you and arranges a berth alongside with water and electric. His generosity is famous and when it come to sorting out any problems its amazing the contacts he has. The Oceanographic museum is very interesting with various sea creatures being looked after and there are usually several penguins and fur seals in the ponds. Lauro also runs a marine museum and a maritime school both of which are well worth a visit. The town, which is adjacent to the museum, has a lot of very good hardware shops and two good supermarkets; there is also a good fish market.

URUGUAY

This was the last port in Brazil, so next is Uruguay and La Paloma, then Punta de Este. I did not stop at either of these harbours but did stop at Piriapolis. Uruguayan harbours are different from Brazil in that the Hydrographica (a government body) administer all the Harbours, which have buoys and stern-to berths.

Piriapolis
In Piriapolis the visitors are only offered stern-to berths in a well-protected harbour (La Paloma and Punta de Este have both but the buoys are slightly exposed to a S swell). The Harbour at Piriapolis is about 10$US/ night + water & electric another 3.5US$ and 1.5US$ for the showers. The harbour also offers a 60T travel lift approximately 1000US$ for a lift out chalk up and launch + a week on the shore. All of the haul-out facilities we spoke to in Uruguay and Argentina would not allow living on board while the yacht was ashore which also can add quite a bit to the bill (unlike Brazil where you can).

These three towns really only come alive in the summer (Dec-March), when most of the shops and restaurants are open; for the rest of the year it is very quiet here. The season is very short and you will find that quite a lot of the harbours treble their harbour prices during these months.

Colonia
Colonia is about 150km further into the delta and opposite Buenos Aires. The harbour here is relatively shallow; in fact the whole delta apart from the dredged channels are shallow rarely reaching more than 4M. Here there are also stern-to moorings and buoys and when the water is high there would be 3.5M in most of the harbour. The buoys here are about the same as Piriapolis (10US/Night) with the stern-To ½ as much again, but at present their prices remain the same the year round. The town is extremely pretty with many well-preserved colonial buildings, and even though it is very touristy it still has a pretty laid back feeling. There are plenty of good restaurants and 2 good supermarkets.

ARGENTINA

Buenos Aries
For us the next stop was Buenos Aries, here we went straight to the capital and the yacht club Argentino. If you are lucky and they have some room you may have a free week, and we were. There is also the Marina Porto Madeira, which is also downtown and is in the centre of the renovated docklands with lots of fancy shops and restaurants. We have been told that you may also receive a free berth here for the night while you do your check-in , but normally it would be 60US/ night, although if you were to stay several months a much better rate can be negotiated (500US/ Month for us).

The Yacht Club Argentino is very nice with good facilities although most of their facilities are further into the delta where the main club is situated. The city of Buenos Aries is easily explored from here and this is worth doing as most yachts move up into the delta where the vast majority of the clubs are and rarely visit the downtown area.

The trip to Rio LuJan, where the majority of the yachts are kept, can be achieved in two ways: via the canal Emilio Mitre then canal Honda leading to canal de Vinculacion which ends at Rio Lujan; or the costal passage. This can be very shallow depending on tides, wind and the river. We were lucky and were able to follow a local yacht and only found a short stretch where the water was less than three meters.

In the area San Isidro, San Martine and San Fernando there are dozens of clubs and thousands of boats and then there is the Tigre area as well. Here it is possible to organise a berth by calling into each club as you move up the river or best anchor on the Island side of the channel and take the dinghy, the road system is such that it is very complex to do this by road.

OFFICIAL PROCEDURES

When you arrive in Brazil, you will need to check in with the Immigration (Policia federal), Customs (Recita federal), Health and lastly the Port Captain (Mahna). They must be done in that order and we have found that there are some ports where it is best to make your initial check in; Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Paranagua and Rio Grande - we found that these harbours were used to yachts checking in and other harbours were more used to ships which use an agent costing between 500 & 1000R. This only applies to the initial check in, as every port that you call into you must check in with the Policia Federal and the Port Captain.

It is also important to be properly dressed when attending these offices (long trousers and shoes) and on the initial check in all the crew should be present.

When it comes to extending your visa you must visit the Policia Federal for your visa and the Recita Federal for the yachts extension. Some pilots say that this is not necessary, but be assured after 180 days and you are checking out there is quite a fine if this is not done. The yacht can stay up to 2 years and again to do this you must pay a visit to the customs to extend the ships visa.

To ship goods into Brazil is expensive as they do not recognise “Ships Stores In Transit”. You can sometimes get away with the ordinary post but not always, this also applies to Argentina but not Uruguay, here you can use an agent who will charge 5% of the goods value and deliver them to the boat. This is worth doing as you save 17.5% vat at source (UK). As in all countries the goods must be officially delivered to the yacht either by the customs or the agent.

In Uruguay and Argentina you have first the harbour authority (hydrographica), Immigration and the Port Captain (Perfectura). In Argentina you also need to visit the Customs (Adauan). When you arrive at the first Prefectura office make sure that you receive the Raoul (roll), it sometimes takes some persuasion but without this you will not be checked into the country by the Immigration. The Raoul is a form filled out with all the yachts particulars (mostly taken from the ships papers) and the passport particulars of the captain and crew. This paper will then be copied and be stamped in and out of each port until it is unrecognisable - then you should have a new one made.

You only need to visit the immigration on entry and exit of the country; the visa in Uruguay and Argentina lasts 90 days and is renewable with a trip out of the country for a day, Brazil has 90 days with an extension of 90 days after which you must leave the country for 180 days before applying for your next visa. The yacht can stay in Brazil for to a maximum of 2 years, i Argentina 8 months, unfortunately the procedure in most of South America can be complicated and varies from state to state, so if you are leaving the boat for any length of time it is important to check with the officials first. This website is very handy to download the various forms required in Argentina. http://www.prefecturanaval.gov.ar/institucional/en/index.htm

PILOTAGE

We found these pilot books good but a little out of date, although Marcal Ceccon’s was updated in 2006. We did use some other local pilot books but all of these were in Portuguese and were only for small areas and are available in the local bookshops.

The two RCC guides South Atlantic Circuit & Havens and Anchorages theses cover Uruguay and Argentina

Cruising the Coast of Brazil - Marcal Ceccon

The Brazilian navy have all their electronic rasta charts on the web free from the site below, these we used extensively and found them to be very accurate - http://www.mar.mil.br/dhn/chm/cartas/download/cartasbsb/cartas_eletronicas_Internet.htm

This is a site for paper charts - http://www.velerolaargentina.com/Ozi/Argentina/Argentina.htm

For weather we found Zygrib a little more accurate closer to the coast than Ugrib and we liked the program better as it downloaded a little quicker using the Iridium Phone. Both programs are free to download from the Internet.

WEATHER

The one thing that very few people ever mention is the amount of rain in Brazil during the wet season. This varies from place to place but generally speaking in the winter north of Vitoria you can expect a lot of rain. It is also interesting that during the winter the Rio area can be very dry and during the summer we were told that it rains for a short time most days.

The general rule of thumb concerning the wind would be to go south during the summer and north during the winter but we found it was not as big a problem to come south in the winter as it would be to go north in the summer, this covers the area from Salvador to Ilha Santa Catarina. In the area south of this including the Rio Plata we have found the weather to be very unpredictable winter and summer, although there is no doubt that the winds are stronger in the winter time.

PROVISIONING

There is very little that you will not get in Brazil food wise, a general rule would be that the food is cheaper in the NE and a little more expensive south of Rio. The wine in Brazil is expensive and not very nice so it is well worth stocking up before you leave the Canaries. The fresh fruit and vegetables are very inexpensive but some tinned food such as tomatoes and mushrooms are quite expensive so again it is worthwhile stocking up in the Canaries. The choice of cooked meats and cheeses in Brazil are limited but once you arrive in Uruguay and Argentina it is fantastic. Olive oil is another product which is considerably cheaper in the Canaries.

Electronic, Electrical and marine parts are expensive in Brazil and remember the 220V are at 60Hz. While in Argentina most things are relatively inexpensive and would almost have as good a range as Europe with similar prices. Here the 220V is 50Hz (same as Europe).

SAFETY

We were always careful when walking around the big City’s especially Salvador, and some parts of Rio. If possible wear little jewellery and carry the minimum amount of cash and try to use taxis at night. I think this is the advice for most big cities, ask the marinas for advice on the local areas. One ruse that is often used in all south America is where you get squirted with something like ice cream or chocolate and several people stop to help (they are the ones responsible for the mess) and while helping to clean you up they have relieved you of most of your valuables.

On the yachting side we have heard of very few cases where the yacht was broken into but the most valuable commodity were as always outboards, we had ours stolen in Rio even though it was locked on and we were at the dock! The only violent attack we heard of was earlier this year at Itaparica where a local yachtsman was stabbed to death, we were told that the whole thing was drugs related but the police presence was greatly increased after this attack.

Joan & Graham Todd
SY Karma

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