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Virgin Islands to Buenos Aires delivery, with long term stop in Fortaleza, Brazil

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 04, 2011 11:55 AM

Published: 2011-10-04 11:55:54
Topics: Atlantic Ocean West
Countries: British Virgin Islands , US Virgin Islands , Argentina , Brazil

This trip was a delivery of a Beneteau 51 from the Virgin Islands to Buenos Aires. The first half, to Fortaleza, Brazil, took 17 days in July 2011. The boat was left in Fortaleza for 6 weeks, then another 17 days to Buenos Aires in September. Total sailed distance was 5,450nm.

From the Caribbean to Brazil

South through the Caribbean was a fast beam reach to Trinidad.

Then we started fighting the northbound Guyana current, which can be 2 knots in places. We hugged the coastlines of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, all in shallow water, but without incident. A willingness to motor makes it easy, if not some tacking will be required. We typically tacked towards shore until the depth was 15 feet, then tacked back out to 90 feet.

We stopped for fuel in Paramaribo, Suriname, at the Shell station just upriver of the big bridge. Cash only, but they accepted dollars or euros, and probably other currencies as well. No issues with needing to check in with any authorities, as we didn’t leave the boat. (Although we did grab armfuls of ripe mangoes from a nearby tree).

The north coast of Brazil is in and out of the current, again staying close to shore, except when crossing the Amazon basin.

Brazil, Marina Park in Fortaleza

From the north, the approach to Marina Park in Fortaleza is straightforward and easy. We used an agent for the check-in and check-out, and the whole process took less than 2 hours.

The facilities at Marina Park are being repaired, so not all pontoons are there, but the ones that are have been painted and have water, and electricity was being installed as we were leaving. When empty, it is possible to side tie to the pontoon, but normally it is med-mooring with your anchor off the bow. The prevailing and constant wind blows sideways through the marina, so anchors tend to go out at an angle, and most boats also run lines from mid-cleats to the pontoons. Larger boats run lines from bow to shore across the marina, blocking some access.

Inace, the neighboring shipyard, builds expedition style motor-yachts in the 100-foot range, and moors them in Marina Park for a few months to finish and fit out. We met many very friendly and helpful workers.

The hotel is very nice, and berthers are free to enjoy its pools, showers, sauna, and spacious lobby and grounds. The restaurants and buffet seemed pricey- the dinner buffet was USD $35 per person, plus drinks. It was nice, but simple and not that large a selection.

Wifi is available, but you must buy one-time use cards at a cost of 20 reals per hour (about USD $13). There is also an internet cafe on site with the same prices. Cheap internet is available at internet cafes in town.

Mooring costs start at USD $1 per foot per day, but longer term rates are very negotiable. For our 50-foot sailboat it was USD $1000 per month. Armando still runs the marina, and is very helpful, but everything is in cash only.

The hotel area felt very safe, and there were no armed guards anywhere. There was a parking lot attendant at each entrance, but if you don’t look like trouble they don’t even stop you. Fortaleza has some areas that are unsafe, and others that are very nice. We walked to the local market area without incident.

The main shopping area, with many nice stores, is a taxi ride away, and taxis are always availble at the hotel. Large, well-stocked grocery stores either deliver or have taxis at the curb to bring you back to the hotel.

There is a service station for gas and diesel adjacent to the hotel if you want to fill jugs. If needing a lot of fuel, or there are several boats wanting it, a truck can be hired for USD $200 which will drive to the marina and run a fuel hose out to each boat.

Brazil to Argentina

From Fortaleza to Natal is upwind, but once around the corner the wind and current are pretty much with you all the way to Buenos Aires. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts for southerly fronts coming up from Argentina, as they can bring strong winds and make short steep seas. They typically last only last a day or two, and then the NE fills back in, and other than the very southern end of Brazil there is usually an anchorage nearby to sit things out. We found the weather forecasts, both grib files and standard forecasts to be very accurate, and were given 4 or 5 days warning of approaching southerly fronts.

Argentina, Buenos Aires, Puerto Madero

Entering Argentina, we had pre-arranged for a slip in Puerto Madero, downtown. The Prefectura and Migraciones offices are a short walk, and Aduana came to the boat the next day. They had no interest in seeing our exit papers from Brazil or anywhere else.

One new regulation this year: All vessels over 50 tons require a pilot to go in or out of any Argentine port. We crossed paths with an Oyster 72 sailboat that had just come from Antarctica, and at 50 tons they were made to hire a pilot at a cost of USD$500 for every in and out. They won't be going to back to Argentina because of it.

Uruguay, just 25 miles across the river, is much more laid back, admitting boats and people without hassle. Many foreign-flagged vessels are left in Colonia, a one-hour ferry ride from downtown Buenos Aires, in order to avoid the beauracracy of Argentina. This is where the Beneteau wound up as well.

FYI, other than a few passing squalls near the equator, we did not have a single day of rain the entire voyage.

David Kory