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Cruising Notes on Rio de Janeiro 1: Approach & Docking

By webmaster last modified Aug 22, 2002 11:24 AM

Published: 2002-08-22 11:24:27
Countries: Brazil

Approach to Rio de Janeiro

Coming from Cape Town, RSA, we approached the Isla Trinidade after only 26 days. There had been no wind for days on end and we powered for more than 1,300 miles in the middle of the Atlantic where there should have been the Trades.

Knowing the western end of the South Atlantic high might bring some fresh NE-NW winds, we put in a little extra north, passing just south of the Isla Trinidade. There had been talk to actually call there and try to find some diesel, but hearing about the rugged coastline, the military people there being a bit rough and rugged, plus the difficulty to get the diesel on board had persuaded us to pass the islands.

Having just made the decision, the trades kicked in. With the Isla Trinidade bearing about 30 degrees, we could see the first oil platforms. A vast field of these platforms stretches almost 300 miles out to sea, from 22 degrees to about 23 degrees in astonishingly deep water.

There is a heavy traffic of supply ships, helicopters, tankers and all sorts of material being towed. It is certainly a good idea to give all this traffic a wide berth. The main harbor for these supply ships is Macae (22.23 S and 41.40 W), Rio de Janeiro, and a shipyard close to Angra dos Reis.

While contemplating about all these facts, we were heading for the Cape of "Cabo Frio". The last night before land fall was spiced up with 45 kn. of northerly winds, thunder storms, badly lit fishing boats and plenty of traffic coming and going to Rio. But as we approached the Cabo Frio with it's impressive rock formations by the next morning, the wind died away and we powered the last 60 miles into the Bay of Rio de Janeiro.

Arriving Rio de Janeiro

Approach: No problems, straightforward, well lit, well marked, correct charts, the Sugar Loaf and the Corcovado leading you in all the way. There can be up to 2 kn. of current running at the "heads", so watch it there. That place the fishermen like as well. Some of them insist on confusing sailors by not carrying sufficient lights or rather prefer to make a "stealth" approach all covered in black. And make sure you dodge the plastic sacks, mattresses, furniture and other flotsam especially on an outgoing tide.

Marina da Gloria

The daily charge was 80 Reais (about 40 Euro) per day. Water and electricity included, but with facilities being either non existent, in very poor shape or not accessible. In Marina da Gloria you will look in vain for English, French or German speaking personnel, there is neither a washing machine, an international phone, Internet connection, a Yacht Club or a normal restaurant to be found. There is no travelift, no crane, no hard stand or power wash. The docks itself are in very poor shape and not always to be called fit for public use.

But the worst was still to come: Around full moon, there is a large surge entering the Marina da Gloria. Money which was allocated towards a new wave breaker to stop this, had gone astray somewhere. Even other necessary service work was obviously neglected. We were strongly advised to pick up a stern line owned by the marina. My comment that this line did not look too good to me as a skipper was brushed away with the instruction to use it because of "Insurance requirements". The rope, attached to a strong looking mooring, was made fast on deck.

Returning to the boat next morning from customs clearance I had to find that the marina personnel had also tried to "reinforce" and alter our shore lines on the bow. Giving them too much slack they allowed the boat to go backwards and forwards some 5 meters, tugging furiously at the stern line.

Just the moment when I came rushing back from town, the stern line broke and MIZ MAE careened with her 27 tons into the concrete dock twice before I could fire up the engine and pull her out of the place in a havoc driven maneuver.

The result was some 3000 USD worth of damage to our new paintjob. Whoever knows skipper Tom can imagine what he said to the marina personnel behind the counter of the office. They looked at the broken, wet and muddy rope I had thrown up onto the table for evidence and stumbled away to find the "manager". He was wise enough not to see me before next morning. His promises to have the damage repaired showed to be nothing but hot air. There are neither facilities or people who could execute such a repair in Marina da Gloria and it was a pure lie in order to maneuver around the cost of it.

It came to no ones surprise that we didn't part as friends with Marina da Gloria. There were though the Italian electrician and Jefferson from the rigging shop "Nautos" , who need to be mentioned for their fair work and correct pricing.

Unfortunately, the other shops in the marina area are heavily over priced and carry mostly things for the "Sunday-sailors".

Being tired of Marina da Gloria we looked for an alternative to park the boat and after many discussions we were finally able to anchor in the Bay right between the Sugar Loaf rock and the Corcovado. The Royal Yacht Club insisted I should pick up a mooring for 45 US/night, giving me free use of showers, toilets and the dinghy dock. However, after the experiences in Marina da Gloria I insisted on a statement that their mooring would be sound and fit to hold MIZ MAE in any weather. Such confirmation was not given and I declared that I would anchor outside the field of moorings, ready to pay a fee for the use of the dinghy dock. As this possibility could not be found in the price-list, they decided I could do so completely free of charge, but I had to provide copies of all ship documents and passports for security reasons.

"Royal" or "Botafogo" Yacht Club

The "clearing in" to the Royal Yacht Club, or "Botafogo" YC, was very friendly and without further hiccups. We later even were allowed to haul MIZ MAE out at their facilities for the very fair price of 200 USD, allowing us 4 days ashore.

The facilities here are much geared up to cater for the racing sailors and for Rio's upper class. Security was excellent and there is a shuttle boat free of charge, doubling as mobile security, to and from the boats moored in the bay. We kept our push bikes ashore on the parking and they were never touched. What was considered to be "only" the work force on the yard proved to be the best gang we have seen for a long while. They helped to find material, repair shops, solutions and made calls. With a little smile and a six-pack as thank you on Friday, they were a great bunch. "Todo Bem " = (All OK !) and a thumbs-up was their favorite expression, friendly greeting and security password all through the day.

Whenever we will come back to Rio, that is where we gonna park, right outside the Rio YC, on the anchor and close to the shops and restaurants.

"Niteroi Marina" : Another option which we though did not try ourselves is the highly recommended Marina in Niteroi, the high rise town on the eastern side of the Rio's vast estuary. Every body we met who had visited the marina was full of praise for it. If you don't want to be close to downtown, this is a great option. Cheaper, safer and calmer than the "Royal" or "Gloria".

Lilly Vedana &Thomas; Mueller, Yacht MIZMAE,