St. Helena to the Caribbean: A Stopover in Recife, Brazil

There is always much discussion between boats on the same route about where to stop in Brazil. Amy Alton of SY Starry Horizons reviews the options they considered on the final ocean leg of their world circumnavigation and reports on their stay in Recife.

Published 4 years ago

aerial view of a main road crossing over an estuary with this side of the estuary a canal and alongside marina with associated buildings
Cabanga Iate Clube de Pernambuco [from]

Where to Stop in Brazil

In the discussion on where to stop in Brazil to break up our passage from Saint Helena to the Caribbean, it was a no-brainer for us: we have good sailing friends living in Recife. Being able to visit them made a world of difference to a stop in Brazil.

Our stay there was from February 24th – March 11th, 2020.

There was a lot of discussion between boats on the same route about where to stop. Friends stopped in:

  • Fernando de Noronha (expensive, few services, vacation spot for Brazilians)
  • Natal (city of 800K people, talked to a boat that has been sailing here for years on deliveries)
  • Jacare (good experiences, small town)
  • Recife (big city of 1.5M people)
  • Salvador (even bigger city of 2.5M people, reports of crime on Noonsite)


The Cadastro de Pessoas Físicas (CPF; Portuguese for “Natural Persons Register”) is the Brazilian equivalent of a social security number. There were quite a few times that we needed one of these, such as getting a SIM card and even doing laundry! I do not know how to make things work without the CPF, so if you have a friend who is comfortable enough to allow you to use theirs, that is very very helpful.

If you are staying longer, it’s probably worth it to get a CPF as a foreigner.

If you have time in South Africa, there is a Brazilian consulate in Cape Town.


Of all the places we’ve been to in the world, Brazil was the biggest language barrier we have encountered. I would say most people we met didn’t speak English (although there were certainly plenty that spoke it very well). This was true with officials. People are very familiar with the speech-to-text Google Translate app, and that was very helpful. It also helps to be able to phone-a-friend, as we sometimes did with our local friends.

Of course, our Portuguese is abysmal.

Where to Dock in Recife

There are three yacht clubs:

  • Pernambuco Iate Clube
  • Recife Iate Clube
  • Cabanga Iate Clube

While you can anchor off Pernambuco Iate Clube, I don’t recommend it. The water is tidal and you’d have to cross a lot of traffic to get to the public dock in Recife Antigo.

The water is really dirty all through Recife.

We stayed at Cabanga Iate Clube, where our friends are members. We paid about $50 per night, slightly higher than our $43.44 average throughout our entire circumnavigation. Friends we met in Cabanga said they paid more in Jacare.

aerial view of a main road crossing over an estuary with this side of the estuary a canal and alongside marina with associated buildings
Cabanga Iate Clube de Pernambuco [from]

The channel to Cabanga is very shallow, and while not formally marked with red and green markers, there are black sticks on either side of the channel. Our friends came out to pilot us in; the marina offers the same service.

The facilities at Cabanga are actually great. Two beautiful pools, outdoor kitchens, wifi, two cafes, saunas, a fitness center, and several marine services such as canvas repair.


We arrived on February 24th, just in time for Carnival. That meant that offices were closed, and we were unable to clear in for several days. We visited the offices several times, worried we would get in trouble, but when we did finally check-in, no one seemed to care.

Cabanga was very helpful in telling us how to check in.

(For reference to the instructions already on Noonsite, the lion statue is located here:

8°03’28.4″S 34°52’10.4″W
-8.057891, -34.869559 )

First, you go to the Policia Federal (Federal Police) office. The Port Entrance is located at:

8°03’16.7″S 34°52’13.1″W
-8.054649, -34.870298

There is a pedestrian gate and a guard at the turnstiles. He radios to the Federal Police, and someone will lead you around the corner to the actual office at:

8°03’16.4″S 34°52’11.0″W
-8.054561, -34.869724

Once checked in with the police, walk down to the Receita Federal (Customs) office at:

8°03’16.5″S 34°52’05.0″W
-8.054580, -34.868051

The third and final stop is the Capitania Dos Portos (Port Captain) office. Walk to:

8°03’37.7″S 34°52’15.2″W
-8.060478, -34.870879

Clearing out, we went in the reverse order.

Recife was our only stop in Brazil, so we did not have to do anything for domestic formalities.

We paid no fees for formalities.


We were cautioned a lot about safety in Recife. We didn’t bring our cameras with us to Carnival, just phones, cash, and ID.

A fellow yachtie got robbed three times – a pickpocket at Carnival, some thugs when he was alone with a lady friend on the beach (were they in cahoots?) and when looking to buy weed. Obviously, they put themselves in a lot of bad situations, which is not an excuse for the crime, just a warning.

What To Do In Recife

A great blog to read is Janelas Abertas, who is based in Recife and writes about tons of things to do in the state of Pernambuco. She covers the free walking tour of Olinda, a bike tour of Recife, and much, much more.

We attended Carnival in Recife Antigo, the old town just a few minutes from Cabanga. We also ventured up to Olinda, a UNESCO world heritage site and original settlement, and down to Porto de Galinhas, a beautiful beach town. The food in Recife was amazing, well exceeding our expectations.

Recife Antigo


We used Uber all over the place in Recife. It was cheap and convenient.


It is a three-minute drive from Cabanaga to the Rio Mar mall. The mall has a lot of stuff, almost anything you could need, certainly food-wise, is here. Perini is the big grocery store, but there are also smaller ones.

A 12-minute drive is a Carrefour Hipermercado in Boa Viagem. Also in that area are a few specialty stores: Green Mix and VerdFrut.


I used the Lavanderia 60 Minutos in Boa Viagem for laundry and I had to use my friend’s CPF. There were no laundry facilities at the yacht club.

Cell Phone Service

We went to Rio Mar mall to sort out a cell phone. Due to the language barrier, we have absolutely no idea how to advise anyone, other than you don’t go to a cell phone store. We got our sim card at Lojas Americanas. We used our friend’s CPF and called him to help translate.


While we ordered fuel through Cabanga, the truck came on the wrong day (language barrier?). Instead, we fueled at Refice Iate Clube on our way out.


The dock water at Cabanga is not potable, and the water pressure is pretty sporadic. We used a hose on the dock to wash dishes and showered up in the yacht club bathrooms.

Repair Facilities

Marine services are pretty minimal. We had an issue with our rigging and ended up having to figure out how to manage the repair ourselves. Again, the language barrier was a bit of an issue, but we found a machinist who did great work out of a workshop in his garage!

Amy Alton
SY Starry Horizons

For other reports on Noonsite by Amy see here.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.

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