Follow by Email

Saturday, 6 July 2013


                       Big, bold, beautiful,brazen Brazil

We arrived in Brazil on the 7th of March 2013, just as the sun was fading. This is Pete’s tenth visit to Brazil and my fourth. On the occasion of my first visit we sailed upriver after dark, with me peering nervously at what seemed to be land all around. This time we anchored off the beach in Cabedelo and then sailed up river the next morning after breakfast.

Pete, Pamela, Silvia, Maggie, Nidia, Charlie, Raul and Annie in foreground.
Taken by Brian in January 1993
We celebrated Pete’s birthday the following week, by packing a picnic lunch and some cold beers and sailing “Crake” up river and then having lunch on a drying sand bank.

Pete arranged with Brian Stevens to haul out at the next spring tide, which was the following Monday the 18th March, first thing in the morning. The haul out itself was nerve wracking, but went smoothly, although the tide wasn’t as high as anticipated and Brian’s trailer couldn’t go into the water as far as needed, so we tried to assist by using our engine to pull the trailer into the water. However the engine not only veered to the left as usual, but also seemed not to recognise neutral. We were surrounded by tripper boats and I suggested that Pete use astern at one stage, which we did and promptly ripped off the self-steering tiller attachment!

Hauling out
Manoevering between the sheds in Brian´s yard. (Trees needed trimming to allow masts through!)

Whilst sailing across the Atlantic, Pete had pondered over “Oryx’s” light air and windward performance and had decided to extend the keels, but once we were safely ashore he decided to tackle all the issues at once. We can’t really afford to haul out every now and then to make the necessary changes, time or money wise. So he removed the anti vortex panels. They seemed to work once “Oryx” was doing over 5 knots, but when we were going slowly we were sometimes sailing sideways. Pete then extended the low aspect ratio keels, so that we now draw 0.9m. Having looked at the other boats in the yard Pete also decided to enlarge our existing rudders. He added a tiller bar, repaired the self-steering attachment, which we ripped off when hauling out and then redesigned the sailing rig to ensure that the rig is now fully balanced. The other rig worked well, but the horseshoe fittings around the mast were taking excessive strain, so Pete returned to his original idea for “Oryx” – a wing sail with articulating battens. This proved to be a mammoth task. There were also alternators to repair, the engine to coax, the kiwi prop to adjust - the jobs seemed endless.

New, improved rudders
Unpicking the existing sails so that Pete can change the rig.

Existing LAR keels
Pete working on new improved LAR keels

New LAR keel

My main task was cleaning off the Cape Verde Island grit and making “Oryx” mosquito proof. I could then take my time and start putting up various drawings and paintings, such as Jannette Watson’s painting of “China Moon”. Shirley Carter’s “China Moon” and some paintings of “Badger” await our attention. We re launched with the springtide on the 24th April and motoring “Oryx” seemed much more manoeuvrable with the new rudders.

Painted battens

Pete adjusting the sail for the new rig

High and dry

Re launching

Bending on the new swing wing sail

Brian came to Cabedelo in a sixty-foot west country trading ketch called “Isabel”. He and his family were headed for South Africa but destiny brought them to Cabedelo thirty-eight years ago. Brian is semi-retired, but his boat yard is still functional whilst he completes some final orders. He has helped many a stranded sailor over the years. He and Pete have been friends for twenty odd years and we have spent many pleasant weekends barbequing with him and his wife Silvia at Grange Monica. It is a smallholding just south of Joao Pessoa. Brian’s son and daughter in law (Monica) bought it as a holiday home some years ago and Brian and Silvia manage it for them.

Relaxing at Granje Monica
Pool at Granje Monica

Gary and Vicky from Tasmania  (yacht Majumbo) and Sam from Northern Ireland (yacht Suvretta)
One Wednesday, whilst hauled out Brian invited us to see the 60’ motor catamaran he is project managing for Claudio, one of his regular clients. We went along to Guia by ferry and looked over the huge boat, which is nearing completion. The photographs give an idea of her size.

Brian´s project

Pete, Brian Stevens, Terry and Pauline Furnival.

Jacare is a small T shaped village, which lies along the river Paraiba that runs from Cabedelo to Joao Pessoa. It has one main street with a bread shop opposite the church, two small mercardinhos selling basic foodstuffs, meat and vegetables, a restaurant and bar, a health clinic and two schools – all in the one block leading from the river to the railway station.

Young gaucho in streets behind village

Bar across fro Jacare station

There is also a very good hairdresser, who welcomes drop by business and does a very professional job of wash, cut and blow dry for R$20.00 (Less than £7.00) The shops and bakery are all family owned and all the children pitch in. A young girl of about four, still sucking a dummy, helped unload processed meat from a truck! If one faces the river Cabedelo is to the right and Philipe’s Marina is nearby. Philipe offers wifi, a bar, which does meals on Friday nights, showers, a swimming pool and laundry facilities.

Phillipe´s marina
To the left is Peter’s pier, a powerboat marina and Brian’s boatyard and beyond that lies the touristy section of Jacare. Despite it’s tiny size, most tourists visit Jacare from all over Brazil for one reason only. To see the sunset. If this sounds crazy, just think about it a bit. Brazil faces east. It has a long coastline, but almost entirely east facing. Brazilian’s love life. They celebrate life with music, festivals and revelry. Most of the partying gets done in the afternoon and early evening – but the sun sets over the land! However, in Jacare, because of the river and a curvature in the coast, the sun sets over the water. An enterprising saxophonist called Jurandy do Sax capitalised on this many years ago. Each evening, as the sun begins its descent He dons a white suit and his ferryman rows him out onto the river, just beyond the bars and he plays Ravel’s “Bolero” to the setting sun.

Over the years the beach bars and restaurants have grown, along with tourist
shops. At anchor, one hears a cacophony of sounds, but at least while Jurandy is playing everything is uniform. Tripper boats and coaches bring hoards of people in and for the rest of the evening this particular part of Jacare thrums. The people of Brazil are not the only ones to enjoy the dusk. Insects abound. Where ever the jungle hasn’t been obliterated by suburbia the cicadas perform a nightly chorus in quadraphonic sound. Fireflies the size of lollipops provide lantern like illumination, whilst mosquitoes and no see ums collect mammalian dna.


Catering to sunset crowd - trendy t shirts


Cabedelo is a small town, which now serves as the main harbour for the area. It used to have a thriving fruit and vegetable market on the streets, but in recent years a new municipal building is in situ. It may be an improvement health and cleanliness wise, but it is disappointingly poorly utilised. Cabedelo’s claim to fame is that the Trans Amazonian Highway starts there. This ambitious scheme was hatched in 1970 when the government of the day decided to build a highway from Cabedelo to Bosquerao do Esperanza on the Peruvian border, some 5600km away. Just under half is completed and the last 1000km is badly maintained. Over the years support for the highway has dwindled as environmentalists have become more vocal. A highway into the jungle facilitates illegal logging and mining.

Mural depicting the Trans Amazonian highway

One of the first views of Cabedelo

Colonial church near port captain Cabedelo
Joao Pessoa is the capital of the Paraiba state. It is known as the city where the sun first rises in Brazil. In fact, one of it’s upmarket suburbs, Cabo Branco (white cape) is situated near the most easterly point of Brazil, or in fact the most easterly point of both Americas. The point is known as Ponta do Seixas and here one is considerably closer to Senegal in Africa than to Southern Brazil! Gives you an idea of the size of the country!

Cabo Branco
Joao Pessoa has a attractive old colonial quarter. There is a lovely local restaurant that offers a pile your plate buffet load with assorted salads, fruit, locals dishes like feijoada, two portions of meat and a fruit juice for R$7.00 (a little more than £2.00). Joao Pessoa has some beautiful beaches, Tambau being the most famous.

Colonial church and square Joao Pessoa

There is a narrow strip of land between the river and the Atlantic and Pete and I often enjoyed a beer on the beach at Intermares before doing our shopping. At Easter we packed a picnic lunch and spent the Sunday on the beach watching the kite boarders and wind surfers. I had a swim, whilst Pete dosed and we think a dog ran off with my glasses! This meant several trips to Joao Pessoa to get a new prescription and glasses. There are a plethora of opticians in Joao Pessoa, but the young woman who served me was outstanding. Due to the inability to communicate effectively with her in Portuguese she took me to the place to have my eyes tested and then when my debit card failed to work, showed and directed me to various bank machines.

Kiteboarding at Intermares

Towards the end of our stay in Jacare some yachties asked Brian to organise an inland trip, which he duly did. We decided to take a break and go along. The intended trip was into the interior and being on a boat, we rarely get to see much of the interior, unless we can get there by river. Brian’s wife Silvia doesn’t speak much English, but we coerced her to come along and for company and conversation she brought her niece Alvina. The rest of us were all off various boats. Gary and Vicky and their two children are Australian from Tasmania on a boat called “Majumbo”. They were the family who approached Brian to organise the trip. Then there was Keith on “Saddiqi”, a single hander from Perth, an American family – Tom, Kim and Emily on a power boat called “Emily Grace”, another single hander James on “Rhapsody” from Texas and finally Jan who hails from Olympia in Washington state. We had met Jan a few weeks before. She and her husband Tom were on a schooner called “Ambler”. They had just returned from a whistle stop tour of Brazil by bus and plane, but Jan couldn’t resist the extra trip.

We set our from Philipe’s marina in a chartered minibus. We headed west from Joao Pessoa to a small town called Areia where we stopped at a historical building that was used as a slave market. The slaves were kept ten to a room, much the size of a single cell in a prison. We lingered in the town exploring the main drag and then set off for a sugar cane processing museum, which was unfortunately closed! The caretaker had gone for lunch, although it was only 11.00, so we went for lunch ourselves. Brian took us to a traditional Brazilian place, which offered a buffet of local dishes and one paid by the kilo. The food was good and met with everyone’s approval and the view over the valley was spectacular.

Slave market

View from restaurant

Unfortunately the day held another disappointment, the cachaca brewery closed early for visitors on a Tuesday! Cachaca is a rum like drink. It is a bit more caustic or fiery than rum and a bit like cane spirits. Cane for the pain, as they used to say in South Africa. It makes a very nice base for the cocktail called Caiparinha, which usually has crushed ice, sugar and many limes. Anyway, the grouped grumbled in unison about our disappointment, but then encouraged Brian to do some brainstorming or surfing to find a way to fit the cachaca brewery into the next day’s itinerary. The next part of the journey was a two-hour drive to the Fazenda Pai Mateus. The tour bus driver had been given strict instructions on the route by his boss, but unfortunately followed the GPS shortest route, which was along a poorly maintained B road.


Pai Mateus abode

This all sounds a bit bleak, but we arrived at Pai Mateus in time for sunset and set across the rocky outcrops to see the topography that makes Pai Mateus special. In Portuguese the name is Lajedo do Pai Mateus that translates to the place of many stones of Father Mateus. Pai Mateus was a hermit who made his home in one of the rocks. People would come from all around for his blessing or for his herbal medication. Historically there is not much known about Pai Mateus, other than that he was a black man and possibly a runaway slave. The stone that he lived beneath still bares threads of evidence of his habitation. There are some cave drawings and a crude bed and table. Another interesting rock nearby is called the Helmet Stone or Pedra Do Capacete. The stones are hollow and sound like a gong when struck. The sunset was spectacular and we watched the sun disappear, before making our way to our chalets.
The evening meal was fine and we enjoyed the sub zero temperature of the local beer with the meal, but rounded the night off with a Caiparinha, but paid the price the next morning!

At the hotel

In the morning the majority of the group set off the yet another geological wonder nearby, but Pete and I roamed around the gardens and relaxed joining the others at the minibus at 1000. We retraced our steps but on a much better road and members of the group coerced Brian to take us to a traditional steak house, where most people then had chicken! After lunch we returned to the Cachaca factory and enjoyed the tour. We especially liked the cachaca flavoured ice creams and the little tots afterwards. Cachaca, like rum is made from sugar cane, but Cachaca is made directly from the sugar cane juice, whereas rum is made from molasses, hence the darker colour and possibly smoother palate. Pete liked the twice-distilled Cachaca and I liked the cinnamon flavoured one.

Cachaca still

Stirring the sugar

A friend of Brian’s had come along for the tour on his motorcycle and he took us on a detour to show us some ‘old machinery’. Some of the women weren’t too keen on this as everyone was keen to get home, but we stopped anyway. The old machinery was in fact a working steam engine for crushing the sugar cane at another privately owned Cachaca factory. It has been operating sine the 1800’s. We had missed the bottling process at the other factory, but here we got to see the whole process and to sample some more Cachaca! We enjoyed the trip immensely, but it was great to be back on board “Oryx” and we both still feel that travelling by boat at your own pace, is the way to go.

Steam driven cane crusher

Apologies for the delay, I think it is unrealistic to try for an update a month, but I hope they will be more frequent than of late.
Post a Comment