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Thursday, 3 July 2014



"Oryx" off Laranjal. Photo courtesy of Leonardo of ",br"

Rio Grande.

"Oryx" alongside "Bucaneiro" off the Oceanographic Institute, Rio Grande.

At Rio Grande we tied up alongside the tripper boat called “Bucaneiro” off the Oceanographic Institute. We were still tidying up when the director, Lauro, and a boatful of young adolescent boys returned. Pete had met Lauro on his previous visit to Rio Grand do Sul on “China Moon” in 2003. Lauro asked if the boys could come on board and of course we showed them around.

Lauro and the boys in a boat built by the project with the city in the background.

Pete explaining to Lauro and the boat building apprentices..

Lauro talking football?

They are apparently from disadvantaged backgrounds and the Oceanographic Institute, which is attached to the University of Rio Grande Do Sul, runs a program where the boys are taught boat building skills as an extramural activity. The boat they were on was one of the completed projects. Lauro invited us to visit the boat building shed, which we duly did the following Monday.

One of the finished boat on display at the University of Rio Grande do Sul.

Job in progress.

We met Joao de Ribeira, who also works for the institute and on our return from clearing in and shopping, he invited us on boat the institute’s motor launch to share his birthday cake. This was the start of many new friendships forged in the southernmost state of Brazil.

Joao of the Oceanographic institute.

Rio Grande is one of the oldest cities in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. It served as the state capitol between 1835 and 1845. It is the most important port in the state and one of the biggest maritime ports in Brazil. It is named after the channel, which indirectly connects the Atlantic to the fresh water lagoons of Lagoa do Patos and Lagoa Mirim.

Brazil dazzles with colour.

Brazil dazzles with history.

Fresh fish market.

As we sailed into the port, the evidence of Brazil’s burgeoning economy was very evident. The weather was still cooler than we were accustomed to in Brazil, but the frisson of joy that makes Brazil so vibrant was evident on the faces of passer-by’s.Brazil is so COOL - everyone smiles!

Importing Camaros in the boom times.

Naval chapel.

Past opulence, too.

Isn't this haram in Lebanon?

The Portuguese explorer Martin Alfonso de Sousa who sought to fortify the area from French corsairs founded the town. He was later appointed as the first governor of Brazil. The town was initially called Rio Grande de Sao Pedro and in 1669 the Portuguese effectively swapped it for Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. Settlers from the Azores and Madeira arrived in 1750 in an attempt to settle the disputed border area. These immigrants were followed by an influx of Germans, Swiss, Italians and Lebanese who all add to the eclectic mix.

Hawk poised on "Bucaneiro"

Oceanographic Institutes museum.

Terrapins in the sun.

Sunfish exhibit in Oceanographic Museum.

Whale bones.
Entrance to Yacht Club Rio Grande.

We stayed in Rio Grande for a few days before setting off to explore the 100-mile long fresh water lagoon of Lagoa dos Patos. We followed the ferry route and had to contend with the car ferry in the narrow channel.

This photo was taken by a friend of Joao, Sergio Klaes Roig when we left the second time.

"Oryx" From "Bucaneiro"

After setting off we sailed along an area where wooden stakes mark the shoals, all tricky stuff. We had already decided only to sail by day, although there is a fully buoyed channel for ships all the way to Porto Alegre, but as usual we were exploring the small towns and anchorages en route. We were barely underway, when the wind headed us, so we decided to make an unscheduled stop at a small town called Laranjal.


Approaching Laranjal. Courtesy Leonardo "Prowind".
The same two fishing boats.

Oryx approaching Laranjal.(Leo Prowind)

 As we sailed over another yacht approached and we took photos of one another. The following morning Pete went ashore to buy bread and fresh produce, whilst I tidied up. The wind was due to fill in later. A chap in a canoe rowed over. It was the one chap from the previous days yacht. Leo presented me with a flash disc with the photos he had taken. He did not come on board and he didn't want the flash disc back! We seldom have photos of “Oryx” sailing, so we were delighted. He runs a sailing/ windsurfing/kite boarding school at nearby Pelotas called “Prowind.”
Beach of Laranjal.

 Sao Lourenco do Sul.

The mornings were almost calm and the wind generally filled in around eleven, so new left then and sailed throughout the day, skirting a long sand spit hoping to arrive in Sao Lourenco de Sul before dark, but didn't make it and instead anchored in a remote spot, just out of the channel and had a pleasant night on board.

Church is getting a new roof.
Showers on the beach.

Gaucho and son.

We set sail early the next morning, having breakfast when we arrived. We explored the small town, shopping and set sail just before lunch. Once again we had to sail around another long spit and as night fell, we anchored near it and watched the small waves breaking. It was very tempting to try sail across, but when Pete did a sounding with ‘Crake’ the next morning, it was obvious that we had made the right decision!

Lagoon traffic.

Caught in a net again! Rudders flipped up and Pete freed us without damaging the net.


"Crake" n the beach at Tapes.

It took us a couple of days to reach the next town of Tapes. It has a small yacht club, but we were unsure as to the depth of the channel, so we anchored in 2 m and rowed ashore. We walked into the town, which was once a rice growing and transporting hub. At the yacht club we learnt that the channel was 1.8 m deep.

Its colder in southern Brazil!

Porto Alegre was now tantalizingly close, so we set off once again. When the wind picked up, the water became more skittish and the movement going to windward more pronounced. Still ‘Oryx’ was behaving well and we were enjoying the trip. We anchored once more along the way, but on the next day we had south westerlies to wend us on our way. We approached our chosen destination just as the light bled from the sky. The wind had picked up and we were sailing around a headland with a lighthouse. The lighthouse was so close, that we woke the keeper’s dog and as we approached the wind swirled and suddenly ‘Oryx’ was not responding to the tiller. It felt like something out of Homer, we seemed to swirl in the wrong direction and I had fleeting thoughts of Scylla and Charybdis. (The dog would have been Charybdis!).

Scylla and Charybdis Lighthouse.

Actually known as Farol Itapua.

 The captain of ‘Oryx’ is less encumbered by flights of fancy, and he simply put on the engine and dispelled all the demons with a whiff of diesel. We anchored in a beautiful bay, surrounded by mountains.

We met 'Rio Grande do Sul in the narrow channel.

 Porto Alegre.

Rich and poor -cheek by jowl.

We awoke to a grey, drizzly day, which was a pity because the photos did not do the area justice. We set off sailing along the main shipping channel and although the wind was fresh to start with, it soon petered out, so we motored the rest of the way, arriving in Porto Alegre in the late afternoon. We anchored between two of the yacht clubs. The following morning we rowed up to a small dock belonging to the Yacht Club Guaiba. We asked permission to leave the dinghy and this caused great consternation. The gentleman at the gatehouse arranged a lift for us to the Club offices, where we muddled along in our bad Portuguese.

Iate Clube Guiaba.

Recycling made fun at yacht club.

They were quite happy for us to leave the dinghy, but wanted ‘Oryx’ alongside, too. They had the usual arrangement of box berths, which is awkward for ‘Oryx’ not only because she is Beamy, but also because we have only one engine. I managed to explain this to the secretary Carmen, but the marineiro, Dois, found us a suitable spot. In the meantime Pete had spoken to the commodore who asked how long we were staying and when he heard four or five days, he said we were welcome to stay for a month! It seemed churlish to refuse, so we rowed back to ‘Oryx’ and motored slowly into the open spot. The club is beautiful and we not only had water and electricity on the dock, but rapid wifi and warm showers.

"Oryx" alongside!

Mr. Friendly at the gatehouse directed us to the nearest bus stop and off we went, en route into town I sat beside a Brazilian woman, who when she heard we were estrangeros welcomed us to the city and helped us hop off the bus, near the port captain. Thus was the start of an amazing visit to a beautiful city, with fabulous people.

In 1752 sixty Azorean couples set up missions in the area. Porto Alegre was founded in 1769 by Jorge Gomes de Sepulveda. It is southern Brazil’s most important port city and is a major player in the Mercosul. (South American free trade agreement.)

It is a sophisticated city with neoclassical architecture and a vibrant art and music scene. After clearing in with the port captain, we set about seeing some of the sights and visiting the many art galleries and museums. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Building are an art in themselves.

This collage of Rio is made of postcards!

We particularly loved Vik Muniz´work. This is a collage of computer components.

We visited a Chinese cultural exhibition, too.

 We also had a fine meal at the Mercado Publico.

The Mercado Publico has various fresh food markets, a myriad of stalls and small restaurants!
Vibrant city life.

Atlas didn't shrug.

The City Hall

Africa's indelible footprint adds to the vibrancy of Brazil.

Another amazing cathedral.

Guarani suffering the rain.

The city has a scenic beauty enhanced by the nearby hills and the huge lagoons. The area is fertile and plums, peaches and cassava are cultivated nearby.

Mirrored lagoon.

City of Porto Alegre.

We had hoped to visit the neighbouring mountain town of Gramado, so the following day we set out along the beach front with a packed picnic, intending to walk along the front to the old Gasometer, picnic and then find out about buses to Gramado. Again we took in the culture of the city.

Cinderella's pumpkin coach? NAO, Fifa 2014 stadium!

MacDonald's didn't sponsor the new bridge!

City bird life.

Pepsi did sponsor the exercise equipment, unobtrusively.

In Rio Grande do Sul the similarities with the gaucho culture of neighbouring Uruguay and even Argentina are striking. The Brazilian’s of this southern state are known as gauchos and the ubiquitous mate is a shared Guarani heritage, although in Brazil, mate is more commonly known as chimarao.

Gaucho museum.

We had decided against going by bus to Gramado. It was a two-hour bus ride and the weather didn't look too good. Instead we planned to spend the weekend catching up on jobs. On Saturday morning I hopped ashore to use the facilities and found a Brazilian man admiring ‘Oryx’. He spoke very little English, but between us I managed to answer some of his technical questions about the boat, before referring him to Pete.

Mauro poses with the model of a sculpture he has been commissioned to do.

Sketch of proposed harbour with sculpture.

Pete, I think, has a bit of a phobia about speaking foreign languages badly, dating back to an early childhood experience where he taught his French Canadian kindergarten class to speak English. However, he is fluent in nautuguese and boatuguese. Nautuguese is the language of sailors, which I used to find pretentious…you know galleys, heads, abaft the beam etc. These words now trip off my tongue, unheeded. Boatuguese is the ability to discuss boats in all languages. The draft, the beam, the length, the keel etc. After a short conversation in boatuguese Pete had made a new friend. When Mauro heard that we had not yet been to Gramado, he quickly arranged to fetch us the following morning.

 Tres Coroas.

Beautiful Buddhist Monastery of Chagdud Tulku Khadro Ling.

Wendy this ones for you.

We were still drinking our coffee when Mauro arrived at eight am, eager to get underway. The first stop was at the small town of Tres Coroas where we visited the Tibetan Buddhist monastery.  This monastery nestles amongst the mountaintops. The craftsmanship and the setting rendered us speechless.

Mountains in the distance.

Aren't the colours spectacular?

And the craftsmanship?


Alpine theme of Casa Italiano.

Next stop was the Brazilian Alpine town of Gramado. This may seem a contradiction in terms, but the resort town bills itself as being ‘naturally European’ and indeed it does not resemble the rest of Brazil much. In 1824 the Serra Gaucha Mountains were settled by German immigrants, who were soon followed by Italians and then Swiss. In this area of Brazil, German is still widely spoken.

Freshly baked bread and cake at stall in Gramado selling like hot cakes.

There is a ski resort and all the hotels and most of the houses reflect the Alpine theme. We stopped at the town center and bought chocolates, freshly baked granary bread from blue-eyed vendors with lederhosen Mauro snapped up the last apple strudel and we settled for a coconut cake instead. The town has a Disney feel about it and caters to children with a variety of theme parks. We stopped at the steam train museum, before heading for nearby Canela.

Glass angel of Gramado.

Steam museum replicates an accident.


Canela is a small town centered on a leafy square with a beautiful Gothic stone cathedral. People in winter attire were out in full force. The midday temperature reached 18 degrees c. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant recommended by a local.

Gothic stone cathedral.

Novo Petropolis.

Mauro then took us to Novo Petropolis where we visited the original German settlement. Which is now incorporated into a park know as the Park of Immigrants. Mauro arranged for us to pose with the local Umpah band, or is it Opa band?

In this area of Brazil there are vineyards, too, but in keeping with Brazil’s zero tolerance we gave them a miss. Instead, Mauro introduced us to pinao which, when cooked are similar to chestnuts. Mauro stopped once more at a butcher specializing in German sausage and after sharing his apple strudel with us, back on board ‘Oryx’ left us with a couple of sausages, which we had to Google to cook! We were due to leave the next day, but when Mauro came to say so long, our plans had changed. The wind was heading us, so we stayed another day.

Our friend Mauro and his boat.

Mauro took the opportunity to show us his boat, introduce us to his mother and his eldest son and show us the home he is building. His kindness knew no limits – he presented Pete with a guide to the Lagoa dos Patos and eagerly accepted a copy of ‘Building Badger’ in exchange. Unfortunately Mauro doesn't do the Internet, so we may never see or hear from him again, but we will always remember the experience. He managed to explain that despite the communication barrier we were speaking with our hearts and also that we were living his dream.

Pete and Mauro in the galley...oh, sorry, kitchen.

Mauro's home has Tibetan flares.

The following day we left Porto Alegre despite a thick veil of fog. We motored out of the Yacht Club after extending our thanks to Carmen, the Club secretary. Soon we were able to hoist the sails and sail through the slowly dissipating wisps of fog.

Misty morning.

We spent the night near the lighthouse where we had experienced out Scylla and Charybdis effect, but anchored off a new beach. All was calm. There was one other yacht in the anchorage.

Pete beards howler monkey to find hidden chapel.

We sailed until the wind dropped and then motored a bit, spending the night off Blackbeard's Island. (Ihla Barba Negra.)

 Ihla Barba Negra.

Blackbeard's island

Sun sets on Blackbeard's Island.

Pete has allocated a certain amount of time to explore each area, but Aeolus doesn't pay much attention, so when we had a good wind abaft the beam we sailed within the shipping channel overnight, hoping to catch up with Brian and Marta on ‘Saoirse Mor’.



Approaching Pelotas.

Our timing in the channel was perfect as we reached the narrows with the staked shoals just after dawn. We stopped briefly in Pelotas, but misread the date on Brian’s message and headed back to Rio Grande, only to find ‘Saoirse Mor’ well on her way north.

Pelotas in the distance.

Big ships manage narrow channel into Pelotas.

Yacht Club Pelotas.

Yacht Clubhouse.

When we arrived at the Oceanographic Institute the ‘Bucaneiro’ was out on a trip, so we anchored off.

"Oryx" reefed down on leaving Rio Grande. Photo Sergio Klaes Roig.

Checking the forecast, Pete decided to cut our visit in Rio Grande short and to make use of the southerlies to get us up the coast. We left just after nine thirty on the Monday morning. A friend of Joao's had taken some photos of us when we sailed into Rio Grande from Pelotas.

He had shared them via facebook Coincidentally Sergio was on a ferry as we were leaving and took some more fabulous photographs of ‘Oryx’ under sail.

"Oryx" under sail. Photo by Sergio Klaes Roig. Note the bird!

Although the southerly breeze shifted to the northwest by midnight, the first day’s run was promising. We were hoping to call in at Tramandae and Torres, both with tricky entrances exposed to the north and east. Unfortunately the wind died down and although Pete tried to make up time and distance by motoring at night, this proved to be useless as the wind and seas soon built up and I now like motoring to windward far less than sailing to windward, which we duly did for the next three days.

Another yacht tacking against the north wind off Torres

Of course Tramandae and Torres were out of the question and even Laguna, where we sheltered  last year, was unreachable. We sailed on, eventually finding shelter off Cabo Santa Marta Grande. The headland looked beautiful, but going ashore was impossible due to the huge swells.

 Cabo Santa Marta.

Cabo Santa Marta was a welcome sight after days on a blustery sea.

We sailed on the next morning, as the wind was shifting but were unable to shelter at the next headland, because there were fishing boats and crashing waves. 

Fishermen off Cabo Santa Marta.


Small island provided shelter from the north wind.

Eventually we anchored off a small island near Imbituba for the night and then as the wind shifted to the south once more went into Imbituba itself where were planning to stay overnight. A couple of fishermen came to offer to ferry us ashore and of course we declined, proudly patting ‘Crake’.

Breakers on the beach prevented a closer look at the Tiki on the beach.

However, when we watched them land in the surf, we quickly changed our minds about going ashore and set sail once more for Garopaba, where we spent the night and the next day.


Welcome arms of Garopaba Bay.

Garopaba was once a small Azorean like fishing village, but is now a surfing hotspot with many trendy surfshops and restaurants catering to the summer tourists. The town is beautifully situated surrounded by forested hilltops which sweep down to the sea.We managed to row ashore and land on a tiny beach, despite the swell and our captive audience.

Boathouses flank the southern side of the bay.

We explored the town, did some shopping and then laden down, relaunched ‘Crake’. Pete was timing the sets of waves, while I waited to push off, when a nearby fisherman came to help us. He helped me aboard and then launched us between the sets. Brazilian’s of all walks of life were making our stay even more memorable than usual.

Inshallah restaurant.

 questions and answers.

J.H.    How your direct-drive wind-vane self-steering worked out? 
Pete  The wind-vane steering works very well and is as good as any self steering I have ever had, both manufactured and home 

J.H.    How have the rudders worked out?
Pete   I have gone back to the original rudders as the 'new' ones did not work out well.
Carly  With these rudders she almost sails herself to windward. They also ‘pop up’ when caught on drift nets.

J.H.   Where you are with your junk sail experiments?
Pete  The new sails are wing junk and they work OK, but I was expecting better performance than they give so I am not completely happy. Oryx struggles to tack through 100 deg. but we have had big problems with the useless anti fouling paint I put on. I have been trying for a long time to get hauled out or finding suitable tides to put new anti fouling paint on. I can clean the sides from the dinghy but the water has been too cold to scrub underwater and maybe the performance will be much better with a clean bottom. Where it is warm enough to scrub the weed grows like fury!

J.H.   How Oryx compares to CHINA MOON?
Pete  I think that China Moon has better sailing performance, closer winded and tacks much more easily than Oryx does. Not sure why this is the case as Oryx is much lighter and has relatively more sail area and the hull shape is very similar. The accommodation on Oryx is much better than China Moon's with the bridge deck.

J.H.   Whether insulating CHINA MOON was worth the weight, expense, and time?
Pete  China Moon is a better boat for being insulated, but I chose not to insulate Oryx because of the time and weight. We have been having some cold weather recently and condensation has been a problem but I still do not regret not insulating, so far.
Carly  I find the condensation a nuisance.

J.H.  Is a 10 m catamaran (compared to CM's ~11 m) large enough for safe ocean passages? Will you sail Oryx at high latitudes, and in the Southern Ocean?
Pete  I do not have the experience to comment yet, but we plan to sail from Brazil to Cape Town via Tristan de Cunha later in the year which should be a good test. Obviously I feel Oryx is seaworthy enough to safely do the trip, but time will tell.

J.H.    What do you like about ORYX, what would you do different?
Pete   Oryx is a very comfortable cruising home and she attracts favourable comments where ever she goes. I think Oryx would be a better boat if the hulls where fatter. The present waterline beam to length ratio is a little over 12:1. This is probably needed with the anti vortex panels, but they did not work very well on Oryx. Mr. Kohler talks of his average speed on his 'Pelican' as 9.6 knots! Maybe the anti vortex panels work at those sorts of speed, but Oryx's average is somewhere around 5 knots. Wider hulls (perhaps 9 or 10 to 1) would give less wetted surface and be better load carriers, we rarely get into double digits and will reef down so that the self steering works reliably, so very slim hulls are not needed. 
Carly  Pete takes his averages from all sailing conditions, including light winds. I’d say that ‘Oryx’ average speed in a decent force 4 with reasonable seas is 6 or 7 knots, with an average of 5 – 6 going to windward. Our auto helm isn't installed yet and the self steering is good up to 8 or 9 knots, but we usually slow down to have a more comfortable ‘ride’. We rarely use our sea berth, because it is noisy and the bridge deck clearance is good enough to sleep peacefully in the normal cabin, except when the sea is really rough.

John thanks for your questions, hope you don’t mind my two bits worth, too, from a female-not-very-experienced-sailing point of view.

Featuring Fernando de Noronha.

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