Dulcinea in Southern Brazil - Oct/Nov 2013

We have been told that good,exciting letters are based on things that go wrong, and I shall try to oblige. Also, Jan asked me to point out that she would have been here on Dulcinea, but needed to stay in Calgary to have a carcinoma removed. That operation is completed successfully.

Last June, we had left Dulcinea in Pier Salvador, a friendly marina a few miles north of Salvador that I would recommend to any cruiser. A week after returning from Canada, Dave had bent the sails, checked the boat through, fitted the stainless steel spools, custom made by marina staff for the 200 metre mooring lines ready for Patagonia, and made enough trips to the bank ATM machines to get cash to pay the bills.

Joel, from a French cruising boat & Dave, with the help of 3 marina staff released the stern-tie after lunch as the afternoon sea-breeze kicked in, only to find that the neighbour's bow line was round our anchor chain, and pulling up the anchor just brought us into him. The marina diver was soon in the water untangling, then Dulcinea dropped her helpers back on dock, before heading across the Bay to the anchorage at Itaparica.

Next 3 days brought pleasant sailing in 15 to 25 knot NE winds south to Camamu, Ilheus, and Santa Cruz Cabralia. Every Brazilian had warned me about crime and how I must be careful on my own. But throughout the coming weeks I met several friendly, helpful people from fishermen in isolated villages to more wealthy diners at yacht clubs, and saw no hints of crime. My Portuguese (actually PorSpaneol) became sufficiently comprehensible for routine tasks and exchange of pleasantries.

At Santa Cruz, a cold front brought fresh winds from the south (not supposed to happen in the spring & summer) so I stayed for 5 days exploring and doing boat jobs. On 9th October, I raised anchor and headed round Recife Vermelha into light southerlies but found no power in the port engine. Returning to re-anchor and diving, I found no propeller on the saildrive. There was no explanation, but no point in searching for it in the murky water even though we always log anchoring locations to 3 decimal places (about 2 metres repeatabillity). I aimed choice vocabulary at the cost of the 3-blade Gori prop system, which everybody says is wonderful. It relies on thread-lock to hold it on, and realized I always disliked the overdrive feature on that propeller anyway. So next day I headed out on one engine to the gap in the reef called Comuruxatiba where a dug-out fishing canoe looked as if he wanted to get run down in the swell at the reef entrance by guiding me through the gap.

Next there was an interval of over 250 miles before an appealing anchorage so I tried my first overnight solo passage. Despite a fresh breeze and some offshore platforms, the night went well and I pulled into Guarapari bypassing Vitoria.

There things went wrong. I must have been sleepy. I headed for the fuel dock up the river as NE'erlies grew to 25 to 30 knots. Somehow, I managed to get an hour-glass wrap in the headsail while trying to lower the main and furl the headsail. Some flogging sheets pulled a switch off the electric winch and I motored two 360 degree turns in front of the town beach to unwrap the sail. Inside the river, the wind funneled rather than diminished, and the fuel dock was closed. I had to turn Dulcinea on one engine before I reached the road bridge! A gesticulating cruiser tied to the town wall invited me to tie alongside him but that would not have worked, so he dispatched a man and his wife to help - some hope pulling a 63ft cat round in a strong wind with a small outboard on an inflatable - anyway she looked terrified and and the bowline prepared for them drifted alarmingly close to my one working propeller as they retreated. I managed to balance one rudder on the mud bottom and let the boat pivot in the wind to get her straight and then motor back down river. This did little good to the rudder, and I cursed the remaining propeller as you need 4 knots boat speed to get it out of overdrive and there was no way I could get 4 knots into that wind without getting out of overdrive.

Round the corner, in the small inlet within Enseada Perocao, which according to the cruising guide is "protected from all winds", waves were breaking on the rocks sending white spray across its entire width so I anchored in 4 metres of water off the main beach and slept well.

After another overnight sail, I arrived in the picturesque town of Buzios (meaning cowry shells) where the advertised fuel dock did not exist. I disgraced myself again after running the other rudder aground where there should have been over 2 metres of water, and drifted into some moorings where 3 local boats arrived and pulled me off.

Time for a day resting and regathering my senses!

From Buzios, I started just after midnight and I rounded Cabo Frio about an hour later at 13 knots in a freshening northerly. A mysterious boat crossed my bow at some speed with lights declaring "not under command".

By the time I reached Rio De Janeiro the wind had died again. I decided to push on into the night and anchored at 1 am in Enseada Das Palmas on Ilha Grande, and then spent 2 days, walking, eating, sleeping, drinking in the peaceful beauty, and catching up on boat jobs.

A couple of young Brazilians arrived on a brand new 45ft Lagoon sailing cat. They had changed over from 2 blade fixed propellers to Maxprops and very kindly gave one of their fixed props for my port engine. It was wonderful to have control under power again.

When I left, I anchored off 2 little fishing villages in Bahia Ilha Grande, and Ilha Bella, then made another overnight jump to Joinville ahead of the next cold front and south winds.

In San Francisco de Sol/Joinvile, I met Klaus Driesnack, who had imported my new Webasto boat heaters, and was ready to install them. Also, Doug Kuerver's flew in from Calgary to join me there. The Joinville Iate Clube (yacht club) looked after us really well, and the installation went smoothly. We also removed the rudders and had them repaired, filled the tanks, and headed out after less than 2 weeks. Many thanks to Klaus and his team for a warm welcome and a great job!

Whereas in Bahia it took 4 days of finding officials & waiting for them to check into the country, Santa Catarina State lived up to its reputation and the officials had us checked out of the country in an hour or so.

It has been nice having Doug on board for help and company. On his first morning out at sea, he handed back a bowl of porridge almost untouched, and looked green all day. Since then, with some help from Sturgeron sea-sickness tablets, he has looked happy and healthy.

There is 500 or 600 miles of coast from Santa Catarina to Punta Del Este with just one uninviting anchorage. The intermittent strong south winds came back to ensure that we had to stay a little longer.

While waiting, we anchored off a beach in an unnamed bay with a fresh offshore wind and while deciding whether to get wet by paddling the kayaks to shore, I looked up to see the upturned hull of a 30 to 40ft boat drifting towards us! I was wrong. It was one of a pair of Southern Right whales circling their new visitor to take a look at us in 6 or 7 metres of water. We watched them for 10 minutes as they seemed to look back at us.

We had 2 good walks along the rocky coast near Praia Pinheira while waiting for the dash to Uruguay where we hope to find 3 shipments waiting for us in Montevideo. A new prop, a new autopilot as one of our two Raymarine units failed, and new membranes for the watermaker which we have started installing together.

One more adventure on the way: Friday 15th November was forecast to be NNE winds - great for heading south. Saturday's forecast was for southerlies but we thought it would be worth taking 35 miles off our journey by moving down to Laguna. As we approached, in the afternoon, there was a strong N breeze and we were sailing at 8 to 10 knots under a scrap of sail past 2 small islands where about 20 fishing boats had anchored. They were apparently waiting for better weather before entering the narrow and rocky entrance to the river bar. As we sailed past we looked at the bar and agreed to sail on another 2 miles south to anchor behind a headland. Horrible anchorage: I put us too close to an anchored fishing boat and we also lost the chain rode on the anchor. The wind was pulling far too hard to pull the boat forward with the 1 1/4" rope attached to the end of the chain, so we sat and tried to rest with the bows pitching under some of the big seas rolling round. After 4 hours, the wind suddenly dropped so we went forward to get the anchor rode straight. The sea was also flattening, so we slowly motored back to Laguna, and aimed for the harbour entrance just before midnight. The full moon showed white surf breaking on the moles on either side, but the 150m gap in the middle was dark and clear. With Doug on the radar and Dave at the wheel, we lined up with confidence until a stupid driver on the end of one mole decided to shine his headlights on us to watch the sailing boat coming in! Everything disappeared in the glare of his lights, but somehow we made it into the river safely.

I've asked Doug if he, as a rookie sailor, had any thoughts or experiences he would like to convey. His main one was regarding navigation during his successive night watches. On the first night Doug began his 3:00am shift and after being updated as to the current status of cargo and fishing vessels in the area, took over controls of the ship while Dave went to collect some sleep. Doug had been shown the AIS and radar systems that are used for detecting other vessels, but obviously hadn't fully absorbed the benefits of using both systems in tandem. The AIS system is excellent for cargo ships, but most fishing boats do not have AIS transmitters and are thus invisible to this system. As a result, three eye-straining hours were spent desperately trying to spot fishing vessel lights as they came into view. For the next nights late shift Doug had been given a refresher course on using the radar, and he reports that his blood pressure was in a much safer zone!

Now writing from off Punta Del Este in Uruguay. We had another (unforecast) day of southerlies, but otherwise the passage has gone well and we should be anchored this evening after 3 1/2 days out.

We plan to leave Dulcinea in Buenos Aires for a month and fly back to Canada for Christmas.

Best wishes to you all

Dave, Doug, & Dulcinea