April to November 2006, pt. 1
Sao Francisco do Sol to Rio
Brazil is a feast for the senses that defies logic. The vision of beautiful girls in tiny bathing suits on warm beaches washed by the deep blue sea is reality. The boys play soccer and do back flips and cartwheels to attract the beauties' attention. Outdoor cafes serving ice cold Antarctica Brand beer line the serpentine mosaic sidewalks. Each region has its cuisine that centers on rice and moves out to fish, beans, pork, and all varieties of barbeque. The sun shines and the people are among the friendliest on earth. It is great to be alive and in Brazil.
It has two of the worlds great cruising grounds in the Bahia de Ilha Grande in the south and the north's Bahia de Todos os Santos which includes Salvador, a great confusing metropolis with a vibrating old city that teeters on the edge of sanity and tips over the edge at Carnival.
The visiting yachtee has to just relax and try to enjoy it. This is not so easy because one must also deal with officialdom or choose not too and risk the consequences.
In mid April, we arrived in Sao Francisco do Sol armed with information from Amyr Klink, one of the greatest sailors we have ever met. We had met Amyr in Port Lockroy in the Antarctic. His greeting included the question, "is this the first time you have come to the Antarctic'" Until then I was feeling rather proud of being there. As the air escape from my balloon he explained it was his fifteenth. This included solo wintering over and solo circumnavigating. This was after he rowed across the Atlantic and before he sailed to the Arctic-all alone.
Amyr told us about a new law that let foreign boats visit Brazil for two years with the possibility to extend. He painted the picture of the beautiful warm anchorages and little villages with cafe's. Samba played in our minds.
Three months later we arrived in Sao Francisco do Sol, a perfect cobble stone colonial village with palm trees and a maritime museum complete with an Amyr Klink room where one can see tiny Paraty in which he rowed from South Africa to Salvador Brazil.
Over the course of three days we checked in with the Federal Police, Customs and the Port Captain. A few days later we retraced our steps and checked out.
Our next stop was Santos. After three days we set about checking in. I jumped on the ferry and found the Port Captain's office only to find out the check in location had changed. When I finally found it, I was told I must first get clearance from the Federal Police, Customs and Health. I tried to explain that I had already done this in the last port and, as I had not left the country, I should not have to check in again. They found an English speaking sailor who explained this Brazil and I had to check in with everyone at every port.
Unfortunately the three offices were spread all over this largest port in South America. I found the Federal Police and asked for an entry and exit permission. I told them I was leaving the next day to save repeating this exercise.
By the time I found it, Customs just as it closed for lunch. Two hours I returned. I was asked for my 'Termo de Responsabilidade'. Not knowing what this was I gave him what I had, a print out of the computer screen from Sao Francsico. The official looked at it, called his supervisor, who directed him to call our marina which fax a description of our boat. He stamped this and gave it to me.
After some wandering I found the health office. It was on strike. It was the end of the day and so I gave up. Yellow fever is the only issue and we had not been to any at risk countries.
The next morning I returned to the Port Captian and showed him what I had. He asked for the 'Termo de Responsabilidade' and the health 'Certificado de Livre Partica' and the Declaracao de Entrada/Saliada from the last Port Captian. I had none of these. I showed him my papers with stamps on them. After thirty minutes of explaining what I needed in Portuguese, which I did not understand, he gave me a look of disgust and took a copy of my boat description and stamped that once for entry and once for exit. 'Obrigado', (thank you), I responded, and left for the boat and points north.
We decided life would be easier if we skipped the ports as much as we could. We spent a relaxing week hopping through the islands as we made our way to Paraty where we planned to leave the boat for a year.
We arrived at a friendly little marina with half a dozen foreign boats and several dozen local boats including Amyir's boat from Antarctica. Amyr owned the marina and had told us it was a very safe place.
I checked in with Luis, the manager and explained that we would be there for a year. 'He says this could be a problem', reported Paula, a multi lingual Italian on the boat next door. 'Legally, you can stay for ninety days and then ask for an extension that is usually granted for another ninety days, after which you must leave the country for six months.'
'But, Amyr told me that the new law gives us two years.'
'That law has not been signed by the President.'
We had tickets to fly home in a week and needed to sort this out fast. Over the next three days I came up with our options. Leaving the country by sailing 1000 miles back to Uruguay was not practical.
I could check out of the country and not actually leave risking a huge fine. Another boat in the marina had just been impounded for overstaying its allotted time.
I talked to an 'agent' who offered to have my boat registered as made in Brazil for $ 10,000.
Finally, we could leave and return by July 11th to apply for a ninety day extension.
We choose the last and returned on July 6th and went about extending. We were told the President had vetoed the bill so two years was out the porthole.
We were greatly relieved when the local customs official made us fill out some forms and told us we were ok to stay. Kelly and Jos Archer, Onora's boat builder and now our friends, had come to sail with us and we spent a relaxing few days.
- Click here for Part 2 -