It’s all happening in Fortaleza


Marina Park Hotel. Note the 100ft yacht parked next to Eileen of Avoca

What a marina… what a hotel… what a city!

Not a day goes by without something to entertain, amuse or horrify the visiting yachtsman. My last stop in Brazil is fast becoming the most interesting and I am becoming increasingly reluctant to leave. Nor am I the only one. Everyone else at the marina has already doubled the intended length of stay and with a few photos I’ll endeavor to show you why. But before I deliver the rave review, let me point out some of the perceived inadequacies…

See this man for a better deal on mooring fees!

It’s not the price that has us all enthralled with Fortaleza. In fact, the marina is absurdly overpriced (1 US dollar per foot per night) given the appalling state of the facilities.

The pontoons are disintegrating rapidly, connecting (or should I say wiring yourself in) to shore power is a risky affair (I didn’t dare), and water (if you can reach it) is of dubious quality.

However, a little price negotiation with the marina manager yields dividends. I paid 700 Real for the month and 35 to 40 footers managed the same amount (+- 50R) for two week stays. Oh, and you didn’t hear any of that from me… 😉

The big plus is that you get to use the Marina Park Hotel facilities and one dip in their pool will have you sold on the idea of an extended stay. Last chance to swim for nearly 2000 nautical miles… Why not enjoy it?

Perhaps it is a bit unfair to criticize the state of the marina so flatly. Only last week there was a hive of activity as a dozen or so INACE workers chipped rust, welded fittings, filled holes and daubed fresh paint all over the place. It was almost looking rather spiffy!

Some of the marina pontoons have had a facelift

Unfortunately the renovations were limited to one third of the pontoons, those that were to be used in the commissioning of three new fast patrol boats built at the neighboring shipyard.

Mowe Bay, a Marlim fast Patrol Boat

Two were built for the Namibian Navy (Terrace Bay and Mowe Bay) and a third (Anequim) was reserved for the Brazilians. For those of you interested in this sort of thing, have a look at this link.

We took it in shifts to keep the pontoons afloat

The yachties, were assigned the other other end of the pontoons, given a pump to keep them afloat (I’m serious!), and left to their own devices.

Don’t expect to have marina staff lend you a hand with your warps upon arrival. Everyone relies on the good will of other sailors to move lines (strung across the entrance) or to help yachts maneuver to a safe mooring.

Marina staff move yacht...

This fellow didn’t have any marina friends…

I’ve probably frightened most potential visitors away by now, but I assure you that Marina Park is no junkyard. It’s the ultimate in luxury! Only the owners of that 100 footer (called Atrevida and registered in Rio De Janeiro) seemed to think it was a tip; depositing their mounds of refuse in front of Eileen of Avoca and expecting a non-existent pontoon cleaning staff to deal with it…

If you come across the owners, tell them their rubbish is still waiting for them to collect in Fortaleza. I’m not their cleaner!!!

Marina Park, Fortaleza... A dump?

One last horror story before I get to the good stuff! Despite our best efforts (including getting up at 4am for pump duty), Marina Park marina is now significantly smaller than it was a week ago. The above-pictured pump died in a squall over the weekend and with all the electrics shorted (and nobody at the hotel willing or able to lend a hand), three more pontoons have sunk.

Marina Park is shrinking....

Surely none of the above will put you off visiting Fortaleza!

Remember, it’s only a minor maintenance issue… nothing serious…. According to my South African friend John, Brazil glories in its state of advanced entropy. Maintenance just doesn’t appear in the Brazilian vocabulary, and in his words the whole country is: “Run-down”.

Due to certain redeeming features upon which I will soon elaborate, I remain ambivalent on this issue.

We love Brazilian bikinis!

Sailing north to Fortaleza

Squall at sea off Recife, Brazil

A week at sea battling contrary winds to return to Cabedelo, ten days to recover and another three days on the water before reaching Marina Park, Fortaleza.

Not that there was much recovering going on in Jacare! The place was infested with sand flies (no-seeums, gnats or what ever else you want to call them). All boats were affected, including those at anchor, despite mosquito netting (they are small enough to get through the mesh). After several nights of playing host to the creepy crawlies, no sailor was feeling particularly rested.

For entertainment, we’d compare ‘war wounds’ each morning and complain about the incessant rain! For me, one visit to Jacare is more than enough, and if it had not been for the excellent company of fellow yachtsmen, I’d have left almost immediately.

Just hop on the bus Gus....

Suggestion for sailors visiting northern Brazil via Fernando de Noronha: Head directly for Salvador so you only have to contend with ‘bad sax’ and this part of the coast once.

Making bread in a pressure cooker

I’d wanted to stop at various small ports along the way, but few are safe to enter in anything other than perfect conditions.

Besides, it’s taken me three days to regain my “sea legs” and I’m not going through that process again any time soon if I can help it.

I’ll busy myself making fresh bread instead…

It’s been the usual uneventful solitary affair at sea. Cruising 20 to 30 miles offshore, Brazil is out of sight. The only reminder that I’m not too far from civilization is the reflection of city lights upon an ever present band of cloud to the west.

I’ve been feeling somewhat melancholy since leaving Salvador and I’m not particularly sure why this is. Am I suffering from the anticlimax to “great expectations”? Perhaps… It could also be that watching the cricket all day isn’t my thing…

Watching the cricket Brazillian style...

It’s true that no crowd of teary eyed maidens came to wave goodbye upon my departure but my expectations weren’t that great! Three or four would have been enough. 😉

Fantasies aside, I happily (forcibly) settled for the maiden-less cacophony of ships horns sounding from my marina neighbors as I made way in Eileen. It was a fabulous substitute send off guys… Thanks!

No, I suspect that freedom itself breeds melancholy. With no social ties or responsibilities and nothing but the vague objective of sailing westward in mind, it’s easy to feel emotionally adrift, oscillating between euphoria and a mild despondence.

As long as the oscillations don’t increase in amplitude or frequency I should be fine, but if ever you come across someone who laughs and cries in the same sentence, it’s a sure bet he’s done too much single-handed sailing!

I’ve no idea what the long term psychological effects of DIY bathroom renovations or mowing lawns on weekends is but it frightens me, so for now I’ll stick with the potential hardships of sailing while emotionally adrift… 🙂

Regards from Fortaleza!