Cupid’s arrow finds other targets!


Cupid in Gamboa, Brazil?

Having shamelessly pandered to my friends and fellow sailors expectations by ticking the box marked “Show evidence of  smiling bikini clad Brazilians visiting Eileen of Avoca”, and insinuated that my ability to lure young attractive sailing companions rivals the likes of greats such as Errol Flynn, I can now return from my flirtations with fiction and deal with more mundane subjects… Or perhaps not! 😉


Get your free mud treatment in Gamboa. It's all the rage!

I’ve said my goodbyes to new found friends… (and the mud people of Gamboa), and started retracing my steps via Catu, Itaparica and Salvador.

I’m on my way back north to continue Eileen’s Brazilian adventure, though Trinidad is also firmly in our sights. Why Trinidad? Because Eileen needs to be lifted for a growing number of small repairs and Trinidad is reportedly boat-service friendly. But with nearly 2500 nautical miles to sail before I get there, it might take a while.


Sailing Eileen of Avoca in Brazil

Of more immediate concern is getting north of Recife and back to Jacare where the prevailing winds are southeasterly and the current turns favourable. I’m not looking forward to this next leg as I’ve already “been there and done that”, but I’ll try to make the trip more interesting by stopping at several isolated anchorages including ‘Praia Frances’ along the way.

So that’s the plan!

For sailors who wish to visit Morro de Sao Paulo and Gamboa I highly recommend anchoring opposite the small yacht club (not the same as the one mentioned in the guide books). Look for a couple of Hobie Cats lined up on the beach. There is always at least 2.5m on the outer buoys. Here is the position:

13’23.260S 038’55.933W

And for getting through the sandbanks to Cacha Prego or Catu, I can confirm that the following way-points will give you at least 3m at high tide:

  1. 13’10.559S 038’47.265W
  2. 13’09.890S 038’47.070W
  3. 13’09.769S 038’47.226W
  4. 13’08.384S 038’47.746W
  5. 13’07.856S 038’47.730W
  6. 13’07.182S 038’47.901W
  7. 13’06.806S 038’47.902W

Happy sailing!

No time to waste in Catu


Catu anchorage, Itaparica

Southbound, skirting the western coast of Itaparica, Eileen made good time following the tide to the village of Catu (just north of Cacha Prego). Catu has a superb anchorage, perhaps the best I’ve found since arriving in Brazil. Had I not met the simpatico crew of “Black Elise” (visiting Itaparica in order to finalize a land purchase), I would have bypassed the village altogether.


Crew of Black Elise

Guide books briefly mention the area but effectively discourage visitors by only stressing its dangers. No wonder then that most sailors avoid the shallows altogether and round the islands eastern coast despite the extra miles.

A shame because the locals in Catu village are genuinely curious about visiting yachtsmen, even when they are as spendthrift as yours truly.

Darn! Just when I was getting comfortable with my current crop of prejudices I find barren ground for nurturing my puissant cynicism.;)


A winning smile

Yes, I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised with Catu, but perhaps being invited to join this crowd for a brief chat and being accorded a generous share of their sugar cane cache amended my views. I also happen to be a sucker for a pretty smile.

While my Portuguese is almost as fluent as my Russian, Hebrew and Cantonese ;), I was making slow progress impressing the natives with my quick wit and dry humor. Having the vocabulary of a three year old can cramp your style, but I wasn’t going to let that deter me. Time to switch to plan B and draw my athletic Olympian physique and handsome features to attention. Surely that will win them over.

The outcome was never in doubt…., :(but at least I did raise a smile or two for my efforts). As a consolation prize I managed to gather reliable information on crossing the dreaded Punta Garcia bar to the south.


20m clearance at low tide!

Most sailors take the long way around Itaparica to avoid the bridge and shallow entrance, but as long as tidal information is taken into consideration, even a boat with a 20m mast and 2 meter draft can get through.

If you have a Yarmouth23, it’s ridiculously easy!!

Despite the perfectly protected anchorage and agreeable village atmosphere I only stayed two nights. I wanted to reach the previously mentioned Morro de Sao Paulo (supposed mecca for fun seeking Salvadorians), and not even a killer smile or plunging neckline could sway me from my chosen path.

Yes, on occasion I’m not known for being the brightest of lads….

Bound for Itaparica


Bedsheet and tablecloth sailing in Bahia Salvador

Convinced that there was more to Bahia than tourist traps and “gringos aren’t welcome here” zones, I motored Eileen of Avoca across the bay of Salvador to the northern tip of Itaparica. The island was once a popular getaway for the well to do of Salvador city and still attracts many a floating “gin palace” (or should that be a “cachaça palace” in Brazil?) on the weekends, but the “in the know” crowd have adopted Morro de Sao Paulo as their current playground…

I’ve taken note of this and will investigate soon… 😉

Mural map of the Bay of Salvador. Itaparica in green.

I found thirty or so sailing vessels anchored outside the marina. Quite a crowd, and not the most considerate in terms of swinging room. It’s an unwritten law that there must always be a few anchorage hogs with boats bigger and uglier than yours threatening collision as the wind or tide turns. For peace of mind I moved several times to avoid them. It’s times like these I wish I sailed a rusty steel monstrosity. 🙂

What could possibly draw so many yachtsmen here anyway?

Admiring the flora of Itaparica

Is it the women?


Where are the beach babes?

The beaches?


It's rush hour in Itaparica

The slow pace of village life?


The seaside promenade at Itaparica

The sea side promenade?

No…None of the above….

In fact it’s fresh water!

There is a natural spring across from the marina and everyone here is filling their tanks with wonderfully clear mineral water. Nobody dares taint their storage tanks with what comes out of the hoses at marinas elsewhere. So my first day was spent toting water to claim my share.


Filling up at the natural spring in Itaprica

I also tried to restock my boat larder but there is a very limited range of packaged foodstuffs to be had. Other than fruit, nothing is very fresh. If you are not quick enough to eat what you have bought, you get to share your biscuits, pasta or rice with all sorts of critters. Fine if you’re an entomologist, but I’m not too thrilled about the added protein, especially when I discover that I’ve been charged 20% more than what the price tags indicate I should have.

Hint: Advice from a local….Make a list of everything you buy and do the sums yourself. If you are asked to pay more, make a fuss! Even suggest that the police might want to check their dubious accounting practices.


Fortaleza Itaparica

The northern tip of Itaparica has its share of white sandy beaches though only the tidal sand spit across from the marina is frequented by the boating crowd. Other attractions include one old Dutch fort, a collection of reasonably priced restaurants / bars (the unreasonably priced ones are situated within the marina complex), and a small town feel.

Weekends is when things get lively as there’s usually plenty of organized entertainment in the main square. I had my heart set on a “Miss bikini” contest but had to settle for “drag queen night” followed by “children fantasy fashion night”.

Disgruntled, I did not linger in Itaparica….