A sailors guide to Fortaleza

A skyhook for sailors ?

Don’t rely on skyhooks when visiting Fortaleza. Read this and save yourself time and money.

While I would like to take all the credit for gathering the following information, it was in fact a joint effort, with contributions from the many yachtsmen moored at Marina Park in May/June 2011.

Planeta Agua. Drinking water delivered to your yacht

I’ll start with the basics:
The water from the taps at the marina is of dubious quality (some days it flows yellow). Fill your tanks with it only if you have amazing filters or only use tank water for washing and showering.
Drinking water can be delivered to your yacht in 20 liter bottles (5 Real a Bottle). You can either catch up with the truck that delivers for the hotel 3 times a week (it parks just opposite the pontoon entrance in the morning) or you can give Ligou Chegou a call on 32121402 (the office), 30877972, 30941849, or 86861006.

Why they have so many phone numbers is a mystery to me but take note that they will also fill your cooking gas bottles for a fair price (3 Real per Liter).

The BR service station located near Marina Park Hotel

If you have trouble calling, their shop can be found as follows:
Walk across the freeway opposite the hotel (near the BR petrol station because the condemned buildings opposite are a hive for drug addicts, stay well clear day and night. Don’t take the stairs. Don’t take the bridge).

This is the road to take once you cross the freeway...

The road you follow to town is called Sem. Pompeu.

It takes you past a large mustard colored building (more on that later).

The bus station is behind the flea market.

Take a right (onto Rua Dr. Joao Moreira) and you will come across a bus station / flea market.
At the diagonally opposite end of this bus station square you will see fishing tackle shops (look for nets hanging outside).

You are getting close!

Follow the road (Rua Castro e Silva) and you will see the water bottles outside the Planeta Agua shop.

This way for the supermarket...

Retracing your steps to the square with the buses and flea market, take an immediate right and follow the road (Rua 24 de Maio for 2 blocks) to a small supermarket (on the left called Mercadinho Lene).

The small supermarket within walking distance of Marina Park

This is the closest to the marina. A couple of shops further up is a butcher.

The nicest (but somewhat overpriced) supermarket is Pao de Acucar, one street up from the night markets at Beira Mar.

Expensive, but you can find everything

It boasts free WiFi at the cafe inside (but no power outlets). Free Internet is a issue in Fortaleza. It’s 20 Real for an hour from the Hotel! Try the Internet cafe next to McDonalds for a better rate or buy a long range WiFi antennae for your boat.

You will find an automatic cash dispenser inside and to the right

The previously mentioned mustard building (with arched doorways) is a tourist center and contains many small shops. You will find a Bank of Brazil Automatic Cash dispenser here. Cover the keypad with your hand when using the cash machines in Brazil, two crews have already had their bank accounts emptied by thieves employing hidden cameras and card duplicators.

The first pedestrian walk crossing Sem. Pompeu.

If you follow the Pompeu road rather then taking a right to the bus station, you will reach several pedestrian only crossroads. Taking a left at the first or second will take you to the main square.

The only place to stock up on medicines...

If you need to stock up on pharmaceuticals the place to do so is here (on the side of the square with the taxi rank).

Hammocks galore opposite the cathedral

Head toward the obvious landmark of the cathedral if you want to buy a hammock (Fortaleza has the cheapest), and stock up on pet food or souvenirs. There is a post office here.

Varejao das Redes (the hammock shop where this lady works) is getting a free plug, so insist on a fair deal...

Diesel is purchased at the BR station just to the left of the hotel as you exit the foyer. You will have to carry your Jerry cans unless you are willing to part with 30 Real to entice a taxi driver to help.
A word on Taxi drivers. Make sure the meter is running when you catch a ride. Complain if it is not. It should be on setting 1 during the day and setting 2 at night. Otherwise agree on a price beforehand.

We all live in a gray? submarine...

Share a taxi to get your paperwork done as only the skipper needs to attend (must take crew passports).
For Fortaleza you visit 4 offices starting with the Federal Police, followed by customs, Health and the Port Captain. Wear long pants!! The same (less Health) on the way out. The officials are efficient and polite.
You can take the 52 bus to the Passenger Terminal where these offices are located (Look for a submarine conning tower as a landmark). Take the number 11 on the way back (2 Real per person per trip). Don’t walk!

Everyone hangs out here after sunset!

Going out you can book a free ride on the Hotel Bus which takes guests to Beira Mar (and it’s night markets). You need to reserve your place with reception. You can also catch this bus back (check times with the driver).

Note: There is an aquatic center opposite the night markets where divers can get their air tanks refilled.

Beira Mar is where everyone goes for their evening promenade. It also has the best beach (Praia do Futuro is a tourist trap, even though there is a free bus from the hotel, give it a miss).

Anchor opposite this new landmark

There is a new building going up (called landscape), and just opposite this development is a sweet day anchorage (03’43,404S 038’29.881W). If you get organized, 3 to 4 boats could anchor here indefinitely (in 3 to 4 meters) by keeping a rotating watch (to discourage night swimmers).

The beautiful people hang out at Boteco (on the western end of Beira Mar) opposite the pier, or at the Centro Dragao (great pizza there at Buoni Amici’s Sport Bar!).
Go to Pirata on a Monday night (Half price for guests… see reception), or take in a concert at Mucuripe (wild!). Too lazy? Don’t go anywhere… Some of the best concerts are held in the Marina Park grounds,in which case your entertainment is free.

I’ll leave you to discover the rest yourselves… Enjoy!

Plenty of “nuts” this side of the Atlantic

I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts...

What have I been getting up to of late? Not much, just chilling out on the beach in Fortaleza with my favourite refreshment…. I like it so much, I bought two!

Luciana loves her coconut

Nah, just borrowed it from one of the locals… Mind you she didn’t let go easily. Never thought I’d be jealous of a nut, but here in Fortaleza anything is possible. It’s a sailors paradise…

I found this bunch at the end of the pontoon one morning!

No not that kind of sailor… the yachting bum kind….

My neighbour Daniel on Goyave

Yes… otherwise known in Portuguese as a Vagabondo do mar. The locals are more likely to be seen on something like this:

You don't suppose the locals have all gone commercial do you?

While the Brazilian tourists pay 20 Real for a ride on the pirate ship… What a deal! They even get to go swimming on the other side of our breakwater…

Let's all go for a swim from the pirate boat...

I prefer to anchor across from the beach on Beira Mar.

Eileen of Avoca anchored off Beira Mar

It’s just a short swim or paddle ashore…

Day crew for Eileen on kayak duty.

and what all the cool sailing dudes in the know do…

I borrowed some South African crew members for the day!

The locals seem to be enjoying themselves…

It's fun in the sun at Beira Mar, Fortaleza

Despite the lack of surf…

No waves... What a shame... What will we do?

And even if they don’t seem to have any reason to be happy.

The natives sacrifice another victim to the tide...

Perhaps he saw this man coming and was wondering how to place an order…

No need to move... Everything comes to you at the beach...

It’s been a month of song…

A song from the crew of Ercolausa II

and dance here in Fortaleza.

Dancing girl at Pirata Bar

The ideal balance of entertainment!

Try balancing on a truck strap at the beach for entertainment.

Fellow sailors have been great company…

The crew on Out of Africa

We’ve all been well fed, dining in

South African potjie for all...

and out…

Yes... it's even here in Brazil...

Met many a local for a taste of the exotic,

Get your acai from Paris Tropical on Beira Mar

and mucked about at the pool…

Beware of the pool noodle...

Always safe under the watchful eye of INACE.

Do you suppose it's loaded?

Marina Park is an excellent stopover. Don’t worry too much that it’s been shrinking of late…

Sunken pontoons are lifted for repair

There is still plenty of room to park your yacht, or helicopter…

Another VIP comes... or goes...

and party time is just around the corner.

Went to an ASA concert at Mucuripe... Have T-shirt for proof!

You can’t help but like the place….. even if at first it feels like you’ve arrived on some other planet…

I come in peace.... Deposit coin here...

This is Eileen of Avoca calling it a day here in sunny Brazil…

I'm getting more famous by the minute...

See you all for the next exciting episode of… nut’s across the Atlantic.

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!

Beauty and the beast?


The bride and ungroomed...

Dear mum,

Sorry you couldn’t come to the wedding but it was all a bit rushed… and…well…

If you believe that, then I have a wonderful commercial venture in which I’m sure you’d all be thrilled to invest…. 😉

No, its’ just another Monday night in Fortaleza and I’m at the Pirata Bar practicing my dance moves (all 3 of them) on the local talent. They are not impressed, probably because my boots have unwittingly been making numerous impressions on their dainty little toes… but they are very forgiving, and besides…

I have good reason to dance…

I saved someones life the other day. Really!

Not that I felt I had any choice in the matter, but now that I’m over the initial shock, I’m in a celebratory mood.


The professionals take over.

On a day like any other, I was relaxing by the pool with fellow sailors watching guests arrive for a wedding ceremony set in the sumptuous surroundings of the hotel garden. Quite a do, with no expense spared. Floral arrangements, grandiose chandeliers in fancy pavilions, cinema big screen for those not close enough to see the action, live bands, gourmet food and fireworks!

Except it was all too much for one rather overweight individual who sat beside me by the pool for a brief rest. His wife sought to make him more comfortable but within moments he had some kind of fit and she began screaming for help…

For what seemed an eternity, everyone just gawked. I thought it might have been an epileptic seizure in which case there was little to be done, but I’d seen that disorder before and this was definitely different. This must be a heart attack! The cries for help were answered by myself and a fellow sailor from South Africa. We moved the individual from his chair to the floor (no easy matter as he probably weighed 120kg), before realizing he was no longer breathing. His lips were blue and there was no pulse. What now?

I thought he might die there and then, and I couldn’t just watch it happen… Time to do something about it…. or at least try… Time to start mouth to mouth resuscitation.

In training courses I’d learnt of special sanitary devices to cover the mouth so that there is no physical contact with the patient, but who on earth carries one of those things in their pocket at all times? Well, if his wife kisses him regularly and still lives perhaps I’m not at too much risk…

With the heart massage delegated to my friend, I set about getting some air into his lungs… to my great relief and considerable surprise… it worked… and within five to ten minutes (but what felt like ages), while still unconscious,  he began breathing on his own.

I backed away and let others take charge while we waited for the medics and ambulance to arrive. Rather shakily, I ordered a beer at the bar and rinsed my mouth with it.

First time I’ve ever had to do that… resuscitate someone that is… plenty of experience with rinsing my mouth out with beer though…

Half an hour later he was wheeled into an ambulance and taken to hospital. I hope he pulled through, though I’ll never really know. Either way, I did all that I could.

Time to put the “do not disturb” sign up on the pool and just relax for a while now.

I'm taking it easy for a few days...

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!