Arrival in Brazil

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Fri 3 Apr 2015 20:14
12:58.4S 38:31W

We arrived at Salvador de Bahia on Monday 30 March at ten minutes past eleven (09:10 local time) after 22 days at sea and 2,108 nautical miles.

First glimpse of Salvador de Bahia

A two layered city

Having had the ocean to ourselves for so long, entering the harbour was intimidating; dozens of craft to-ing and fro-ing in all directions and paying scant regard for the rules of the road. We successfully ducked and dodged and made a textbook perfect arrival at the Terminal Náutico pontoon.   

Our view. The tall building in the middle of the photo is a lift to the old town.

As we were finishing tying our lines a couple from a German yacht stopped to welcome us to Brazil. They had crossed over from Mindelo, Cape Verde ten days before us and it had taken them 22 days, one less than us (Mindelo to Brava was a day's sail), they also thought their crossing had been slow. They gave us directions to the various offices we would need to visit to legally enter the country and obtain our visas. They added that we didn't have to do it in a day and could take our time.

We had planned to spend the day sleeping, the fastest way to recover from sleep deprivation but since it was still early we decided to get the formalities dispensed with so that we could then relax. Within an hour we were riding in the back of a police car! ...

Our first stop was supposed to be the Federal Police to get our passports stamped and our 90 days visas. We set off in the direction indicated and walked for miles. We arrived at a rather grand building, the Federal Police H.Q., only this wasn't the office we needed, we had come too far. The receptionist tried to show us on google earth where we should have gone but his internet connection was too slow so instead he flagged down two men who were leaving the building and asked them to take us there. He told us "it's safe to go with them, they are police officers." They were delightful, one of them had recently returned from working at the mouth of the Amazon, a tough lawless place where life is cheap and men are desperate. Between illegal logging and trafficking, the Feds have their hands full. He told us there are too few officers covering a very wide remit. We found the correct office but it had just closed for lunch, so they drove us back to the Terminal Náutico.

After a delicious lunch at the model market, we tried again. We arrived five minutes after opening time but no one was there. We waited 45 minutes and eventually she rolled in. Disgruntled that she had been caught skiving, she took it out on us! We just kept smiling, delighted that she had bothered to come to work at all! She softened in the end.

The next challenge was to find the Ministry for Fiscal Affairs where we would complete a tax form to temporarily import Caramor. Again we walked too far. We signed in at reception and went up to the fourth floor. We were asked to wait. Eventually a good looking woman in a tight fitting frock minced slowly down the stairs, hips swinging seductively and invited us to follow. She cornered an I.T. Technician who had been working on her computer between her desk and the wall, thanked him profusely for whatever work he had done and made him kiss her. He was bright red. Not a lot of work seemed to get done in that office and even less when she walked by! She sat us in front of a computerised questionnaire: "Had we brought anything worth more than US$ 10,000 in our luggage?" "No". We completed all the questions and found we had declared nothing, clearly we had gone wrong somewhere. She came to our rescue, we should have declared Caramor in our luggage! She admitted the form wasn't obvious. She told us she needed to "inspect" the form, this took 30 minutes, she then minced back up the stairs "I need to speak to the Boss" which took a further 30 minutes but eventually we were issued with our tax declaration.

The sun was setting fast and we still had one more rite of passage to complete, we also wanted to get out of the Commercial Quarter before nightfall as it is reputed unsafe. Our final task was to fill in a form at the Capitania (harbour master office). The building is beautiful, it overlooks the Terminal Náutico and is guarded by uniformed sailors wearing those silly flat hats as in Popeye-the-Sailorman. Franco was wearing his new Panama hat. The guard grinned and said "only sailors hats can be worn here". We laughed at the joke and walked on. A moment later an officer rushed towards Franco and asked him to remove his hat - it wasn't a joke!

The Capitania centre left

We found the right building, a serious young corporal barked a few orders at us, we obeyed, completed the form, all about Caramor's attributes and our planned movements (this bit we left vague), and within 20 minutes we were done. Franco had predicted that the military would take pride in being more efficient than the civil service, he was right.

Outside, perched on the overhead cables a levy of ring-tailed lemurs observed us intently. Back at the model market we stopped at a street stall to drink a delicious green coconut and watch a(nother) beautiful sunset. A man approached and introduced himself "Francisco". He was going to make a reed rose whether we wanted it or not. He was a good entertainer and a talented weaver so Franco bought the rose off him.

Completing immigration was certainly an initiation to Brazilian bureaucracy. Meeting the police, the civil service and the navy all in one day gave us an excellent introduction to Brazil. Everyone we met was friendly, welcoming and helpful. Salvador is a great place to make landfall.