Ilhéus, State of Bahia, Brazil

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Fri 12 Jun 2015 21:24
14:46.8S 39:02.1W

We dropped the anchor in the pouring rain next to a Brazilian yacht. It had rained all day during our 30NM journey to Ilhéus, the visibility had been reduced to a foggy day in the Welsh hills and it felt cool. The yacht club looked run down and the swell was coming into the bay making the anchorage uncomfortable.

The next morning the sun was out and there was a pleasant cool chill to the air. Ilhéus Yate Clube, unlike many of the gazillion yacht clubs down the coast of Brazil which are glorified social clubs, actually provides services to yachts. It has a 'launch' which collects crews from the boats on the club moorings and the anchorage. The launch is a heavy fibreglass hull with a large box on top. Every time Berto, the bosun's mate, wants to start the engine, he has to lift the huge box back on its hinges and hand crank the engine with a lever, a real bone breaker. We would call up on channel 16 on the VHF, never get an answer and eventually Berto would show up. The launch service cost 5 Reais per round trip. At the club we were welcome to use the showers and swimming pool for free, delicious luxury.

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Ilhéus Yacht Club - gleaming in the sunshine

We wandered into town, a 15 minutes walk. The streets around the yacht club are full of body building centres and gyms with people running on treadmills! A novel concept in Brazil, nobody exercises in Salvador. Ilhéus is much smaller than Salvador with 220,000 inhabitants (Chester for comparison has 120,000). There are high rise buildings of seven floors or so but no skyscrapers. Unfortunately town planning hasn't really happened here and the historic part with some interesting old houses has been spoilt by random development.

The streets weren't as frenetic as Salvador and the town felt wealthier somehow, though there were still plenty of derelict buildings. We passed an exhibition centre with a vast expanse of grass and a gang of men strimming, then a skateboard park. We were walking parallel to the beach but were separated from it by a large marshy strip without any paths across it.

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Marsh separating the town from the beach, favoured by little egrets

As we approached São Sebastião Cathedral, a man on a long board skateboard cruised by on the main road, he must have been travelling at 15mph. Impressed, I watched him soar. In his right hand he held a gun*. He rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.

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São Sebastião Cathedral

Taxi drivers called cheerfully to one another. In Cathedral Square, street sellers looked bored. People were arriving for mass. A girl crawled up the cathedral steps, one at a time on her knees, but she wasn't praying.

The city centre is pedestrianised and was full of people shopping, selling, talking and loitering. The first street is entirely dedicated to shops selling trainers (clearly Ilhéus takes fitness seriously). We continued on, hoping to find a way down to the river which looked pleasant from afar. We didn't find one so returned to Cathedral Square for lunch at a small kiosk with a coffee machine. The coffee machine wasn't working (for those of you who regularly read the blog, you may start to pick up a pattern here) but the mango juice was delicious.

Ilhéus was the home of Jorge Amado (1912-2001), a popular left wing Brazilian author whose books were translated into many languages. In the 1950s he was banned from visiting Ilhéus after writing about the sexual customs in his homeland. His book was considered scandalous by Brazilian society and he received threats. We didn't visit the Amado museum but we did go to the Grão Amado coffee shop (because it had a toilet). The tinted windows successfully hid a treasure trove of delicious looking cakes and one could enjoy a coffee while reading poetry books stacked with the menus.

On our way out, two policemen were getting onto a motorbike. The officer riding pillion held his gun at the ready (just in case some skateboarding thug took a shot at him, we supposed).

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The people on the beach with Ilhéus in the background

There were a few sunbrellas on the beach so we crossed the grassy marsh towards them. The beach was clean white sand, green water, stunning and deserted. We walked along the water's edge back towards the yacht club. We passed a man who had parked his motorbike on the beach, he was standing in the waves up to his waist, fully dressed poised to cast a fishing net. He stood like that for ages.

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Clean empty beach

We crossed back over the marsh, a woman watched us as we walked past, she had been drying her laundry on the prickly bushes by the shore.

We checked the weather forecast, days of very light southerly winds which are no good for sailing south. Maybe, just maybe we might be able to use a light Easterly 10M offshore scheduled for 3pm the following day. We need to keep moving as our visas run out on 28th June and we want to renew them in Vitória.

By 8am we were ready to go ashore. We radioed Berto to come and pick us up but nothing happened, we inflated Ding and paddled over to the yacht club. No sign of Berto so maybe it was his day off. A smiley and helpful officer at the Capitânia signed Caramor out of Bahia. We will need to sign into the next state Espírito Santo at Vitória. Back at the yacht club we enjoyed an expresso, a swim and a shower. The leaves on the trees started to rustle, an easterly breeze was picking up ... time to go.

Caramor weighed anchor under sail and headed out to sea. Our heading was a little too northerly but once we tacked our course was east of south: perfect. The wind strengthened but the sea was flat and by 8pm we were sailing at 7.2 knots! Fast and as smooth as melted chocolate, it was possibly the best sailing of the whole trip. It didn't last: by 1am the wind had disappeared and we were slopping about in the soup.


* all is revealed in the next post 'Santo André'