High and (nearly) dry!
From Camamu, it is 30M to Itacaré at the entrance to the Rio das Contas (River of Debts). Timing the entry over the bar is critical as the surf breaks right across when the tide is out. We were aiming to arrive at 3:30pm at half rising tide. The wind was from the south so we knew we would have a head wind. Sailing boats do not sail well straight into wind, the angle to the wind needs to be more than 45 degrees for the yacht to make progress. Our speed would depend on how close to the wind we would have to sail. In the end we were lucky and only had to tack a few times. On the way we saw our first albatross; two brown brow albatrosses and our first frigatebird; magnificent frigatebirds.
As we were approaching the bar the sky suddenly went dark as a squall came through; the wind increases and the rain pours down reducing visibility to 10m. We turned away and waited for the sky to clear. It passed quickly and we were back on course. We arrived at the entrance with perfect timing at 3:25pm.
The swell wasn't too large and following the instructions in the pilot we crossed over the bar without problem. I mused that once we had dropped the anchor we could perhaps go ashore for an ice-cream at the really good parlour we had heard about. We were getting ready to anchor when a yellow traditional boat approached us and told us he would lead us to a better anchorage. Both the pilot and other yachtsmen have praised the help given by local fishermen, so whereas usually we would do our own thing, this time we decided to follow.
He led us towards the river. He would turn around and motion us to follow while shouting "Sigue, sigue" (follow, follow). At one point I felt like those ships of old lured towards the rocks by the wreckers but the pilot is clear: "times have changed and pirates no longer come into Rio das Contas", still something made me uneasy. At one point he told us to stop but then changed his mind and motioned us on again. Then he stopped and so did we ... too late, we had run aground!
A Caramor shaped hole in the sand seen at low water. This is why we entered the river at half tide with the tide rising.
We were not amused and the look on Franco's face said it all. Our 'guide' probably saw it too, he promptly turned his boat around and headed for the moorings, leaving us stranded! His parting shot was "I told you to anchor back there where it was deep." The clue was there all along, never trust a man wearing stripy socks.
We had hit a sandbank at the top of the tide. This meant that when the tide went out, there would be NO water and Caramor would be lying on her side. She's a swan of the boat world, she couldn't cope with the humiliation, let alone the chaos that would ensue. Imagine turning your house on its side! your cupboards would open and disgorge their contents, your bed would be vertical!
We dropped our main anchor to avoid being pushed further towards the river while we inflated the dinghy and prepared the kedge anchor. A 'helpful' chap in an orange traditional launch called 'Timber' came over. "You mustn't anchor there! When the tide falls you'll be on your side." (Tell us something we don't know! Do I look like I'm brewing a pot of tea with my feet up?)
Franco took the kedge anchor in the dinghy and rowed into the channel, it was hard work against a strong tide. Two men in an aluminium skiff motored past him, they saw the anchor, understood what he was trying to do and sprung into action. They took the anchor from him and motored to a suitable location where they dropped it. Then they joined us on Caramor to help winch in, the idea was we would shift Caramor off the sand bank by pulling in on the rope attached to the kedge anchor. Franco climbed onto the boom which was out to the side, hoping to tilt the boat so that her keel wouldn't go as deep. I revved the engine and inch by inch we got her moving again. We were very grateful to our helpers. We would have managed on our own but it would have been hard work and taken a lot longer. They guided us back through deep water to behind the bar and suggested we anchor there. As it was deep enough, we did. We offered payment but they declined, though with the slight reluctance of people who could do with a bit of extra so we gave them BR$50 which they accepted gracefully.
Our lessons learnt are a) not to accept 'help' again unless we are absolutely clear what the plan is and we don't have a better one ourselves and b) attach a light weight line to the end of the fisherman anchor warp to reduce drag when towing the line through the water.
Itacaré seen from our anchorage
I forgot all about my ice-cream until the next day when we walked past the shop!