Passage to Florianopolis
Before leaving Rio Grande we met Lauro, the Director of the Oceanographic Museum. He's a very busy man but always seems to have time to extend a warm welcome to visiting cruisers. He was fascinated to hear about our excursion to Somalia and we ended up showing him our photographs from the Seychelles.
Although tempted to stay longer in Rio Grande - to explore the lagoon - we had our sights set on getting to Florianopolis (another 360 miles to the north east) before formally checking in to Brazil. The winds along this coast are usually from the north east and the best bet is to set sail when a front is passing over, bringing winds from the south for a day or two. Another uncertainty is the Brazil current, which is south-going, but at this time of year there is sometimes an inshore counter-current.
On the west side of the river at Rio Grande wind turbine blades are prepared for assembly . . .
. . . while on the opposite side lagoon life continues
A front was forecast for the weekend (21st/22nd) so we set off on the Friday afternoon with a speedy sail down the channel and out to sea. We wanted to make an offing before the wind turned southerly (which kicks up a nasty sea close inshore) so when we emerged from the river we had a north easterly. We beat to windward as best we could until the early hours when the wind backed into the south. The signs of the approaching front were obvious: lightning all around us! When the south winds came they were strong - Force 7 for much of Saturday - but we were well reefed and flew along, downwind sailing. We rediscovered the joys of spinaker pole handling (to goosewing the genoa) on a bouncy foredeck. With lumpy seas and rain showers it was not very comfortable - on watch or trying to sleep - but we don't mind when making good speed in the direction we want to go!
For this passage - and similarly for our passage from Punta del Este - we again stood 6 hour watches at night. Although 6 hours is a long time to be on watch, it does mean we each get a good long sleep and it seems to work better for us than 4 hour watches day and night. During the day we still do 4 hour watches so we end up alternating as to who gets to sleep the first part of the night. This passage was very quiet: apart from some annoying fishing boats that we had to avoid at night we didn't see a lot of shipping. We were often accompanied by a solitary albatross zig-zagging in our wake and other seabirds - shearwaters and petrels - from time to time. By Sunday the wind strength had reduced to Force 5 so we shook out the reefs to continue making good speed.
Over Sunday night the wind dropped further and started to veer. It didn't matter as by now we were approaching the tricky southern entrance between the mainland and the Ilha de Santa Catarina. We were grateful for calmer seas to negotiate our way through the sometimes rocky shallow water, for about 14 miles, to reach the city of Florianopolis.
The southern approach to Floripa - we are crossing Banco dos Naufragados (Bank of the shipwrecked)
All that room, but the deep water (over 2m) passage is only 100m wide (leave the island to starboard)
Brown boobies enjoying themselves
Once we got a phone signal we were able to contact Marco - a friend we met when passing through in 2013 - who then let the Yacht Club know we were coming. At about midday we picked up a club mooring and almost immediately were approached by the support boat wanting to take us ashore.
Approaching Floripa, the Iate Clube is on the right (again most of that water is less than 2m deep!)
The yacht club from our mooring
Looking the other way from the mooring, Floripa town on the right of the bridges to 'the continent'
Happy to be there - we'd covered 394 miles in 68 hours and mostly sailing - we went ashore to sign in at the Yacht Club and meet Marco who had come to greet us. It turned out that Monday was a special holiday to celebrate the founding of the city of Florianopolis (known locally as Floripa) so all the official offices were closed. We could relax!
The Yacht Club is conveniently close to the centre of the city, making visits to the necessary officials easier. Even so, we had to visit 3 offices in different parts of town and were not sure about their opening hours for dealing with foreign yachts. By Wednesday morning we had managed to sort them all out so we are now legal - and our six months visa time begins.