Tricky pilotage and idyllic anchorages

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Thu 25 Feb 2010 00:49

Date: 23 February 2010


After our interesting excursion to the market town of Camamú we determined to explore in Mina2 the upper reaches of the inlet at the end of which was another small town, Maraú. The town lies more than 17 miles from the sea and most of that distance was again marked on the chart as “Uncharted” but the advice we had been given was that if we stuck to the middle of the river on the straights and favoured the outside edges on the bends we should be OK. Although it got uncomfortably shallow in places, the advice held good.


We recce’d a few anchorages on the way up river. One in particular held appeal for the DS. It was a small inlet and the pilot book said that we could take the dinghy into the inlet where we would find a foot track through the mangroves which would lead us to a wonderful Atlantic beach the other side of the peninsula. The DS is into Atlantic beaches. We found the inlet, took the dinghy up as far as depth would allow and started trudging through the swampy mangroves like two exiles from “The African Queen”. Eventually we came to the only track which led, rather unpromisingly, straight into a private small holding. Trying to ignore the incredulous gaze of the occupants as we strode through their property, we scaled a barbed wire fence and found ourselves on the main dirt road. With no apparent way through to the beach, after 20 minutes of walking along the road with lorries and coaches hurtling past and covering us with dust, we threw the towel in and retraced our steps. The only way to get back to the dinghy was through the small holding again and we were glad that the Brazilian farmers had not unleashed the Dobermans as we scuttled back through to the track.


Looking forward to a long and lazy Brazilian Sunday lunch, we continued up the river and as we approached the river frontage of Maraú under motor, with the DS in position ready to drop the anchor, the lever which controls the gears and throttle for the engine suddenly came away in my hand. These things happen on boats. We were in forward gear doing about four knots at the time and, unless I turned the engine off, that was what we were going to continue doing until we ran out of fuel in about four days time.


The DS was recalled from the bow and drove around in circles for a while whilst I dived below for the tool kit and tried to sort out the problem. After about five or ten minutes I managed to get the control lever back in place, albeit a temporary fix, and we glided to a halt in front of the town quay and dropped the anchor.


This manoeuvring would doubtless have caused a great deal of interest amongst the inhabitants of Maraú had there been any. But we went ashore to find about three people in the entire place. I know it was Sunday but it was like the plague had hit the town and wiped out the entire population. Not even having any baroque architecture to hold our interest, we were back on the boat in about ten minutes and motoring back ten miles down the river to a perfect anchorage we had spotted on our way up.


The anchorage was all it had promised to be, located between two idyllic palm fringed islands. We stayed here all the following day and the only people we saw were a handful of fisherman drifting past casting nets from their dugout canoes.


On boats there is continual wear and tear and maintenance that needs to be done and over time a list builds up. We took advantage of our lay day in this superb spot to have a very productive day, ticking off a long list of outstanding tasks. As dusk fell we motored to the mouth of the river for a very early start for the next leg on our journey south.


We weighed anchor at 0445 just as the sky was beginning to lighten and headed out of the river into the Atlantic. As dawn approached , the entire sky turned every hew of orange in a spectacular sunrise. Magical. The reason for the early start was that we had to get to our next destination, Itacaré, a distance of 34 miles, before high water at 1030. (Having spent the last two years in the tideless waters of the Mediterranean, it’s strange having to factor in tides once again).


The entrance to Itacaré is tricky. The river entrance is almost blocked off by a large spit of sand and there is a narrow and not very deep gap between the rocky headland and the spit. A few feet out of position and you would ground one or the other. And if the tide was falling, there you would stay for up to twelve hours being dashed to bits by the Atlantic surf. So when on our arrival we happened to find a local fishing boat going in who beckoned us to follow him in, we willingly accepted the offer.


The difficulties don’t end when you are over the bar. Most of the harbour is extremely shallow and there are just a couple of pools where a yacht of significant draft can swing to anchor without going aground at low water. The fishermen who led us in showed us exactly where to drop the hook. At low water we float in our pool with drying sand both in front of us and behind us.


But the difficulties of getting in are more than rewarded by the charm of this place. Some of the best beaches in the world are along this coast and Itacaré has developed into a lovely laid-back resort, popular particularly amongst young surfers. So after the total lack of sophistication of towns and villages so poor and so untouched by tourism it is difficult to find any establishment that can serve you food, we have spent a very relaxed day and a half here enjoying good Brazilian food, and caipirinhas at beach bars shaded by the palm trees. And the DS has been in her element walking along the deserted sandy beaches and indulging in her favourite activity of body surfing in the waves.


Tomorrow we head out again and further south to Ilhéus where we are being joined from Buenos Aires by Christine (the DS’s best friend), Fernando and Michael who will be staying with us all the way down to Rio.