Over-wintering Plans Scuppered by Silt and Bureaucracy

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Mon 29 Mar 2010 00:32

Date: 29 March 2010


The Bahia da Ilha Grande is an enormous, partially enclosed bay in between Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo, about 45 miles across and 20 miles deep. Surrounded by steeply forested hills the bay consists of numerous islands – there are said to be one island for every day of the year – and literally hundreds of anchorages. The water is clear and warm and the rocky islands are perfect for diving or snorkelling. It is without doubt the best cruising ground in the whole of the east coast of South America and you could spend six months here and still leave with plenty of anchorages undiscovered. The only downside from a sailor’s point of view is that there is rarely any wind.  Well, not the only downside – there are the biting insects as well. Not dengue fever carrying mosquitoes, thank goodness (the DS is always on the lookout for them), but midge-like creatures that you neither see nor hear but they bite drawing blood. The itch is five times worse than a mosquito bite and they last five times as long. And they appear to be unaffected by Deet, spirals or the DS’s disapproval.


Friday morning and we motored the short 12 miles to the town of Angra Dos Reis and anchored outside of the marina. The bureaucracy in Brazil regarding foreign cruising boats is something of a nightmare. It involves several different agencies (police, immigration, customs, port captains to name a few, each of which are usually situated at diametrically opposite ends of town). Their job is to ensure absolute compliance with complex but loosely defined regulations, so every officer in every department in every port has a slightly different interpretation of the rules.


We are to leave Mina2 in Brazil for six months. The marina fees are extortionate here so we had made arrangements to leave the boat on a secure pontoon up a river in a well-protected condominium property owned by a friend of a friend. All looked good. We mentioned this in passing to another French/German boat we met in Vitoria. BE CAREFUL they said. Another foreign boat had done this and found that this practice was not authorised and they were not allowed to take the boat out of the country until a very large fine had been paid. You had to leave the boat in an authorised marina. That was the first we had heard of this sting in the bureaucratic tail.


So off we went to the relevant customs office in Angra to check this out in plenty of time. Our cruising friends appeared to be right. We contacted the condominium pontoon owner who said he had never heard of this regulation but he was sure that a solution could be found. We agreed that we would take Mina2 to the condominium pontoon to check it out, and the following morning we would go together with the owner into town to solve the problem with the various departments. The latter part of the exercise turned out to be unnecessary. We had been assured that there was plenty of depth on the pontoon but, in the event, discovered that the river had silted up and at low springs we would be nearly a metre aground. So we had to abandon the whole of the condominium plan. With less than week to go we are now back to square one, researching alternative marinas.


Having escaped from the river before we got silted in forever, we anchored off and went ashore by dinghy to have a look at the rest of the condominium. It is a highly exclusive area about the size of Kent, enclosed with razor wire and electric fences with security guards outnumbering the residents. It includes a marina (not suitable for over-wintering) with enormous motor yachts, a country club, bars and restaurants, golf course and shops stuffed with designer gear. All surrounded by stunning vast houses in large immaculately maintained gardens all with swimming pools. It is really impressive. The only thing that is missing are the people. Apparently the immensely wealthy owners of these magnificent properties all arrive on 20 December and leave, en bloc, on 10 January. The rest of the year the properties are empty apart from the army of workers who keep the lawns manicured, the hedges trimmed and the pools cleaned in preparation for the next 20th of December. These privileged few can’t be bothered with traffic jams; part of the condominium is a heliport with room for lots and lots of helicopters.


So with only a week before we decommission the boat and the DS heads back to Argentina and I return to London, rather than exploring this paradise we will be trying to find a safe and bureaucratically compliant haven for Mina2 for the southern winter.