I had taken a few days to take Gaia 1, my F&C 40 sailboat, from Paraty, in Rio de Janeiro, to Saco da Ribeira, in Ubatuba, in the state of São Paulo.
My plan was to wake up very early in the morning, leaving Ilha Grande Bay, in Paraty, and sailing straight to Picinguaba, in Ubatuba, where I would spend the night; then, I would sail for a few days around Ubatuba, anchoring and staying overnight in some of its paradisiacal islands and enjoying the sun and the emerald green waters of the region, making the most of my sailboat.
But the weather prediction informed that on the planned date, Paraty would be cloudy, with high possibility of rain during the day.
And the worst: no wind!
Sun and good wind conditions for crossing from Paraty to Saco da Ribeira only two days from now.
So I decided to stay in Paraty and enjoy the city, undoubtedly one of the most charmed and beautiful in Brazil, although it has become a place totally focused on tourism and the trade of “International Garbage” – as I usually call the simple and cheap handicrafts sold to tourists.
My sailboat was in a borrowed slip in a marina, so I decided to get it out of there that same night and anchor it on Ilha da Bexiga, which is right in front of the city of Paraty, where I would spend the night.
For me, a marina is a place to keep the sailboat while we are not on it, or when the boat is under repair, or the weather is bad or there is no place to stay overnight anchored safely … Based on these premises, I loosened the ropes and got out, after informing the marina of my departure.
The route was short and in about ten minutes I was already anchoring in front of the island, hidden from everything and everyone by the moonless night and the humid caused by the drizzle.
The sea was so calm that, when reversing, I felt the anchor nail the first time.
With 3.3 meters under the keel at low tide, calm sea, drizzle and no wind, I went to take a hot shower and then make my dinner. After calling Zabetta (my wife) to say that everything was fine, I went to bed.
With no movement from the sailboat, I immediately fell asleep.
I woke up around 8 in the morning with the delicious noise of rain on the deck.
I got out of the bow bed and went to look outside. Everything was cloudy, with low fog due to the lack of wind and a drizzle that, although weak, kept everything wet.
Laziness hit me and I went back to bed with the intention of sleeping a little more; I couldn’t do it, and, a few minutes later, I was getting up to make breakfast.
My morning meal was as usual: my black tea, which I always drink instead of coffee, was accompanied by scrambled eggs with peppers, onions and tomatoes, bread with butter and jam, as well as a peach. Meal taken inside the cabin, as everything was wet outside even though the drizzle had already stopped.
Like everything you do alone and without company, breakfast was quick, it lasted about ten minutes. In other words, it was still 9 am and I had three more hours until my planned lunch in Paraty.
With nothing urgent on the sailboat to do, and still lazy, I lifted the anchor and, without wind, went motoring around the bay of Paraty.
I left towards Ilha do Cachorro, going through the deepest part of the channel and passing the port side of Laje da Tapera.
Along the way, I was able to observe the development on the slopes that are not so virgin anymore, with their scattered houses.
I passed between Ilha do Mantimento and Ponta do Cavalo, going in a parallel course along the coast inside Saco da Praia Vermelha, where, when arriving at Ilha da Pescaria, I turned 180 degrees to return to Paraty.
Cloudy, everything is kind of sad – unlike sunny days, when everything looks more alive and colorful.
I sailed calmly, without haste, arriving in front of Paraty at noon and anchoring near the limit of the shallow strip, near the schooner pier.
My boat was on the deck, so I had to turn it over, support it on the guard rail and throw it in the water, a very simple procedure given the low weight of my rigid boat, a WalkerBay 8.
Installing the outboard is always a little more complicated, because of the stability of the boat on the water; however, it is enough to support the engine on the deck of the sailboat close to the edge, get into the dinghy and then get the engine lowering it to the bottom of the dinghy first, and only then, after sitting, raise the engine, turn the body and place it on the stern support.
With the sailboat already closed and wearing a rain coat, hat and a waterproof bag, I set off towards the small beach at the beginning of the schooner pier, taking the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Paraty’s colonial buildings.
In fact, arriving by sea in Paraty is a wonderful experience. It is really coming through the front door to this city that is all splendor.
With cloudy weather, few people on the street because of the drizzle, the city gained a bucolic appearance that quickly took over me.
I started to think about what the city would have been like in the colonial period. It is impossible to walk through the village, whose blocks are not perfect quadrangles, with its streets and sidewalks built with stones of all sizes and shapes, supported on the beaten earth and, constantly looking at the ground in order not to break a leg, not get lost in its alleys nor be impressed by the constructions and the fidelity of the restorations of that little piece of our history. The paradoxical mixture of the archaic and the modern around the corners is fascinating: ancient structures incorporated into the modernity of the bars and restaurants that lodge inside.
For all these reasons, traveling to Paraty is like traveling in time. It is also an incredible experience of contact with the popular culture of our country and with nature in its most spectacular form.
In Paraty, there is a lot of history, sea, festivals and a lot to see.
On that particular day, cloudy and drizzling, with shops still opening, hardly anyone on the streets, not even the famous tourist carriages, I went back for a few minutes in time and could feel what it would be like to live in that city.
Then I heard a soft voice singing a Brazilian song, coming from a restaurant; hungry, I entered.
The song that invited me to enter, I learned later, was “Casa e Janela”, sung by Socorro Lira. On the menu, the house specialty (Arpoador Restaurant – Rua da Matriz, 12), Moqueca de Peixe (Brazilian Fish stew).
Delicious! Perfect for a rainy day.
After eating, I went for a walk around Paraty and, at high tide, I was able to observe the wonder and inconvenience that is the water rising up to the level of the sidewalks – a situation thought, they say, as a way to “wash” the city streets, taking all the dirt with the ebbing tide. I’m glad I had on slippers…
After a few hours, I went back to the sailboat, with the rain increasing, and there I stayed, reading a book, snacking on snacks and sipping a glass of red wine every so often. In a “truce” given by the rain, I returned the sailboat to Praia dos Vagabundos, where I spent the night protected and quiet.
In the morning, with the sky still a little overcast, but showing signs that the sun would come out, I had my usual “morning tea” and, around 9 am, I left.
As I wanted to get to know Saco da Velha, I decided not to take the trip outside Ilha dos Meros, which would lead to Ponta da Juatinga, but to enter between the coast and Ilha do Algodão.
Saco da Velha is very beautiful and, on a next trip, I would like to anchor there and have lunch at the Paixão do Vivinho restaurant, which I was told is excellent.
The new route, instead, navigates the channels made up of the different islands and which form the only Brazilian fjord.
I sailed to the end of Saco de Mamanguá, one of my favorite places in the Bay of Ilha Grande and which is the representation of the Scandinavian fjords in Brazil, but with beautiful tropical vegetation. Wonderful!
I could easily live there!
As I left the protection of the islands and entered the open channel to the sea, a wind of about 15 knots appeared, and I immediately put up the sails.
Close Houled and doing 9 knots of speed, I sailed hitting short waves of about 2 meters across the bow, which made my bow be without water under it and, after the balance point of the hull on the wave, the boat’s bow fells with a crash on the water to immediately rise again and repeat the movement.
So I went to Ponta de Juatinga where, once I had opened far away from the coast, I turned the sailboat and went on a nice Beam Reach… The wind in the 15 knots range and the waves that came now through the starboard wing made the sailing quick and delicious, but very uncomfortable.
The sailboat crossed with the wave that came from the stern and made the boat run with danger of a Chinese jibe, which forced me to correct the course constantly.
After a few minutes of this lose-course-corrects-course dancing, I lowered the main and stayed only in the genoa, which stabilized the sailboat and helped maintain the course. So, I turned on the autopilot to be able to prepare and eat something.
Needless to say, the sailboat was still rocking a lot and the practical lunch solution at that time was the good old instant noodles, which I like to eat raw, with cold coconut water.
It took me about two hours to make the route, part of it with the genoa and the engine, which stabilized the sailboat, another part only with the engine, when I was tired of shaking so much… That cross between Ponta de Juatinga and Ponta Cabeçuda, already in Ubatuba, in my experience, it is always very moving – I believe thats because of the mountain’s shape, that forms a wall which favors the return of the waves, when its direction is perpendicular to that wall, and so they collide with the new waves that form, creating “uncontrolled” waves.
With a wonderful sun in a breathtaking evening, surrounded by a crystal blue sea and lush mountains, which seemed to shine with the light that reflected on its clear slopes, I went forward in a state of ecstasy, despite the discomfort.
Anyway, after 4 pm I passed Ponta do Camburi and changed my course a little, towards the center of the channel formed by Ilha Comprida with Ponta da Cruz on the coast. Then the sea started to come from the stern and, with that, the sailboat started to “surf” the waves.
At that moment, I was already sailing with the engine on, because, in addition to the waves coming from the stern, the wind of about 10 knots, which also came from the same direction, made my sailboat, with the tapered stern in the shape of a cleat, typical of the IOR class, cross over all the time.
With the engine, everything was easier, and the sailboat, under control, went up by the stern while lowering the bow with the entrance of the wave that advanced faster than the sailboat, until the wave reached midship, and the stern lowered and bow rose until the wave passed the bow again. Then, with the arrival of another wave from the stern, the process repeated. It was like this until I reached Ponta da Cruz and entered the sheltered waters of Enseada de Picinguaba, where the waves subsided.
I anchored in a space north of the bay, as it was the only place available since all the fishing boats were in their respective mooring buois. Although these mooring buois were much more sheltered than the place where I threw iron, I still saw the fishing boats going up and down the waves that entered the bay. But I was tired and I thought the sea would calm down at dusk, so I took a quick shower and cooked dinner.
I didn’t go ashore because the sailboat moved so much that I was apprehensive that the anchor might grab and the sailboat would end up on the beach.
Silly me by not lifting the anchor and going to sleep somewhere else. In my defense, however, it is worth saying that the Picinguaba Bay, formed by a beach, has many shallow and open areas, and I did not like the idea of leaving my anchorage in a bay that is known to be safe, to anchor on a beach. If it was stirred and with waves there, it would certainly be worse close to the beach. We cannot always predict what will happen, and we suffer the consequences.
I can say that it was one of the worst nights I have ever had anchored. I spent the whole night getting up to see if the sailboat had not grabbed, because, with the crash of the waves, it seemed at all times that he had come loose… If you sail you must know the feeling: the sailboat seems not to be stuck, but loose adrift. It feels like your body is “floating in the air”.
All the discomfort was only to pass around 5 am, when the wind and the sea finally calmed down. Already very irritated, I raised the anchor to go and have my “morning tea” somewhere else.
I had the intention of visiting Praia da Fazenda, voted one of the ten most beautiful beaches in Brazil. It is a preserved beach, without constructions, only green mangose woods, with an extension of about 3.5 kilometers of clear sands, warm, completely transparent and clean water and soft waves.
But the night made me a little desperate to get out of there, and the beach, however idyllic it was, was related to the bay where I had been ill during the night… I needed a special place to forget the night I had and, by chance, one of the most special places in the world is just 2.5 nautical miles away: Ilha das Couves.
Ilha das Couves
I sailed to Ilha das Couves passing by Ilha Comprida, which has no beach, and anchored there for 8 hours in front of Praia de Fora, in a well protected place and close to the beach.
Hunger hit and I made my traditional morning tea, which I devoured on the table set up in the cockpit, enjoying the sunny but still cool day, and the view of two wonderful beaches called Praia da Terra (or Couves), with about 100 meters, and Praia de Fora (or do Japones), bigger than the first, with about 250 meters.
Shortly afterwards, to complete the landscape, some fishing boats began to arrive and anchor, with their beautiful hulls and colors, complementing the magic of the place.
Just to clarify the origin of the island’s name (cabbage island), it has nothing to do with the vegetable of the same name or with the stones on the beach. The name comes from the surname of one of its former owners, which is why it was then called Ilha dos Couves – over time, only the “dos” ended up being changed to “das”.
Esoteric people say that the archipelago has a different energy, a magnetic force, something mystical. I do not believe that … I think that its attraction is simply the exuberant beauty, both of the sea and the Atlantic Forest on its slopes, which makes those who arrive no longer want to leave.
And that’s what I did! I stayed anchored for two days, taking the opportunity to swim and rest on the beach in the early morning and late afternoon. These are the best times to enjoy the place, as from 10 am the beach starts to fill up, even on a Tuesday, with people arriving by boat from Picinguaba Beach, a 15-minute journey directly contracted with Picinguaba Boaters and Fishermen’s Association (ABPP). There are also schooner or speedboat tours that depart from Praia da Almada, Saco da Ribeira and Praia do Itaguá, close to the center of Ubatuba, which end up filling Praia das Couves… The good thing is that everyone leaves around 17:00 and the beach is empty again.
After two days there, very early, with a wind of 5 knots, I decided to raise anchor and go to another place: Ilha dos Porcos Pequena.
It was a beautiful sailing to Ilha dos Porcos Pequena, also known as Ilha da Almada, because it is located right in front of an area known as Comunidade da Almada.
This island is private, has a house and, it seems, the only resident is a caretaker; however, the beach can be visited freely and displays an incredible landscape, with clear and transparent emerald waters. The island is not very popular, as its beach is small.
I lowered the sails and started the engine in search of a place to anchor, but I was not enchanted by the island: despite being surrounded by the beauty of the Serra do Mar, it is a beach without any charm, which leads directly to a rock and vegetation shore, with the island owners’ house embedded in the center and a concrete walkway or bridge built along the rocks, which, for me, totally took away the attraction of the place.
In my view, there is a more beautiful and sheltered place to anchor and spend the night: Ilha do Prumirim. I raised the mainsail again, unrolled the genoa and on a Close Reach, with 8 knots of wind, sailed nicelly to the new island.
Ilha do Prumirim
I arrived at Prumirim Island around 11 am and, after anchoring, I decided to make lunch before visiting the beach. On the menu, penne with fresh tomato sauce, Zabetta’s specialty (she’s Italian) – unfortunately, my sauce didn’t even come close to hers, but the view of the beach and the island of Prumirim paid off.
Sailing makes you very hungry – I ate a full bowl, accompanied by Swedish bread and peach juice.
Yes, a bowl. The same one I use whenever I travel alone with my sailboat, as it is very practical because it is large and deep, covered with a layer of white enamel, which hides the metal. It is perfect, because when the sailboat is listed, the food does not fall.
After lunch and with everything washed, I checked again if the anchor had nailed and, confirming it was all right, I put the dinghy in the water and installed the outboard. This is one of the boring things to navigate in Brazilian waters: you cannot leave the boat in the water at night, as the chances of theft are great. Then, at the end of the day, you need to bring the dinghy up and tie it to the deck and secure the outboard with a padlock to its support. Pity.
Ilha do Prumirim does not lose anything in beauty to the most famous neighbor, Ilha das Couves.
Also, that day, there weren’t that many people. With a transparent water, a long strip of white sand, easy access and rocks that form beautiful scenery for photos, especially with the sailboat in the background, Ilha do Prumirim is an unmissable visit for those who enjoy beautiful beaches.
The sea is calm and shallow, seeming to invite a dip.
It is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and, after walking, swimming and sitting on a log under the trees to absorb the scenery, I returned to the sailboat to rest.
With a smooth movement and a slight splash-splash of water hitting the hull, I relaxed and I think I fell asleep … During sleep, I remembered, or dreamt, that I had not checked the weather forecast for the morning. I got up scared and took out my cell phone. I accessed WindGuru. There was no forecast of fronts that would hinder my anchoring for the day; however, for the following day, Thursday, the arrival of a cold front with winds of 30 knots was expected, around 21:30 hs. With winds from the west, the only sheltered places would be Ilha Anchieta, Praia do Flamengo and the Saco da Ribeira.
The beachfront of Itaguá Beach, protected by the Morro da Ponta Grossa, in front of the city of Ubatuba, would also be an option but for the draft problem: the entire beachfront of the Ubatuba Bay is very shallow, only having an acceptable depth of about 5 meters that starts more than 0.6 nautical miles from the beach.
As my destination was Saco da Ribeira, I decided that the next day I would sail straight to my mooring buoy at Praia da Ribeira, which is in the Saco da Ribeira (bay).
I went back to sleep and woke up around 5 pm. I went for a new walk on the beach, now empty. Delicious.
Extremely white and clean sand and, with the exception of a large tree trunk that lay close to the waves of the beach, probably brought by the sea, there was nothing. No garbage! I was delighted.
On the island there is a small bar hidden in the woods, owned by a family who lives in the place and which basically serves portions of fish, squid, shrimp, fries, pastries and drinks.
The very rustic, painted green-wood hut has two black painted arrows on its wall: one indicating the bar and the other the kitchen – I don’t know why, if the house should be at most 5 meters long… I thought about eating there, but as there was a lot of food on the sailboat, I decided to cook my own dinner instead of eating at the island “restaurant”. Furthermore, it seemed closed.
So, I heated a ready-made bag pot meat that I bought at the supermarket, accompanied by rice, also in the bag, and beans, this one in a box, and added some potato chips to the final dish. To accompany this “delicacy”, a good bottle of Carménère.
After dinner, washing and organizing everything, I sat on the deck and sipped my wine while looking at the moon, waning on the date, and the contours of the island that were losing their definition with dusk, while the coast was gaining light and progressively looking very close to where I was.
That night, the proximity of land – not that of the island, but that of the continent – bothered me. Prumirim beach, on the coast of Ubatuba, is just 800 meters from the island, that is, it would be possible to reach the sailboat even when swimming. For that reason, I didn’t turn on any lights. Not even the top light. I know this is wrong, however, the likelihood of any vessel passing by at night was remote, and I opted for the false sense of security that the gloom and darkness gave me.
It is at these times that the lack of a weapon on board is felt: we are defenseless and the “bad” people know it (in Brazil you are not allowed to carry a weapon).
I raised the dinghy and tied it to the deck, placing the engine on its padlocked support.
Obviously, with that concern in my mind, I did not sleep well. I know that the Ubatuba region is safe in terms of security, but even so, I would wake up with any sudden movement or noise on the sailboat.
As I was close to a beach, the waves are a little stronger, nothing I was not used to. But the subconscious, during sleep, does not process information rationally, and it was inevitable to wake up suddenly and go to the deck with a knife in my hand to see if everything was okay.
I woke up from this “broken” sleep around 6 am and, looking through my cabin window, I could see a beautiful dawn. The sweat from the night before bothered me and, looking around without seeing anyone, I took off my pajamas (yes, I sleep in my pajamas on the sailboat… more comfortable) and, naked, after lowering the emergency ladder I have at the stern, I threw myself in the water! It was freezing, but after a few moments in the water my body got used to it and I started swimming around the sailboat, inserted in that beautiful scenario formed by a still dark blue sea, which reflected the different shades of yellow, orange and red of the sunrise.
Those moments are just wonderful!
To think that they happen practically every day and that, living in the city, we cannot enjoy them. These minutes alone are worth owning and enjoying a sailboat.
I got out of the water and had to dry myself with a towel, as the light rays of the sun were not able to warm me up. Still naked, I made scrambled eggs with peppers, onions and tomatoes, which I ate directly between two slices of bread, accompanied by tea. Having arranged everything and dressed in swim trunks and a T-shirt, I checked the anchor again, lowered the dinghy into the water and, with the oars alone, went to the beach. Nice exercise.
Even better was walking on the deserted beach, already feeling the warmth of the sun that was breaking over the horizon. I can say that, at that moment, I was experiencing almost maximum happiness, incomplete just because my son and my wife were not there with me. If they weren’t physically, without a doubt, we walked and swam together in thought.
I went back to the sailboat, and started to feel hungry. This time, I made a coffee at the “mokinha”(coffe machine) and took a packet of guava cookies that I ate sitting on the deck. Unhurried. No stress. Without worry. Just enjoying the moment.
There was no wind and the forecast for the day, except for the night when it was predicted that a “blow” would come, it was of light winds, 2 to 3 knots, that is, the approximately 12 nautical miles from where I was to my mooring buoy at the Saco da Ribeira, would have to be sailed engine-powered.
I was in no hurry to get out sailing using the engine and, like any good sailor, I still had the hope that the forecast was wrong and that I could still sail to the Saco da Ribeira.
So I decided to wait until after lunch to leave. If there was still no wind, maybe I would wait until after a post-lunch nap to leave… Basically, what I really wanted was to sail!
It was 9 am. As I had a lot of time and nothing to do, I decided to do a review on my sails. Like all cruise sailors when they are not sailing, I always have the genoa rolled up and the mainsail folded over the boom. They spend the whole week like this, only opening on weekends when I sail.
So I opened the genoa and lowered it to the deck, checking all the seams and looking for wear or small tears. I found nothing and, after lubricating the reel profile rail as far as it could with silicone spray and performing the same operation along the entire genoa forehead, up it went and, once back in place, I rewound the genoa.
The mainsail is always more complicated to inspect because, in my case, the forehead is attached by eyelets to the various roller carts attached to the rail attached to the mast profile. Releasing the sail from the carts is a lot of work and, to inspect, as the lowered sail is supported on the boom in zigzag layers, it is necessary to open and raise the “layers” one by one.
First one side and then the other. As my mainsail has a system in which the leech is attached to the mantel by cables attached to metal eyelets that pass through the mantel so that the sail goes down instead of using the lazy-jacks, it is easier to inspect, because the sail is always stretched instead of falling on the deck. The mainsail, although a little dirty and yellowish, was also in perfect condition. I made a mental note to remove the two sails in the future and take them to wash.
That done, it was 11:30 am. Glad to have accomplished this task, which is very boring, but necessary, I went to make my lunch.
After lunch, still without wind, I took the planned nap and, upon waking up, surprise! There was no wind, as predicted.
With no options, I started the engine, raised the anchor and left.
I have nothing to comment on the 12-nautical mile motor trip, but between Ponta Grossa and Ponta das Toninhas, which are at either end of Praia das Toninhas, the sea started coming through my side, with waves of about 2 meters, which made this end of this trip very uncomfortable. As I entered the protection of Anchieta Island, the sea calmed down and the sailing was calm until my mooring buoy at the beautiful Prainha da Ribeira.
Just an aside about Praia das Toninhas: in my opinion, it is one of the most “ugly” beaches in Ubatuba, due to the amount of buildings built on its edge, gathering a large number of tourists on the weekend. Driving there is desperate, due to the number of pedestrians trying to cross the highway between the buildings and the beach, and the number of cars also trying to cross the same road. Total confusion!
Saco da Ribeira
Tied to my mooring buoy, I organized the sailboat to receive the 30-knot wind forecast for that night. It is not an exaggeratedly strong wind, but it is always good to prevent, because it is not known how many knots the gusts will be.
In the end, the wind was at 20 knots, with 22 knots gusts. Not bad, despite the fact that you could see the sails of some sailboats in the surroundings, which either loosened or unfolded, hitting hard. I also saw some things that were not quite attached to the deck of some sailboats flying, such as lifebuoys and a solar panel, which took off, fell into the water and sank. Another garbage at the bottom of the Saco da Ribeira. Relaxed by being in my mooring buoy, around 10 pm I lay in bed and “blacked out”, sleeping like a baby.
The next day, after breakfast, I called Aumar (boat service) on the radio and asked them to come and pick me up. I wanted to take the walking tour from the pier to Praia das Sete Fontes and return, stopping for lunch at the restaurant located on Praia do Flamengo. It is a tour that, if your physical condition is good, is worth doing. I will not describe here the wonder of this tour. You will have to come to Saco da Ribeira and do it to find out. Just go ahead: it’s worth it!
Upon returning to the sailboat, the wind that was expected to enter around 2 pm was already blowing and, not quite preparing everything for sailing, I released the sailboat from the moorings buoy to spend a beautiful afternoon sailing, with 10 knots of wind, around Anchieta Island.
I returned to my mooring buoy by sail after 18 hours and, once moored, I started the engine to heat the water to take a shower and then dinner.
I tidied and cleaned the sailboat, as Zabetta and Maxy (my son) would arrive the next day, Saturday, to spend the weekend sailing with me.
My solo trip from Paraty to Saco da Ribeira was over.
Now it was rest to enjoy the weekend on the sailboat with my family, returning to São Paulo on Sunday night.
It was wonderful to have them with me! Another day I tell you in detail how it went…
Sailor, writer and SailBrasil.com.br editor… in that order! 🙂