Ferdinand Magellan and me (60)

Marina da Gloria

Marina da Gloria

There is little to distinguish one day from another in the doldrums and no sense of time. We might have been there all our lives with nothing but a ring of cloud around the horizon and an occasional bird. As we approached landfall, I recalled the story of a French sailor, Bernard Moitessier, competing in the first Around the World single-handed yacht race. After months of solo sailing he was in a winning position but apparently decided he could not face the fuss and fanfare at the finish line. He abandoned the race and sailed around again, all the way back to Tahiti, where he took up residence and became almost as famous as another French expatriate, Paul Gauguin.

Unlike Magellan, I had no fear of being attacked by warships. We made landfall at Recife and hopped down the coast from port to port. It was never my ambition to be the fastest to sail around the world but the slowest, and on the coast of Brasil we met kindred spirits in the travelling village of cruising yachts. We caught up with a Dutch yacht called Passat, last seen in Tenerife, an Australian yacht Voodoo and a South African couple in Aries. They had spent two years in South America, as far south as the Falklands, and were heading for the USA, where they planned to open a bar and grill.

In Salvador we were accosted on the street by four school girls, excited to find we were foreigners. Through an interpreter, we learned they had some kind of competition going at their school. Next day, we travelled by bus to the school and were put on display at the assembly as specimens of the species Australiano and Inglesa. I don’t know what prize the girls won but later we met one of their teachers, who tried to convert us to Hare Krishna. I don’t know what kind of school that was.

Near our anchorage in the Paraguaçu river, women of the nearby village gathered shellfish, and men in a canoe sold us prawns which they dished up in the shattered crown of a plastic hard hat. They started at 20,000 escudos, about 7 dollars, but came down to 5,000 with a bit of haggling.

Native sailing craft, savieros were loaded to the gunwales with fruit or vegetables, bags of maize flour, sweet potatoes and squealing pigs. They had no rigging but set a hand-sewn cotton sail on a gaff and a handkerchief for a jib. Half the crew were musicians who played drums and guitars and sang as they cruised down the river. By contrast, Marina da Gloria, in Rio, was full of big fancy boats but the music was absent. The natives were friendly, however, and we were just in time for the Carnival.

Rio is a hard place to tear yourself away from and a couple of months slipped by. The social life took its toll on Helen, however, and I realised she had a serious problem; not that she drank to excess but she couldn’t handle more than a couple of drinks. More than once I almost had to carry her back aboard Wathara after a dinner with friends. It came to a head one night when she tripped on the marina gangway and broke her arm. I got her to a hospital, where they patched her up, but for the next leg of our voyage she would have her arm in plaster.

    sailing Brazil


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Sailor from wayback with a Master's degree in Technology Management. Prefer classical music to rap and chicken curry to steak.

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