Saturday, July 8, 2017

Heading North for Carnivals

Carnival is a major holiday in Brazil and they go all out for it. In fact, they have pre-Carnival events several weeks before Carnival! Every city has its version; some bigger and better than others. In the smaller towns, it is more of a community event with lots of music and dancing, some parading in costume, others in street clothes.

Our first encounter of pre-Carnival was in Salvador with music and body painting. We didn’t really participate as we had been warned about the cautions one must take at Carnival. We chose to sail north to Cabadelo, where we would stay for a couple of weeks. From there we could go to four different Carnivals.

Our sail up the east coast of Brazil was lovely. It was just the two of us for a change. In fact, it was the first time we had been without crew since last August when we left Mackay, Australia. I love crew for long passage, but enjoy the quieter time when it is just two of us. Of course, we don’t see much of each other as one is usually sleeping when the other is on watch. It works for me for 4-5 day passages. Longer than that is too tiring. 


The Marina Jacare lies up the Rio Paraiba (river) between Cabedelo on the north and JoAo Pessoa to the south. We had to arrive at the river’s mouth at the beginning of a rising tide to avoid the 3 knot current against us. The marina is owned by two French guys and fortunately, Nicholas speaks English. They have a nice restaurant and gathering place for the fleet to relax and use the Internet. The marina arranged for  the bus trips to the Carnivals in Recife and Olinda for the WARC plus to the local ones. 

Dennis waiting for cold drinks and food.
The first Carnival – actually, pre-Carnival – experience was in JoAo Pessoa, a twenty-minute bus ride from the marina. We went at night and tried to figure out what gringos do at Carnival. First, we walked the length of the street, passing huge entertainment trucks. It was like Pine Knob on wheels! I have never seen such large moving stages or heard such sound systems. I could feel the music vibrations in my chest!





People paraded in costume and carried banners.
There were all kinds of foods and beverages available on the street. Vendors were selling everything: cold water, plastic cups, head decorations, candy, beer and soft drinks, cotton candy, etc. We found a place to buy drinks and sit for a while. The parade did not start until 9 PM and we were at the lower end of it so it would take a while for it to reach us.



One of the many large sound stages on a semi truck
The one thing that was very noticeable was security: municipal police and military police. They were perched on high platforms every few yards and they continuously marched single file through the crowd. They made it clear that they would not tolerate any trouble. We saw them body frisk a number of young boys looking for drugs. The kids seemed to be used to it and were very compliant.


I can’t say we were impressed with the event. The music was too loud and we were not into street dancing. Maybe it is a sign of aging! The young people were so wound up and excited. It was like 10 New Year’s Eve parties in one.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Historical Sites of Salvador

Due to light winds and part of the fleet lingering in St. Helena, the World ARC schedule became somewhat convoluted. Yachts straggled into Bahia Marina one by one. The Yellow Shirts had a scheduled flight and tried to accommodate as many as possible with schedule changes moving the prize-giving event to the last possible night.


They also adjusted the city tour so most people could make it. Salvador is not a city where you explore on your own so the combined bus and walking tour was appreciated. We all loved being in the air-conditioned bus as the temperature was unbearably warm. As we sail north, it is going to become more and more uncomfortable.
Our first stop on the bus tour was at the Barra Lighthouse. It is the black and white striped one that greets yachts at the tip of the peninsula. The Barra Lighthouse marks the entrance to the “Baia de Todos os Santos” or All Saint’s Bay, which is about 300 km long. On the navigational charts, the bay looked small and rather narrow, but in real life it is huge! And is filled with many anchored cargo ships.



The lighthouse is adjacent to one of the most popular beaches in the area. In fact, the beach runs continuously east from the lighthouse up the eastern side of the peninsula. The Brazilians love their beaches and spend a lot of time cooling off in the water. We walked around the base of the lighthouse and could easily see why we had to round the peninsula so far offshore: rocks and reefs!


As we continued our tour, we saw how the city is divided into two different areas. There is the “Cidada Baixa” (Town) down by the water. The city is built on the side of a mountain and the roads are steep. In fact, there is a 70-meter tall pedestrian elevator (the “Elevator Lacerda”) or the vertical tram (“Plano Inclinado”) to take one from the lower city to the upper one. The “Cidada Alta” is the Upper Town and hosts most of the historical sites. Taxis were our mode of elevation!

Here you can see the upper and lower cities from the bay.

The bus took us through the Corredor da Vitoria, Campo Grand and Piedade before arriving at the Upper City. We passed the sculptures of the Candomble deities at the Dique do Tororo and saw their famous football stadium across the lake.
Since the streets are so narrow, we had to leave the bus and head off for a guided walking tour of the city area known as Pelourinho and a museum and church. Pelourinho is considered to be the most important architectural complex dating to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Unfortunately, little English was spoken and all the literature was in Portuguese so it was difficult to read anything about what we were seeing. The language was frustrating even with the help of Google Translator.

They have no real need to learn English since the whole country speaks the same language. However, like many of the countries trying to expand tourism, they need to consider the frustration of visitors and how the lack of translated information decreases the enjoyment of their country.

Our tour guide spoke good English with a somewhat challenging accent, but we were able to understand most of what he had to say in the Museu da Misericordia and the Church of Saint Francis, which is located at the far end of Pelourinho Plaza. The museum had been a hospital and a government house and has a lovely chapel on the main floor.

These plain doors hide the most amazing
church interiors in the world.
Note the horns on Moses!
The hand cut marble inlay throughout was amazing. We admired the open-air plan of the architecture as it provided both shade and light while allowing the breeze to flow freely though the rooms. Obviously, in the hotter climates, these things are important when designing spaces. The furnishings were very old and the watchful staff reminded people not to touch!

The Church of Saint Francis was breathtaking! From the outside, it looked plain. Once you entered the Porch and Cloister, it began to reveal something very special. The Porch was built between 1749 and 1755. The painting on the ceiling is famous for its perspective of the glorified Virgin Mary. The Cloister was completed between 1729 and 1794 with hand-painted tiles that came from Portugal between 1743 and 1746.
The 37 tiled mosaics on the ground floor were all inspired by the paintings of the Flemish artist, Oto Van Veen. The Latin epigraphs on each painting were inspired by Horatio. The tiles in the upper cloister depict scenes of fishing, hunting, country life, symbols of the five senses, the months and the continents. We were told why the paintings of Moses show him with horns on his head. Apparently, there was a mistranslation of the word and someone thought it meant “horn” and so they were painted on the tile! Oh, the challenges of communication!


The most prized carvings within the church are made from Jacaranda wood. This includes the choir loft and the sacristy. They were completed in the early part of the 18th century. The style of most of the church is Baroque and it is gleaming with gold leaf. You can easily see why people complain that the city forefathers spent money on the churches and governmental building instead of housing for the people.

We were told that at one time all of the gold had been covered over with plaster. Perhaps this was to protect it from invaders. It wasn’t until a workman found something underneath the plaster that this treasure was revealed again. I think the guide said there 8,000 sheets of gold leaf used in the decoration. The ceiling of the sacristy is divided into 48 magnificent paintings with the emblem of the Franciscan Order in the center. It was sensory overload time again.
Fortunately, John and Colt were able to see this church before they left. They had taken a morning city walking tour and then we all took the ferry across the All Saints Bay to Itaparica Island. It was a two hour ferry trip that is frequently taken by the locals for get-away weekends on the island beaches. We were there on a Monday so it was very quiet, but the crossing was pleasant and gave a great opportunity to watch the locals enjoy themselves.




Finding a cab or bus on a Monday to take us to the beach area on the end of the island was somewhat challenging. We finally found one and the driver was willing to wait several hours while we explored and had a bite to eat be fore returning to the ferry at dark. The little village was interesting and I can see why it is overrun on the weekends.
                                  
The night ride back on the ferry.
                                                                                                                                            
My favorite: shrimp stew, Brazilian style.

The final evening in Salvador was the Prize Giving Party. We were thrilled to have been the monohull winners of this long crossing. I would say we did alright in the World ARC events as we scored a first, second and a third. Not bad for such novice sailors! Of course, a lot of credit goes to crew, too.

We were sad that John and Colt were not there with
us to accept the first place prize. Thanks, crew!
Not only were we first across the Finish Line, but we did it with zero engine hours! At first no one would believe that we never used the motor for propulsion. We may not sail the fastest, but without the motoring penalty, we achieved our goal. Thank you John and Colt for your expertise and the fun times we had on the crossing - even without fresh water and a working freezer!
So long, Salvador. We have places to go and things to see!
It was time to say "goodbye" to Mannel, a Yellow Shirt who spoke Brazilian Portuguese. His services were most helpful to the fleet as no one could communicate with the locals. He and Victor were heading north to Cabedelo to prepare for the arrival of the fleet so we were all left on our own to finish up work, provisioning, etc. before setting sail to meet them.
Our next big social events will be one pre-Carnaval night, a trip to Olinda and one to Recife for a couple of traditional carnaval experiences. One will be an evening outing with great caution and the other will be an all day event. Let the good times roll ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The City of Saints and Nearly All Sinners!


Church and Convent of Saint Francis
Welcome to Salvador de Bahia! Yes, that is the translation of the city’s unofficial logo: “Baia de Todos os Santos e de Quase Todos os Pecados.” The translation is "The City of Saints and Nearly All Sinners!" Salvador has a history of crime, which can be true in many big cities throughout the world. However, when the officials give strict instructions as to what you can and can’t do there, you must pay attention. Just look at a few of these suggested measure for personal safety:
1)      Don’t wear jewelry or watches
2)      Don’t walk on empty or dark streets or on the beach at night
3)      Don’t use public toilets
4)      Don’t carry original documents, instead have a photocopy of your passport
5)      Do carry only as much cash as you need, only one credit/debit card

Since we were in Brazil for Carnaval, we were given a two-page document on how to stay safe! It put a few people off and they chose not to go to Brazil at all. While we were very careful and tried to be street-smart, it was a little unsettling at times. However, I am glad we did not avoid this country.
Salvador was once the capital of Portugal’s New World Colony and is a very busy port city. The city is a blend of many cultures and people coming together. Today it is the capital of the State of Bahia and the second most popular leisure destination in Brazil. For over five centuries, it has been a multiplicity of cultural elements rising from the fusion of races and customs resulting in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
Salvador is considered the “cultural capital of Brazil” hosting many cultural and religious events. The largest street Carnaval in the world lasting six days takes place there. Unfortunately, it is also a bit dangerous and the criminals have their holiday, too. Theft, mugging and pick-pocketing top the list.
Salvador also has the most attractive elements of South American and African cultures. You can see the influence of religious mysticism and music everywhere. And the cuisine is outstanding. They use coconut milk in many dishes and combine it in ways I never would have thought do to so. I learned a few new recipes here. 
One neighborhood of Salvador is home to the largest population of African descent in Brazil. African food, music and religion are promoted. Salvador hosts a number of internationally famous festivals. Even though the Carnaval (yes, that is the way they spell it) in Rio de Janeiro is more famous, there are huge celebrations in Salvador and nearby cities of Olinda and Recife, all in Bahia.
You could see the “tanning” of the world occurring here.  There did not seem to be racial tension as there is much inter-racial marriage. The bigger issue is economic. Brazil has extreme contrasts of rich and poor. Most of the houses and businesses have metal bars on the windows and gates on the doors or garden entries.
A view of the harbor from the upper city
This is the main harbor where the fleet has been in the past
years. It was much nicer in the newer Bahia Marina.

Originally, the city was the trade center with most of the shipments coming to Brazil though Salvador. There was great wealth at that time, but the money was used for buildings and churches instead of developing communities and jobs. The result is amazing historical architecture and examples of Latin Art throughout the city with huge pockets of slums. Today there is a huge art movement showcasing the blending of the many cultures.
Like many European cities, the buildings were built around large squares. Today, these squares are still gathering places and spaces for events. There was a lot of nightlife in the old city of Pelourinho, where we went with great caution for dinner on two nights. The cobblestone side streets are hilly and are somewhat challenging for pedestrians, but so narrow only a single vehicle can pass though at any time.
Street music was everywhere!
The World ARC fleet was based at the Bahia Marina after our Yellow Shirt, Victor, made the arrangements moving us from the older Terminal Nautico da Bahia where previous fleets had berth.  It was a safer environment, newer facilities, a number of restaurants and services available within the marina.
When the other boats finally arrived, we started the clearance process. It was supposed to be easy, but the authorities decided to make all of us come in to the police station. After numerous taxis, time waiting, the general hassle, etc., we learned that they had changed the procedure because other countries give their citizens hassles so they would do it, too! It would have been so much more efficient for the authority to come to the marina and clear us in as a group!

Beautiful old buildings with interesting architecture.

The tile work was beautiful everywhere.
Since Trillium was the only boat in, the four of us wanted to walk out the marina gate, turn left and cross over the bridge above the beach. Everyone discouraged us from walking, but it was still daylight and we could see the restaurant on the other side. We walked anyway. And we did meet a kook on the bridge, but he caused us no harm. Following a wonderful meal of Brazilian filet mignon hosted by Colt, the restaurant would not let us walk back. We showed the manager that our boat was right below. He called a cab!


Colorful art all around the city.
A few days later, three  local young adults leaving the marina on foot were mugged and robbed in the middle of the day right at the top of the entrance to the marina. Then everyone believed the safety warnings. It is a real problem throughout Brazil and you see police officers or military officers everywhere.

Traveling in groups, we had a couple of fun nights on the town. One night we went to the Bale’ Folclorico da Bahia. We thought we were going to a ballet. It was a Brazilian ballet with the dancers in costumes representing the ancient gods and spirits. Like most ballets, there was a story being told and we figured out most of it. It told of the history of the people of Salvador.
Unfortunately, few people speak English and none of us spoke Brazilian Portuguese! The costumes were beautiful and the dance and acrobatics was amazing. The folklore and the popular culture of Brail were formed by the combination of three different influences: European, by the Portuguese colonization; African, by the slaves; and by indigenous native people of Brazil.
The Bale’ showed some of the most important expressions of the Bahian folklore, and some dances of the Candomble, African religion, in which music and dance are one of the main factors. There was a dance for each of the gods: God of Iron and War, Goddess of Rivers and Lakes, God of Diseases and Death, Goddess of the Winds and Storms, God of Hunting and Forests, God of Fire and Thunder, and the Goddess of the Sea. The final dance was the Samba de Roda, which is the most popular dance in Brazil and was performed by slaves in their leisure time. It was a very interesting cultural evening.

Our group of 12 found a restaurant nearby, Zulu, run by an Italian so we figured it had to be good! And it was. In fact, we ask if he would take a reservation for 30 the next night so we could all have a Salvador dinner together! Since the place was so small and they cooked everything on five hot plates, he would let us know what his head chef thought and confirm with us the following day if the chef was willing.
We received a call the next day telling us he would close to the public and give us a fixed menu dinner. Great! We were all in and had another wonderful meal there. If you go to Salvador, dine at Zulu and tell them the crazy fleet of sailors sent you!

Unfortunately, John and Colt missed a lot of this fun, but we did spend a day with them visiting the village of Itaparica on the Isla e Itaparica. This is a regular weekend hotspot for the locals and a quiet village during the week. It has a large beach and is only a 40-minute ferry ride across from the mainland. We were there on a Monday afternoon. More about that in my next posting.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Westward to Brazil

It took all three guys on deck and me at the helm to make
a sail change. As you can see, we were heeling a bit!
We would soon be back in the Americas! Throughout the world, we have been asked “where are you from” and we have replied: America. As we were approaching Brazil, it occurred to us that we need to say: The USA! Why? Because there are a lot of Americas. North American, Central America and South America. All the people of Brazil are Americans, too.

Since the crossing from St. Helena to Salvador, Brazil was 1900 nm, we had plenty of time to discuss this issue. We also discussed the various reactions to our Presidential election campaign and results. We have seen numerous political cartoons depicting other countries’ view of the USA. Frequently, we were asked whether Trump will survive four years or if the USA is going to collapse. It has been very apparent that the rest of the world has been caught up in the media – real or false news! We have been out of the fray out here.

John was our tactician and kept us in the lead the whole way.
Dennis had decided we were going to sail all the way so the guys spent a lot of time making changes to the sail plan. The options were: 1) main and genoa, 2) main and light air gennaker, 3) any of those alone, 4) medium duty gennaker alone, 5) main and medium duty gennaker, or 6) main, genoa AND the medium duty gennaker!
Medium duty asymmetrical







The last one was the winning combination. Trust me; they tried them all – and more than once each as the wind demanded diligence to keep Trillium moving toward the finish line in Salvador, Brazil. For two days, the wind was quite light as in 6-10 knots. S/V Trillium is a solidly built blue-water boat intended to give a safe comfortable ride in the big waves. The downside is that she is heavy and needs strong winds to make her fly.

Poling out the genoa to fly with the main.





The best days were when the wind was in the 12-25 range. Now we are sailing!                                                                          
Fortunately, the rest of the passage was made in those conditions. With clear skies and sunshine, strong steady winds and a great crew, we had the best sail of the whole circumnavigation! The South Atlantic crossing was the longest leg and topped them all! No seasickness; no medication. WOO HOO!

We sailed for six days and six nights with the main and genoa fully deployed plus the medium duty gennaker! Talk about a beautiful sail plan. And probably not one suggested in the Hallberg-Rassy Owner’s Manual either. We got what we were after: First Across the Line Honors AND First Place Overall for the Monohull Division! Hurrah! What a way to finish the last of the five oceans.

Our light air asymmetrical
We had a lot of support from the shore all around the world. Friends were reporting our YB Tracker position and positions of other boats coming behind us. We were getting all kinds of encouraging emails, including screen shots of positions. Thanks, everyone! It was fun to have your enthusiasm cheering for us. I normally am not into the racing thing, but this time I was actually clenching my teeth causing my jaw to ache. It looked like we stood a chance of winning this leg of the rally, but we knew there were two really fast racing boats coming up behind us.


Of course, having two experienced racers on our boat kept the energy level high. Dennis had turned the navigation and weather duties over to John, who was really into it. He brought his “equipment” to get up to date information and GRIB files. And his family sent midnight updates from the tracker. John and Colt race in the Port Huron to Mackinaw and Chicago to Mackinaw races on the Great Lakes annually on Colt’s boat, Weather Edge. They have been on the winners podium nine out of eleven of the races! Did we pick a great crew or what!

Oh, I forgot to mention that just before we left St. Helena, the freezer decided to quit working. We had just recharged the coolant in Cape Town. There was no one in St. Helena to look at it so we were looking at a 12-16 day passage without it. That meant I was throwing meat and other frozen food overboard after the first few days at sea. I lost about $300 worth of meat, but the worst part was all the time I had spent preparing it so it would make it easier in the galley. Delta. Alpha. Mike. November!

John caught this one. They are giving it a shot of rum to kill it.
Fortunately, my Captain is a good fisherman, too! He caught two huge Mahi-mahi with two more getting away as there was one on each line both times. Something really big took a lure again. We probably didn’t want to see that one up close anyway! Then he caught what we think was a young either blue fin or yellow fin tuna that weighed 20 pounds. By the end of the passage, I just wanted some good Brazilian beef. I could hardly wait for those famous Brazilian restaurant meals.


Here we are flying all our sails across the South Atlantic Ocean

 
And as the first boat across the Finish Line in Salvador, Brazil.