April to November 2006, pt. 2
Rio to Trinidad
Next stop was Rio. After checking in and out with the Federal Police I ran into a stone wall at customs. I was asked for our 'Termo de Responsabilidade'. I explained once again that I was never given one and showed him the stamps that I had on various pieces of paper. He then looked at our visia and passport stamps and asked me if I had left the country. I told him I had and had recently returned with a new visa that gave me ninety days to stay.
'Your boat is illegal!' He showed me the law that stated that one's boat can only stay in the country as long as the owner was in the country. When I left in mid May my boat became illegal. I explained that I already had an extension form the last customs agent. He looked at the piece of paper I had and rejected it. He translated the Portuguese which said that I had visited but said nothing about extending.
I begged for forgiveness and asked him to give me the extension. He finally agreed. We filled out and stamped all of the forms. Then he directed me to look at the extention date.
'But this only gives me until mid August'.
With a cat which just swallowed the canary grin he said, 'That is correct! When you left in May your boat permit expired. I am giving you a ninety day extension from that day so you must leave the country on August 15th.'
'I can't sign that. My wife will cry if I tell her we have to leave the country before October!'
I told him I was going to go back to the prior customs office and get a copy of the extension I had been granted but must have left behind.
I left the office, returned to the boat. Thirty minutes later Rio was behind us. Once out of the harbor we turned north instead south to the last port. We were off to Salvador. John and Gail Ward were to meet us in four days so going south to Anga dos Rios would not work. By now I had it figured out. Brazil was a lottery and each new port had a different interpretation of the law.
Three days later we arrived in Illhues and dropped the anchor in front of the Yacht Club. We picked up the Wards and spent a week touring the secluded waters around Baia de Camamu and Barra Grande. This remote labyrinth of waterways contains several small fishing villages and a few that attract vacationers who have dropped out.
We eventually made our way to Salvador and met our friends from our first visit here ten years ago, Eduardo and Leslie Moura. Leslie was not the British Council and said she could help with our legal status if necessary but Edwaro did not think there would be a problem.
The officials here took a look at our papers and scribbled 'extension' on them, reinforcing Bahia's laid back reputation.
Our next stop was Cabedello where we left Onora under the care of Brian Stevens, a British ex-pat catamaran builder. Brian sailed to Brazil years ago and stayed. We returned to the States for month. Brain assured us that boats were left in Cabedello for years with never a problem. He was right.
At the beginning of October we checked out of Brazil in Cabedello but sailed for three days to the islands of Fernando de Noronha where we did not bother to check into or out of. Fernando lies well offshore in clear waters.
We rented a converted VW 'buggy' and visited several beaches. All were spectacular. We were glad we stopped. We scuba dove in clear waters with turtles and tropical fish, our first dive since the Solomon Islands.
We left for Trinidad in late October. It was a pleasant downwind sail until the wind ran out in the doldrums. We caught a sailfish. We stopped for swims on calm days. We read our books. The Intertropical Convergence Zone arrived with its squalls but it was a pleasant trip.
Our destination was Chaguaramas, Trinidad. It had been ten years since we last visited. The sleepy village has become a yacht service mecca. Insurance policies restrict boats from being in the 'hurricane zone' from June to November 15th. Trinidad is just below the zone.
We landed during the peak launching season. Everyone was launching and provisioning their boat for the return to the Caribbean. Somehow were able to get Onora hauled and planted in a secure storage area. There she sits until May when we will return for the next leg of our adventure.