BRally - Europe or Africa to Angra dos Reis


A pick under the cover - Marçal Ceccon Brazilian Guide

Brazil - the Cruising Ground – From the Brazilian Guide of Marçal Ceccon
(Printed with permission)

Being the largest country of Latin America, Brazil borders to the West with all the South American countries except Equator and Chile. To the East, it offers 4000 miles of coast over the Atlantic Ocean from the Equator near the Amazon river to the latitude of 33° south on the border with Uruguay.

The climate is predominantly tropical, and slightly temperate in the south although the difference is more noticeable inland. The average temperature on the tropical zone is around 26°C (80° F) and 22° C (72° F) on the temperate zone.

Dominated by the south Atlantic high pressure systems, the weather is only occasionally affected by cold fronts rising from Patagonia and working its way through the south of the continent. There is no such thing as a cyclone season. Cruising is possible throughout the year.

After the Portuguese discovered Brazil by 1500, the country started receiving a maze of European immigrants who spreaded their influence throughout that part of the new world .

As the cruiser works his way down the coast, the local people, the culture and architecture tells him the history of each particular region, from the colonial Portuguese buildings in Salvador to the steep roofed German country houses in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, in the South.

For one seeking those odd destinations, the northern coast of Brazil offers its rivers, estuaries and the wilderness of the Amazon. The city of Belem, the front door for the Amazon River basin, is often visited by those cruisers heading to the Caribbean.

Besides the seashore, Brazil offers also a vast choice of inland destinations for those interested in nature, historical or even simply urban experiences. The city of BRAZILIA, the country’s administration center, is an outstanding show of integrated architecture.
The entire project has been developed by Oscar Niemeyer, a prominent Brazilian architect which in the early sixties, designed the entire city where each public building was conceived with no imposing functionalism. The result has been a city with a remarkable futuristic atmosphere, worth the effort to visit.

Roads throughout the country are excellent; bus traveling is outstanding and reasonably cheap. Air tickets are rather expensive. There is no railroad transport for passengers except on some limited areas. When traveling by roads remember; distances between cities in Brazil are often bigger that one thinks. If you decide, for instance, go from Salvador to Brasilia, you are in for a two thousand miles ride round trip!

The People:

After its discovery, Brazil has received a host of settlers coming from many European countries. Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Dutchmans, Polans, came in and established themselves trough the country wherever they found either climate or geographic conditions similar to their home countries, or where their knowledge and skills would be profitable in the new world.

Later, during the sugar boom, more than five million Africans have been brought in to work as slaves in farms. This maze of races turned the country into a melting pot of people and cultures with no room for racial discrimination or religious disputes.
With such a variety of origins, the Brazilian people is of a very friendly and peaceful nature, a fact that may explain why Brazil kept its unity throughout the history, not splintering into small republics as occurred around it with other countries of South America.  

At the sea shore, the climate induces a more relaxed atmosphere and somewhat indolent touch to the people. Although the population today is around 150 million, the country features a density of only 15 people per square Km. The statistics show 55% of white people, 6% black and 39% Mulatos ( half cast ), however, it is very difficult to feel these numbers as the distribution varies with the region. In the Southern states, for instance, white people are predominant.

Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world. Eighty eight percent of the people is Catholic, the balance follows anything from Protestantism to Afro- Brazilian cults. 

The official language throughout the country is the Portuguese, which differs a little from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. On main cities, tourist places or big stores you will may find someone that speaks some English. Spanish, which is very similar to Portuguese, is also understood by most of the people especially in the Southern region.


The Brazilian currency is called “REAL”, with subdivisions in cents called “CENTAVOS”. At the date of this writting (2010) ONE U$ DOLLAR is equal to one Real and sixty Cents with slight variations according to the fluctuation of the country’s economy. It is worth mentioning that in countries which may develop a high inflation rate, it is advisable changing foreign currency in small amounts each time (enough to spend in one week), as with high inflation rates you will be loosing money if holding local currency longer than that.


Malaria has been one of those concerns that haunts cruisers around the world, from Venezuela to Panama, through the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, Africa and of course, Brazil.
Although there is no incidence of malaria in the Brazilian southern states, it is endemic in some of the areas in the North, in the Amazon basin. Those intending to visit those areas are advised to take prophylactic measures.

Tap water in all cities is safe for drinking although the taste may vary with the amount of chemicals used on its treatment. Only in very small villages the water may not be treated as it will be probably coming from a creek uphill or a natural spring. For those extremely sensible to changes in diet, there is bottled mineral water wherever you find a store.

Fish poisoning is almost unknown in Brazil. The only one of some concern is a kind of Porcupinefish which is ugly enough to discourage any eating intention! Reef and bright coloured fishes are not commonly eaten for their taste rather than for anything else. It is not recommended to eat crabs or shellfish caught near very polluted places and inside any crowded harbor.

Fortunately the famous threatening PIRANHA, known by its carnivorous appetite, is a fresh water fish. A shoal of Piranhas may have hundreds of them and would eat an entire cow or a man in a matter of minutes.

The Piranha is common in the Amazon river and its tributaries. You may find it also in some of the rivers inland over the PANTANAL in the state of MATO GROSSO. If you go to any of these places, don’t miss the delicious Sopa de Piranha (Piranha soup) in any restaurant. It is very nice being in this side of the game!

On reef areas you may find a kind of stinging coral (Fire coral) which produces a momentary burning sensation only. Most of the “gellyfish” are harmless however, in the northeast you may find some “Portuguese man of war” type which is very poisonous. Fortunately this type of gelly-fish is rare close to shore but you see a lot “sailing” in  blue waters. Keep always a good quantity of pure Ammonia to neutralize the poison in case of contact with large areas of skin.


For the purpose of navigation and official marine information, the coast is divided in four general areas:
    North Coast - North  of 05°00' S;  
    East Coast - 05°00' S to 23°00' S;
    South Coast - South of 23°00' S;   

Being mostly on the southern hemisphere, remember, the seasons of the year in Brazil are as follows:

      Spring      From Sept., 21st  to Dec., 20th 
      Summer   From Dec., 21st to Mar, 19th 
      Fall          From Mar, 20th  to June, 20th 
      Winter     From June, 21st  to Sept., 20th 

General features of the Weather:

Two basic climates are present, the tropical, north of 23°S and temperate, south of 23°S. Within each zone, the rainfall varies in intensity and timing as follows:

         a) On the North Coast there is a definite rain reason and a dry season, being the
          wet one the first five months of the year.

         b) On the East Coast the wet season is in June and July mainly around the
            latitude of 20° S.

         c) On the South Coast the rain is evenly distributed throughout the year, being
          abundant near Sao Paulo (23° S) moderate over St. Catarina (28° S) and
          scarce on Rio Grande do Sul (32°S) with winters consistently dryer.


There is predominance of trade winds NE/E/SE in all north and east coast, averaging 10 to 12 knots. The NE winds are predominant on summer and the SE predominant on winter being constant with rare calms.

South of 20° S the winds are mostly NE/N. On fall and winter it comes from SE/S/SW cold and gusty, sometimes fresh, specially south of 23° S or when a cold front moves into the area.

Around the latitude of 23° S, (Cabo Frio) the coast bends westwards and for about 250 miles there is a big “pocket” of very light winds. This area reaches roughly from east of Rio de Janeiro through south of Santos, near Sao Paulo.

Throughout the Brazilian coast it is noticeable the sea breeze phenomenon. On the trade wind zone however, it only enhances the dominant circulation and the land breeze is  too weak to be noticed. Around Rio de Janeiro however, the influence of the sea breeze is dominant.

The S/SE breeze starts before noon, calms down at sunset and restarts from N/NW at around 20:00 hs lasting for 10 to 12 hours.


On the north coast visibility is good most of the time except during heavy rain. Starting around Salvador, on winter there is some incidence of light fog, increasing towards the south. On the latitude of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, around 23° S, visibility is poor on fall and winter due to fog especially in early morning. On summer it is common a dry haze even in the afternoons. The south coast is likely to show fog on winter and dry haze on summer also with poor visibility.

Weather Patterns:

The weather is Brazil is dominated by the South Atlantic high pressure systems. Disturbances of the normal pattern occur when a cold front originated in Patagonia moves over the southern portion of the continent.

The normal situation is shown on fig.(a) on page 14. The north and east coast are dominated by trade winds and good weather. The south coast has NW winds coming from land, slightly warm.

On fig.(b) an anti-cyclone shows up over Argentina with a wedge of cold dry air resulting in a cold front which pushes the Atlantic high north eastwards. The trade winds are reinforced on the east coast with increased instability and in the south coast the sky shows overcast with cirrus, cirrostratus, altostratus and alto cumulus (fig.c). The cold front passage produces the following changes:

-Sudden barometer rise (After the pre frontal drop).
-Drop in air temperature.  Wind quickly backing from NE to NW and then to SW (on counter clockwise direction) with gusts.
-Showers and thunderstorms (Ninbustratus/Cumulus Nimbus).
-After Showers, increased visibility.

The duration of unsettled weather is normally 2 to 3 days, and it is common to be shorter, being valid the rule, “sudden coming, short lasting”.

These cold fronts go up further than the latitude 23° S where in general they deflect to the open sea and dissolves over the Atlantic ocean. Eventually the cold front persists in its way north, reaching as far as the latitude of Salvador.

Sometimes the frontal system can’t move north and becomes stationary, generating secondary depressions which move over the sea, fig. (d) or a warm front which moves southwards causing persistent unsettled weather. This is a common occurrence on summer.

InterTropical Convergence Zone:

Near the coast on winter and spring the ITCZ is located between 0° and 10° N rarely affecting the north coast.  On summer and fall it moves south to 5° N to 5° S affecting slightly the north coast.


Brazil is way out of the cyclone belt and until 2003 there was no reports of such type of storm along the coast. In 2003 the southern end of the coast has been hit by a revolving storm classified as a Cyclone. This occurence has been extremely unusual and has beem considered as an abnormal rare phenomenon.


The warm current of Bengala coming from the east, south of the Equator, is divided in two as it approaches South America.

The northern branch runs NW parallel to Brazilian north coast and the southern branch deflects south originating the so called Current of Brazil. The dividing point is around the latitude 10° near the port of Maceio.

The average intensity of the current is about 2 knots on summer and less than 1 knot on winter months weakening as you go south. Strong NE winds on summer can enhance this current on a band up to 200 miles offshore.

As a golden rule, go South on summer and North in winter to use the cold fronts SW winds in the south and the weaker currents throughout the coast.

Similar conditions make the north coast almost a one way route. The NW setting current is parallel to the coast and the prevailing easterly quarter trade winds make any attempt to go back eastwards challenging and frustrating. Furthermore, the amazing strong currents originated on Amazon river estuary, the extense sand banks way out in the river mouth and tidal variations of up to seven meters, add more variables.

Weather Forecast / Information:

For weather forecast and information the coast is divided in nine zones as follows:
- Zone Alfa:        from Arroio Chuí to Cabo de Sta. Marta
- Zone beta:                Cabo de Sta. Marta to Cabo Frio (offshore)
- Zone charlie:             Cabo de Sta. Marta to Cabo Frio (coastal)
- Zone delta:               Cabo Frio to Caravelas
- Zone eco:                 Caravelas to Salvador
- Zone foxtrot:            Salvador to Natal
- Zone golf:                 Natal to São Luiz
- Zone hotel                São Luiz to Cabo Orange
- Zone november        Offshore North
- Zone sierra               Offshore South

The Brazilian Navy broadcasts the  weather conditions through reports called “Meteoromarinha” updated twice a day and covering all areas. The information is available in various forms, depending on the area where you are sailing, being the most common the following:

HF Radio: - Broadcast of  Meteoromarinha report on RTTY mode.
                   Time: 07:50 / 18:45 UTC, Language: Port./ English
                    Frequencies:  12709 / 16974 kHz   75 baud rate
                  - Facsimile transmission of Surface analysis- Synoptic Chart
                    Time: 07:45 / 16:30 UTC
                     Frequencies:  12665 / 12709 / 16978 kHz     120 / 576

VHF Radio:  - Relay of Meteoromarinha report through the Maritime                                               
                      Mobile Service Net. Select nearest station.
                       Time: Under request  Channel 16.     Language: Port./ English

Some Yacht Clubs also relay the Meteoromarinha report upon request, in Portuguese only. 

The Santos Yacht Club (Call sign Delta 21), Rio de Janeiro Y.C. (Eco 21) and the Y.C. Espírito Santo, in Vitória (Foxtrot 23) keep radio watch on the usual yachting frequencies, 4431.8 / 8291,1 / 12435,4 kHz. 
The Y.C. Ilhabela (Delta 24) broadcasts the report continuously on VHF Ch. 15 however, the range is limited to local waters.

            Change A= Year      MM= month    DD=  Day    HH= GMT  00 or 12

Yacht entry:

All main harbors are ports of entry. As cruising yacht transit is still somewhat sparse, procedures may vary from port to port.

Visas obtained in advance are required only from those countries which have the same requirement for Brazilian citizens. Otherwise, visas can be obtained upon arrival.Citizens from the following countries are not required to have Visas at arrival: Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Equador, Philippines, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Marrocos, Namibia, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Suriname, Trinidad Tobago, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vatican.

The Visas are valid for 90 days (after arrival) on first issue. Extensions for additional 90 days are easy to obtain. You must visit the “Policia Federal” office, which is in charge of Immigration affairs, on any main city to apply for it 15 days before expiration date of first Visa. A small extension fee is charged per Passport. Under normal circumstances, a yacht can remain in the country, free of import duties for as long as 180 days. After that period the yacht must leave the country and will be allowed a new entry only after 12 months of first entry date.

A new “TEMPORARY ADMISSION ALLOWANCE EXTENSION rule has been introduced in 2006. SEE NEXT PARAGRAPH  FOR DETAILS on terms and conditions to apply for this allowance.

Yachts from countries joining the MERCOSUL agreement are allowed to remain in Brazilian waters free of import duties with no limit of time provided the owner is a permanent resident in his country of origin.

In crowded ports as Rio de Janeiro and Santos, the authorities keep tight control over foreign boats as many cases of illegal boat sales have been disclosed in the past.

The clearance procedure consists of a first visit to Port Captain’s office ( Capitania dos Portos ) to fill up the boat entry form “ Declaração de Entrada de Embarcação Estrangeira”. Next one is Immigration’s office ( Policia Federal ) where you get the Visitors Arrival/ Departure Cards “ Cartão de Entrada e Saida”. Then you should go to Customs office ( Receita Federal ) and back to Port Captain to collect your Clearance paper. Yachts must clear out with “ Capitania dos Portos” when leaving from one jurisdiction to another. As anywhere else, patience is essential as the procedures may vary slightly from one place to the next one.

IMPORTANT: To visit the “Capitania” always wear long trousers and regular shirts or T-shirts. No shorts or “regatta type” shirts are allowed in the offices!


On september, 6th. 2006, Decree NBR. 5887 has been approved and released, allowing foreign yachts to remain in Brazilian territory for up to two years, under total customs exemption policy.

Although this new rule may bring benefits to some cruising yachts, it is important to fully understand the terms and conditions to be complied with when adhering to this policy.

Please see bellow a plain translation of the pertinent text of the Decree:

“DEC. NBR 5887- Sept. 6 th, 2006 (Amendment to Dec. 4543 Art. 313)

         §5. For pleasure boats used by foreign tourist, the duration of the yacht stay in the country may be extended up to two years, counted from the date of entry, provided application for this allowance is submitted before date of previous clearance expires.

         §6.  Upon application (within regular timing), the Customs Office will authorize the yacht to remain moored or docked over a non Duane controlled public location (Marina, Shipyard or other place at the yacht owner discretion), provided a certification is presented showing that the local Port Captain Office has been so notified. After extension is approved, using the yacht in any type of activity, even those of non profitable nature, is forbidden.”


This new regulation is intended only to provide legal support to those who intend to make a temporary leave abroad for any reason, and must leave the yacht in the country.
Current interpretation of the rule in several Customs offices is that upon return of the boat owner to Brazil, he should report to Customs office to clear out of the special allowance, being thereafter  allowed additional three months to leave the country. Foreigners with Resident type Visas are not eligible for this allowance.

Cruising Strategy:

As noticed in the “Yacht Entry” section, a foreign yacht can remain in the country for six months only. Nothing to it, if one had only a few hundred miles to explore or if a hurricane season was pressing him to go ahead anyway!

First, the Brazilian coast is four thousand miles long, there is no hurricane season to worry about, and the cruising possibilities are unlimited. Second, Brazil is not in the way to any common cruising destination except Patagonia or the Cape Horn. So, it is not the case of running down the coast and going ahead south. If one is not considering  going around South America, the task is then, establishing a sailing strategy to go about the time shortage, the distances and the sailing conditions along the coast.

Trying to set some parameters for this strategy  a “Summary of Distances” is given on previous page for passage planning. The following info should be also considered  since it has been compiled from comments of cruisers who somehow managed to visit the country without being  primarily interested in going further south beyond Brazil.

Two general scenarios were reported as used by a number of yachts now cruising the coast of Brazil as far as dodging the “time / distance dilemma”.

         1-Cruisers coming from Europe, in general, have arrived in Northeast Brazil  (Recife or Salvador) by late February, to get in time for Carnival. Most of them had made first a short stop in Fernando de Noronha island.

After Carnival  some headed south rather fast getting  by Rio de Janeiro / Ilha Grande in May, skipping some harbors in the way down, saving them for the way back. After cruising extensively the area around Rio / Ilha Grande , early  August they  planned start going up north making for the missing destinations as time and conditions would permit. Other cruisers continued south despite the Winter, heading to Uruguay with plans to come back either immediately after stamping the boat papers or next year, pending on what they find of interest up there.

         2-Cruisers coming from South Africa usually arrive directly in Rio de Janeiro also by February, thus, for Carnival! Those planning carry on to the Caribbean, took as  option to cruise the area around Rio de Janeiro / Ilha Grande and a little south as far as São Sebastião island from March through May. Then, they started going north by June which is very appropriate weather-wise. Some South African yachts, not interested in carrying on to the Caribbean, managed to cruise as far north as Abrolhos and headed back south to Uruguay to sail home through the southern Atlantic.
         As one can see, the rule “go south in the summer / north in the winter” is valid but not unbreakable. Sailing against it may be time-consuming or unconfortable, but never unbearable, specially in tropical waters and short coastal passages.


Left/Right            Esquerda/ Direita/                 Why?                 Por que?
How?                   Como?                                 Who?                 Quem                  
What?                  O que?                                 Cheap                 Barato
I want to buy...    EU quero comprar...             Expensive            Caro
Cockroach          Barata                                   First                    Primeiro
More                   Mais                                     Last                    Ultimo
Less                    Menos                                  Shit                     Merda
Today                 Hoje                                      Crazy                  Louco
Tomorrow          Amanhã                                 Afternoon            Tarde
Yesterday           Ontem                                   Morning               Manhã
What time is it?   Que horas sao?                      Sunday                Domingo
Man/Woman       Homem / Mulher                    Monday              Segunda feira
Boy/ Girl             Menino/ Menina                     Tuesday             Terca feira
Doctor                Medico                                  Wednesday        Quarta feira
Policeman           Guarda                                   Thursday           Quinta feira
Boat                   Barco                                       Friday              Sexta feira
Sailboat              Barco a vela                            Saturday            Sabado
Shipyard             Estaleiro                                  Week                Semana
Sailmaker            Veleria                                     Month               Mes
Bus                    Onibus                                     Year                 Ano
Money                Dinheiro                                  Day                   Dia
Change               Troco/ Cambio                        Night                 Noite                                         
Rice                    Arroz                                      Butchery            Açougue
Beans                  Feijão                                     Bakery               Padaria
Meat                    Carne                                      Bread                Pão
Chicken               Frango(Galinha)                       Milk                  Leite
Pork                    Porco                                      Coffee              Café
Cow                    Vaca                                       Butter               Manteiga
Oil                      Azeite                                      Tea                    Chá

1       um                                                          20     Vinte
2       dois                                                        30     Trinta
3       tres                                                         40     Quarenta   
4       quatro                                                     50     Cinquenta                    
5       cinco                                                      60      Sessenta
6       seis                                                         70      Setenta
7       Sete                                                        80     Oitenta
8       Oito                                                        90     Noventa
9       Nove                                                      100    Cem           
10     Dez                                                        1000   Mil


Brazil is a continent size country with so many different aspects in either culture, ethnic and in life styles that it may be difficult trying to give general rules to it. Nevertheless some hints applicable to most places may help to make the cruisers life easier in some everyday situations.


“Tipping”     usually is not included in the prices and will come in the bill as +10%

“Rodízio”    is a designation of restaurants where you pay a fixed price “per head”
                    not including drinks and desserts. Eat as much as you can!

“Por quilo”   indicates restaurants where food is charged by the weight.The signs
                      indicate the price of one  quilogram of food (~2,2 lb.) These are the
                     cheapest restaurants and provide always a big choice of food.

“Couvert Artistico” Some restaurants and bars charge an extra for live music, so it is
                     wise to ask in advance.


Taxi is an expensive way of transport in the country. Usually charged on a taximeter basis but some drivers make fixed price for long rides. From 06:00 pm till 06:00 am and on weekends the taximeters run at higher rate.

Buying vegetables:

Vegetables may be found in the supermarkets, however considerable lower prices are  found in the street markets and in the popular fruit markets called “Sacolão”. Every town has at least one of these shops.
-Street markets: 
Ask some local the day of the week it runs in the neighborhood. You can find everything in these interesting markets, from  household appliances to all kind of seasonings.

-“Sacolão” or “Orti-fruti”:  These are popular fruit markets where you find very good quality vegetables at good prices.

It is common practice to bargain on prices in shops. Usually a ten per cent discount is easy to get by simply asking for it if paying cash. Going beyond this is up to you, it is worth the effort.

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