When we arrived coming from Cabedelo we had hopes that being such a small town and with such a challenging entrance that there wouldn’t be a harbourmaster to report to, so when we departed Cabedelo we had stated as our next port as Belém.
After dropping anchor, I noticed what looked like a small navy building by the water, so out of curiosity I decided to do a quick Google Maps search using the Portuguese word "Capitania” and to my surprise, there was indeed a harbourmaster but not where I had thought it would be, the building I was seeing was just a regular navy facility. I added that knowledge to my list of things to take care of during the week and did not give it much thought after all, it was the weekend, and from our experience, nothing gets done over the weekend, in Brazil.
Monday came, and we had already forgotten about the bureaucracy involved in sailing in Brazil, so we went out and about sorting our other tasks in town. By lunchtime, we were back on board before the forecasted rain started, and that’s when John hurt his back whilst fixing one of our navigation lights. Tuesday John was still in great difficulty with his back, and because it was raining we didn’t even bother with getting the dinghy in the water and going to town. Mid-afternoon in between rain showers we noticed a jet ski approaching our boat and going around us.
We were inside but noticed the jet ski looked like it had Coast Guard signs, so I came to the cockpit to see what it was all about. Two very polite and friendly officers approached, it was clear they were struggling to speak English so I revealed my Portuguese and asked them to throw a line so I could secure them to the back of our boat and avoid any incident caused by the strong current. After a bit of jiggling around with them trying to approach the back of our boat without ramming into us, they were secured to us, and that’s when they asked when we arrived. I confirmed we arrived during the weekend, and then they asked why we had not come to the harbourmaster's office yet, they had been waiting for us since Sunday (apparently, this harbourmaster's office is open during the weekend). I invited them in and apologised for that situation explaining that John had injured his back and I could not hoist the dinghy by myself into the water. They immediately asked if we needed help to get to a doctor, but I reassured them it was just a matter of rest and the following day it should be possible to get to shore and go to the office. In the meantime, I suggested they could inspect all our paperwork to see that all was in order and even take photos of the relevant documents for their records, that seemed to make them very happy.
With all documents checked and confirmed to be in order the two officers left with a note that if we needed any assistance we could call on VHF channel 16, and they would come and assist.
The following morning we managed to get the dinghy in the water and went to town, besides the harbourmaster visit we had an appointment for our Yellow Fever vaccines we could not miss.
Upon arriving at the harbourmaster's office I approached the gate and spoke in Portuguese, so again we had the awkward situation of John wearing shorts contrary to the required dress code. The moment they realised we were not Brazilian, but foreigners, the requirement to follow the dress code was immediately dismissed despite me saying we had a pair of pants on the backpack. I just needed to be sure we were in the right place before John put them on quickly, after all, it was 30 degrees and steamy, not the right weather for long pants!
The officer at the entrance apologised for such dress code imposition and insisted it would not be necessary for John to wear pants, we could go into the office just as we were, his boss was waiting for us.
We handed them all our paperwork that was again copied multiple times, we filled one of the forms again copying the info from one of the many other versions we already had of that same form, and then we negotiated with them the possibility of having our departure pass filled in and stamped even though we were only planning to depart the following week. It was a bit of interesting conversation telling them we had done this in other places with the promise that if anything changed on our plans we would come and rectify the documents, this way we wouldn’t have the burden of coming to see them again, and they would also not waste their time dealing with us another time when we know they have a lot more important things in hand than us (they seem to enjoy the pampering), and so they filled out our departure pass at the same time of the arrival pass.
With big smiles, we waved them goodbye and left their office to get to our next appointment in town, the important Yellow Fever vaccines.
As the weekend approached we saw the coast guard jet ski nearly every day, not sure if they were checking up on us or if that is their routine, but considering there were not many boat movements besides the fishermen they were probably confirming that all was okay with us.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.