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  • Writer's pictureSailing The Dream

Brazil , Recife - checking in again??

With our arrival at Cabanga Yate Clube limited by the tide, despite having arrived in Recife reasonably early in the day the completion of our check-in formalities would have to be left for the following Monday.

By the time we finished tying up in the marina, it was too late to even attempt getting anything done downtown Old Recife or at the commercial harbour where the offices we needed to visit are located. The only thing we could do was, with the help of Sueli from Cabanga Iate Club, advance the process by filling out online the necessary forms for Receita Federal (Customs) LINK and have our documents scans sent to the authorities in advance, hoping to speed up the process.


Monday early morning we were on our way to the relevant authorities after getting some guidance from Sueli regarding the exact entry point for the commercial harbour that we should use to access the Polícia Federal (for immigration services) and Receita Federal (for Customs).

Just as we were leaving the marina on an Uber she was on the phone with those two offices to confirm our visit, hoping to avoid further delays waiting for the right officers to come to the office, in theory, this way they would be already waiting for us. Reality would not be quite like that, they knew we were coming, but still, we had to wait plenty of time at those two offices.


Keeping an eye on the road and following our track on Google Maps we were looking for a specific building Sueli had shown us on Google Street View, we had placed an approximate marker for our Uber drop-off point, but it was vital to find this red building on the long deserted avenue. This dark red building was the reference point for the extremely low-key gate entrance.

We spotted the building on the left side of the street, its colour was significantly darker than shown on Google Street View, but no doubt was the reference point we were looking for. Across the street there was what looked like an abandoned entrance with a derelict guard house, the only tell this was not, in fact, an abandoned place was the number of motorbikes and a couple of cars parked just inside the gate, none looked like it had been there for more than a few hours. As we crossed the avenue and approached the gate, we could see a heavily armed and protected (bulletproof vest) security guard inside the derelict-looking guard house. The entire place looked so strange, abandoned to decay and at the same time heavily secured with serious turnstiles and heavy bars.


I spoke with the guard in Portuguese (he did not speak English) and explained the reason for our visit, he gestured for us to come in through the gate, asked for our passports and told us to wait at some seats just before the heavy-duty turnstiles. Some five minutes later he came back with our passports, pointed at one of the turnstiles for us to pass and pointed us to the next building, indicating the door was on the other side. That’s where we were to wait for Policia Federal.

view of th ePolicia Federal (Immigration) Office inside the commercial harbour

Past the gate, the guard building and the turnstiles the place looked as abandoned to decay as it did from the outside, the only giveaway that this was indeed a working harbour was the cars and motorbikes parked close to the various building in the distance.

We entered the building that we were directed to only to find it completely empty and again abandoned looking, but suddenly someone showed up out of a dark room that opened to that waiting area. I explained again our reasons for visiting, he offered us coffee and water and asked us to wait while he called someone.

We waited and waited.

This guy we had just spoken with was just a caretaker it seemed, cleaning the floors and desks without much commitment to it.

Eventually, a car arrived and parked right in front of the door and an officer entered the building while the caretaker guy grabbed a bucket and soap and started washing the car right there in front of the main door.

The Polícia Federal officer examined our papers, asked a few questions, checked the computer, called someone to discuss our papers very annoyed and then came back to us giving us a small lecture that the Polícia Federal in Noronha had filled the departure section of our arrival documents (which they shouldn’t have according to him) effectively checking us out of the country without having our passport stamped out. He was adamant that the bottom section of our arrival form should only be filled out upon our departure from the country, and he was genuinely upset he had now to prepare a new document for us. He took his time, typing the new document as if he had never seen a keyboard in his life and had to look for each letter… 1h in total just at this one office, filling out a form that we had already received and that should not even have taken 5 minutes filling. Once he finished and gave us back all documents he explained again that the bottom section of this form should only be filled out upon departure of the country.


With that done he pointed us to the next derelict building, past an empty space, just by the channel access to Recife, where we had sailed past the Friday before.

view of the Receita Federal (Customs) office

We walked there under the scorching sun. Again the building looked completely abandoned except for the fact that there were a few cars parked up front, one of them with an electrician guy or similar. We entered the building followed by the electrician, on the inside there were two people that said they had been waiting with an annoyed tone (for a moment I wasn’t sure if they were talking to us or to the electrician guy).

I gave them all papers including the form filled out online with Sueli’s assistance. They already had all on email and on WhatsApp (?!), they took copies of everything in any case. At this point we thought that this was going to be a very fast process, it looked like the guys were completely on top of it until the lady told us to sit and offered water. That's when we realised that these two people were not the actual officer taking care of our papers, that guy was in a different building probably in town at the main office, and they were just the harbour officers.

We waited and waited and waited…, whilst listening to what I would think was sensitive operations information, I can only guess in the back of their mind the Gringos don’t speak the language so there shouldn’t be any problems, but I had spoken to them in Portuguese…

They carried on discussing their Customs operations regarding apprehended merchandise that was going to be escorted out of the compound under heavy Military Police surveillance in the next couple of days…, a few more phone calls and WhatsApp messages to the Polícia Federal group about us and our papers a few more photos of our copied documents and eventually the girl says she finally got the email from the other officer it was just a matter of printing and stamping.


We left the commercial harbour by the same entrance and decided to walk to Capitania. The avenue didn’t look that long and standing in the sun trying to set up an Uber and wait for his arrival seemed a waste of time and energy, walking at least we could stretch our legs.


As we arrived at the Capitania we noticed that just in front of it there was a huge Receita Federal building where most likely the officer that took care of our papers was in fact (this is not the building to come to for the Customs process, the one in the commercial harbour is)

Anyway, we approached the Capitania building, heavily gated with a few officers standing guard at the closed gate. I explained the reasons for our visit, they let us in and pointed us to the main building entrance where another officer came to talk to us to see how could he be of help.

The officers look at John slightly disapproving, and immediately I said I had a pair of trousers for him in the backpack, it was so hot was there any place he could go to change. I had just applied sunscreen to my face so it was very shiny, the officers looked at the Gringa and Gringo and felt sorry for us melting in the scorching sun and told us it’s ok they could make an exception for the Gringo.

The officer that had just received us inside the main building returned to communicate we were in the wrong building, but fear not Gringa he will take us to the right one just around the corner, it was the public administrative office.


We entered, and everyone was wearing trousers women included, whilst John and I were wearing long shorts! They stared at us. There was no ticket machine or any apparent order as to who was first or second.

Another officer comes immediately to talk to us and exchanges some words with the officer from the main building (probably about the breach of dress code conduct) that brought us here. They pointed us to a chair and said he will come to talk to us shortly. In less than a minute the officer that was running the “triage" of the waiting room comes, sits next to us super polite and queries about our visit to their offices. He checked all our papers, takes them to a desk where he speaks with someone on the phone and returns to us our papers indicating a superior officer is on his way to process us, it should take just a minute or two. He offers us water.

Within a minute an officer in a different uniform enters the room, and the previous officer pointed at us. The new officer approaches, same queries, same look at our papers, and he tells us he needs just one minute and all should be done. He takes our documents, makes copies and fills the arrival and departure pass immediately.

In less than 15 minutes we were back on the street with all done and with a baffled feeling that the one office that had a strict dress code requirement, was full of people waiting for their affairs to be taken care took a fraction of the time the other took to deal with us than the other two offices without having any other people waiting. And the politeness of all Navy officers here had been absolutely amazing.


***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community. In this post you can find information regarding check in and out procedures with location for the Capitania, Receita Federal and Polícia Federal that will assist and organize the entire process

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