Salvador was our second big port since arriving on the Brazil mainland and one with a bit of a reputation, our local friends recommended stopping at Terminal Náutico Marina or TENAB as they call it, to take care of the arrival pass and only then head out to the Aratu Yate Clube where they are based from while in Brazil. Unfortunately, between Carnaval, a nautical boat show and the Oyster World Rally, neither Terminal Náutico nor Bahia Marina had a place for us, so we anchored between the two marinas just in front of two little beaches. The place looked a bit tight because we wanted to keep clear from the marina entrance, but it would be enough for us and two other boats.
We quickly launched the dinghy and sped to the Harbourmaster's office, just by the water next to the Terminal Náutico marina basin and the small fishing harbour. We went around the breakwater that protects these and creates the two separate basins each marina takes. As we approached the fishing harbour we noticed the harbourmaster has a small set of steps straight into the water where it would be possible to tie on without being in the way of the comings and goings of the patrol boats. We slowly approached, trying to call out the officer on duty (heavily armed) attention to ask for permission to dock, but he refused our request and told us to go through the fishing harbour. We went around and into the very tight fishing harbour, trying to find where to safely leave the dinghy, there was a set of stairs in a corner that in normal conditions would be our spot, but it was full of drug addicts looking really bad, so we immediately excluded that option, another look around didn’t identify any other option besides a loading ramp that given we were reasonably close to high tide didn’t look too slippery.
We deployed our wheels, and off we went towards the ramp slowly. I then carefully got off the dinghy (I was wearing long shorts) and guided us in, John then did the same without getting his shorts wet, and we carefully brought the dinghy to the street level where we chained it to an abandoned big boat trolley. This was right next to the entrance of the Navy base where the harbourmaster's office is, with the very heavily armed guards on watch, so we hoped for the best and that the dinghy would still be there upon our return in one piece.
We approached the guard, and I quickly explained in Portuguese the reasons behind our visit and asked very politely if the dinghy would be safe where it was, the officer did not want to compromise himself keeping a lookout but hinted it would be ok, but in the meantime, we had a bigger problem he said because John was wearing shorts (against the dress code) to which I replied it was not a problem we were prepared with a pair of long pants for him to put on it was just that with the dinghy shenanigans we didn’t want them to get wet and look disrespectful. The officer accepted our answer and pointed to the little gazebo where John should go to get an entry pass, but I would have to wait out here by the officer. I quickly explained John doesn’t speak Portuguese, and that created a fuss. I said I could go on his behalf if they preferred, but the answer was that the captain needed to go, so I said in Recife, both of us had gone in, and after a bit of chit-chat between officers and a call to a supervisor we were both given an entry pass and instructions on where to go.
The procedure of arrival both in Fernando de Noronha and then Recife was repeated, copies of all documents including our passports filling out a new copy of a four-page form we had already filled twice…
It didn’t take us long to get all paperwork done, and in less than 30 minutes we were back at the entrance, and by our dinghy that was exactly where we had left it.
We dragged it down the ramp into the water and waved a big goodbye to the officer by the Navy base entrance.
After a few days we had to go back to the harbourmaster's office to take care of our departure pass to go to Camamu a bit further south, but this time we left The Dream at the mooring field in Aratu and took a taxi to town. This way we could do some sightseeing.
We arrived at the gate, and the officers recognised us immediately from our previous visit, but this time they did not want to let me in because I was wearing shorts above the knee (after checking the rules the length of my shorts was fine). We were a bit perplexed because I was wearing exactly the same clothes! We explained that. After a few more chit-chats between officers, a call to their supervisor and it was ok for me to enter as I was. I did promise the next time I would bring another choice of fashion.
We went in and requested our departure pass to go to Camamu. That generated a bit of confusion because apparently, there had been some reorganisation of which towns belonged to which harbourmaster scope and the officers on duty were not sure where Camamu fell in this new arrangement. A few calls to a supervisor, and they created the departure pass just in case a patrol boat asked about it because as they said, there is no harbourmaster office in Camamu!
Again, they took copies of all our documents, but at least this time we didn’t need to fill out the four paged form again.
Strange bureaucracy we thought.
We left the office and went about our plans to sail south.
Upon our return from Camamu, we needed to report back to the harbourmaster in Salvador. We anchored again at the same spot the very first time but this time I had done my homework, and we had identified a set of stairs with a metal railing in the beach in front of us where we could easily chain the dinghy after dragging it up the beach. This place would require a 5-minute walk on a very boring roadside.
We approached the entrance, but this time the officers on duty were not the same, and they criticised my footwear. I was wearing some pretty Havaianas, the same ones I had worn in all harbourmaster visits except Fernando de Noronha, but this time instead of my very cool and light long shorts I was wearing long very light pants. I immediately exclaimed that those were precisely the same pair of flip-flops I had worn all my previous visits! Again, a bit of chit-chat between officers, a call to a supervisor explaining my flip-flops design and I was given permission to enter as I was. In the meantime, some locals were being given absolute trouble for wearing a football club jersey with the logo, the guy's solution was to wear it inside out, something I would think would be much more problematic.
In any case, I promised next time I would wear a different choice of footwear.
We went in and reported to the harbourmaster that looked at our departure pass to go to Camamu confused given that there wasn’t an arrival and departure pass from there. What should they do??
They called the supervisor that came in and gave us a big lecture that Camamu was part of the Salvador harbourmaster territory and that we didn’t need a departure pass to go there… bla bla, I politely said that we did what his staff told us to do, unfortunately, the information is not readily available for foreigners not even in Portuguese, but we make an effort to always seek advice from the authorities even if they advise us incorrectly. He accepted what I said and made a note in our papers regarding that weird situation.
And they took again copies of all of our documents…
With that sorted we got ready to leave, but a poor fellow sailor was being given a hard time because he had been partying for 10 days of Carnaval without ever reporting to the harbourmaster, I assisted in translating because the poor guy apparently had not been told in Recife his first port of entry that he was required to get arrival and departure passes at all ports he stopped at, With that explained we left him to sort out his current predicament that could very well involve a fine.
We waved a big goodbye to the guys at the entrance and said until next week or so.
After a few weeks exploring the Bay of Todos os Santos and sorting out our autopilot, it was time to start heading north so we paid one last visit to the Salvador harbourmaster office.
This time I was wearing long pants and Melissa plastic shoes (a famous Brazilian brand), the moment we came closer to the entrance the officers recognised me and laughed saying I didn’t need to wear something different from my trusty Havaianas flip flops, I replied I had promised I would wear something else on our last visit and I was keeping true to my words. We all laughed.
We went in again, got our departure pass, got copies of all our documents taken yet again (??) and said goodbye to all the officers we had now visited so many times. They were quite curious about what we thought of their country, what we had seen and where we were going.
We waved a big goodbye and said see you guys a next time!
We were still thinking how strange it was that every time we had visited them there had always been a comment regarding our dress code even if unfounded. A true example that being prepared and always having a smile helps with these situations.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.