Map: Fortaleza, Brazil
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Reaching the anchorage, which lay outside the harbor but under the lee of its protecting mole, we discovered that during this time of year the lobster fishing was off-season, for the basin was packed with hundreds of diesel trawlers, each smothered beneath a mountainous pile of neatly stacked, wire-mesh lobster traps. The day's heat was stifling, so after we had lowered the bower into 15 feet of water, perhaps half a mile from shore, we fitted the forehatch wind-scoop and rigged Suka's large cockpit awning.
A windsurfer towing harbor officials.
Part of the evening's entertainment included a windsurfer towing ashore a motor-stricken launch, in which were seated two uniformed but temporarily helpless conscripts. Their engine had obviously failed them, and they apparently had omitted oars in the boat's contingency inventory. After completing the rescue, the windsurfer sailed back to Suka and introduced himself as Carlos. We invited him aboard for a congenial visit. Yes, he would exchange 20 dollars for us on the black market, and yes, in the morning he would be glad to direct us to the offices of port control, customs and immigration.
That night the sky let loose a tremendous thunderstorm, identical with those we had experienced in the concluding few days of the passage. This time, though, we were in a position to collect drinking water using our large cockpit awning. So Jenny ventured out into the night and the storm, and emptied the awning run-off buckets several times into Suka's fresh water tanks. In this way she collected some 50 gallons, and saved us a great deal of drudgery, lightering jerry-jugs ashore. Even after the storm's passing our night's sleep was fitful, due to a persistent and pressing urge to roll out of the bunks and go topsides to stand dog watch. So groggily the following morning we rose and paddled dutifully ashore.
Walking in the direction specified by Carlos, naively we entered the building that housed the offices of customs and immigration. As it turned out, these men were not pleased with our supposed lack of respect at having arrived in their sovereignty without bringing with us the requisite tourist visas. The uniformed commissar in charge allowed us only two days' stay, enough time, presumably, to bestow upon the local economy our reprovisioning money. I requested three days, whereupon the official crinkled his brow, looked me sternly in the eyes, and rattled off a most assertive statement in the Portuguese language, followed by a forcefully snapped arm gesture - one I'd never seen before but that more than aptly conveyed his meaning. Then with an irascible stab of an index finger to the appropriate square on his wall calendar, he ordered us to leave on the 15th.
Outside again, I now understood why Carlos had stayed clear of those office buildings. But now he directed us to board a fume-filled bus and ride it across town to the harbor master's office, where we recorded our vessel's particulars. We were now officially received, even though only temporarily. As a matter of routine, the clerk included that we were to return three days before departure in order to check-out. "In that case," I said in Spanish, "we would now like to check out." After a quizzical pause, he opened the drawer and produced the necessary clearance paperwork.
We then ventured into the city to have a look around. Ambling through a downtown market proved a fascinating few hours. The open-air emporium was congested in street vendors and a multitude of small, closely spaced shops festooned with all manner of wares, most having been crafted by local hands. The Brazilian Cruzeiro was sinking fast, and was quite low compared with the dollar, so the goods seemed remarkably inexpensive. Nevertheless, we bought only a few items: a bag of limes and a postcard.
I purchased the postcard from a small, angel-faced kid, who, after quoting the price and accepting my bill, shortchanged me by a thousand Cruzeiros, or about 20 cents US. Keeping a wary on the muchacho's larger friends, I persisted until he begrudgingly allowed the correct change.
Having become fairly lost, we hailed a taxi and requested "Bimbo" the name of the supermarket Carlos had recommended. The cab driver understood, and soon Jenny and I were strolling down the isles. Jenny selected items from the well-stocked shelves while I keyed her tally on a little calculator in order to restrain the total bill below what local currency we carried in pocket. Our equivalence of 15 dollars stretched a remarkable distance, and shopping at the Bimbo proved the most fun we had experienced in weeks. Throughout the store were small stands where smiling hostesses distributed free samples of various commodities, including sweet coffee, cheeses, and crackers. Moreover, the store's shelves were stacked high with intriguing comestibles, some of which we did not recognize, even after a great deal of scrutinizing. We didn't want to miss some delicacy in our ignorance, so we bought one of whatever we found in relative abundance, on theory that a great quantity of any item suggested its popularity.
One such item was labeled Marron Glace, Doce de Batata tipo, and came in a sizable, flattish tin. Back aboard we eagerly sampled this mysterious concoction, and found it a viscous, sweet paste of what, we could not guess. Packaged with the tin of glace was a tin of unsweetened cream, and we theorized that the consumer was to mix the two together to fabricate a dessert. Another item was a jar of Doce de Leite Real, and unfortunately we opened it not until after we had returned to sea, so we we were unable to buy more. The creamy liquid was simply divine.
Another noteworthy purchase, this from Bimbo's dairy and fowl section, was a plastic carton of eggs, standard in appearance externally, but the contents were not your typical one dozen chicken eggs. Rather, they were two dozen diminutive guinea fowl eggs, about the size of slightly overgrown grapes, mottled tan in color, and bespeckled in dark brown splotches.
Guinea fowl eggs.
We had arrived on the 12th, presented ourselves at immigration on the 13th, and were ordered to leave on the 15th. I imagined that we would remain legally within the bounds of the mandate if we lingered until 11:59 p.m. of the 15th. Further, I considered it doubtful that the police would come looking for us at such an untimely hour of the night, in order to determine whether or not we had complied. Chances were, they would wait at least until 7 o'clock the following morning. We weighed and put to sea at 6:30, and reluctantly concluded an all-too-brief visit to a most interesting place.