RIO, SECOND TIME ROUND (11 MAY 2014)
Well, I got back into the swing of work again in time to embark the new voyage crew on Nellie and extract her from her cozy berth in Punta, bound for the exotic shores of Brazil. The purpose of this blog, however, is not to give a blow-by-blow account of the voyage – go to the impenetrable new JST website for that. I thought however that, having had such a miserable time in Rio last time the ship was in, I could share with you the process of maybe putting some ghosts to rest. Suffice it to say that when I was informed that the ship’s planned itinerary of a 2-month circuit from the Plate estuary around the tiniest outposts of Britain at Tristan da Cunha, St Helena and Ascension, following prevailing currents and winds, had been ditched in favour of three shorter voyages up the Brazilian coast, using Rio as a turnaround port, my heart sank to unfathomable depths. For readers who aren’t aware, during my last visit to Rio I experienced delays and frustration beyond imagination, leading to our departure to Cape Town being 10 days late, and almost leading to my walking off the ship. Rio has since been associated with a feeling of helplessness and utter frustration, and I have been dreading our return.
We cleared into Brazil much further south, in a tiny but incredibly busy port called São Francisco do Sul. It is also Brazil’s third oldest town, and really quite attractive. We had a couple of further, pretty anchorages further up the coast, which had their own, fortunately surmountable, problems, and I had some time ashore to relax and mentally prepare myself for our arrival in Rio. It is amazing what a bit of sunshine, a swim in warm, tropical waters, and a cold beer will do for morale!
Our arrival in the approaches to Rio was accompanied by some uncertainty on two counts: first, that our agents (which we did not have on our last visit) had told me that as we were going to a private marina berth, we did not need a pilot. Last time I could not sneeze to seaward without one. Secondly, our berth was to be in the Marina da Gloria, which is poorly charted and therefore I had little idea of the layout or depths in the basin, except it was all within the 5m contour (Nellie draws 4.1m). We were met by the agent in a small powerboat, and he guided us in beneath the glide path for the adjacent domestic airport, and round the breakwaters into the snail-shaped marina basin. I have forgotten to mention that for the past 24 hours we had been on one engine after the port engine’s main drive belt and its tensioner had a serious disagreement and decided to destroy each other; the belt we had a spare for, the tensioner not so. So, I was entering the marina almost blind and with one hand tied behind my back, and I somehow had to manoeuvre into a stern-to berth. Fortunately there was a marina workboat to assist, and with the help of it and our own boat, I got her there.
The agents proved to be pretty efficient with our clearance, and once the gangway was rigged (a bit of a work-up, rigging it from the stern onto a fairly rickety pontoon), we were able to relax and call shore leave.
I managed some more time ashore the following afternoon, to go up Corcovado to see the statue of Christ the Redeemer (impressive) and the views over the city and the bay (more impressive). Then we had a few drinks and a good, albeit expensive, meal.
Yesterday was crunch day: last year, the delays were caused by a complete mess trying to get fuel. This time, the truck arrived on the appointed day, but 3 hours early, immediately starting to rig his hose and before our engineers had completed their checklist, started pumping. They also ignored the local requirement for an anti-pollution boom before any other preparations take place. As a result there was much shouting and arm-waving as we were instructed under no uncertain terms that we should stop the operation (which we already had). At this point my heart had that awful sinking feeling that it was all happening again. Fortunately we have an agent this time. These guys are frequently irritating in their attentiveness and certainly in their willingness to charge lots of money for their services, but on occasions like these, they earn every penny, and soon ruffled feathers were smoothed and the shouty bloke calmed with copious quantities of passion fruit juice. The boom arrived on time, the truck reconnected, and within a couple of hours we had full tanks again. The ghosts were summarily dismissed to bother someone else.
Today we embarked the crew for the next, Rio to Rio, round voyage, and tomorrow we sail back down to the south for another new port and new adventures… maybe.