Bahia Brazil – Christmas 2018 and New Year

by Karen Refsgaard, January 2019
Three weeks vacation on Svalen, Bahia in Brazil – such a nice experience. Why?

  • Because our little family got together, Morten, Lisbeth, John and me which is not very often!
  • Because Brazil shows such a diversity of people, food, music and another approach to life!
  • Because exploring the world from a sailing boat is connecting continents, people, and experiences.

Brazil is a real melting pot:  The people come in all sorts of colours and shapes and classes, but what seems to unite them is music, exciting (street) food, mangos and a relaxed and informal lifestyle with few norms and an incredible welcoming attitude to us. However, racism still exists. According to some of our sources about 60% of the populace is illiterate (less than 4 years of school). And as life is easy, there are only marginal needs for housing, clothes and with cheap and accessible rather healthy food it is rather easy to keep people at their classes – little need for mobilisation through knowledge or power in order to achieve more equality!

We spent time on the boat as a family, sailing between the islands Ilha Parica and Bom Jesus, in the bay Todos o Santos, and exploring local coastal life. Mornings always with mangos, oranges, passion fruit if we we are lucky and müsli. The small local shops were our favourite places to shop – getting the local deals and always fun to check out what they could offer. The best experiences were the large beef carcasses, just being cut according to our need. Had also a small dive to see a small coral reef and especially long swims which in the end nearly ended to be together with Dolphins hunting for fish. On Christmas day we had a little celebration dinner, pebernødder from DK (two varieties as my parents compete) so we voted and 3 in favour of the Hedegaard variety and 1 in favour of the Bjerregaard variety! And with gift exchanges of books and Havana sandals!

The many dinners – as the evenings were the most preferred – in Salvador, on the boat or on Ilha Parica gave rooms for some nice talks – especially between Morten and Lisbeth, who had fun together.

Salvador is a large city. It was the entrance for the majority of slaves to South America, and so roughly 80% of the population here is black today, often working in the service industries. The beautiful old town of Pelourini with weathered Portuguese architecture was a nice experience with lots of local food and loads of tourist shops where all sorts of drums, leather, African and Brazilian fabrics of all types and colours, dangles and dingles and services to braid one’s hair were sold! But also great music at the squares in the evening, Capoeira and things for all the senses.

We experienced the more well-off class of Salvador! Got access to the yacht club through Viviana and immediately got invited from a older couple to join them for the day. I think this is typical Bahia. Despite all advices about crime, mugging etc. we have met only very friendly and helpful people here – from the Uber taxidriver to the very well off !

On a sailing boat being in harbours you meet a lot of people travelling across the world. This is a world on its own – culturally great. French Yann e.g. sailed alone across the Atlantic, was finished with the easy life in Europe and continued on to South Africa – in a small sailing boat, fixing things himself and not using much! Or Elisabeth from Hjørring – travelling like Lisbeth – became our new friend both in music, South American culture and sailing.

And being on the sea also shows a different world – all the life that happens, whether it is transport of ice, mangos or people, if it is a small fishing boat testing the nets early in the morning or a partyboat a 3 at night. You get it all.

We got a taste of the Atlantic salty sea, the hot sun, we turned brown – although John beats us all, so dark when we arrived! Lucky although that the younger the wiser in protecting your skin against this boiling sun!

Thank you for three great weeks exploring Bahian life at sea.



Go Brazilian for Christmas!

A new recipe for Svalen´s cookbook from Igor Wicken, our resident Bahian expert!

Moqueca (Bahian Fish Stew)

Cooked by John and Igor (the source cook!) on Svalen, Thursday 13 December.



Fillets (or bone in if preferred) fish (local) as required

2 LargeTomatoes

1 Green Pepper

2 large Onions

4 Garlic cloves

Stale bread

Olive Oil

Dende Oil

Coconut milk

Bunch Coriander

Spring Onions (Cebolita)

Dried Chillies

Salt and pepper



Chop 1 onion and Garlic, and fry in olive oil until soft. Then add the fish, and fry on both sides lightly. Remove fish, and set aside. Turn off heat. Put a layer of the dry bread in the pan, followed by the fish, then the sliced tomatoes, green pepper and second onion. Dribble about 2 tablespoons of Dende oil, and add the spices and chopped coriander.  Add the coconut milk and return to the heat, stewing for a while with the lid on.


Note this is normally cooked in a clay panella de barro (clay pot).

Note. Dende oil is oil from a special Bahian palm.


Serve with rice (garlic rice), and farofa (manioc flour cooked in butter with onions, which is delicious and very good for sopping up all that nice liquid).




A Night out in Salvador de Bahia

Crew X-Atlantic

Crew, somewhere between Fernando de Noronha and Salvador de Bahia


The arrival celebration in Salvador

Saturday 8th December. Igor took us to the old town while still light, and we were there until about 1130 in the evening. We walked about 2km past the port offices and museo moderna (with arts and crafts) to the elevator that transported us up to the old town. Once there we had a tour through this most lovely and surprising old town, which is not only very well preserved, but also very lively (and can be dangerous in parts.)

  1. Cravinho bar to drink cravinho. This is compiled from Cachaca, Cinnamon and Cloves plus sugar.  A hopping, very popular, bar!
  2. Next to the two well dressed ladies with nice hats on the street selling Acarajé. This is bean cake fried in the local Dende oil with Vatapá (cream with cashews etc), shrimp and spices. Excellent!
  3. Next we walked east to a bar with chairs in the street in a small square Sta Antonio, where we had first Carne de Sol (dried meat) with fried AIPIM (Cassava, looking like French fries), with beer, and then Escondidinho (mashed cassava with cheese) con Calabresa (sausage) with onion, and more beer.
  4. Finally we walk back to the top of the old town, listened to some music in the street from a Peruvian guitar player and singer, and drank two drinks, the first a Caipirinha (limes, cachaca, sugar, ice) and then a Seriguela Caipirinha (same, but with the fruit Seriguela instead of lime.).
  5. Then we got a taxi back to the marina.


Note: Salvador was at one time the capital of Brazil, for about 200 years, before Rio, and much later, Brasilia. The buildings in the old town date back to this grand period.

Note: Cachaca is a type of local rum based on sugar cane, and used for mixing drinks.  Many different fruits are used to vary Caipirinha. The fruit here is seriously good!


herb garden

This remarkable small herb garden has survived the transatlantic crossing, although the parsley faded away almost entirely after a dousing in salt water one day! The Basil has lived through it all, surprisingly for quite a sensitive plant!


Kim’s blog from Fernando de Noronha Island, Brazil 


We arrived at Fernando de Noronha after heading for open sea 11 days earlier, the sea has been kind giving us a speed of 7 knots, give or take. The waves came from many directions, making the crossing bumpy and what sometimes felt like the flying circus of Monty Python down in the cabin. When we arrived to Noronha it was like coming to the most beautiful place, the dolphins chasing tuna jumping up from the water, what a sight, Boats anchoring outside the harbor, mostly  local, a sandy beach just next to the pier. On the beach the locals were repairing their boats, along with the guests taking a swim and the local eating place, Recanto da Graca, with good cheap food and the coldest beers on the whole island. The chef of the harbour welcomed us with open arms and a smile, helping out the best he could, luckily Igor could speak Portuguese (Brazilian), for the chef didn’t speak English, but I’m sure that together we would have understood each other.


The people on Noronha are kind and helpful and you have no problems being out doing the night. The buses are going around the island and go direct to the supermarket and a cashier. The town is beautiful and even though it’s touristy, mostly Brazilian, it’s small and not overdone, with small haciendas.


Igor being a Brazilian and with a guitar on his back opened a lot of doors, within a few minutes of arrival he was invited to play at a reggae beach party the same evening. Igor and I went to the town that evening on our way to the Reggae concert. On our way we passed some young musicians playing on big drums and dancing the maracatu. We went along with the musicians down to the reggae concert, what an experience, they played so well.


We spent 3 days on Noronha, it’s quite expensive staying there with a boat, a lot of taxes, one day to settle in, and one day to clean the boat and one day to explore the island, we all did our one exploration, Adrian stayed on the boat, John took the bus around the island and walked in the marine park, taking photos, Igor  explored the waves on one of the many beautiful beaches, I went for a hike, hiking the mountain, Pica to find a rock to sit on. If you love a good hike and a good view its highly recommended, but its not easy to find the path and its not a tour so you need to ask around.

We left the Fernando de Noronha sailing along the coast with dolphins playing following us on our way, while Igor was playing a “I will be back” serenade on his Saxophone.


Almost there!

Skipper’s note as of last night:

We are 150 miles NE of Salvador de Bahia, and should arrive there during the day tomorrow. The wind has dropped, and we are rolling about in the swell, so now keen to get to anchor or marina. Its very hot and sweaty! Looking forward to those long cold Brazilian drinks, and of course the pool at the Yacht Club! It will have taken us just over 17days and nights sailing from Capo Verde, which we think is very good – we were afraid of a week in the Doldrums!

Skipper´s Blog in the Atlantic between Cabo Verde Islands and Brazil (N2deg 46´, W 29deg 45´approx)

By yesterday evening, Saturday 24th November 2018, we had sailed 778 nautical miles from Mindelo, Cabo Verde. Apart from the first three wind-less days, we have had steady NE (Trade) winds and have been running before them, or on a broad reach, with two sails flying. Often we reach 6-8 knots, which is fine for us. The waves and swell have been at cross-purposes, though, making life on board difficult. A couple of nights ago we lost our entire dinner, which flew from the stove all over the cabin floor. It was a special rendering of Penne Arabbiata which I love, and which I thought was suitable also for our crew of mixed vegetarians and meat eaters.
There was nothing for it but to clear up (which the crew manfully did) and start again using a recipe for pasta with a tuna sauce. But the boat was far from stable!
All in all it was not the best day as we also lost the generator, and so the means of charging batteries other than solar, which is not enough and does not charge the engine batteries. However Kim and I managed to fix that yesterday morning, and we now have power again.
We hit the Doldrums later in the evening. Suddenly the wind was all over the place, with violent gusts, and the rain came down in sheets, accompanied by some thunder and lightning in the distance. There was water everywhere, and the boat became very stuffy with all hatches closed.

Sunday 25th Nov.
By this morning, we appeared to have passed through the stormy section, and had a good gentle reach in a mostly ENE wind all day, allowing us all to catch up on much-needed sleep. The sky began to clear, and on reaching Sunday evening we seem to have gone south of the Doldrums for the moment. Tonight we hope to have some stars to steer by. Tomorrow we should pass quite close to the strange mid-Atlantic rocks of St Peter and St Paul, on our heading to the island of Fernando de Noronha, where we hope to be allowed to spend a few days at anchor to recover from the crossing! The island is inhabited, Brazilian, and said to be expensive. It is a nature reserve, and beautiful, and some 300 nm from the nearest Brazilian mainland coast. It has stunning landscapes, beaches and clear blue waters, and fresh food! We expect to arrive there on Wednesday afternoon, 28th November, and stay for 2-3 days if permission is granted. Since we are now only just over 2 degrees north of the Equator, we will have to give some offerings to Neptune in the next couple of days, and it is of course very hot and humid!

Monday 26th Nov.
What a night. Good wind, straightforward waves, no rain, a bright moon, and stars to steer by. Pegasus, chasing Orion through the heavens, was my best guide and quite clear for Kim and me for the second watch of the night. This was the best time for stars as often in our experience. Bright, beautiful Venus rose on our port beam, and cast her own delicate glow across the water. Now in the morning we are roughly abeam St Peter and Paul rocks, which lie to our port hand but are not visible. We have about 350 miles left to sail, and if we can keep up an average of 6 knots, then we will reach Fernando de Noronha by 1330 on Wednesday. I think that, although we have certainly had a good crossing and still have plenty of food, water and fuel, we all look forward to being in a sheltered anchorage for a few days, and being able to have a glass of gin and tonic with ice, or wine, again after our self-imposed abstinence during ocean crossings.
Igor, our resident musician, regales us with songs and tunes on his guitar, and is happy as I write because he is singing!
We expect to cross the Equator tonight, and plan an event to appease Neptune, and keep him on our side.

500nm into the Atlantic crossing

A quick update from skip.. excellent progress being made!

It’s getting very hot and humid now as we are less than 10 degrees north of the equator. we are also more than 1/3 the way to our destination – we have sailed just under 500 nm from Cape Verde, and have 826 left to do to Fernando de Noronha. Better wind now, so up to 8 kts.

Skippers blog – heading for Fernando de Noronha – first days

image1 (3)

Slightly blurry pic of crew, leaving Mindelo, Cabo Verde

We have left Mindelo and Cabo Verde, and are heading just west of South towards our next hoped-for destination, Fernando de Noronha, part of the State of Pernambuco in Brazil. This Island is about 300 miles off the nearest point on the Brazilian coast. However, it is a convenient stop for us en route to Bahia, being just south of the Equator, and more or less on the Rhumb line route.
Unfortunately we have little wind at the moment – we are barely making 3 knots! We have tried the Parasailor, but the wind changed to south east, and was in our face for a while, so we reverted to Main and genoa. Skip (me) got bored, and went to bake a cake for Igors birthday on the 21st.
New crew member Adrian  Fulcher arrived safely yesterday, and despite it being a weekend, we managed to clear out of immigration and get our passports stamped. So all our papers are in order and we can  officially leave.
Since we are sailing so slowly, we put out the fishing line having seen some Tuna jumping out of the water nearby.


Lisbeth´s Blog from Gran Canaria to Cabo Verde Islands (Sao Vicente)


Lisbeth at the helm, toward Cabo Verde, in high-ish seas. She was whistling or singing, mostly! Phot by John Bryden


We sailed from Gran Canaria Sunday October 28th, waiving goodbye to Tia and Marco, who were also visiting the island the same time as we were. The first couple of days the wind was not satisfying us, although we did managed to get the parasail up and sail with it for a couple of hours until we realized that it had been tore on the anchor, and had to take it down again to be fixed. However, we were lucky the coming days, the wind got stronger and we were blown forward with great enthusiasm. Then the waves got bigger and we had some turbulence with John trying to bake bread down below, twice the flour went on the floor and we also saw John flying through the air, which was a bit worrying, but he did manage in the end. He is now saying “We must simplify the cooking”. At night the flying fish flew on board, the piles grew bigger every day, and by the time John gather them together to throw off again we had nineteen flying fish lying around. One evening Kim and I also had one landing between our legs while eating dinner, and we thought we just might add it to our dinner, but were merciful enough to let it into the sea again so it could tell its friends what a terrible life the one on land was, all its flying fish friends lying around dead onboard. By the time we got to Sao Vicente, after six days, we were, I must admit, quite tired. John and Kim enjoyed a drink and we all went to bed, happy to for once get a whole night sleep.


Photos by Lisbeth Refsgaard. Kim at the helm; John and the Helm; small volcanic island at entrance to Mindelo harbour.


Coming from the Canary Islands, the life here in Mindelo and on the island of Sao Vicente is quite different. It is not nearly as touristy, which we enjoy as it gives the place a more authentic vibe, and it has its own twist of African and European mixed society. The music scene is great, we have seen the museum of the famous Cesária Èvora, where we mostly heard of the clothes she wore different places in the world, but having gone out in the evening listening to the live music we discovered the greatness and beauty of this music. Its rhythms, its softness, it has some kind of Brazilian touch to it, but in some songs you can also hear there’s sorrow in it.  I would definitely want to go back here to discover the music scene even further.

Yesterday we hired a car to go around the island. Monte Verde, the biggest mountain, was beautiful and green and the first place to see that they are farming the land, growing corn. We had lunch in a disappointing place, serving more American fast food than the local cachupa that we have tried earlier on, and we got to see beaches and volcanic areas. Other than this we have seen the local markets, which always is a pleasure and people here are in general very helpful and welcoming. I will be sad to leave this island, it is a name on the map not known by many people, but a place worth going to, and also to leave the boat, where I now have been for nearly two months. Despite the seasickness I have enjoyed a lot of the trip, the sailing, exploring new places and learning more about sailing and am wishing to come back with a lot of energy for Christmas and New Year.


Photos by Lisbeth Refsgaard: Farmer with Donkey in the national Park; view of national park with farming on the high slopes (maize etc); John and Kim near the top; John on North Beach; Kim on North beach.