RACING THE SAVEIROS


I couldn't be more excited. Here I was on my second full day in Brazil and I was already connected with the unique traditional vessels that had drawn me to Bahia. With a simple rig, no engine, and built for cargo, there are many parallels that can be drawn between the Saveiros and our coasting schooners of Maine.

Scheduled for a ten o'clock departure Ann and Kristi accompanied me to the port. The lower city was also filled with impressive architecture. More commercial in nature they included the terminal, the indoor market, customs house and many other impressive structures. The girls unfortunately would likely not make it aboard since Kristi had another performance but Gustavo told them to meet us near the fort on the second point. This was just a short walk from our Pousada where the race was to start at 1:00.

 

Saveiro Leaving Port

Four Saveiros left the docks of the port for the start line. At the helm of ours, E DA VIDA was the former owner, Jailtan. He was more engaged in food preparation than sailing but we managed to make it out to the end of the breakwater.

Jailtan preparing food

It turns out that he was waiting for a tug boat provided by the navy that would assure we all got to the start line in time. We were the first to receive a tow. Then we threw a line to another Saveiro and both were towed to the second beach.

We all anchored very close together and dozens of smaller boats of various local designs began to appear. They each had their own class. At 1:00 the fireworks went off at the fort and the race began. About thirty traditional boats were all raising sail and weighing anchor in front of an audience of many hundreds of spectators.

 

Racing the Saveiros (Photo by Nilton Souza)

The race to the first mark was very exciting as we were in close company of many interesting boats. We slowly began to emerge from the pack.

 

 

The Saveiro was now in the capable hands of our young captain Binho. Jailton was pleased to present us with his savory dish of Acaraje. This festive specialty is a traditional Bahian favorite. It is made with the batter of mashed beans fried in coconut oil over a charcoal fire. The hot biscuits are then sliced open and stuffed with shrimps and salad.

The afternoon breeze was freshening as we jibed around the first mark. We turned down wind with only two large Saveiros ahead of us.

The mast is unstayed and the gaff sail is loose footed. This beautiful and remarkably simple rig moved us along at a grand pace.

The traverse or "Jib Stick" (Photo by Nilton Souza)

The head of the jib is tied into a lace line that went up with the mainsail and its tack was tied to a stick that could be put in various positions to simulate a jibboom or a whisker pole. At first we tried to sail wing on wing with the jib stick tied to starboard but as we settled into our course we found it to be more of a broad reach. The jib stick was moved back to its central position.

We steadily were gaining against our rivals and a quick tack around the next mark put us in second place. On the third leg we raced by the city back to the second fort in the Barra ultimately we were second in a down to the wire finish. The crowds cheered as each vessel crossed the line and we again anchored up in front of the fort.

After ceremonies we got underway back to the port. A brisk wind was funneling down from the hillside as Gustavo asked if I would like to take the helm. The race was over but we were moving faster than we had all day. She handled beautifully as I knew she would.

When we got back to the dock Gustavo told me that E DA VIDA was leaving in the morning to return to her home port, Maragojipe. He told me of the boatbuilding and cargo activities of the Saveiros in that area and all I could say was, "I have to go on this trip".

And so the stage was set for our next adventure in Brazil!