Twiganauten > REISE GESCHICHTEN > Brasilien 2011 > forgotten waterways through th jungle

shallow waters, forgotten canal, unspoiled nature

 For pictures click here

We are now already two months in Brazil, cruising slowly at the coast. From Vitoria, where we arrived in Brazil, we moved down southwards, now we are in Paranagua. It is getting cold by now, the fresh southern fronts come creeping up, a fleece overall, woolen socks and all this garments made us think about going up to the north where it will be warmer again.


It is a rainy day, chilly, about 15 degrees Celsius. Some days ago, (16.05.2011) we decided to sail deeper into the northern part of the Paranagua Bay, and try to find the channel connection to the next big bay in the north, the Cananaia bay. This channel was built in the middle of the 19th century, today forgotten to the sailing world, only used by the locals. No  detailed maps are available, and if you want to find the entrance to the channel you have to make yourself wise on Google earth, but do not expect any information about tide, sandbanks, shallows etc. Our Brazilian friend Werner mailed us some info`s about the passage, but even with these we got grounded twice today on mud banks on our way to Tibicanga,  a small settlement at the northern top of Pesca Island.. No real problem for a catamaran and the water still rising, but navigation is really tricky. (Later we learned to travel at low tide, all obstacles are visible then!) The depth-meter does not work correctly in muddy water and it fails whenever foam gets

under the hull, as it happened yesterday when we sailed with 28 knots of wind in choppy water from Paranagua to the Northwest side of the Ilha dos Pescas. Rain gusts cut the visibility down to 50 meters or less and the GPS-Plotter is of limited use as the stored maps either don’t show the area we are in or are so far away from reality, that our track shows 60% of the route over land…

So we put down our anchor in front of the western coast of Pesca island (waypoint02) on 4 Meters depths (we believed) and in the morning our  Twiga

stuck in the mud at low tide, although the tide should not have more than 1.5 meters max. A good chance to clean part of the hull before the tide rose us up again, and time for a coffee with a breath taking rainbow starting from a small fisherman`s village among the mangroves.


Another tricky thing navigating here is that islands in the bay grow as mangroves settle in the mud, and sand banks move quickly with storms or slowly by the tidal currents. The Google maps information and satellite pictures don’t go very much into detail and they are some years old too, so a lot of care is needed when navigating. The fishermen know there way, they speed along with their long and shallow boats. The boats are mostly colorful, well maintained, they are the only available mean of transportation, moved by paddle or noisy one cylinder diesel engines.

The landscape is flat; whenever the clouds rise we can see the  mountains surrounding the bay of Paranagua who`s mangrove lined islands are flat, muddy places with but few settlements, 90% of the vast bay area is left to nature.

The way through this nature is of a stunning beauty, but with the rain increasing we decided to anchor soon again after only 6 miles, which took us 3 hours, going back and forth, tying to find our way through the muddy waters. In front of the village of Tibicanga (25º20’222” S / 48º16’27, 8” W)   we are waiting for the weather to clear up. Fishermen pass by and one little ferryboat on its way to Paranagua. In a small wooden boat two fishermen lay out a net, then surrounding it and splashing with their paddles on the  water to drive the fishes into the net; five minutes later the net is pulled in and their catch consists of 11 fishes each of about 25 cm length.

The village of Tibicanga has a rural school, a lot of boats, but no roads, no paved streets, no cars.

17.05.2011 in the morning it was still drizzly but the tide started to rise and we feel better to go as long as you have a chance to get the help of the rising water to get off a sand bank. Today we only moved on for another eight miles in  four hours, got grounded three times and with the kind help of a lonely fisherman we avoided a fourth time. Perhaps he wasn`t that lonely, because his colorful boat was named “My Love”. He and his love guided us around a long but hidden sand bank, as a thank you Helga gave him a glass of jam; he looked confused, standing in his boat and watching us going on.

 The Islands and the landscape only roughly resemble the satellite picture of Google earth, and the coordinates which perfectly well on the Google map are not matched by reality, they must have their origin in old and error burden terrestrial maps.

Between Ilha dos Pescas, the mainland and the Ilha do Superagui; the latter being situated between the mainland and the Atlantic ocean there are broad and shallow waters, lagoons in which the short rivers from the near and rainy mountain ranges flow. Here is the way  we are looking for, but where in this wide area to look  is just for you to guess, so try and error, go forward until you are blocked of by a sandbank or suddenly slowed down because the keel ploughs through the soft mud. Sometimes the depths meter gives some information in advance but not always, because as long as we have a bit water underneath we proceed. Going with just one third of our engine power ahead helps to get free with full power in reverse when grounded! And at the lower part of our keels we should be free of barnacles again…


The flat and grassy reefs, sometimes topped with young mangroves indicate the growth of new islands. A bit more scaring are the rocky reefs, of which we located 4 close to the waterway we used. Luckily we could see them, we did not need to feel.


Helga backs up our depth meter with our little dingy anchor, attached to a line to measure where we find it difficult to believe the electronic reading.

   Finally the wide lagoon narrows down to a river and waterway dividing the Ilha do Superagui from the mainland.


In front of a small settlement, Vila Fatima (waypoint 13), we anchor at midday with some sun coming up, enjoying the warmth and the beautiful landscape. In front of the mooring place they put up some marks in the water to warn from the shallow, but on which side of the mark the shallow part lies is not evident to the stranger: an old pullover and a doll on top of a long stick is nice to see but we still have to learn about the meaning, so we hit the mud again, pulled free in reverse, learned and went the other way round.

The village looks nice with its coulorfull houses, there is a bar and a restaurant, at least that`s what they announce, but no beer, no food is available. The connection between the houses consists of muddy paths, no after the rain all wet. One inhabitant, a 55 years old man works on his boat, cut out of a single tree as many of the boats here. In his garden he grows bananas, maracujas, cane, vegetables, he is a fisherman, craftsman and farmer all in one person, proudly showing his orderly maintained property.


Here we see him with his sugar cane pressing machine.


There are some bigger paths connecting the few settlements with each other, there is even a path to the Atlantic coast, we were told. Following the “camino” we found a path cut into the thickset, more like a small and very long ditch, winding through the bush jungle. With the sundown coming up we had to return, but anyway, going ahead wouldn`t show more than we had seen so far.




So we made it back to our ship. These days I want to try to find somebody who lets me try to use these native boats.

Next morning, the tide was low again; best conditions to proceed, because the waterway is deep enough and you can see all the sandbanks and most of the hidden obstacles clearly.

Next comes the channel which was dug in the 19Th century to connect the Bahia do Cananaia with Paranagua.

The artificial part is just 13 Km long, it`s banks up to 5 meters high, covered with big trees, a much different rain wood jungle than the mangrove dominated lower parts. At the end the canal meets with the waterway going to the long lagoon.

 At this place the water is only 80 cm deep because a sandbank is moved from a small river into the canal. It is mid-tide by now and so I guess that ships with more than 1.50 meter  draft will be unable to pass the end of the canal.

The river is winding down to the lagoon, one, a little bit bigger place, called Ariri, is situated at the northern bank. Food and petrol are available here; a ferryboat connects this village with Cananaia.

 When the river meets the lagoon an old church and a ruined building look over a steep sand cliff, on the opposite side there is a long peninsular separating the lagoon from the Atlantic Ocean.

This peninsular is part of the island of Cardoso, a natural reserve and although world famous only visited by few people. The rain- forest covers the mountains going up to nearly 900 meter, a rich variety of birds can be found a lots of different species of plants. The landscape is rocky, some waterfalls in between, rocky beaches and sandy parts at the cost. The peninsula’s beach stretches over 20 km, most of it without any people. The Atlantic`s waves break in shallow waters in  four till fives lines deep.

The peninsular is formed by sand dunes, with dense vegetation and  a lot of bird life.






 The next day we follow the river round the Ilha do Cordosa, again at low tide which makes navigation quite simple. Only few boats are using this river , the by now well known yellow ferryboat and the native fishermen in their colorful fancy boats.

Close to the mangroves and on the muddy banks we find purple flamingos, looking for food in the company of white blue reihers

The Pico Cardoso is just getting clear from some clouds

Finally we arrive on the Cananeia lagoon, where we find a fair wind to sail the last 6 miles to the port of Cananeia.

We try to find the signs showing the way out to the ocean which are marked on our sea map, but find none. But Cananeia proves to have a big fleet of seagoing fishing trawlers: there must be a way out of the bay, we`ll  have to ask some those fishermen, because try and error navigation in coastal Atlantic breakers might prove an unpleasant encounter.

In Cananeia we`ll look for internet, shopping, and some maintenance work on the boat must be done too, sailing isn`t all the way holiday…


In Cananeia the weather improved considerably, sun, warm wind, we enjoyed it very much. The place has got it`s charm, some old colonial buildings, few tourists, some  tourists boats, and a lot of fishing trawlers.

The way out of the bay seems to be difficult, the shallow sands are subject to change, and from the sea there are waves coming in forming breakers. So we decided to have a long walk at the beach of the Ilha do Cardoso, miles of sand, mangroves, streams which come from the mountains, with clear good tasting fresh water.





In the mountains the streams come down in waterfalls. The way up leads through dense jungle, a small path winds up the mountain, no cars , no streets are allowed on this island, the people visiting the place are mainly eco-tourists. Just before dawn we take a late bath in the pond of a waterfall, before we go back in the failing light of the evening.


On our way back to Paranagua we have all the time warm sun and a clear sky, low tide is at 14:00 and in some places we hit the muddy bottom again. But this time we recorded our way with the GPS, putting down correct waypoints, we`ll work out a route.

With the last light of the day we arrive in Paranagua, pass by the industrial

port an moore in front of the historic promenade.