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Salvador de Bahia

Salvador the Bahia is an important landmark in our voyage.

After visiting Cape of Good Hope last year, seeing a full scale reproduction of the caravela used by Bartolomeu Diaz in Mossel Bay (South Africa), dropping anchor in the exact spot where Pedro Álvares Cabral made the fist landfall in Brazil 500+ years ago (which is not Porto Seguro, as some people believe), now it was time for us to learn more about an Italian explorer: Amerigo Vespucci!

There is a very interesting book about the “supposedly” 4 voyages of Amerigo Vespucci, written by M. Fernandez de Navarrete, the famous Spanish Marine Historian. The title is “Viajes de Américo Vespucio”.  My friend Joaquin graciously lent it to me.

The book is very well written (helped me rediscover the Spanish I learnt in college and that I seldom used in all these years).

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The mystery about the authenticity of at least 2 of the 4 voyages claimed by Vespucci is also interesting for me under a professional point of view, because the investigation about the authenticity of the letters written by Vespucci involves translation.  Vespucci’s work can be found in Castillan Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and Latin as well.  Through a comparative analysis of the translations Fernandez de Navarrete arrives to the conclusion that only the second and third voyages are authentic.  Here you can see the Latin and Spanish versions side by side.

Reading it, brought me good memories of when I was a student at the University of Florence.  I decided to take an exam in Modern History and by chance that year the seminar was on the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the accounts of Bartolomé de Las Casas.   I think the title of the course was The New World.

Little did I know back then that 25 years later I would have sailed along some of the very same routes of the earlier explorers I was studying for my degree.

But I’m digressing…  Back to Salvador the Bahia.  Why the name of the town?

Amerigo Vespucci family lived near All Saints’ Church in Borgo Ognissanti (All Saints) in Florence, which was also known as San Salvatore, hence the name Salvador de Bahia.  He sighted the bay on November 1st 1502,  which is the day of All Saints, hence the name of Bahia de todos os Santos (bay of All Saints).  What a coincidence!

Church of All Saints, Florence

The church of All Saints in Florence is one of my favorites because it contains a fresco of St Jerome by Domenico Ghirlandaio.  The fresco was commissioned by Vespucci family.  Saint Jerome is best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin.  He is the patron of Translators, and as I am a translator myself, I’m very keen on this fresco.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, Saint Jerome

But I’m digressing again…  Back to Salvador!

Salvador has in impressive number of churches.  The popular belief is that there is a church for every day of the year.  In reality, there are a  “little” less: According to the cognoscenti, the churches in Salvador are “only” 180.

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We had great fun in Bahia, and we also had the first official guest on board Oroboro: our friend Karine, from Guadalupe.

Yuka and Karine had a lot of fun in town, and they were brave enough to take a Capoeira lesson.

Yuka and Karine also liked to mix with the locals. These two ladies in typical Bahian dresses proudly show their African roots.  I think they told Karine and Yuka that they have to eat more…  Well, they don’t know them well enough!  Because they actually do eat a lot!

Bahian traditional dress

It’s just that they keep in shape surfing, kiteboarding, doing yoga and working out…

Working out


One day I happened to know that that night there was going to be a Candomblé ceremony, to  celebrate Yemanja, the Queen of the Ocean, the patron spirit of sailors, the feminine principle of creation, and the spirit of moonlight.

I felt it was appropriate for the Oroboro and Plan B crews to attended it.  Karine and Joaquin’s son and nephew were also with us.

We had mixed feeling about the ceremony.  It was certainly not what we expected.  But a unique experience, nonetheless…

When Karine left, our second official guest arrived from Italy: Mario!

Two years ago Mario was with us in Miami to see the boat, and he was actually the one who convinced us to pull the trigger and buy it.  So Mario played a big role in our life changing decision.

With Mario, we planned to sail 400+ nautical miles from Salvador to Recife.  First time for him doing such a long passage, and such a rough one!  Strong winds on the nose, 2.5 meters waves on the bow, frequent squalls with gusts up to 27 knots…  But when you’re 19 years old, nothing scares you.

When we arrived in Recife, we had to lower and store the flag of the State of Bahia and, consequently, we had to hoist again the flag of Brazil.  Has tradition dictates, you need to hoist the flag with dignity and ceremony.  But… you can tell Mario hasn’t done military service…

But that’s a different story…  Back to Salvador!

All in all we spent a lot of time in Salvador and sailing in the Bahia de Todos os Santos.  It’s a beautiful bay, very clean (unlike Guanabara bay in Rio).

It is very nice to see the typical Bahian fishing boats, called Saveiros, sailing around the bay.

You can see dozens of these boats in the bay.  Later on, when we’ll sail north, these boats will be replaced by different ones, called Jangadas.


One day, while I was working on the boat in the marina at the Terminal Nautico, a local sailor asked me if I wanted to go have lunch with him on his boat in a nearby place.  I was looking forward to have a break, and said yes.  Little did I know that the “restaurant” was in the nearby favela…

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At some point, we heard a loud blast coming from the water.  We turned around and we saw a strange glare over the water.  First time in my life that I was someone dropping a bomb in the water to kill the fish.  I saw people jumping into the water from everywhere to collect the killed fish.  From nearby boats, from the shore and even from the windows of the houses.  Scary!

There is a lot more to say about Salvador but I think I’ll leave you with that.  In the next posts I will talk about Itaparica, Morro de Sao Paulo and all the other places we visited.

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