By Marilyn Diggs
Picture gentle cotton clouds in a cerulean sky, emerald green islands with palm tree contours and turquoise water lapping against the sides of a 45-foot sailboat whose puffed sails snap as the wind changes course. Now, see yourself on that ship with the breeze caressing your face and your untamed hair streaming. Recently this image became a reality for me.

There are actually three locations relatively close to São Paulo for sailing enthusiasts: Paraty, Ilha Bela and Angra dos Reis. The over-whelming appeal of Paraty in Rio de Janeiro state over the other two is that the topography creates a protected ocean with the possibility to visit 60 islands and 300 beaches. Horror stories of seasick landlubbers whose bold intentions to play in Neptune’s backyard ended in popping Dramamine pills, made the idea of protected waters in Paraty Bay and Mamangu Port that much more appealing to me. I didn’t want green gills for my maiden voyage. Another plus is that Paraty is the closest to São Paulo, only 300 km away.

My friends and I arrived at the marina in the afternoon and left our belongings at the comfortable and modern Marina Porto Paraty Hotel which has what Brazilians call chalets”, each with a kitchenette, air-conditioning, loft and ample room for six people. Some of us decided to spend two nights at this land accommodation, while others preferred to stay on the boat. Located only meters from the pier, it boasts a panoramic view of the historical city of Paraty and the marina. (For those who prefer to stay in Paraty, Pousada do Sandi is the perfect option.) Time to see our vessel.

“Cabea Feita”, (Mind Made-Up, pictured left) is the top-of-the-line in sailboats. Its sloop pedigree includes the second place prize in the prestigious Ilha Bela Sailboat Race in 2006. The owners are sailors whose son won the title of Brazilian Laiser Champion in 1992. The well-qualified captain and skipper who navigate “Cabea Feita” were hand-picked by the owners and make for a safe and enjoyable ride. The ship easily accommodates six passengers in two suites: one with a double bed and the other with four bunk beds. As to be expected, living quarters are tight and every inch has a utilitarian purpose, which includes a totally equipped kitchen, a television and sound system. The latter added a special touch that evening as we sipped Chardonnay and dined on an aromatic mushroom lasagna onboard, by candlelight under a star-lit sky.

The next day after breakfast on the ship, we effortlessly navigated around the islands in calm waters. A pause at Ilha dos Ratos and several of us dropped into the translucent blue ocean, snorkeling equipment in hand. Yellow and black striped fish swam past us in schools. Cobalt blue and black ones darted between rocks covered with young coral and starfish the size of dinner plates.

Once back on the boat, snorkeling reports were accompanied by aperitifs as we made our approach to Ilha do Algodão (Cotton Island) for a late lunch. A “taxi” motorboat picked us up and dropped us off at the tiny dock. A stairway, passing an observation point under a monstrous overhanging rock complete with a sofa and lounging chairs, took us to the Hiltinho Restaurant. Greeted by a magnificent, talkative red macaw, still in bathing suits one by one we refreshed ourselves under a shower in the garden. Next we made our way to a table on a terrace in front of a rustic two-story house. Crunchy calamari, savory moqueca (fish stew) and baked bananas covered in cinnamon tasted even better overlooking the bay. The lazy afternoon turned to dusk as a red sun drowning in peach and purple clouds descended into the Bocaina Mountain Range. Behind us, the full moon reflected a path of diamonds.

Custom-made outings like this one fit passenger profiles to the “T.” Accommodations onboard enable you to extend your voyage to Angra dos Reis and Ilha Bela without returning to land. So, just make up your mind; the dream is yours when sailing on “Cabea Feita.”

Sunbelt Tour Agency : takes care of all your arrangements. Rua Guarar, 529, conjunto 103. Jardim Paulista. 3887 – 5520. Visit:

Where to eat
Resturante do Hiltinho specializes in seafood and spectacular views. Ilha do Algodão, Paraty. (24) 3371-1488 or (24) 9276-5291
Brik Brak in the historical city has delicious seafood, international cuisine and live music. R. Dr. Samuel Costa, 267, Paraty. (24) 3371-1445.

Where to stay
Onboard “Cabea Feita”
Marina Porto Paraty – Chalets next to the marina. Rodovirio Rio-Santos km 589, 5 Bairro Boa Vista. (24) 3371-1230.
Pousada do Sandi: charming 18th century colonial house converted into hotel. Top-end accommodations. Largo do Rosrio, 01. center of Paraty. (24) 3371-2100. Visit

Marilyn Diggs is an American living in Brazil for over twenty years. She is a freelance writer, artist, lecturer and author of nine books – two about Brazilian art history. As an art reporter and travel writer she has two monthly columns in Sunday News, Brazil’s English language newspaper that circulates in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. She has written for the Miami Herald and Museum International, a UNESCO publication. Marilyn has a degree in Latin American Studies and is often contracted by intercultural training services to give talks on expat challenges.

Previous articles by Marilyn:

Santiago: Gateway to the Chilean Experience
The Enchanting Easter Island
Nature and Nurturing in Chile’s Lake Region
Chilean Patagonia: Going to the Ends of the Earth
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 2
Around Brazil: Adventure in the Pantanal and Bonito Part 1
Spending the Night in the Lost City of the Incas – Machu Picchu
Brazil: Happy Moonlit Trails To You
Brazil: Paradise Found – Fernando de Noronha

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