Cruising in Paradise

Eileen & Roberto Barros

It is as if we had climbed into the cockpit, and in a flash could see all the scenery that was left behind.
Imprinted in our memories like an unforgettable movie, it would flourish the remembrances of all the good and bad moments shared together, the many mysteries unveiled, and the sensation of overtaking important stages in our lives.
Those were the days when rebellious youth wished to be rid of a Vietnam on each corner of the world. We were a generation of easy riders and weren’t even conscious of that. Financed by the cold war, dictatorships were imposing their standards of behaviour and submission, and, on the other hand, the youths were contradicting with an anti-culture, preaching peace, love and freedom.

It was a time when the problems on Earth were not as serious as they are now, and if the powerful were not so paltry, they could easily be diminished, since there were even resources to travel to the moon.
Many Indians from the Amazon could still dodge their white brothers, who coveted their lands. They had not yet completely succumbed to the white man's authority and weren't dependent on pop-stars charity shows to support their claims.

Disillusioned Europeans found islands in the Pacific where they could resort to a simple existence, undisturbed by the outside world. The Brazilian coast was visited by so few cruising boats that local and foreign yachtsmen arriving in any of its harbours were considered heroes.

The two of us, young and restless, could not accept the impositions of the establishment. We didn't want to take sides. And how we were right! It was as if we were by ourselves in believing that both sides of the apple were rotten.

“Brazil, love it or leave it,” was the military dictatorship propaganda motto.

“We will leave, of course! What would our family think of us?” They will think we are mad. “Who knows if some of them will envy us?”

“What did we expect from the future?” It could only get worse. “Why not go then? Wait for what? To become wealthy and only then search for a simple life?” It didn’t make sense.

Brazilian composer Caetano Veloso's hit tune of that time “Alegria, Alegria”, calling people to discard oppression had a devastating effect on us. “I'm off with nothing in my pockets or in my hands”…were the lyrics of the song.

We were advised to write a letter to the Head of the Income Tax Department, informing him that we would be travelling taking with us just a few miserable dollars, and that we intended to earn a living working along the way. A friend of ours, who was an important person in the Ministry of Finances, delivered in hands this ridiculous statement.

The Bossa Nova was then becoming popular all over the world. We would hear it frequently, in night- clubs, on the radio, anywhere we went.

In Ipanema “village” we were acquainted with almost everyone. The icons of Bossa Nova, Tom Jobin, Vinícius de Morais, Carlos Lira, Menescal, were nearly our neighbours. But what really touched us was hearing their music being played on the drums of the Calypso steel bands at the furthermost of places.

Preparing the boat for departure at times seemed an interminable task. When starting to doubt if we were ever going to sever the navel cord, we suddenly found ourselves sailing on the high seas, hearing the slapping of waves against the topsides of our hull and seeing the bows forging ahead towards our dreamed endeavours.

And we almost found what we were looking for. It's true that at each place where we arrived there were the local owners. The Canal Zone, Mururoa... But there was still plenty of space. It seemed as though nobody minded if you were there, as long as you weren't particularly noticed. People were helpful and kind to us. Wherever we arrived we made good friends.

We never felt lonely, even when sailing in the great vastness of the Pacific. We shared the place with many friends of different species. Sometimes we ate them, but on the other hand, it wasn’t once or twice that we noticed looks of bad intention directed at us from their part. That was the rule of the game, and we accepted it with fair play. That world belonged to them and we were the strangers there.

Being in the South Pacific was a dream come true. Languid south-seas songs, turquoise coloured waters, palm fringed white beaches, bathing in the nude in pristine waterfalls, everything made sense. That was the paradise we were looking for.

But it didn't take long to find new troubles to torment our minds. A permit required to stay; another to work. The proverbial “jeitinho”, the Brazilian way of solving problems, suddenly became an urgent plea. Then our daughter was born, her existence bringing new responsibilities. At the other side of the world our parents were calling us back. The dreams were vanishing. Finally the Head of the Income Tax Department was the winner. There were no more Beatles, no more hippies, not even the moon was spared for poets and lovers.

Other Brazilian yachts would follow our path, like the Samba, Vagau, and quite a few others. For Willis, the discoverer of Tahiti, even captain Cook, who arrived there just a few years later, already found a lesser Eden.

All we can do now is to open the fore hatch and look forwards. The boat is no longer new, but she still sails. What changed was the equipment. In place of the old sextant with its vernier, it's the GPS instead. The old zinc bucket was substituted for a proper toilet. But the content remains the same.

“About the friends we made then?” Next time they will certainly be others. Madeleine, the Tahitian dancer, we rather should not try to look for her. We would be deeply disappointed. At that time there was no video camera to document her charms. Nobody would believe if we say it now.

But there are still the islands we haven’t visited. There are more than three hundred thousand of them just in the South Pacific. If there were only seven or eight, it would suffice.

What is missing then? To get ready for a return trip while is still time.

***

These are the forewords of the book “Rio to Polynesia” published in our site and available for free with link from our home-page, left lower corner. Since the beginning of this story is completing half a century this year, and it has so much to do with the story of B & G Yacht Design, it is with a feeling of nostalgia that we remind the facts that made us taking such radical steps in our lives. If you feel like reading the book and want to learn more about whom we are, you are welcome to contact us by e-mail: robertobarros@hotmail.com.