I must confess: The story you’re about to read is very biased. Asking me to write about Brazil is like asking Juliet to write about Romeo, Hinckley to write about Foster, Narcissus to write about himself ... I am utterly besotted by the fifth largest nation in the world and have been since I was 5. A poster of Rio de Janeiro adorned my bedroom wall, with the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in the foreground and the glorious beaches and lush morros of the city spread at its feet. I spent long hours staring at that image and developed an odd fixation, a kind of obsessive-compulsive determination that I would one day stand in that spot and touch that statue.
Be careful what you hang in your child’s bedroom. Flash forward about a decade and I am a Rotary International exchange student, finishing a high-school year of study in Brazil. I go to Rio, but the only thing I don’t do while I’m there is touch the statue: My visit precedes Pope John Paul II’s, and Christo is surrounded by scaffolding, being cleaned in preparation. And you know what that means. I’ll just have to come back — and so I have, again and again and again — at least once every few years, sometimes twice in the same year. My love affair with Brazil is no fling; it’s one that has deepened with familiarity. My trips have not always been to Rio — I have branched out a bit — but they are always about the beach and the sea.
The colonial town of Paraty long ago became a favorite stop for me. About 125 miles (though at least a three hour drive) south of Rio, the road to Paraty runs along a curvy coastline, winding up and down the mountains and above a giant bay of deep green water that’s spotted with islands. I’ve never marveled at that view without also wishing I could explore it all by boat, but until very recently, the only way to do that was to pile onto a tourist schooner for a day trip.
As Brazil’s economy continues to grow, the wealthy have looked for new ways to spend, and a nascent charter market has sprung up. Imagine my delight when I picked up a brochure for yacht charters in Brazil at last year’s Antigua Charter Yacht Show. It was a dream come true.
A few months later, after a flight to Rio and a car ride to Paraty, I walked down the dock with my partner Karyn and dear friend Erika to greet Carlo Bartolini. Tall and thin, with mournful eyes and a rare but joyous smile, Carlo is a Brazilian with an Italian mother and a father of German descent. We dinghied with all our luggage a short way out to where San Marino, the 65-foot trawler designed by David Napier and built at the Bertram yard in Miami, Florida, in 1994 (refit in 2009), was anchored. Carlo’s lovely girlfriend, Gabi, waited on the stern to greet us and help with the luggage.