Cape Horn lies only 460 miles to the south of us. Unless something completely
unforeseen interferes, we may actually realize one of our biggest dreams,
sighting the southern most tip of the American continent. In four or
five days, we will set sail from Puerto Deseado, headed out of the roaring
forties, into the screaming fifties on a boat that has never been in
better condition, with lockers full and my (Lin's) loins girded (what
ever that actually means) to deal with the weather and waves we've read
about for years.
This is one of five lighthouses
in the world that is in a Church tower|
But back to Mar del Plata where
we spent six grand fun and work filled weeks. We had chosen to stop
here based on the recommendation of two sailors we met in the Azores.
They were right about the friendliness of the local sailors, the excellent
facilities and relative availability of supplies. What no one could
have warned us of, was the financial chaos we would find once we arrived.
Two weeks after we settled in to enjoy partying with new friends, repainting
Taleisin from top to bottom and going over all of her rigging, the banks
closed down while the government tried to figure out how to get the
country out of a complete bankruptcy and financial default. That meant
standing in three hour long lines to get cash to buy supplies, never
knowing what our dollar was worth one day to the next and of course
worrying for our local friends who watched their savings drop in value
each day. When we first arrived, one peso was worth one dollar US. Today
the peso is only worth 43 cents. That means people have lost 60% of
their money. In spite of this, the Argentines seem to have been able
to keep their cool and go on living. In Mar del Plata there were some
noisy protests, but no threatening problems, though foreign goods flew
off the shelves of shops within a day of the first devaluation. Fortunately
our lockers were full and there is a grand selection of local produce
and supplies at bargain prices, to supplement our provisions.
2 This is flat, wind-wracked
desert. Yet I love the dramatic play of light, the color of the
rocks, the sheer wildness of the landscape.|
Haul out time was relatively
painless and because of devaluation cost only $l25 for five days on
the hard at a beautiful country club cum yacht club. We had a helper
working alongside us for $30 per day, a real treat as Sergio took care
of some of the hardest sanding and scrubbing. More pleasurable times
were evenings spent on our boat or other local boats singing along to
the guitar, learning Tango, and sharing folk songs. It was fun to hear
everyone join in as I sang old Joan Beaz favorites, fun to hear old
Beatle songs in Spanish. We became friends with a lovely lady named
Maria Eugenia who is a professor of English literature at the University
of Tucaman (in the north of Argentina). Hours fled by as we talked of
books and Argentina. Our two folding bicycles were a real treat here.
Each morning I could run out and get the Buenos Aires Herald, an award
winning English Language newspaper, then pick up some wonderful fresh
bread or fruit from the community market ten blocks from the yacht harbor.
By the time I left, I knew dozens of the local vendors by name and they
all teased me about the Mexican style sombrero I wore as I rode my over-laden
bike on my shopping tour.
For years we have been planning
to try to test Taleisin and ourselves against winds of Tierra del Fuego
and we had set a date of February 1st to head south so as to reach the
Straits of le Maire with the neap tides of the last of summer. This
strait is l6 miles wide, between Staten Island and Tierra del Fuego.
It is famous for overfalls that have been measured at up to 30 feet
high when wind is against a spring tide. If you look at a chart you
will see why. The water is amazingly shallow and the tide can run at
up to six knots. Our target date is February 20 through 24th. As we
had ll00 miles to go and did not know what kind of winds we would expect,
we set sail, as planned on the 2nd of February.
The tidal range is over 5 meters
(l7 feet). We had to time our entrance into the Ria carefully as
the current runs at up to six knots at full flood.|
Sailing turned out to be better than expected. I went to the local internet
cafe and there I found a web site with amazing weather info - //grads.iges.org/pix,
it showed a possibility of five or six days without any strong fronts
or major lows to the south of us. We set off in 25 knots northeast winds,
the next evening we had a 30 to 35 knot southeasterly but could still
just lay our course with triple reefed mainsail and storm staysail keeping
us moving at about 4 knots close hauled (and amazingly comfortable).
The wind then backed and for four days we had pleasant sailing with
one utterly amazing night. That night the wind was about 20 to 25 knots,
we were running fast and as soon as it got truly dark, the phosphorescence
became so bright that every wave was outlined, every darting fish glowed
and in fact, I could not find the light house I was trying to spot because
of the constant bursts of light surrounding us
Six days out we were utterly
becalmed. We enjoyed a quiet day cleaning up the boat, then making love
in the cockpit. That brought the wind back. But during that day we saw
clouds that definitely heralded wind. First I saw hard-edged clouds,
which had rolls like hair curlers lying under them. Then we saw a few
wisps of high cirrus, the barometer began to drop and since Puerto Deseado
was only 60 miles to the south, and we were almost a week ahead of schedule
we decided to stop and visit this fishing outpost.
Thousands of penguins make
their homes on the rocky islets both inside and outside the Ria.
We arrived two hours before dawn,
two hours before the incoming tide. So for the next hour and a half
we hove to and studied the chart to be sure we knew where each rock
or shoal patch should be in relation to the main lighthouse (Which is
in the church steeple) and the landmarks we could identify. Then with
35 knots of wind on our nose and a tide that turned from foul to fair
with only about five minutes pause, we beat into Deseado and came to
anchor next to two huge barges that have been set in place amidst the
rocks to form a tiny safe haven for local work boats and the rare visiting
yacht. Within two hours of securing here, the wind increased to fifty
knots with heavy rain. Then an hour later it was calm, sunny and cold
enough to want gloves on. That didn't stop the local sailors from coming
down to greet us, and invite us to join them for various forays. We
talked till late, then fell into bed and slept l4 hours straight.
So we now have plans to go exploring
the penguin colonies of this rocky, desert-like outpost with one of
our new acquaintances, other plans for dinners and video nights. We
have almost nothing on our work list and need few provisions. So we
plan to relax and do little over the next four or five days as we prepare
for the biggest adventure of our sailing lives.
Lin & Larry Pardey