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March 2002

Dear Friends:

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.

Sincerely,
Lin & Larry Pardey








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