Third (boom) time lucky!
The southerly winds were not as strong as forecast so we went ashore on Sunday and did some sight-seeing. The walk into central Montevideo from the Yacht Club is very pleasant, along the seafront and through the residential suburb of Pocitos. The beach is quiet at this time of year, but it will be packed with Argentines after Christmas.
If you sit here for long enough your head will blow off! Pocitos beach
The streets are tree-lined and all very quiet apart from a busy street market selling fresh produce. We ambled through Parque Rodo and came across another popular market selling the usual Sunday market "stuff", including equipment for Mate-drinking. Wherever you go in Uruguay there are people clutching a thermos in one arm and holding a round vessel with a metal straw in the other. They have to juggle when their mobile phones ring!
We've yet to succumb to the mate habit, so didn't buy a gourd and straw from this trader
We eventually found our way to the Palacio Municipal, an ugly modernist building, and nearby discovered a tourist information office who's friendly staff gave us a map and guide book in English. We continued on to the Central area and then to the old city near the commercial port.
Pollarded trees front an architectural pot-pourri in downtown Montevideo
Most of the streets and squares were very quiet so we homed in on the Mercado del Puerto, popular for lunch at weekends, and had a paella. It was disappointing. We should perhaps have joined everyone else in a meat-feast (black sausage for starters, a plateful of steak, ribs and more sausage to follow, maybe a few chips and a bit of salad if you're lucky). Uruguay must be a bit daunting for committed vegetarians.
There are many interesting buildings in the old town . . . but not all are perfectly proportioned
On the way back we caught a bus, seeing a few more streets. Our first impressions of Montevideo were of a laid-back, often scruffy place. It does, however, have many attractive buildings scattered around, including the wonderful Yacht Club edifice.
Possible setting for an Hercule Poirot mystery?
Unfortunately the boom we had arranged to see on Monday was too big: not just too long but a much larger and heavier section than we could handle. However, Alvaro (who runs the chandlery at Yacht Club Uruguayo) suggested we look at a second-hand boom belonging to a member. On Tuesday we had a viewing and this time struck lucky. It is too long but that's a good thing because the section is split at the gooseneck end so we'll have to cut it down. Otherwise it's in good condition. Thanks to Roxanna, the OCC port officer in Ushuaia, we were armed with a quotation for a new boom from a fabricator in Buenos Aires - a big help in negotiating the price.
Have boom - will travel. It's previous owner was a (dismasted) Jeanneau 37
Having got that settled we decided to leave as soon as possible. Although the southerly winds had gone we were now getting easterlies and lying sideways to the swell coming in through the harbour entrance. The Yacht Club is very nice and everyone very friendly but the moorings are not cheap - about £17 a day - and it's rather wearing when you have to use a lee cloth to get some sleep in harbour! The only problem we had to resolve was a gas bottle refill. Once again (as previously in Brazil) we were told it's illegal to get foreign gas bottles refilled. Since we plan to stay in Uruguay for some months we decided to buy a local bottle. The good news is that it fits in the gas locker - but, we have yet to find suitable connectors.
We left on Wednesday evening, with strong northerlies forecast, heading slightly north of west to Colonia. Once we were past the main harbour of Montevideo - and the wreck of the Graf Spee - the wind picked up to F6, occasionally F7 so we flew along with the genoa reefed accordingly. The seas were a bit lumpy in places and it's so strange sailing in depths of just 4 to 6 metres all the way. The water is fresh, if a bit muddy - nicer when a wave showers the cockpit. By the morning the wind had dropped and backed to the northwest so - unable to sail well to windward without a main - we diverted to Puerto Sauce (which means willow and is pronounced Sowsay)
Puerto Sauce - lurking behind the trees is a pulp mill and paper factory
As we approached the depths went down to 3 metres and once inside the breakwater, we touched the bottom - surely our draught in fresh water isn't that much greater? But there was only 1.5 metres where the chart shows over 2. Ploughing our way back into slightly deeper water we continued to the mooring area noticing yachts there drawing as much as or more than Lynn Rival. We picked up the nearest buoy and were soon stuck again! Looking around we saw that a number of the boats were not floating, just sitting in the mud. The water levels were very low after the strong northerlies we'd had overnight. But the wind backed into the west and soon the levels rose so we were all afloat again. We're told that in strong southerlies the water rises so that both the breakwater and quay are under water. In the River Plate it's what the wind has been doing, causing up to a 2 metre surge in levels, rather than the tides (up to half a metre), that matters.
Soon after we arrived we were greeted by Roger, who's been sailing his British-registered yacht Kiriwina in these waters for the last few years and was able to fill us in with local knowledge.
Sunset over Rio de la Plata, from Puerto Sauce
It's been almost 2 months since we left Ilha Grande and we've covered over 1,200 nautical miles. We're looking forward now to staying put for a while and doing some exploring inland. Puerto Sauce is a well-sheltered harbour and an ideal place to base ourselves. The local town, Juan Lacaze, is nothing special but there are hourly buses to Colonia, which is both a tourist attraction and a transport hub. The only real downside here is a paper factory, which can be rather smelly at times: not a problem if we're away travelling but not so great when we want to be onboard doing boat maintenance, etc. so we've yet to decide what to do.
In any case we'll stay at least a few days here, fixing the new boom.
How goes the saying? Measure three times . . . . . . and cut once!