Safe Haven in Rio Grande
Date: 9 December 2010
Position: Rio Grande 32:01.523S 052:06.354W
Well, it was certainly a lively passage from Porto Belo to Rio Grande. Over the 2 days and 22 hours we were screaming along for most of the time at 8 knots or more in big seas. Apart from the ghastly first night when we were beating into a gale in heavy pounding seas, we had the wind from our side or behind us, so it wasn’t too wet. There were some scary moments (like when I found I couldn’t reef the mainsail and had to spend 40 minutes being thrown about on the foredeck, at night, to sort it out), but on reflection it was on balance an epic harum-scarum roller-coaster ride. Great fun.
Thank God we did have winds strong enough to speed us here, otherwise we would have been caught out in the strong southerly winds that started the moment we arrived in Rio Grande, and that would have been a deeply unpleasant experience. But the downside was that we had to make our entrance into the large complex harbour at night which I always avoid when I can. The anchorage near the yacht club is at the far end of the harbour, 14 miles from the entrance, and we were punching a strong ebb tide, so whilst we entered the harbour at 0030 (half past midnight) it wasn’t until 0415 that we tied up alongside the pontoon of the Oceanographic Museum.
We stopped at Rio Grande for two reasons: it was the only safe haven in 700 miles of coast, and secondly to go through the tortuous bureaucracy of clearing us and the boat out of Brazil. After just three hours sleep (making, for me, a total of about five hours sleep in two days) we all went off to the Policia Federal to have our passports stamped. The other two offices we had to visit were at the other end of the small town. “Don’t bother with a taxi”, said the friendly passport officer, “it’s only about ten minutes walk away”. In the blazing heat, off we set and a full 40 minutes later we arrived at the customs office to be told that the officer dealing with yachts had just gone out for an hour. It took a total of three hours to have our papers processed for the boat before we were able to head off for the third office. The total exercise took more than five hours.
Exhausted we returned to the yacht club and had the last of our Brazilian caipirinhas overlooking the bikini-clad sunbathers around the pool. This was supposed to be a pitstop and we were scheduled to leave that evening for La Paloma in Uruguay just over 200 miles away. However, because of the very strong and still southerly winds, and to catch up on much needed sleep, we decided to leave the following afternoon (Thursday), miss out on La Paloma and head straight for Punta Del Este, the St Tropez of South America.
I’m afraid I have to report some trouble with the crew. The Drunks, who had been comparatively abstemious due to the lively conditions and whose withdrawal symptoms were making them extremely testy, came to me as a body. They pushed Tom forward as spokesperson - he’s the only one who has had any real education - who touched his forelock with what I thought was a rather insolent sneer on his face. He told me that they were all fed up with the amount of work they were expected to do off-watch, and that all their shore leave had been taken up trailing round with me to dreary offices, when they had been hoping to go to The Pink Pussycat Club. Apparently they were under the impression that this was some sort of a holiday. I had to remind them that this was a serious expedition boat and it was not a cruise laid on for their enjoyment. However, I mollified them by issuing each of them with a clean drying-up cloth. I don’t expect any more problems.