A trip to Riachuelo in Uruguay

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sun 6 Feb 2011 18:46

Date: 18 January 2011

Position: Riachuelo, Uruguay 34:27S 057:43.5W


Next up was a trip across the River Plate to Uruguay and the fabulously tranquil Riachuelo. As a family we have spent many wonderful holidays here with greatest of friends Christine and Fernando Muller and their children, Maria, Sofia and Ferdi (who are like cousins to our two). However to get there we had to overcome two obstacles. The River Plate was not designed for large deep-keeled yachts. At best the river is 5 metres deep and most of it is a lot less than the 2.2 metres that we draw, and therefore out of bounds for us. Riachuelo is about 25 miles from our mooring as the crow flies, but because of our deep draft the journey for us was about 55 miles as we had to make a long detour through the dredged channels of the delta to avoid the shallow water – no great sacrifice as the route is a charming meander through narrow waterways lined with rich vegetation, on the banks of which are an incongruous mix of luxurious weekend homes and the very basic homes built on stilts by locals who eke out a living by catching fish or cutting reeds from the banks.



House on stilts in the delta


The other obstacle was the dreaded bureaucracy. Being a foreign boat with foreign skipper and crew, before we left Argentina for Uruguay we had to check out with Immigration, Customs and the Coast Guard. When entering Uruguay we had to stop off in Colonia to check in with Immigration and the Coast Guard. Because of the opening hours of these offices we had to stay in Colonia overnight. The following day we moved on to Riachuelo where we had to check in with the Coast Guard there. All of this had to be repeated in reverse when we returned so, for a quick few days 25 miles across the river, we had to make 12 visits to different offices all in different places. And they all require three or four photocopies of each and every document and none of them have photocopiers so you have to spend what little is left of your time scouring the local town for a photocopying place. So popping over to Uruguay isn’t something we do lightly. But it was worth it. We were joined by the Mullers on their yacht Windsong and spent a wonderful few days just chilling, going for walks and taking advantage of the wonderful unspoilt sandy beaches they have in Uruguay.




Karaoke time for Sel whilst Pete goes native drinking mate



Little Olivia with her parents Sofia and Gaston




Tea time on Mina2 , after which Olivia has a siesta in our cabin



Mina2 and Windsong together at last




The DS hiding from the fierce sun on her way to the deserted beach


But lest we got complacent the powers that be decided to sharpen us up by throwing a pampero at us. I’ve written about the dreaded pampero before. It is the very sudden and very violent wind that comes screaming in from the southwest, its advance forecast by the classic horizontal cigar shaped cloud which rolls in front of it, boiling like a cauldron. Then the wind hits you like a mallet. Luckily this one had been well forecast so we had put out our storm moorings of two anchors on one side and three heavy ropes attached to the stoutest trees we could find on the other side. Others weren’t so lucky. A neighbouring boat dragged his anchor and was dashed onto the river bank where he stayed high and dry for several hours heeled over at what must have been a rather uncomfortable angle. We recorded 58 knots of wind at the height of the storm. But whilst violent, pamperos often don’t last for long and a couple of hours later we were back in the cockpit sinking the first of several evening cocktails.




The pampero rolls in      one boat gets dashed ashore  



   and we record more than 58 knots of wind


On our return we went through the same laborious bureaucratic procedure. If anyone is reading this blog because they want to find out how long a foreign boat is allowed to stay in Argentina, I have to confess that I don’t know – but there again nor does the Argentine Aduana (Customs). We have received definitive answers from no fewer than four sources – and they are all different. The Aduana downtown says we can stay for eight months but then we cannot return for the following twelve months. The Aduana further up the river (same organisation – different branch office) says we can stay only three months but all you have to do is to pop over to Uruguay for the day and return and you can get another three months and you can do this indefinitely. The other two authoritively gave us rulings which fell between the two, so God only knows.


Selina and Peter have now returned to London and I am preparing for my trip to Antarctica on Skip Novak’s Pelagic Australis. I leave Buenos Aires on Tuesday 8 February and Pelagic and I cast off from Puerto Williams on the afternoon of Thursday 10 February, round Cape Horn and south into the infamous Drake Passage – the windiest and roughest seas in the world. I hope to be blogging as I go so stay tuned in. You can see a synopsis of our trip by going to www.pelagic.co.uk and you can also follow our exact position at http://www.pelagic.co.uk/about/tracker.htm .


Hope to be in touch again soon, but if you don’t hear from me, fret not. It will probably be only that the technology has failed and not the boat!



Maria’s mum (97 ½) visits Mina2



Mina2 on her new mooring at CNSI.