Puerto Deseado

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 18 Jan 2010 01:42
Position: 47 42.6 S 065 54.3 W
Alongside Puerto Deseado
Wind: West, F4 moderate breeze
Weather: Overcast, cool.
Day´s Run: 109 nm

This was supposed to be a short two day sail down the coast a bit from Mar
Del Plata but the weather had decided otherwise and before we could pull in
somewhere convenient Sylph was blown out to sea and we have only just
managed to relocate the South American continent this morning. We have
sailed some 885 miles, taking nine days to do so, definitely on the slow
side but I will forgive old Sylph. We have had a real variety of conditions,
including being virtually hoved to under trysail and storm jib for 36 hours.
And we have had some light winds and calms as well, in fact last night the
wind died away and left us rolling in the swell such that dropping sail and
drifting for two hours seemed the most sensible thing to do.

I wasn't sure whether we were going to make it to Puerto Deseado today, with
light and contrary winds and a strong tidal stream to contend with,
especially as when about seven miles north of the port the wind suddenly
sprang up fresh from the west which made the narrow entrance almost a dead
beat to windward. I decided to press on however and see how we would fare,
at least I could get us into a good position to loiter for the night and
enter on the tide in the morning. Nonetheless I called the Prefectura to let
them know we were approaching the port and just in case things did turn out
in our favour. Which in fact they did. We tacked all the way up to the
narrow passage that marks the entrance to the port and only started the
engine for the last few miles when it became clear that the stream was not
going to beat us. The Prefectura sent out a couple of boats to escort us in
which was very nice and gave me feel a great deal more comfortable - and an
audience. It is hard to explain the intricacies of navigating a sailing
vessel in strong tidal waters and the complexities of the tidal stream
versus the state of tide. The "Bible" for the area has some confusing
information about the tidal streams, how they change quite dramatically
within a short distance and not at all logically. When I have had a bit of
sleep I will reread this section and compare it with my experience and maybe
ask the locals to give of their knowledge. While it ended up being a bit
easier than I expected I still stand in awe of the early explorers who
negotiated these waters for the first time without any charts or guidance on
what to expect, in particular I am thinking of Magellan who sought a passage
from the Atlantic to the Pacific based on littler more than a cartographer's
vivid imagination. This led him to explore almost every indentation in the
whole of the east coast of South America, including Puerto Deseado. The
opportunities for him to wreck his ships many times over were endless. Both
Magellan and Drake stopped here, as did Fitzroy in the Beagle who despite
his more than above average seamanship managed to hit the same rock twice -
it was subsequently named Beagle Rock but has since been blown up. As a
sailor it is indeed a privilege to experience some of these waters first
hand and gain a better appreciation of the extraordinary abilities of these
men. And we have barely scratched the surface.

Another interesting little snippet of history - it was here that the Dutch
managed to destroy the ship 'Hoorn' by fire while burning off crustaceans
form her bottom, so careless and so uncharacteristic of them. Hoorn was the
town, which Sylph has now sailed through, from which many of the financial
backers of this expedition hailed from, and it is this name which
subsequently was appended to perhaps the most of notorious headland in human

It is nice to be alongside enjoying a glass of wine contemplating such

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Now it is a well known fact that the connection between ships and cats is a
long and well documented. Ships breed vermin and we felines enjoy
exterminating them, so it has been a mutually beneficial arrangement, to the
ship (and therefore you humans who choose to travel in them) and us cats
(who do not choose to travel in them but find ourselves in them regardless).
This undoubtedly is an avenue of history that needs further documentation -
I can feel another book coming on. So much to do, I had better get some rest
. . . Zzzzzzzz.