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Wednesday, 4 December 2013


"Oryx" leaving Piriapolis. Photo courtesy of Jill Schinas.

Uruguay or Utopia?

You will have gathered that I am infatuated with all that is Brazil and I can honestly say that I love Argentina, so what about Uruguay? In 1984 when I was a student nurse I worked with a Uruguayan doctor and all I knew was that Uruguay was somewhere in South America and has a coast line, as opposed to Paraguay that is. Now I know a little more.

"Oryx" journey thus far.

Uruguay has a population of about 3.3 million of whom about 1.8 million live in Montevideo, the capitol. Uruguay was the first country to host the Fifa World Cup (1930) and the first country to win it! The countries motto is With liberty I offend not, I fear not. It is a stable, peaceful country with friendly, unobtrusive people. The teenagers and indeed people of all ages sip away at their mate.

They are more reserved than the Brazilians, but the country’s crime rate is low and it is one of the few countries that appeal as a place to retire. The current president is Jose Mujica and he has earned the epithet of the world’s poorest president.

Some of our Uruguayan friends do not approve of his broad use of the media to project his favourable image, but he is a politician after all – and we know what to expect from them!

The full name of the country is “The Oriental Republic of Uruguay” or the republic east of the Uruguay (river) The name Uruguay itself is a Guarani word meaning “River of painted birds.” What could be more beautiful?

These are the birds we see most often. This was in Punta.

Before the arrival of the conquistadors and explorers, the Charrua tribe who were driven south by the Guarani, populated Uruguay. They were hunter-gatherers and fished extensively and were hostile to outsiders, discouraging settlement for more than a century by killing Spanish explorer Juan de Solis. (Mas tarde.)

In the 17Th century the Charrua acquired the horse and prospered on wild cattle, eventually trading with the Spanish. Never numerous they now number less than 1% of the population.

La Paloma

Harbour at La Paloma

The eastern side of Uruguay is dotted with innumerable beach resorts and the vast dunes and dramatic headlands stretch all the way to the Brazilian border. The area attracts hoards of Argentinean, Brazilian and Paraguayan tourists in the summer, but it is virtually empty after March.

La Paloma is a sleepy seaside town on the Atlantic. It occupies a small peninsula. To the north it has fine surfing beaches and due to the front that had just passed the Uruguayan surfers were out in full force. Our stay in La Paloma was very pleasant. We sorted out our sim card, wandered around the town. The people in Antel were very helpful and I met the mother of one of Uruguay’s famous surfers named Guzman who was at the time surfing in South Africa in Londra del Este. (Doesn’t it sound great?)

We have an Argentinean friend called Roberto Ramos who has a junk rig boat called “Pampero”, whom we met a number of years ago in San Isidro. We know that Roberto has built a small log cabin on the outskirts of La Paloma and set off with a packed lunch, in search of him.

Looking for Roberto we found these quaint cottages with their top curls.

 We skirted the beach and headed inland, but although we saw many log cabins, we didn’t recognise Roberto’s, so we picnicked on the beach and then headed back. Later we found out from a sailor who knows Roberto that he was back in San Isidro for the winter. We passed on our regards.

Beach bar in La Paloma catering to surfers et al.

We have many friends in Brazil, but they are widely scattered and we hadn’t met many cruising boats during our six-month stay. In La Paloma we befriended a French couple who recognised “Oryx” from Cedeira in Northern Spain. We invited them for a meal, which proved to be very interesting and was a melange of French, Spanish and English! Pete provided our French, Natasha their English and Roger and I struggled in Spanish. (Roger less so than me – he is a polyglot.)

Roger and Natasha's Boxer on guard!
Yachts, fishing boats and a small ship, cheek to cheek in La Paloma's harbour

Next stop was Punta. Punta del Este is the most easterly point of the River Plate. The River Plate again is a misnomer for a huge confluence of several rivers, amongst them the second biggest river in South America, namely the Rio Parana, as well as the Rio Uruguay and a plethora of other small rivers and streams. The Rio del la Plata (River Plate) is funnel shaped and very shallow. It is 2km wide at its innermost part and 220km at the mouth. Some geographers consider the Rio de la Plata to be a gulf or a marginal fresh water sea. The Rio del La Plata has small tides for approximately 190km, but the huge water mass is more affected by the wind direction and forms a tidal prism. South Easterly winds blow the water in and the North Westerly blows the water out of the estuary. It is a vital factor to consider, while navigating the area. The River Plate is strewn with wrecks of many eras, amongst them the infamous “Graf Spe” that was scuttled by the crew off Montevideo during WW2, rather than be sunk by the British navy. (The Battle of the River Plate.)

The ‘river’ was initially named “Mar Dulce” (sweet sea) by the hapless explorer, Juan de Solis. The British explorer, Sebastian Cabot, changed the name when he sailed up to Asuncion in modern day Paraguay. We assumed that the name – Rio del La Plata or Silver River had something to do with the colour of reflected light, which at times makes the river shimmer. The early conquistadors believed that the Rio del la Plata led all the way inland to the Andes and beyond to the mystical city of El Dorado, because of the Guarani warriors wearing silver breast plates and recounting stories of the riches of the lost city. Whatever the origin of the name, it has more romance than ‘Vaal’ (muddy grey) which is the actual colour, most of the time.

"Oryx" off Punta del Este.

Punta Del Este

Famous landmark on beach at Punta.

Punta del Este is described by The Lonely Planet as Uruguay’s exclusive showplace. It is situated on an isthmus, much like Varadero in Cuba and shares some of the glamour. Punta has many fine beaches, elegant seaside homes, yacht harbour, high-rise apartments, fine hotels and restaurants. It is one of South America’s most alluring resorts. In the summer it teams with visitors. This was my third visit to Punta Del Este. The first was in mid summer in 2008. True to form the town was thrumming and the beaches were packed.

Yacht harbour.

Some of the lovely apartments on the esplanade.

Donde estamos?

This lovely building housed the cinema, but is now for sale.

Isla Goritti

"Oryx" anchored off Isla Goritti

One of the many things I like about Punta is the little island in the bay called Isla Goritti. It is a nature reserve and the first time Pete took me there we anchored on the far side off Playa Honda with around fifty other boats. We explored the island, which has a small forest and the remains of a defensive battery called Santa Ana dating back to the 1800’s.

Near Playa Honda we found some picnic benches next to designated fireplaces with evidence of old fires. Uruguay is well known for its meat. One of the cheaper cuts is asado, which is a length of ribs.  We duly built a small fire and braaied our ribs. We had an unhurried supper with salads, bread and fine Uruguayan wine. Most of the other boats were leaving as the sun receded, but we lingered on adding bits of wood to our fire until we had a large bonfire, albeit in the fireplace.

Braai on Isla Goritti four years ago.

 An irate park ranger came and reprimanded us. We started tamping down the fire, thinking he objected to the size. He then came and doused the fire with water. We finished our wine and rowed back to “Pelican” not thinking much about it.

Near side of Isla Goritti with Punta del Este in distance

This time we bought our fixings for the braai, made salads and sailed across to the near side of Isla Goritti. We unloaded the dinghy and the first thing I saw was a sign saying PROHIBIDO HACER FUEGO! No wonder the guy had been upset.

 We stashed our braai back on “ Crake” taking only our crisps and wine on the walk around the island. It was a little cool at first, but soon we were peeling off the layers. There were few people about and it was almost as if we had the island to ourselves.  Some Oyster Catchers tried to lure us away from their eggs.

Oyster Catcher nest.
We braaied on board with our Swanniebraai instead.

Isla Goritti at sunset.

The second time we were in Punta del Este it was winter and a gale was forecast. We picked up a mooring and spent a terrible night on board. Pete had tied two lines to the mooring buoy, expecting the wind to turn after a few hours as forecast. This never happened. In the middle of the night our first line parted. Blinded by stinging rain I had to motor slowly ahead, whilst Pete leant precariously over the bow to tie another rope to the buoy. We never slept that night and kept ‘mooring’ watch. By first light we watched our neighbouring boats break free. I took a video of a big motorboat sheering its third strand of rope and then careening into a nearby Benito, shredding its guardrails before crashing onto several other boats already on the rocks. There were 33 boats on moorings and 18 broke free and were wrecked.

This motorboat broke free and careened into a Bennito.

By midday the storm was abating, slightly and the marineros of the marina came by. Our other rope was fraying and their divers helped us replace it. They went about replacing as many ropes as they could. The port was closed for a few days and by the time we could go ashore the clean up had started. Amongst the wrecks were boats with ironic names such as “Shelter”.

This time our stay was less eventful and we enjoyed the first ultra hot showers in a while.

Punta has many small art galleries.

Punta Ballena

The sail to Piriapolis was lovely. The weather was fine and we planned to anchor off Punta Ballena for lunch, which we did and duly saw a whale (a ballena)! It was just lying near the surface, moving about lazily. No dramatic squirts of water or splashing of fins, but it was wonderful to see. Punta Ballena has a distinctive Greek looking enclave called Casa Pueblo, which was built by Uruguayan artist Carlos Paez Vilaro and Punta Ballena has become an artist colony. We admired all this from the cockpit.

Casa Pueblo


Approaching Piriapolis

Piriapolis is one of my favourite Uruguayan towns. On my first visit it was carnival time, which in Uruguay is less frenetic than further north and the procession was filled with beautiful costumes, children and laughter. The music was not unbearably loud and it was fun all around.

Piriapolis is also the first place where I met Luis and Antonio (Pete’s Uruguayan friends). They came for a short sail on “Pelican”. Luis has an 18’ ocean going “Swaggie” with junk rig called “Atiti” which was on the hard in Piriapolis.

"Atiti" in Piriapolis

He also has two catamarans,“Iopne” (30’) and a Wharram Tiki 38’ called “Kamiloa”. More about Luis and his friends later.

Piriapolis was founded in 1893.It nestles against the flanks of three hills – Cerro Pan de Acucar, Cerro Ingles or San Antonio and Cerro Toro. Cerro Pan de Acucar is much smaller than its cousin in Rio, but is one of the highest points in Uruguay.

View of yacht harbour from Cerra Ingles

Sugar Loaf's little cousin in distance

Piriapolis is named after the Argentine investor, Francisco Piria, who built the beautiful Hotel Argentina along the beachfront and developed Piriapolis as a tourist resort in the 1930’s. The Hotel Argentina has 350 elegant rooms, a European type spa with two heated pools, a casino and an ice rink as well as classic dining rooms.

Hotel Argentina

Piriapolis has a small marina that is jam packed all year round, probably due to both the ambience of the town and the fact that they have a big travel lift courtesy of the first ‘Whitbread Round the World Race’ to stop in Uruguay. Uruguay’s entry was called “Uruguay natural”, which is the slogan for the tourist board.

Piriapolis in the summer!

We took this photo 4 years ago, not knowing we'd be back in Uruguay for my 57th birthday!

The weather forecast for my birthday was bleak, but fortunately totally inaccurate, so we set out in sunshine up Cerro de Toro. Unfortunately there had been a landslide during the recent rains, so we unable to climb to the summit, instead we had our picnic on the lower slopes.

Lower reaches Cerro de Toro

Via Facebook and our friends Brian and Marta Kane we were introduced to the family and crew of “Mollymawk” who were also in the River Plate. We had come across “Mollymawk’s” website which gave us much useful information for our visit to the Cape Verde islands and we were keen to meet them. Nick and Jill had been building “Mollymawk” in Noordhoek at the same time that Pete was building “China Moon” in Port Owen, but they never met. We arranged to meet in Piriapolis. Jill alerted us to the fact that there is a fresh fruit and vegetable market in Piriapolis on Saturdays and we headed off to this Feira Sabado (Saturday Fair) and stocked up with fresh foods.

"Mollymawk" and "Oryx" in Piriapolis

On our return from the market “Mollymawk” with her yellow hull and its frolicking dolphins, had arrived and anchored near us. Nick, Jill and Jan had gone to the market, but Caesar and Roxanne invited us on board. Nick and Jill are both from Chichester and have sailed most of their lives. Although they lived near one another, they only met as adults when Jill wanted to sail across the Atlantic and Nick was looking for crew. They have been sailing, boat building and cruising ever since.

"Oryx" sailing off Piriapolis courtesy of Jill Schinas.

They have three children Caesar, Xoe and Roxanne. Xoe is currently at university in London, but Caesar and Roxanne are delightful and a credit to an alternate lifestyle and home schooling. I won’t attempt to tell their story, but hope that some of you will look at their website. Jill is an accomplished artist and photographer and has written a number of books and numerous articles. 

Nick, Jill, Pete, Roxanne, Caesar and Gean.

Thus began a week of socialising. Cruising is strange, it is feast or famine – there are months at a time when you don’t meet or socialise much and then suddenly it’s the reverse. After coffee with the two young Schinas’ we arranged for the family to come across to “Oryx” for tea. We then met Nick and Jill and their young Brazilian crewmember called Jan.

They invited us to a barbecue (asado) at some shore bound sailors’  home. Piriapolis is a favourite hang out for expatriate yachties. The asado was basically a ‘bring and braai’ and Pete and I made a salad, and then went shopping for meat. I convinced Pete that all braais take a while and so we ate a choripan for lunch. A choripan is the South American equivalent of a boerewors roll and the Uruguayans do a wonderful version with salad and pickles added to the roll until you have a handful, which is often more than a mouthful.

Saudi Arabian advertising looks different in South America! What will the mutawwah say?
Hotel Colon en Piriapolis

We found Frans and Anna’s house by mobile G.P.S. They are a delightful Austrian couple with a small daughter called Malena. They have a 46’ monohull and are currently renting a place in Piriapolis whilst they do a big refit. There were many other people: Swedes, French, German, a Scot and even a Uruguayan. Beer and wine flowed; food was plentiful and as the afternoon unfolded the sea shanties became more and more daring. All in all a delightful day.

Frans, Anna and Malena.

The Mollymawks, as we collectively called our new friends, were keen to go for a sail on “Oryx”. They were intrigued by the junk rig and the bipolar catamaran set up, so we consulted the weather forecast and arranged a sail, followed by supper for the next afternoon. The forecast was for light winds and we didn’t want to drag a dinghy so we tied up alongside “Mollymawk” and they transhipped, leaving their little dog “Poppy” in charge.

Jill, Roxanne, Gean and Nick from "Mollymawk" floating on "Oryx".
 Unfortunately the wind petered out and we didn’t have as much a sail as a float about fairly aimlessly. The sun had appeared and it was great to have them on board, but I don’t think the sail was convincing enough for them to rush out and join the JRA! Mores the pity. Roxanne had baked a  cake for tea and they stayed for supper.  Once again it was a pleasant day all round.

Roxanne, Gean, Nick and Caesar looking happy despite the lack of a breeze!

The 15th of October dawned brightly. It was fraught with tension for me though, my daughter Irene had recently passed her written exam, but was due to do her oral exam that day. If she passed she would be a consultant anaesthetist and all those years of slog would pay off… if not – it would be several more gruelling months of study. Fortunately I was distracted when Nick came by early to see Pete about charts, and then Caesar stopped by to give us technical advice on electronic tablets. We had just had lunch when Frans, Anna and Malena called. Each time I made a strong pot of Brazilian coffee and by the time my daughter got her result I was buzzing from the caffeine alone. She had passed!!!

Uruguay has many vintage cars.

in various states of repair!

We had dinner on board “Mollymawk” that night and were getting to know and like the family more and more. The forecast was fair for the following afternoon and we said sad farewells. It is not often that we meet kindred cruisers and we hope to meet up again. We arranged with Jill to take some photographs of “Oryx” with her sails up and we eagerly await them.

Hoisting the sails as we say a sad farewell to friends in Piriapolis. (Photo by Jill Schinas)

 The sail to Buceo in Montevideo was perfect. The wind was abeam and “Oryx” made such good time that we anchored off Isla Gaviota by midnight and the next morning went into the nearby yacht harbour at Buceo, a suburb of Montevideo.


Harbour in Buceo.

The first Spanish settlement in Uruguay was further to the west at Soriano on the Rio Negro but then the Portuguese established a fort at Colonia del Sacramento, as a pirate and contraband centre, which posed a direct challenge to the Spanish authority in the area. So Spain founded Montevideo in the natural harbour in 1726 to counteract this. During the Napoleonic wars Britain tried to seize both Buenos Aires and  Montevideo. Spain finally evicted the Portuguese from Uruguay in 1777.

A hitch hiker.

The city itself is attractive with wide streets shaded by Plane trees with their beautiful paint by number bark. Montevideo has all the modern amenities of a big city, but its busy streets are still plied by horse and pony drawn carts . It always amazes me to see how superbly the creatures contend with the hustle and bustle of rush hour.

Leafy streets of Montevideo.

Beagle anyone?

There are many lovely parks with monuments and sculptures commending Uruguayan and internationally prominent figures, such as Ghandi. The beautiful rambla, or esplanade is twenty-seven kilometres long (the longest in the world) with many fine beaches.

Near the esplanade in Montevideo.

Yacht club in Buceo.

We picked up a mooring next to Ana’s “Papillon” and Pieter and Shanie’s “ Witblits”. We had met Ana at the asado in Piriapolis and “Witsblits” is the South African Dean Cat with a sloping mast that we’d met in Abraao.


"Witblits" downloading their motorbike!

We went to the Thursday morning market in Buceo and walked home via Montevideo shopping where we browsed for a while and then had a choripan at our favourite street stand.

Street market in Buceo.

Pete eating a choripan.

We returned to the yacht club and had a wonderful, steamingly hot shower (you might gather that I like ‘em hot). This was the first yacht club I’d found to have hairdryers AND they have a scale. As always the scale was disappointing – my clothes are several sizes too big, yet my goal weight remain just that – a goal.

"Atiti" in Buceo, 18' ocean going Swaggie owned by Luis.

Pieter and Shanie came across to invite us for dinner, but Luis was calling that evening and we were uncertain of our plans, so we asked for a rain check. At around five Luis, Antonio and Arnoldo arrived in the yacht clubs launch. With them was Ana who promptly invited us for dinner. Luis intervened saying that he would like us to join him and his family and friends for dinner! So there we were – three invitations for one night! They came on board and looked over “Oryx”. Luis’ English has always been very good, but Antonio’s has improved exponentially over the intervening years and with the help of our bad Spanish, we could now communicate and fortunately Arnoldo’s English was good, too.

Antonio, Arnoldo and Luis. (L to R)

Luis  picked us up later and took us to his home, a beautiful apartment on the beachfront, close to Buceo. We met Claudia, Luis’ wife and Francisco, his eight-year-old son, for the first time. Both Claudia and Francisco are fluent in English, but Francisco was a little shy. Soon after our arrival Arnoldo and his wife Rita arrived, then Antonio and Cecelia. Arnoldo is involved in a joint venture with Antonio, building a modified 30’ Wharram Tiki  which Antonio fondly calls their ‘Tiki evolution’ (Or is it revolution?) Good food accompanied fine wine and sea faring and boat building tales.

Luis referred to Pete as the Maradonna of sailing, which we think is a  complement? Luis had also hoped to arrange a mini catamaran rally with some Argentinean friends, and us, but elections and weather forecast seemed to scuttle these plans.

Skate board park near rambla in Buceo.

On the Friday Pete and I set out early. Pete was on a quest to find the perfect electronic tablet. Caesar had inflamed his enthusiasm with technical information and know how and Pete could no longer wait for Argentina or Cuidade del Este and the promise of better prices so we walked to Punta Carretas Shopping where Pete found his match.

An option for touring the Atacama desert?

Mercado del Porto

 Then we walked into the centre of Montevideo and then along the pedestrian zone (peatonal) to the old part of the city and the famous Mercado del Porto, where there are tourist craft shops and many restaurants of all sizes that provide vast menus of barbecued food done on huge fires. We celebrated my birthday once more, with rump steak, chips, salad and a good bottle of Uruguayan wine.

The joy of Montevideo!

We still had a dinner invitation aboard “Witblits” so we walked all the way to Buceo, stopping at the small maritime museum, which unfortunately was closed.  In it’s fore court there is the bow of a famous Uruguayan yacht called “Alferez Campora.” It has a sad and intriguing history to it. The yacht was a 35 tonner launched in 1934 by a Dutch boatyard. It had a varied sailing history and underwent several name changes along the way. In the second half of the 1950’s four young Uruguayan naval officers hoped to circumnavigate the world. As an added precaution they decided to have their appendixes removed before setting off. Unfortunately Alferez Campora died on the operating table. The remaining three sailors named the boat after him and then successfully completed their circumnavigation.

The naval museum on the rambla near Buceo.

Bow of the "Alferez Campora".

"Alferez Campora's" successful circumnavigation.

Uruguay makes use of daylight saving in the summer months as a result the sun was still shining when we rowed across to “Witblits”.  “Witblits” port engine was giving problems and when we arrived two local mechanics were onboard, supping on Witblits and getting merrily sloshed, we hope they got home safely on their motorbikes.

Pieter and Shanie

Shanie cracked a bottle of champagne and we sipped away as she prepared the meal. Their motorbike was ashore and the saloon looked even bigger than before. They had arrived in La Paloma ahead of us and were stuck on board the boat, alongside the wall, when the huge Pampero blew through.

Shanie, Charlie, Carly and Pete.

Witblits (White lightening) is a home brewed, double proof South African firewater. Pieter had stocked up with many bottles when they left South Africa. I now had my first taste - it is fiery, but has a pleasant taste of raisins, and no hangover… as promised by Pieter (despite the champagne)!

Luis had given us some local knowledge about nearby rivers and anchorages. On the Saturday we set out for the first of them. The wind was light, but the sun was shining and we sailed slowly towards the Rio Santa Lucia. We arrived at 2020, just as the sun was setting and anchored off Isla Tigre.

Rio Santa Lucia.

Rio Santa Lucia/Santiago Vasquez.

In Piriapolis we heard the terrible tale of an Austrian boat that was sailing into Rio Santa Lucia recently and misjudged the power lines. Their mast struck the cables, the boat burst into flames and the crew had to jump overboard with nothing but what they were wearing. The boat burnt to the waterline and sank and they lost everything, including a priceless violin.

All that remains.... of the Austrian boat.

.The river is very shallow with a buoyed channel. There are two bridges, the modern road bridge clearance is high enough for most masts, but the old railway bridge is not, but swings open on prior arrangement. It was built by the British in 1924 and there is a famous song about it – a bit like the brdge in Avignon. The song is by Alfredo Zitarossa and is called El loco Antonio.

The power lines dip lower where the bridge is at its highest point and so was the cause of the accident  as it cannot be approached in a straight line.

Sunset Santa Lucia.

Pete rowed ashore to clear in with the authorities and I was still tidying up when I heard a motorboat approaching. It was Antonio and two friends, Ruso and Daniel. They had spoken to Pete and arranged with him to meet them at their yacht club. The yacht club at Santa Lucia is affiliated with the one in Buceo and it is where Antonio and Arnoldo are building their Tiki.

The mold of Antonio and Arnoldo's Tiki 30' (modified).

As they transported me below the two bridges, I noticed  many fishermen and Ruso told me that fishing here is popular and they are trying to catch Corvina Negra. The Corvina Negra has varying names according to its size, but the name literally means ‘black drum’ because they make the sound of a drumbeat!

People fishing for la Corvina Negra under the swing bridge.

Access to the Yacht club was through a channel cut into the reed beds. Pete soon joined us and Antonio led us to his mould and the completed hull of his Tiki evolution. Antonio has also build a larger derivation of “Crake” (a Bolger Nymph) known as a Ruben’s Nymph.

Antonio beside his completed hull, with his dinghy (a Ruben's nymph) in the background.

Ruben's nymph.

Bolger nymph.

My idea of a Reuben's nymph... I'm not a fully fledged sailor... remember?
We were pleased to see Antonio’s progress. He works full time and builds the boat at weekends and is progressing well, he is hoping to launch in a year or two.

Antonio y model.

Daniel then arranged an ‘asadito’ (a small asado / braai/ barbecue) at the club, which was anything but small! We learned a lot about Uruguay in the course of the afternoon.

Pete, Carly, Antonio, Ruso y Daniel. 

Yacht club at Santa Lucia with it's Ceibo in winter dress... the Uruguayan national tree.. subsequent blogs will be entitled - spot the Ceibo!

We met a retired fisherman called Pancho who has a motor sailer. His English was excellent and he had spent some time in the Falklands (Malvinas) when his boat sank near there.

Starters for asadito!

Quique, Nepe the papagayo, Carly y Daniel (L) and Ruso, Marta and Pancho (R) tucking in.

Ruso is of Russian descent, hence the name. He spoke to us in Spanish and most of the time we understood!

Ruso's beautiful teak dinghy.

Daniel’s English is fluent. He is an anaesthesiologist and worked at the British hospital in Montevideo for many years,  where the Falklands now send their patients.

Nepe on Quique's shoulder... he didn't look happy on mine and I looked terrified!

Among the party was Marta and her husband, Quique, who is also an anaesthesiologist! Marta is an architect and liked what Pete did with the small space on “Oryx”.  After the asadito, much wine and coffee on board Pancho’s boat, Ruso took us back to “Oryx”, towing “Crake” with Pete hanging on for dear life. We gave them the six-penny tour and then said our goodbyes. We had hoped to see Pancho again on the Monday, but the weather was foul. We hope to meet up with our new friends somewhere upriver.


The wind was still fresh when we left the Rio Santa Lucia in the early evening. The sail to Cufre overnight was fairly uneventful, because we were sailing in shallow waters and what ships there were, were lights in the distance. We arrived at first light, anchored off the beach, caught up on some sleep, had breakfast and then motored down the narrow channel into the river.

"Oryx" in Cufre.

We anchored and then took lines ashore, so that we wouldn’t be in the way of passing fishing boats. Cufre was a new addition to Pete’s explorations.

House on the bank at Cufre.

Fishing from home.

We rowed ashore and explored the sleepy little town. It was wonderfully quiet and all that we could hear was birdsong and gentle lapping of the river. Bliss.

Yacht club Cufre.


Pergola along river at Cufre

Spring has arrived.

Beach on the River Plate at Cufre.

Now we were doing the sailing I love the most – it was a short day sail to the entrance of the Rio Rosario.

At night the police came to check if we were "Oryx" and had arrived safely!

Boca Rosario

We stayed I the Rio Rosario for a fortnight. On our first day we took the long walk along the beach to nearby Juan Lacaze to stock up on fresh supplies. We called in at the harbour there to have a look at “Kamiloa” (Luis 38’ Wharram Tiki) We first saw her in Jacare a couple of years ago when Geronimo was delivering her to Uruguay for Luis.

Reflections of Boca Rosario.

Hiking along beach from Boca Rosario to Juan Lacaze.

Misplaced buoy?

Fishing camp.

Picnique spot Juan Lacaze.

Another vintage...

Art Deco is alive and well and living in Uruguay.

Luis' beautiful Tiki 38' - "Kamiloa"

The weather was fine and we caught up with maintenance. Pete took off the sails, one at a time and did repairs. He also got the epoxy out and patched up “Crake” and the bow roller. I had a great opportunity to do the washing and cleaning, as the river water was now fresh.

Sails off.

Captain entangled in Boca Rosario?

The Rio Rosario is another quiet and beautiful place. We were anchored near a sunken tug and a rusty barge, which used to transport  sand across the Rio del la Plata used for  the building of Buenos Aires. 

Early morning mist at Boca Rosario.

"Oryx" off defunct sand dredging operation at Boca Rosario.

On the Sunday Luis came down from Montevideo with his family and friends and treated us to a splendid meal at El Muelle the lovely, quaint and rustic restaurant run by octogenarians Angel and Primavera. 

We felt as if we were part of this large Uruguayan family. We met Luis’ in laws and Antonio’s young sons for the first time.

Gaff ketch off Boca Rosario.

View from el Muelle.

Our wonderful Uruguayan family: Antonio, Arnoldo, Nelson and Cecelia. (L)
Luis, Claudia and Isis(R)

A sad goodbye to our friends.

On the Monday we motor sailed inland on the Rio Rosario, utilising Luis sketch charts and managed to get 18km up, as far as Puerto Rosario. Spring was much in evidence and the riverbanks were lined by dense foliage, sporting many Ceibo’s (now starting to flower) and sprays of wild jasmine, wild honeysuckle and the small white flowers of the Wattle trees. All combined to enhance the bucolic scene with a fresh and heady fragrance.

Sailing up the Rio Rosario.

Clearing the powerlines!

Brewery on the banks of the river.

Verdant, but fragile forests.

"He sat upon a river rock and turned into a toad... it seemed that he had fallen under someone's wicked spell..."

La Paz

We launched “Crake” and rowed up to the small yacht club and then walked into the little town of La Paz.  Luis had told us of Swiss émigrés who sailed up the Rio Rosario to settle land granted by the Uruguayan government. Most of the emigres settled in Nueva Heletia and the district. In La Paz there is a church founded by the émigrés and this area has much pride in their Swiss heritage.

Canoeing at La Paz.

Yacht club at La Paz.

Another Art Deco gem at La Paz.

La Paz in pictures

Protestant church courtesy of Swiss immigrants.

A car for my vanity plate?

History of La Paz  on the butcher's wall.

Note the Swiss flag.

School uniforms practical and inexpensive.

Swiss pride on dashboard.

Ceibo starting to bloom.

We returned to Boca Rosario for a few days,

Sailing off the grid!
New moon over Boca Rosario.

Sunken tug.

Ghost town near Boca Rosario.

More of the tug visible as river drops.

and then set off to nearby Juan Lacaze/ Puerto Sauce, where we anchored in the bay, outside the harbour. 

Blog completed thanks to Martiano's at Mercedes y una cerveza.

Feliz Navidad Pete y Carly.

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