Monday, 8 November 2010


The weather gods were kind to us, or setting us up for a fall, as we sailed down from Punta del Este to Piriapolis in about four hours.
Entering the harbour in Piriapolis was quite straight forward and not only the officials from Hidrografia were waiting to show us where to berth but there was also a number of cruising skippers ready to lend us a hand as well. The docking here is med moor style however, the one size fits all approach means that the mooring buoy is offset from the wall so as to allow 70 or 80 footers to comfortably tie up. After a scramble to find a line of sufficient length, we were all tucked up on the end of the northern pier, just inside the breakwater entrance.
Piriapolis has an active boatyard with a travel lift capable of taking up to a 7.5m beam which combined with reasonable pricing makes it far more of a cruiser destination than anywhere we have seen south of Salvador. It was quite refreshing to see a large number of cruisers in one spot with all the attendant chances to meet new people, share a beer, barbecue and tall stories.
With the weather indicating a bit of a blow over the weekend, we spent the next day turning our standard mooring lines into a cat’s cradle and for the first time breaking our very long sea anchor bridles, the only lines we had long enough to attach us securely to the bow mooring buoy. Thank God we did. The bit of a blow that was forecast turned into a couple of wild days where we had sustained winds of 50 kts for around 6 hours and rarely dropping below 30+ kts between Friday and Monday but by Tuesday the weather had cleared, the sun had come out and all was good with the world.
The town of Piriapolis is more like a large village obviously designed to cash in on the tourist trade between December and February. This means that there isn’t much going on and only a few restaurants and bars are open during the week out of season, although in the short time that we’ve been here, we’ve seen more and more gearing up in anticipation of next month’s tourist influx.
Of the dozen or so other cruising boats we’ve spoken to, most seem to be heading south to either Chile, the Falklands or Antarctica. This has caused much confusion on our part as is difficult for us to reconcile why people want to move to places where they have to wear more clothes than heading to parts of the world where you can wear less. But we nod and smile and remind ourselves that it takes all sorts to make a world…
Currently the plan is to spend another four or five days here before heading to Colonia, where we will settle down for Christmas and New Year’s before heading back to Brazil. From talking to the other boats here, we’ve decided that reports that the Argentinean authorities are making life difficult for foreign cruisers have, if anything, being understated. So we may pop across to Buenos Aires on the ferry from Colonia but Miss Bossy will be staying firmly in Uruguayan waters.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Punta del Este

Oh my God, it's cold here.!While the temperature gauge barely moves between 13 and 17 degrees we have been frantically searching storage compartments for the one or 2 sets of cold weather gear we thought we better take just in case...It must be a funny sight, seeing us sitting playing cards dressed in complete offshore foul weather gear.
Hence in the early hours of Sunday morning, divining from gribs, synoptic charts, incomprehensible weather reports in Spanish and the sacrifice of a goat, that we could make a quick trip down to Punta del Este, we decided to set off. Unfortunately, as it was Sunday morning, it took us until almost 9 am to rouse the necessary officials to complete our port check out paper work and get underway.
A side note on the Falklands and Brazil inshore counter current: at various times of the year, there is a cold water current that essentially sets N/NE along the coast of  South America from the Falklands as far north as Rio. The planning information we had gathered indicated that rates of about half a knot are most common and while there was a footnote that higher rates have been recorded we had accepted half a knot as the price of going south in spring. The reality has been that while we might have had half a knot in Rio, by the time we'd reached Rio Grande it was closer to 2 kts and then has been between 1 and 2,5 depending upon weather ever since.
So the combination of the now be-damned Falklands and Brazil inshore counter current, winds on our nose, as opposed to the forecast wind on our beam, and the late start, saw us preparing to round Punta del Este about 2 hours after sunset instead of 2 hours before.
Attempting to discern visually the cardinal buoys and channel markers against the backdrop of Uruguay's answer to Las Vegas, was somewhat of a challenge. However, we finally entered the mooring field outside the harbour whereupon deciding that discretion is a better part of valour, we hooked up to the first buoy we could find and promptly went to bed.
The morning saw us parking the rib at the dinghy dock adjacent to the yacht club's launch in the company of three gigantic sea lions who we were to learn, regard this parking area, as both their bedroom and sun deck.
After completing the now familiar dance with the navy, customs, immigration and port authorities we declined the ports generous offer of charging us twice the already expensive rate of a berth as they were obviously expecting two to three hundred vessels to arrive in the next 48 hours...
Punta del Este itself is clearly a high end tourist destination in season (mid dec to mid feb) and while around 30% of places were open and there were a few out of season tourists, the prices reflected the fact that the entire town has to cash up in less than a quarter of a year. So after enjoying an excellent meal at El Secreto Restaurant, stocking up on DVDs at the large American style mall and deciding that we much rather be plugged in to shore power where we could run the heaters, we checked out yesterday to head for Piriapolis this morning.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Welmome to Uruguay!

It seems to be Miss Bossy's curse that she's never quite quick enough to get in to a strange harbour in daylight. Yet as darkness falls and there's no chance of making port, she then seems incapable of slowing down enough. The irony of sailing...
So after reducing sail to little more than a hint of canvas, as dawn broke we started to enter La Paloma harbour, our first port fall in Uruguay.
Naturally, as we made our way in to the well set up berthing areas behind the breakwater, the wind kicked up to 20 + kts, giving Miss Bossy Actual an excellent opportunity to yet again demonstrate her surreal berthing abilities to the cast of thousands of awe struck Uruguayans lining the pier. Both of whom, instead of applauding, did help us tie up.
Checking in to the country was probably the least painful experience with officialdom we have thus far encountered. A very pleasant and helpful naval rating bemused by the combination of Portuguese, Portunhol and sign language had our paperwork filled out, stamps affixed and gave us directions on the quickest way to get to a bar in town.
Unfortunately, at this point, our visions of idyllic Uruguay which had so far seem to have been confirmed with our ease of entry, withered and died on the vine. La Paloma itself is, I'm sure, a vibrant beachside resort for both months of the Uruguayan not freezing cold season. However, as said season doesn't commence for another 7 weeks, perhaps one bar/restaurant in six was open for a few hours a day, making the windswept main drag feel like the set of a post apocalyptic movie.
Three nights later, having availed ourselves of the excellent free broadband to stock upon TV, we departed for Punta del Este.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Rio Grande

After waiting and watching a succession of lows rolling up from the south west, we were starting to think we may never be able to leave Porto Belo.

Finally, with a 3 day weather window forecasted, and 370 NM to go, we didn’t want to miss a minute of it so we left Porto Belo on Tuesday night in light SW winds on the hope that the forecast would be right and it would turn E/NE on the early hours of Wednesday, which it did for a few hours, but then swung back to the SW. However, with the best chance in three weeks, we decided to push on.  

We’d plotted an offshore track, passing on the outside of the Florianopolis island but a few miles pass the point of the island the sea was pretty heavy, with the wind on our nose. In order to avoid a bumpy ride, we turned back and decided to go through the channel instead. We knew the bridge that links the continent to the island had a 17 m clearance and our mast is 15,5m high, plenty of room. But when we were about to go under, the gap certainly looked way smaller! We thought we wouldn’t make it! After executing a very rapid stop, backing off, discussing it, re-checking the charts, the tides and the lagoon owners’ manual, we convinced ourselves that while it looked like we wouldn’t make it, that was parallax error.  We squeezed in, just…

Once clear of the island, it gets quite shallow and  in strong winds the waves get big.  We headed offshore looking for deeper water, and a balance between a good wind angle and the swell direction. As the wind increased gradually, we were able to cut the engines and were making good speed. Alas, the forecast winds of 20-25kts, soon turned into a near gale and then a gale. We had been caught by an unforecast  trough, giving us a sustained 28-33kt wind gusting to 38kt from the NE, that lasted for over 36 hrs.  High winds, high seas, the anathema to cerveja sailors like ourselves. But we were running downwind with the wind, and at not too bad an angle on the swells, so Miss B took it in her stride, giving us between 7-9 knots with the main dropped, and only a scrap of jib rolled out.  

 Thank God the wind dropped on the last 80 miles, the sea subsided, and we got in the Rio Grande channel in calm conditions around 2am Friday morning. After contacting the pilots, we snuck into the breakwater between huge cargo ships and tankers, and puttered 10 miles up the river past a never ending series of commercial docks and fishing boats into the town proper.

The Oceanographic Museum dock where we were planning to berth was full, so at 5 in the morning we dropped anchor, and waited a few hours in the channel, before contacting the Rio Grande yacht club, where they were very helpful in moving some of the smaller yachts around so they could fit us in.

Quite a ride.

Lessons learnt and in some cases re-learnt:

Gribs and forecasts are often up to a force understated. It was a good call to leave early and accept mildly bad conditions early, so we were sure of our arrival weather window. We love single line reefing, and our mantra of ‘reef early and reef often’ kept us from a potentially messy situation. Finally it was again hammered home that the boat is far more capable than the crew!


We’ll probably leave next Tuesday to La Paloma, in Uruguay, 185 NM south.




Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Porto Belo - with the sun out!

Last sunday the bar was finally working so we went all the way there, which took us about 8 seconds, for some garlic prawns and a beer or two. We met Edgar, the owner of the bar, called Balanco do Mar, along with his son Eric, and the reception couldn't be better. We sat there for about 5 hours drinking, eating and chatting away wiht them and some other great people that came along in their boats. It was a good sunday.
The plan was to leave Porto Belo this morning but the sun is finally shining and the weather window would only allow us to get a bit more south then we would have to stop and be stuck again waiting for another window. So stuck by stuck we decided we're better off here which we found out is actually a great place to be, now that the sun is shining ( for how long, nobody knows). It unbelievable how much better places look with the sun out!!!
So we'll wait for a 3 or 4 days weather window and we should go straight to Rio Grande, which is 370 NM from here.
Tonight, we're having Eric and Aline over for drinks :-)

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Porto Belo-SC

Cute little place, we’re anchored in a beautiful bay called Caixa D’Aco that has 2 floating bars and clear waters. But with the weather the way it has been, no nice place is nice enough (and the bars are shut!).
We’ve been sitting here since last Tuesday and still need to wait until Tuesday week for the wind to turn.
The good thing is that on our way back from Uruguay, it will be summer …

Monday, 27 September 2010

Sao Francisco do Sul

After an overnight at Ilha dos Porcos we stopped in Ilha Bela. Beautiful place and it’s definitely worth a better look on our way back up from Uruguay. The yacht club is good, friendly and  gives a 4 day courtesy for foreign yachts. Finally we got the rib engine fixed and left on the morning of the 24th to our next stop in Ponta do Vigia for another overnight. Our next run would be a bit longer this time, around 30 hours until Ilha do Bom Abrigo still in the state of Sao Paulo, but as the sea was being so kind to us, once we reached Bom Abrigo we decided to keep going, skip Ilha do Mel in the state of Parana and stop only at Sao Francisco do Sul, already in Santa Catarina, where we are now.

We were once again trying to quit smoking and as we ran out of smokes last night at sea and decided to quit quitting for the time being. Any smoker can imagine how desperate we were by the time we got here.

The yacht club doesn’t sell smokes and the only little market that does is a 20 min walk in a gravel road and obviously it was raining. But that wouldn’t stop us! We did the walk and on our way back on the wet and empty street, I was thinking why couldn’t we meet a good soul that felt sorry for us walking in the rain and offer us a ride at which point a woman in a car asked for directions to the yacht club and gave us a ride back!!!

Right now we are just waiting for the tide to turn and should leave to our next planned stop, Porto Belo, 12 hrs away.