_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Marcy Sailing Uruguay

Our introduction to the coast of Uruguay was a cold, bleak, rainy and windwept anchorage at Punte del Este, perched tenuously at the corner where the Atlantic Ocean meets the big river mouth of Mar del Plata. There was no doubt in Ginger's mind, we had sailed south into winter.

hot drink ginge

As we launched the dinghy to go ashore for formalities, long ocean rollers swept around the breakwater and rolled Marcy almost gunwale to gunwale. At the landing, a big sea lion guarded the steps.

big guy . big guy 2

After clearing in, we noticed many damaged sailboats. We were told that a storm had come through a few weeks earlier, and eighteen boats had been blown ashore from their moorings.


ouch . hunter

If we hadn't known before, we soon learned exactly what pounding on shore can do to a sailboat. This wing keel used to have flat wings.

wing keel

How many hours of grinding on the beach rocks took so many inches off of this keel?

keel ground away

Exploring further, we learned that if you paint your fishing boat in Uruguay, only one color is allowed. We've been told that orange is the easiest color to spot for rescue on a rough sea.

orange boats

After a couple of days in bleak Punte, we headed upriver to the next port, Piriopolis. This country requires checking in with the authorities, offices of “Prefectura” and “Hydrografica,” at every move of the boat. Passports are carefully thumbed through, registration is copied, and much care is taken with keeping track of visitors. Ginger checked in and took advantage of a wifi connection .

wifi ginge

The weather improved, and we recorded the highest pressure (1035 mb) of the voyage to date. This was only hours after a low of 997 mb. Our ears were popping.

high pressure

In Uruguay, older vehicles are maintained and used for everyday transportation. We saw many very cool cars and trucks.


still running . mercedes

old timer

Of course, bicycles are never thrown out either. They are repaired and used forever.

freight bike

We loved the old pickups.

english ford . international

old truck

Moving further upriver (sailing for hours in water less than 10 feet deep!) to the beautiful old town of Colonia, the weather improved even more. We were treated to a gorgeous sunrise as we sailed past some industry.

sunrise pto sauce

Sailing in these waters a good lookout is needed to avoid tangling up in fish nets or longlines. Many small boats set gear even in nasty weather.

fish gear

As we arrived in Colonia, the national flag of Uruguay waved proudly from the point.

Colonia flag

Mooring, we snugged up close to the buoy. Marcy's stern barely cleared the row behind, as the moorings in Uruguay are set typically set for 25 to 35 foot boats. Our keel was only inches from the bottom at low water.

colonia marcy

Colonia was a pleasant historical town to explore.

Colonia street

A military band played just the right music for an old fortified town.

military band

Peter thinks it would be great if we could fit a cannon on deck. For fighting pirates, or honoring warships and the like.


It is necessary to show a salient feature of life here, which is of course the drink “mate.” People here go about daily life with a bowl of the stuff firmly planted in the crook of their elbow. A friendly senora offered Ginger a taste. Ginger is not yet a convert.

mate senora

mate ginge

We enjoyed laid back Uruguay, land of mate and old vehicles, but we needed to move on to a spot where we could prepare Marcy for colder weather. So we set sail for Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rio Grande

Rio Grande mermaid

Rio Grande may be the best kept secret of cruising Brazil. It's not in any guide book. In fact, our cruising guide specifically says that they have no information about this port along this dangerous coast so it's best skipped. We first heard of a museum in Rio Grande that welcomed yachts from Canadian yacht Illawong who had visited years ago. Then by email from South African yacht Skebenga who was a few weeks ahead of us on the trek south. They mentioned free water, free power, and free internet, while tied up to a nice pier. Free of charge. So after a long motor up the lagoon, we arrived at the Oceanographic Musuem and were greeted by Lauro, the director of the museum and related entities. In perfect English, he invited us to lunch. We learned he had attended an American University, Duke we think, and that he had also visited Mystic Seaport several times which inspired in him a desire to create something similar in Rio Grande to preserve the old maritime technologies. The setting is beautiful and tranquil, with birds everywhere. Across the water is a marsh designated as a bird reserve, to the east views of the city.

downtown RG sunset

As in other Brazilian seaports, all kinds of small craft move goods past Marcy propelled by sail, oar, and motor.

blue gunter . back home from Market

Did we mention a good grocery store is within easy walking distance? For the crew of the Marcy, it doesn't get much better than this.

In between drying out wet sails.....

drying out RG

and various small repairs, we visited a couple of Lauro's facilities – the Oceanographic Museum and the maritime trade school. There is a type of boat here that is constructed like the log canoes of the Chesepeake. There are a couple of examples being restored in Lauro's shop.

CCMar shop

canoa bow . Ginge listens to Lauro

Very large planks of tropical hardwood are available here in Brazil.


Lauro modeled a mask for us in an art studio that is part of his operation.

Lauro with mask

We admired a product of the boatbuilding school.


To make our stay even more enjoyable we met a couple we had seen as we motored up the channel. We first say them aboard their small sloop with their two dogs aboard. They waved and welcomed us while reaching back and forth in the brisk wind. We met them later for a beer aboard Marcy, and learned that they plan to cruise the world someday. We also learned that they knew of a churrascaria with a good reputation in Rio Grande. About to leave Brazil, we couldn't pass up a last visit.

Churrasco with Keith and Thiago

We had a walk on one of Brazil's wonderful beaches, reportedly the longest in the world, with our friends Keith (pronounced like “Kate”with a “ch” at the end and yes, she knows it's a boy's name in English) and Thiago (again the th is pronounced "ch").

Casino beach with Keith and Thiago

We reluctantly made our way on a beautiful day back out to sea, passing the old cathedral and a steam dredge on the way.

Rio Grande cathedral

steam dredge

Our destination is Urugauy, where we'll hear Spanish spoken again for the first time since Mexico three years ago.

Brazil coast dolphin . Brazil albatros

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Ilha Grande to Rio Grande

IG swallows

The month of August flew by on Marcy. We made a quick stop at ICAR (Iate Clube Angra dos Reis) which turned into a week. We were anchored in a large flat bay well protected from ocean swell with free wifi and a restaurant and snack bar ashore. The only draw back was the weekend powerboat traffic to the fuel dock nearby.

ICAR power boat scene 1 . ICAR power boat scene

With the good natured skippers zooming by at full speed we had to make sure everything on the boat was well secured as we rolled gunnel to gunnel in the wakes. We have never taken green water over the bow at a protected inland anchorage in calm weather before!

With almost 1000 nm ahead of us and time running out on our visas we had to move on. We said goodbye to our friends on Estrela with hopes to see them back in the states.

Estrela crew

We stopped for two beautiful days at Ilha Itanhanga.

Ilha Itanhanga

The weekend traffic was fun to watch as local boaters came out to take advantage of the warm weather.

fishing yacht

The floating restaurant was very popular.

Ilha Paqueta floating rest

Our boat project for the weekend was a timely cleaning of the bottom, propeller scraping and replacement of the zincs that had almost completely disappeared from the skeg. After a couple of hours in the water, two days in a row, we fondly remembered the warm water of the Pacific and all those hours spent cleaning the Marcy's bottom. The water at this time of year here is barely tolerable in a thin wetsuit for 2 hours. Bahia de Ilha Grande is almost out of the tropics so with anticipation of colder weather ahead we knew this would be our last opportunity for extended boat projects in the water.

Bye Bahia de Ilha Grande

Our last stop before heading to sea was the port town of Parati. The historic part of town is well preserved and brightly painted.

Parati old town . Parati old town 2

The old church graces the waterfront

Parati church

which is dominated by tourist schooners and boats for hire.

schooner bows Parati

Parati is the hub for many small villages only accessible by water in this area and as such is also a working port.

shopping delivery Parati . horse cart Parati

We are impressed by how many horses are used in Brazil for normal day to day transport.

sea wall 2 Parati

One of the most unusual features of the town is that some of the streets flood at high tide.

sea wall Parati

One afternoon as we returned from the grocery store we discovered that high tide combined with sudden strong onshore winds can flood the streets quickly and thoroughly. We had to wade through knee deep water for several blocks to get back to the quay and rescue Hootie from the cement stairs where we had tied up in calm weather. Marcy was almost directly upwind from the quay so a 10 minute row turned into an hour epic adventure with waves slopping over the bow while Peter struggled to make contact between oars and water and Ginger pumped water out over the stern. Unfortunately we didn't have the camera with us for the dramatic water adventure, but it's just as well since everything was thoroughly soaked by the time we got to Marcy.

With provisions aboard the weather was perfect for another hop south. We hauled anchor and sailed out among the schooners.

schooner Parati

With just 2 weeks left on our visas we planned to clear out of the country in Florianopolis (Floripa to locals) and then make the 600 mile trip to Uruguay in one hop. Our 350nm trip to Floripa was uneventful. We had good northerly winds and arrived quickly. We passed rafts of floating penguins, proving that we were well out of the tropics!

CRAM penguin

As the sun set we ducked in to Floripa while a brisk northerly wind built. The waves in the anchorage increased and tossed the boat around a bit. We launched the dinghy and went ashore to chat with the yacht club. We were told by the yacht club employee that it was impossible to clear out of the country there with customs. So we decided it was necessary to make an effort to get to Rio Grande quickly. During our stop at Floripa we had missed 24 hours of perfect wind for heading south but the forecast appeared to be OK for leaving. Not great, but OK sailing weather. We left Florianopolis, got 20 miles down the coast and had to run for cover from a front that passed through.

coastal fishing Fpolis

We took our cue from the fishermen and started out again the next morning. Most of the miles went by quickly. Night 3, With just 44 nm to Rio Grande we thought we would make it in by morning, but it was not to be. The wind increased and came from the SW. In the middle of the night intense lightning began. With almost continuous strikes all around the boat we watched hoping we would not be hit. Then we experienced a complete calm that lasted about a minute. A reversal of the wind direction suddenly occurred, and soon we encountered rapidly building wind and seas. And rain. The rain was so fierce it was as if we were swimming on deck. We thought the rain was bad until it turned to hail! We furled the jib to ease the boat, heeling rail under by now. We started the engine hoping to at least keep moving a knot or two in the correct direction. The seas built quickly, within 20 minutes we could no longer motor. Our propeller was popping out of the water every other wave. We killed the engine, unfurled a few feet of jib and hove to. After 24 stormy hours we were able to resume sailing. As we inspected Marcy we were glad to see the damage seemed to be limited to a torn jib and lots of water down below - everywhere. The force of waves landing on deck had found every possible entrance. Then we began the heartbreaking task to tack (for 2 days!) up wind to get close again to Rio Grande. As the temperatures dropped outside to 50F (and inside to 55F) we would have been happy if the seas had been calm enough to run our heater and dry out, but no such luck. Finally after sailing an additional 250 nm we were at the entrance to Rio Grande. It was a hard won landfall and one that we were glad to enjoy. We later learned that the Rio Grande bar had been closed for 3 days, winds were clocked at sustained 80 kph and a fishing boat was lost further north in the same storm. We were indeed lucky to have faired so well.

CRAM dock Rio Grande

To be welcomed at the Oceanographic Museum was the sweetest part of this journey. How fortunate we felt. Our host, Lauro, prepared a feast and invited us to join him.

Chez Lauro

The museum is an animal refuge and a yacht refuge indeed.

reserve museum sunset

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