48 57 South 66 56 West

31 January 2014

Hello friends,

Tom is taking a few weeks break from geophysics, and he & Dave flew from Calgary to Dulcinea in Colonia Uruguay. She had spent just over a month on a bouy in the little harbour of the pretty, small town. It has been an exceptionally hot summer, but everything was in good condition when we returned. Most wonderful was that the water is so nearly fresh in the River Plata estuary that there was almost no growth to clean off the bottom. Colonia is a favourite week end destination for sailors from Buenos Aires 30 miles east. January is summer-time, and their busy season. It was a cheap, safe, and friendly place for us to leave Dulcinea.

2 days after Tom arrived, we had installed the PB200 weather-station back on the mast head, provisioned, and sailed south to check into Argentina at Mar Del Plata. The 2 day sail brought a little of all conditions and was a good introduction for Tom to get used to Dulcinea. It was 40 degrees C our first day there. Inside the long harbour wall, there is a mile of busy water with a dry dock, a big fleet of fishing ships, another boat yard, a naval base, and 3 yacht clubs tucked into a tiny yacht baisin. A large colony of sea lions guards the inside of the harbour wall and a daily line of spectators arrives to watch them barking and fighting each other on a narrow beach at the far side of a robust fence. Tripper boats also ply the harbour to view them. Add to this the pleasure craft, children's sailing courses, paddle-boarders, rowers, and adolescents swimming off and on boards, and it was a busy place.

Our plans were to check into the country (Tom now understands how that can easily take a day), buy fuel & provisions, check the water-maker installation, and (most important) insstall our new 3-blade Flexofold propeller since we had arrived where it was clear enough to work underwater. Dave togged up, dived in with some big spanners, and stupidly sheered off the locking screw in the end of the prop shaft. We sawed a notch to try to turn it out and both tried to hammere it out with punches. Then asked the professional divers in the Yacht Club to try, but they did no better than us. With Tom's mechanical aptitude & Dave's kayaking practice at spending time underwater, we got the job done and really like the new propeller.

After 5 days, we were ready and the south wind backed so off we went. 24 hours later we had another gale on the bow and decided to follow the written advice to keep inshore in future where the fetch is shorter and the waves smaller. This sailing is very different from the Trade Winds: we are aadjusting sails multiple times in a 3 hour watch. The SW fronts arrive every day or so, but the GRIB forecasts seem good. The winds change so often that the seas can't keep up, and we often see confused wave patterns trying to head into the wind. Dulcinea has sailed well & made over 100 miles in every 12 hour period, bar one when we had the staysail up.

After the provisioning break in Mar Del Plata, Tom had been looking forward to leaving those very enjoyable but also very hot environs and continuing down the coast of Patagonia. It would be nice to be sailing, sitting back and watching the sunsets, stars, and sunrises from the cockpit of the Dulcinea as she forged ever southward on the breeze blowing off the Pampas. It didn't take long for that illusion to be shattered. It was soon evident that the breeze in Patagonia doesn't blow from any one direction for long, and changing the sails is a regular event. Tom pitched in as best he could, and on a couple of occasions tried to show Dave novel ways to work the sails. After some exciting moments and quick conversations, it's more or less been decided that Dave's way is the right way.

We discovered that KELP is truly a 4-letter word - little islands of it float within a few miles of the shore. It catches on rudders, on saildrives, and almost stalled an engine one time. However it probably helps the marine life, which is wonderful. Magellanic Penguins abound. Many cormarants, some ducks. Dolphins come over to check us out. Mostly we see sea lions basking or fighting on the beaches, but occasionally we see them at sea too. Southern right whales breed here, but in summer they are feeding in the Antarctic. Then there are the sea birds. Our book tells us that experts cannot always identify a species without putting them onto a disecting table, but we think we have a mixture of giant petrels & black browed albatross soaring and tipping the waves at speed whenever the winds increase.

On Thursday night, they predicted another front bringing a SW gale, so we anchored in Rio Deseado. We headed in against a 3 to 4 knot current (enormous tides reach 10 or 12 metres further south) and dropped anchor at the coordinates which our cruising guide says is a good secure place. The chart showed about 2 metres depth but the guide was right and we found 6 or 7 metres tucked out of the channel. Dave woke just after 1 am with 30 - 35 knots of wind from the S, and tied off the wind generators, then we both slept until well after sunrise, took a walk round town, bought 8 jerry-jugs of diesel and prepared Dulcinea to set out again.

Each harbour has a big fleet of expensive-looking orange & white fishing boats about 60 to 70 metres long, and the only time we saw any at sea they just appeared to be going in circles without nets or activity. Maybe this is off-season for their catch, or maybe they are all there for crab pots.

We hope this leg will take us to Estrade La Maire (the strait at the east tip of Tierra Del Fuego next to Statten Island). After that we should be into the Beagle Channel and looking at the famous Darwin Range with glaciers close to and into the sea.

Tom's first words this morning were something like "I can understand why a brand of warm clothing was named 'Patagonia'". For warm-blooded Tom that is some comment! We tried the new diesel heaters and they work well. Our thick Mustang floater-jackets are always on outside now. I am pleased with the Sealskinz socks which I wear inside and around the cockpit. After the 40 degree weather in Buenos Aires, Colonia, and Mar Del Plata, Tom was wondering why he'd packed his duffle bag with so much warm clothing, and so few warm weather items - but he's now appreciating all the long underwear and fleece.

In a few hours we shall be out of the "roaring" fourties into the "screaming" fifties, but just now the wind is dropping below 15 knots.

Twice in a week, the VHF has fired up asking us who we are and where we are going, and it may be interested locals &/or lonely lighthouse keepers. The Argentine authorities have been pleasant & courteous, but they do ask for their pound of flesh in paperwork. At each port, they require the same 2-sided form completed for both entry & exit, and a 3rd 2-sided form signed to say we won't go to the Malvinas (Falklands). They ask us to email in our coordinates every day, which does give a feeling that somebody may be looking after our welfare.

All is well and the adventure of the south has started.

love to all from

Dave, Tom, and Dulcinea

PS Now Sunday afternoon. Most of last night was a close reech in strong to gale force winds as we hugged tightly along the coast. The wind angle eased as we have crossed the entrance to the Strait of Magellan. 2 lovely black & white Commerson's Dolphins escorted us away from Cabo Virgen - the last point on mainland Argentina.