The long trip up from Tierra del Fuego is finally over. It has been a strain – 1200 miles of persistent headwinds, short steep seas and the minor but constant anxiety about the mast. After a lumpy crossing of the the River Plate estuary we had an easy night landfall on Piriapolis, whose well lit little harbour has an all weather approach. It was late but the helpful Uruguayan Prefectura officials completed our arrival formalities in about 10 minutes. Tainui sat gratefully, stern to with a line to a buoy, profoundly still at last. We tippled in silence under a million stars. On the rocky sea wall old men fished, young lovers whispered and cats prowled.
Piriapolis is a cross between Sans Souci and Atlantic City. There is a long, deserted beachfront promenade with empty cafes, iridescent blue water and Collaroy sand. Gum trees, cool breezes and cloudless skies. Sedate mansions from a past era and neat, tasteless cottages with tiny pebblecrete lawns. I can’t work out whether its charms have faded from a summer season well ended or a more distant past. There are few tourists, all over the age of 80. Fewer cars.
Hotel Argentino is huge, grand and faded. Like Teatro Colon in BA. It has a real casino, with timber floors and blackjack tables. From the faded photos you can tell it was once a resort for the elegant rich. You can hear the flutes clink, see the backless silk frocks and smell the cigars. The sort of place Chris would have wanted us to stay.
Ian shouted dinner last night at Hotel Argentino, a very grand Carrington/Hydro Majestic sort of place with 50 foot ceilings. Buffet entrada (18 kinds of diced twig), packet chicken noodle soup, tasteless fish and 4 generous slices of creme caramel. Background music was Sousa marches, Beethoven 3rd piano concerto and act 2 of Rheingold (entry of the gods into Valhalla). really. Ian then promptly won back the tariff at the blackjack table.
In Uruguay there is no time limit for yachts, only for their crew. It is safe, secure and there is no corruption. Tainui will enjoy a well-earned rest here for the winter while my bloated mortgage is given cursory attention. How I love the boat. She needs topside paint but looks just beautiful in the bay, waiting patiently for the travel lift driver to finish his languid siesta.
Tainui has served us well – continues to do so. The endless succession of improvements, repairs and modifications has produced a boat which is dry, functional and comfortable. In cold climates, that is. From here north to the Amazon and then Cuba we will have different priorities – insect screens, refrigeration and sun awnings.
Now, finally, the hatches are all open and the boat light and airy. Ian is rummaging around in the food lockers and I’m about to start cleaning 6 months’ expired vapours off the deckhead in the aft cabin. Soon she will join 8 of her colleagues on the hard, while we fly home.
I can’t get used to waking up to a dry, still boat with a warm breeze wafting through open hatches. Such luxury. Climate aside, I’ve decided that Uruguay is the Belgium of South America. Conservative, comfortable, not all that interesting, safe. Like me. It is certainly the place to leave Tainui. With luck she will be lifted out on Monday and I can depart for Colonia Tuesday noon.
Maybe this isn’t the end but the beginning.