27 February 2015

Commissioning Passage

The initial passage in our commissioning sail took place over three days and two nights beginning February 20th.  Memo arrived at the boat for a 7 a.m. start and off we went.  The objective of the passage was threefold: to test Milly generally on a longer sail, to test the water maker in salt water and to land in Uruguay and, hence, export the boat, passing ownership officially to us.  To reach salt water we needed to go towards the mouth of the river, at least beyond Montevideo.

 Having read cruising books for the past two years, I knew that meals needed to be simple and made in advance in case the water made cooking unpleasant.  And so I had spent time in San Fernando stocking the freezer - it is a luxury to have such a big one - and buying a few prepared items, last minute.  Peter had read manuals and done some hands on work with the systems to become familiar before our first voyage.

The trip to our destination was upwind.  No sailor enjoys upwind for long - it is bumpy.  The waves on a smaller body of water have a shorter period and are steeper than longer ocean swells.  This makes it more uncomfortable and a bit tough on the stomach, at least mine.  Neither Memo or Peter seemed to mind but I took a Bonine - thank goodness for friends travelling to US who replenished my stocks before leaving Toronto.  Walking in the boat requires one hand for the boat at all times - hauling up bottoms at the end of toileting, for example, is a challenge and must be timed just right.  The men on the boat elected to let me sleep through a watch so my night was a cinch.  Peter’s required a nap after sunrise.  And I’m not sure if Memo slept much at all.
Closest to Montevideo we got on this passage
Our destination on the river was dictated by the colour of the water.  It went from brown to brownie-green which meant the salinity of the sea.  Our water maker test happened to be beside a shipping lane and anchoring spot so we needed to monitor our meandering course as Memo tested the machinery.  Persisting for a couple of hours alternating between reading the manual and going back to work, Memo demonstrated how to work backwards from a point of a problem logically to find the source.  He narrowed it down to two possibilities but couldn’t correct it on water.  The watermaker and a couple of other hiccups were all that were discovered amiss.  Otherwise, Milly sailed beautifully and we were completely satisfied.  

Next on the itinerary was a beautiful downwind sail through the second night to arrive in Colonia, Uruguay across the river from B.A.  The sail was peaceful and easy.  Nightwatch was had by all.  A beautiful starry sky, rushing water and surfing down small waves.  On the way, Memo took us into one of his favourite anchorages in a small winding river.  We hope to return  over the next week or so.

Our trip was made more interesting by watching and learning from Memo’s expertise.  A life long sailor and long distance racer, to Africa and Europe, he has great stories to tell and much to teach.  His familiarity with life on a boat was obvious by his ease of movement.  He was fun to watch.
Milly is Canadian!
Arriving in Colonia and the ensuing trips to customs and immigration were momentous.  Memo exported the boat and ownership was finally and completely transferred to us.  We are now the very proud and happy owners of Milly.  There are a few things to complete and manage but we have been enjoying the cruising life for the past few days since arriving.
View from Milly

19 February 2015

First Solo Sail

February 17th was our first solo sail - solo meaning the two of us, sans Antares coaches. 

Wind was light, 5-10 knots and, therefore, easy-going.  We sailed out and back without incident, changing headsails once and gybing at the turn around.  We hand-steered the entire trip as our autopilot was without power.  No problems at all!

Peter aced the docking.  This is no small feat.  The dock is an intimidating cement number with a huge, ancient rusty iron block at the end of it - quite interesting when it isn’t in the way of Milly’s stern. 
The meter long block with unforgiving cement deci
The “dock” ends as a muddy ramp up to land - we don’t want to go that way.  The other side is another cement but lower dock with a dinghy tied on “our side”.  The wind was negligible but was blowing us off the big dock and onto the smaller dock.  All went extremely well.  I scrambled around tying lines.
A good day!

Everything put away tidily and a celebratory beer was had!  Feels great!

An Asado Celebration

The completion of each Antares is marked by an asado, an Argentinian extravaganza of barbequed meat.  The beef is seasoned, with special salt meant only for meat a couple of hours beforehand and then grilled.  In the boatyard, the grill was outside in the courtyard.
This was one of many rounds of grilling

 The dining table was long enough to sit 55 staff plus Peter and I.  Boatyard barrels, planks, benches and tarpaulins doubled as table supports, tables, benches and tablecloths.  Salads and pop were on the menu.  The chefs served a huge platter/board of chorizo, blood sausage and hunks of beef once, twice, three times, four….until everyone said, “No mas”.  Peter and I sampled each - this time the blood sausage was very tasty.  The beef had a thick, crunchy, delicious something or other on the outside - hide, skin, I don’t know, but it was great.
A delicious meal in the factory
I made a small thank you in three halting Spanish sentences, corrected by the crowd.  And Peter toasted each division individually with a thanks for their skill and dedication - in English, translated by Santiago. Our sentiments felt inadequate to the endeavours we have witnessed at the factory.  The skill, pride and workmanship are very clear and we are so very grateful.  We have been welcomed and kindly and patiently looked after each time we have come to visit with lots of emails in between.  The staff have been wonderful.

We sincerely thank everyone at the factory and in the Antares family for our exceptional Milly!

10 February 2015

We are now liveaboards!

We have done a lot of moving in the last two years.  The sale of our house, to a smaller condo, then to a teeny, tiny condo, with surplus to the cottage, to our daughter’s, to Goodwill or to consignment stores, and then to Argentina x 2, to four apartments within Buenos Aires; these were all one big, long move, the ultimate purpose of each being this final one to Milly on February 5, 2015.  Our anticipation in the last few days living at the apartment was enormous.

The logistics of this final move could have been daunting with our horrible Spanglish, emphasis on “glish”. However, with Beto’s help it was the easiest of any of the previous.  All we had to do was pack our bags.  Beto picked us up at the apartment in his car.  We went in convoy with a truck he had arranged and picked up vast quantities of bins and bags from storage.  And then on to the yacht club!
Loaded very large truck

Unloading at the boatyard with Milly
Over the past few days we have been sorting, stowing, restowing, rerestowing etc.  There is a massive amount of space on the boat but we are aiming for stowing-logic at the moment and all is in flux until we have lived here for awhile.  

We are also provisioning.  Starting from scratch with food stores is hard work in a foreign country where store shelves are not laden with variety and quantity as in Canada.  I realize I am spoiled by easy access to North American excess.  Not here.  We walk to the store, scour the shelves for items on an eight page spreadsheet, study Spanish labels, fill our backpacks, bags and cooler bag and then walk back to the boat.  (Did I say it was hot in a previous post?  I know you are probably getting tired of the reminder if you are in frigid Canada, but it is hot here.)  We are buying basics and in quantities for the next six months.  We have been told that provisions of food, drink and cleaners in Argentina are much less costly than in Uruguay and Brazil.  The challenge is figuring out quantity for six months without submerging our waterline. And so provisioning is a smaller adventure within a grander one.

A toast to Milly
Sunday we had our second sail - this time with Memo, the boat builder, and his family.  A wonderful day with great company.  We did much of the skippering and crewing with Memo’s coaching.  Peter docked the boat against a high, intimidating cement wall, perfectly!  We are both feeling more and more confident on Milly - at least in relatively flat seas and mild to moderate wind.
The river is so shallow at low tide that there is more running than swimming

Peter is like a kid who finally has a long-coveted toy; a couple of times a day, he spontaneously says, "I love it here".  So great!

Took a ride on TomTom to check out our neighbours.  Some beautiful old boats.

The upcoming work week will see various men from the boatyard visit for several little things that need to be done to make the boat “perfect”, as Memo says.  To us, she’s pretty close to perfect already.

3 February 2015

Biking in Buenos Aires

Peter and I have mastered the art of defensive biking in B.A.  We really enjoy biking in the cities we have visited - it allows you to get off the tourist trail.  We have managed to get to far off parks, avoid the crowds of buses and subways and visit museums etc under our own steam - Really, it’s steamy.  It’s hot, hot, hot here.
Great new park system where cars are excluded

A memorial park for the 30,000 "disappeared" 1976-1982.  Far away, inaccessible.  We were the only ones there.
Another religion here is football. 
The city is a bit of a paradox when it comes to cycling.  On one hand they have some excellent bike lanes along the side of busy streets, physically separated from traffic. 
Great 2-way bike paths
There are enough of these to take you through most of the core without too much time on nonbike lane roads where the true adventure begins.  There are also a good number of people on bikes especially in some areas.  They ride upright, one-speeders at a casual pace - rather refreshing after the high speed of other traffic.  The large park system here has numerous bike trails, free of traffic, although one sports people learning how to roller blade which adds some entertaining distraction.
In the distance, are the roller bladers.

Nonetheless, the challenges of biking here are several.
  • These bike lanes are great but their state of repair is not always on par.  Like the sidewalks, they are uneven, potholed, mended with mounds of pavement.  Sometimes there are ledged ramps to the sidewalk.  All require full focus on the path ahead.
    The only hills in B.A. are bridges over roads or tracks.
  • Unless there are traffic lights, intersections do not have stop signs.  The drivers are supposed to give way to the vehicle on the right but no one pays any attention to the rule.  Really it is a game of chicken.  Whoever gets there first, even by meters, goes.  This includes bikes.  If you get there at the same time…well, there is the problem. Adding to the risk is that cars park right to the corner and sometimes on the corner.  It’s tough to see if there is oncoming traffic until you are part way across the road.
    Great facility for travelling by commuter train with bikes.
  • Most streets are one-way which is great for those intersections - you only have to look one way but if you are on a bike lane going against the vehicle traffic there is rarely no traffic signal for the bike.  The bike rider must look up at the signal for the cars on the other street in the proper one way direction.  It requires that your wits are about you!
  • Square gutters about 6 inches across cross many streets at intersections sometimes both ways to gather water from people cleaning their sidewalks or torrential rain.  Going into one would make streetcar tracks in Toronto seem like child’s play.
    The gutters. 
  • Some lanes go along a sidewalk.  The ramps to the street go down sharply and up to the street sharply.  Any speed on this is uncomfortable at best.  A threat to losing your seat or a tire exploding.
  • Cobblestone streets, although pretty, are bone rattling.
    Coming across the unexpected happens all the time by bike.
  • Buses and cars travel at high speeds and give the impression, anyway, that they are not going to stop no matter what or who is in the way.  Turning corners, whether bike or pedestrian crossing with the light, cars only stop if the person with right of way avoids eye contact and just goes for it.  They will dodge you by cm.   The easiest biking we had wrt traffic was with the kids on Dec 24th.  Everyone was off work and home preparing for festivities.  The streets were empty....apart from buses.
    The kids on their rented clunkers.
  • Bike lanes as mentioned before solve the vehicle traffic problem.  Pedestrians, however, not used to bikes, walk into the lanes regularly looking only in the direction of traffic which often is the opposite way that we are travelling on bikes.  The offending walkers are extremely apologetic when you screech to a halt, which is nice.
    Looks like a lot of people but really pretty average.
  • At rush hour, the bike lanes are great except that the occasional motorcycle uses them as well.  Disconcerting.
  • Traffic lights here have an amber light between red to green and between green to red.  On the amber, motorcycles take off immediately.  Woe is you if you follow our normal practice in Canada and cross on an amber!

At the beginning of our time here, cycling was a tad stressful.  After more than two months, we are pros.  Look out, buses, cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians.  Here we come!

2 February 2015

Milly's Maiden Voyage!

January 31st - an incredibly exciting day in pictures!

Just a little happy!

Sancho skippered TomTom on a scoot around a flying Milly 
Beautiful Milly.  Perfect blue sky.
Just barely fast enough in TomTom to cross Milly's bow
Milly's Antares
They got the name right

Sprawling Buenos Aires
A very happy captain

And a happy sail!

Dinner fit for royalty is how we felt

Thanks to Memo, Rob, Jeff, Paul, Beto and Sancho for a fantastic day of sailing on Milly and a great weekend!