A Balinearo Christmas
15 January 2011 | La Paloma, Uruguay
January 7th - Christmas is over
A deadline, definitly something that we are not used to anymore but Eileen has a gig playing in a restaurant in La Paloma on the 23rd Dec. Tomas and Claudia our German friends arrive half shattered by bus from Buenos Aries the evening before. It is all hands on deck, fridge full of food and tanks full of water in the morning and despite our best efforts we are a few hours late leaving, queues in the bank last minute shopping coupled with inertia, are to blame. The almost three months without going for a sail are telling but we get the head sails bent on and the fours ropes shackled to the buoys off with nothing worse than the loss overboard of an old friend, an adjustable spanner.
Or so I thought, Tomas picks up two plastic parts off the deck and asks me what they are. They turn out to be bushings from the head sail roller reefing which we can now see has two sections pulled apart after the jib hoisted. Sail on in ten knots of wind or turn back? I go aloft and decided that in worst case scenario will require me top sides to furl or drop the headsail. A couple of tacks later the foils have dropped back into place so all is well and we can furl if needed.
After a warm moon light night sail we are only off Punta del Este with forty five miles to go by eight o'clock. Our anti -fouling is definitely a thing of the past and our dirty hull is seriously slowing us down but we must have a serious current in here of the endless beach as well. As a reminder never to sail to a deadline the easterly wind picks up to twenty five knots and we motor sail on eventually making harbour at eleven, too late for Eileen's gig but not too late for her to get there and apologise. She returns half an hour later with a seven night booking.
La Paloma is slowly, very slowly, gearing up for the main season that will start the first week of January. In the meantime it is wonderfully quite, beaches almost deserted, shopping easy and the port is well a real treat. We are moored bow in to a well sheltered t shaped quay. There are a few small yachts on moorings, three yachts for Christmas neighbours and lots of small gill netters landing each day. It is so good to be in a mixed fishing and recreational harbour. The new quay draws evening anglers, locals and tourists alike hoping to land silver scabbard fish as the light dies.
We have a French-Spanish family as next door neighbours. Two Argentinian yachts make up the small live aboard community and with the help of Eileen's music we are all friends before New Year.
The more we look around La Paloma, the shops scattered among the central few blocks, the library, a few basic mechanical services, the beaches, the cooling Easterly breeze, the holiday suburbs in the pines the more we like it. The port is a shadow of it's former glory, the railway tracks overgrown but it is still alive and there are plans to redevelop it as a deep water port for the timber industry. In the meantime I am reminded every day of the smaller Irish fishing ports in the eighties. There is still enough fish to go around and some of the forty foot gill netters land big catches of dogfish, angel sharks and corvina. Like Ireland twenty years ago there is no sign of a fisheries officer checking quality or recording the landings despite their being no less than five government agencies with offices and staff on hand. It also reminds me of the way we were with fish in Ireland, catch loads of it, handle it badly and sell it cheap. I know that it can't last, the slow growing, slow reproducing species like dogfish will disappear and the lesson of smaller landings, discriminatory gear like long-lines, of properly iced and handled fish landed for better prices will be too late to save the stocks and the fishermen.
We reluctantly head back towards Montevideo after a great three weeks of , well , holiday. A gentle two day sail under spinnacker with an over nighjt stop for a good sleep anchored off Isla Garitta (of Punta del Este) and we are back in Peurto Buceo. Unfortunatly there is not enough water to get into our comfortable berth behind the pier but only have one rolly night in the harbour mouth. The wind shifts obligingly to the SE and blows enough water up the Plate for us to get moored snugly behind the pier the next evening.