The Everest mountaineers have their Himalayan Base Camp, the Patagonian sailors have Mar del Plata. It is the last significant town and convenient harbor before Ushuaia in the very south. It is peak time to be here, for many sailors want to be in the south in summer to take advantage of the longer days and higher temperatures. We get one of the last berths in the Mar del Plata branch of the Yacht Club Argentino and are helped into it by the crews of some of the other south-going boats.
On the pontoon we recognize some friendly faces, such as the Swiss crews from Dada Tux and Maramalda, who we met in Uruguay.Others we only met digitally via the What’sApp group “South America Sailing Team 2018”, which Anna from Zoomax initiated. When all the boats are safely moored, Pazzo’s crew is quick to ask everyone to a barbeque. “The fish we caught is too big for us to eat alone!” is the pretext of their invitation. Our fishing was less successful, so we bring a green salad and homemade apple pie to the festive get-together. It proves to be a great icebreaker and soon we feel part of a community of like-minded sailors.
Even beyond Buenos Aires, Omar’s help continues. This time in the form of introducing us to his friend Monica. As a resident of Mar del Plata she knows her way around town, and as a marine biologist, she is a great source of information on Argentinian sea life. Monica and her daughter Cecilia take us under their wings and tour us around their city. We quickly learn that our base camp is not only Argentina’s primary holiday destination, but also a sizeable city. It includes different beaches, a large casino and countless apartment buildings. Argentina’s navy has an important base here, as does the fishing fleet. The navy base can’t be missed, as its fence has turned into an improvised memorial site. Countless banners, flowers and flags pay tribute to the 44 crew members that were lost when a submarine sank off the Patagonian coast a year ago. At the same time the banners reveal the families’ frustration about unanswered questions surrounding the tragedy.
Stocking Up as a Team
Just like all other boats, our key focus here at base camp is provisioning and arranging equipment. “I’m a big eater”, Lars warned us in Buenos Aires. That proved to be an understatement. We have had to double our portions since he joined. “We’ll have to stock up some more food”, Ivar assesses. Monica and Cecilia drive us to the local grocery store, equipped with an XL shopping list. We fill up their car to maximum capacity with the contents of three shopping carts. Will this be enough to last us to Ushuaia?
Monica also knows the best place to arrange long mooring lines, a necessity to keep our boat clear of the rocks in the many narrow, deep Patagonian inlets, or caletas. She takes us to a local fishing equipment outlet where we’re able to make a deal by also buying lines for Pazzo and Zoomax. Not much later, six rolls of 200-meter long lines are delivered to the YCA. John and Willy discover the best method to unpack these rolls and divide them into four bags containing a 100-meter long line each. Ivar and Lars copy their method, but only after spending hours untangling the line-spaghetti they created on the pontoon.
Being among boats with the same focus has more benefits. John is the first to find a store that refills foreign gas bottles and informs the rest of the group. That afternoon the storeowner looks somewhat surprised when he receives a collection of empty gas bottles with American, Swiss, French and Dutch fittings.
When it comes to participating in a joint diesel-truck delivery, we pass. We don’t need that much and just fill our jerry cans at the gas station. After that’s done, we focus on collecting firewood, as we plan to make use of our wood stove for heating in cold Patagonia.