Multichine 28 Atairu. Rally in an inland sea

Author: Josê Campello
Photos: Antônio Piqueres/Ari Valter

It’s already a tradition the Porto Alegre to Rio Grande rally that takes place during summer along the inland sea called Lagoa dos Patos. This year we hoped to join five sailboats but in the end only three confirmed their participation. This year’s fleet comprised the MC28 Atairu, crewed by the couple Antonio and Ivana Piqueres; Val-halla, sailed by Fabio, either single-handed or having Silvia or Jorge eventually; and finally Galantte, sailed by Ari Valter with the assistance of either José Campello or Fernando Campello. We intended to leave in February, 2, and be back in February 23. In the scheduled departure day it happened an unexpected event obliging us to delay the start of the trip. That delay ended up being a blessing, allowing us to make the final adjustments in port.

We left port with the first lights of dawn intending to reach Porto Barquinho, the first port of call sixty-eight miles distant during the evening of this same day. This intention came out being a difficult proposition, since we had the wind blowing on the nose for a good part of the distance. But the early birds catch the best worms and at 06:30pm we reached our destination

It was raining when we left the club’s píer, this being the case for the most part of the trip.

Itapoã lighthouse, the boundary between the Guaiba River estuary and Lagoa dos Patos, the inland lake we were to cross from end to end.

We had to keep five knots average speed to reach port before twilight. We passed by Itapoã lighthouse, twenty-five miles from the starting point, at 10:30, what gave us the assurance that we would reach Porto Barquinho that same day. Porto Barquinho was built to allow the rice production in the flooded areas to the east of the lake to reach the consumer’s markets being transported by barges. The artificial port was built with stones brought from Tapes, forming a polygonal shaped breakwater of huge dimensions. Requiring periodical dredging and permanent upkeep of the harbour’s metallic structure, the enterprise became a complete failure for lack of maintenance, not having even being inaugurated.

The shallow depth at the location was a hurdle to be overcome considering Galantte and Atairu 1.60m draught. We wished to make a raft with the three sailboats and when trying to do so we ended up being grounded in a mud bank, fortunately with no harm consequences for the boats. The U-shaped basin where it’s possible to be anchored is placed just in the centre of the sheltered harbour, meaning that we were obstructing the access to the pier for whoever arrived after us. Val-halla was the raft leader, having the two other boats alongside. That evening, after being indulged in a fresh water hose bath at the pier, we went aboard Atairu, where Ivana and Antonio prepared a gourmet meal for the whole group, including appetizers, a rice dish as main staple, washed down with a special harvest Argentinean wine, crowning the gastronomic orgy with a box of chocolate for desert to compensate for the cold sandwiches we have eaten for the whole day. .

Ivana preparing supper on the jumbo-sized Atairu’s galley.

The skippers joined for a gastronomic orgy.

Next morning the wind had shifted 180° making havoc with our anchor rode. The mess we had to deal with had no logic explanation, being left to us disentangling the conundrum of twisted cabled without understanding what went on.

Warps and chains resembling spaghetti.. only God knowing how it happened. We inflated our smaller tender and made a survey of the depths in the surroundings with the assistance of a lead-line.

Sounding depths with the lead-line in Porto Barquinho.

While our depth sounders informed we had three metres of water under the hull, the actual depth was scants 0,80m, allowing us to walk in the sea bed with water up to the hips.

Once cleared the spaghetti jig-saw, we lost no time and left for the next leg of the trip, taking the utmost of the favourable conditions. At 11:00 am, under a light breeze from the west we were on the course to Cristovao Pereira lighthouse, where we arrived at 13:30. This time the lunch was just lasagna and pizza, and after that, tired and sleepy, we felt we deserved a siesta, leaving for later to explore the basin with the inflatable. After that we went for an exploration trip upstream the rivulet that drains into our haven.

Galantte, Val Halla and Atairu anchored in raft style.

This local fishing trawler was tied to stumps ashore.

The adventure wasn’t properly a success. When Ari jumped ashore to lash the inflatable to a stump, the dinghy reared up like a wild stallion, pitch-poling in the wrong direction, giving a thorough wash to the outboard, which miraculously didn’t choke, and throwing the crew into the drink, my camera included, a scene worth a blockbuster blooper.

Cristovao Pereira lighthouse, a historic landmark in Lagoa dos Patos.

This natural pool is a nursery sanctuary for marine life.

However that wasn’t to be the only mishap of the day. Just in case, we took the precaution to bring a hand-hold VHF with us. After some 200m of easy running, when we were getting ready to land, a call from Galantte informed that the boat had drifted from the raft and was linked to the other two boats by a thin cable not suitable for the purpose.

Galantte can be seen separated from the other two boats

In 10 minutes we were back on board finding the situation already under control. Fabio, who stayed on the raft taking care of our belongings, had managed to clear the mess giving more scope to the joining warp.

Brave little dinghy. Even though being half flooded she brought us back unscathed.

In the second evening supper was served again in Atairu’s cabin, this time the grub being pizza served with a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. That night was hard to sleep. The wind had shifted during the night blowing against a swell which didn’t allow us to rest properly. Atairu’s echo-sounder alarm had triggered a couple of times transmitting a sensation of imminent trouble.

Speak of the devil and he appears. The next trouble had a different cause. Atairu’s raw water pump impeller had stopped functioning when Antonio turned on the engine to charge batteries before breakfast, sounding the panel’s temperature alarm and obliging him to accomplish this maintenance task before he could open his eyes properly.

A pleasant task to start the day after a night of poor sleep: substituting the engine’s raw water pump impeller…

The scheduled 06:00 am departure ended up being just wishful thinking, since we only managed to leave at 09:00, bound for the city of Sao Lourenço.

Clear sailing. Ivana steers Atairu bound for Sao Lourenço.

The sailing was a sixty miles close reach taking us eleven hours to reach port most of the time under sail. Af first Galantte surprised the other two boats taking the lead by short-cutting a sand bank, but eventually Val-halla and Atairu catched up the leader, surpassing her by far. Fortunately that day we escaped quite a few thunderstorms which happened at our lee, with heavy downpours, lightning and gusts of wind. It was dark already when we arrived. For our luck our friend Paulo Angonese, a local resident, gave us a hand showing the way to the pier of that lovely town settled by Pomeran German immigrants.

We spent two lovely days there, this including an invitation for a visit to the farm of a couple of friends, Fabio and Silvia, in the outskirts of the city.

Country life for a change in our friends’ farm. From left to right: Ivana, Fabio and Silvia.

Farewell supper in São Lourenço – Campello, Fábio, Sílvia, Ivana, Antônio and Ari.

Our departure had to be postponed from 07:00am to 11:00am due to an unexpected bad weather. No sooner we left and Atairu got involved in another incident. She went aground in a sand bank at the mouth of the dredged channel that gives access to the lake. Antonio called for assistance by the VHF promptly answered by fishing trawlers passing by.

Raining cats and dogs in São Lourenço. Even under that deluge Atairu doesn’t loose her majestic looks.

In this leg of the trip we had the company of our couple of friends, Flavio and Silvia, who so gently sheltered us in their farm in Sao Lourenço. Now our next port of call would be Rio Grande, our final destination..

Bound for Rio Grande. Galantte is the boat ahead…

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