Very punctually, the members of the group of sailors started to turn up: Federico Enguix, the helmsman; Valeria Torrens, his assistant or sailor; two English tourists called Debbie and Jane, and the writer of this article.
Tourists are captivated by the idea of navigating “the widest river in the world”, and verifying the fame of the giant christened as the “river with the color of the lion” by Jorge Luis Borges. To navigate it is a pleasure that they will later transmit to their fellow countrymen.
Once on board the sailing boat, the skipper gave the first command, which sounded more like a permit than a command: the whole surface of the boat deck might be stepped on and, as we moved along it, we should do it carefully but without feeling afraid. He pressed the button to start the engine and we slowly started to leave the quay to head for the bridge that separates the docks from the River Plate.
This bridge opens punctually once an hour (from 8am to 7pm), and as both pedestrians and motorists cross it, it is necessary to request that it be opened in advance. The yachting authorities are in charge of this task, together with the National Prefecture. In the event that a boat would intend to go in or out at some special timetable, the authorities should be advised beforehand.
At 2pm, the bridge was opened and there was already a long queue of sailing boats and ships waiting eagerly to cross it.
While we sailed along the last meters of the dock, we watched how tenths of anxious office clerks would watch the slow passing boats that were retaining them and their cars, in their frantic race for reaching their destination in time.
Just a few minutes before, we all had been in a similar situation. Now the sailing boat was inviting us to join her quietness.
We had not sailed for a hundred meters when we were surprised by the presence of a huge orange and yellow boat. It was the Argentinian icebreaker called Irizar, famous all round the world for having rescued a German boat in the frozen waters of Antarctica, developing a scientific mission with all her crew on board.
As the sailing boat was slowly moving propelled by her engine, Federico started to untie and spread the large sail. At the beginning, the ropes, knots and moorings seemed like a tangled labyrinth that our eyes began to untie little by little. Thus, they started to come to a different life and prominence.
It was then when the sound began to die out and silence was heard. The sound of nothing appeared, and nothing was anything but the sound of nature, the wind blowing and giving life to the large sail.
Meters ahead, a kind of hill of reinforced concrete signaled the old Yacht Club.
By then, the surface of the water was choppy by the wind that would blow from the North and the sailing boat started to move more violently. She would sink her prow and lift it again anxiously, not to lose track of the horizon.
“There are tourists who love going sailing when it is windy and rainy. They enjoy getting wet and feeling as if they were inside a movie. If conditions are optimum as regards safety, we also do some of these outings. And the fanaticism awakened is such that many of them are waiting for the bad weather in order to go sailing”, Federico Enguix tells.
Navigation continued and, to our right, we would watch the Fishing Argentine Association Viamonte annexe and receive a kind greeting from anglers spread along the hundreds of meters of the old wooden pier.
Farther on, some buildings and a concrete conglomerate that belonged to the city of Avellaneda were made out.
Ducks and seagull escorted us from a close distance, but as they noticed we would not offer them any kind of food, they left us in search for another sailing boat. Federico let Debbie try steering the boat and thus, each one of us led the craft for some minutes next to the skipper. Something really amazing.
We watched the Jorge Newbery airfield and the planes touching the ground among the trees or flying in circles over our heads while they waited for their turn to land. In the distance, we could see the Fishermen Club
quay, the smoke from the food stands and tenths of office clerks looking at the pier from the northern seafront walls.
We were amazed to see the city old fresh water collection points, useless today, and the pavilions of Ciudad Universitaria university campus. Some nautical nurseries would announce that we were already sailing near the Olivos area.
Visibility was so good that in the distance we could see the shores of San Isidro
. On the Way Back
The sailing boat veered and we started our way back, according to the skipper, across Buenos Aires harbor in order to watch the dock workers in their tasks. It is important to point out that there are ships from all round the world with their sailors on board and their weird names painted on the stern waiting for the right moment to leave towards another harbor.
Federico is a lover of navigation. Whenever he sets sail, a smile is lit on his face. He asserts that sailing at night is most beautiful. “We have organized different outings, for honeymoons, seducing someone you have lost and even to enjoy a romantic evening under the moonlight. The city of Buenos Aires changes at night and everything turns into a game of colorful lights that reflect on the river waters. Being on a sailing boat under the stars and listening to the sounds of stately Buenos Aires and eating a typically Argentinian snack with a glass of champagne is something you cannot miss, especially if you are traveling as a tourist.”
When we reached the starting point, we saw the buildings of the Catalinas area and the impressive Sheraton Hotel. In the water, the Libertad frigate, in white, with her golden masts, more glittering than ever, seemed to have understood this tourist boom our country is undergoing. Sailing around her allowed us to see her grandeur.
We saw the clock on the tower built by the English, located in San Martín square, striking four in the afternoon. In a few seconds, the bridge would open to return to the quay.
The feeling you get when you go on board a sailing boat for the first time is very special: there is expectation and general fear that turns into pleasure after a few moments. When the voyage ends and we step on solid ground, the sailing boat is seen in a different way, there is better understanding. Something similar occurs with the majestic city of Buenos Aires…