Captain Jonathan Mercer
Jan. 23-24, 2012, Buenos Aires, Argentina
As expected, the phone rang at 2 a.m. and up to the bridge. The river is well-bouyed, however it is relatively shallow, so ‘speed’ was a factor, (remember my earlier post about ‘squat’? Well, here it affects us too).
The channel has an over-abundance of isolated danger buoys and when asked, the pilot told me the majority are marking wrecks of sand and gravel barges; they load up to their gunwhales and then, when unexpected bad weather hits them, they are swamped or worse, turn over.
We divert out of the channel off the port of La Plata, this is to embark a ‘harbour,’ or ‘docking,’ pilot. The anchorage is full of ships waiting for berths. Further up the channel, (past Buenos Aires), a bulk-carrier has been aground for four days and is likely to remain there, stuck in the mud, until the next high tide, or heavy rainfall raises the height of the river sufficiently, this is unlikely as it is the dry season here at the moment.
We hear from the pilot that we are extremely fortunate, the river is closed to shipping, further to the east of us, thick fog has closed in around Recalada and the conditions are such that, as a safety measure, all shipping in and out has stopped. We of course are already committed and far away from the fog, the sun rises on a beautiful day, with the towers of Buenos Aires looming ahead of us, the towering glass reflecting the morning sun.
The Veendam has berthed and we follow the MSC ship in, we swing off the berth and back into ‘Darsena B’ or Basin B on the north side, the Veendam opposite us on the south. Again we are in a commercial dock area, a container-shipping area to be precise, so shuttle buses run guests from the gangway to the terminal, where they can find transport to the city. Many of the roads into the city are unfortunately grid-locked; there have been demonstrations in town, something about not enough electricity for the poorer citizens of BA. My Spanish is virtually non-existent, but that’s the gist of it. Wish I had been taught Spanish at school, instead I was taught French, not very useful, (unless you’re in France of course), whereas Spanish is universal. Sam is fluent and even Oliver knows some words, his parents using both languages in their conversations with him…..I’m jealous :-)
Captain Mercer is at the helm of Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage.