February 16th: Montevideo
Apparently this does not mean “I see a mountain” in any language, so my assumptions about the origin of the name were wrong. Instead, historians think it’s an acronym: As the Spaniards worked their way up the Rio Del Plata (River Plate) they numbered the hills from the coastline. When they reached this particular hill, it was described as ‘monte’, (hill), VI (6) de (from) E/O (east to west). In other words, the 6th hill they’d encountered heading westwards from the mouth of the river. Who knows if it’s true, but it’s a good story.
We headed 160 kms out of town and spent a happy day at Colonia Del Sacramento. It’s a very pretty town, and the oldest one in Uruguay. The temperature was some 30 degrees Celsius, so it was very warm. The countryside is flat, gently rolling, and a rich, fertile land. 20 kms beyond Montevideo the rural area proper begins, and throughout our drive we saw nothing but agricultural and grazing land. It’s a lovely country.
Tonight we encountered the first drama of our trip. The ship’s course takes it up the Rio Del Plata to Buenos Aires. The channel is narrow, and the draft very shallow. We were sitting at dinner when the whole ship listed sharply to port. Crockery slid, and the waiters couldn’t grab plates and glasses fast enough so a few hit the floor. The ship righted itself, but we all speculated the pilot aboard may have stuffed up and caught the keel on the side of the channel. The captain came over the loud speaker to tell us we’d been caught by a sudden gust of wind which had caused us to tip. He didn’t sound amused.
We later discovered that a storm, lightning and thunder included, had swept up the river from the sea bringing 70 knot winds with it. The ship had only listed 6°, and is rated for a 20° list if needed, so we were quite safe. All I can report is that the lean we achieved was impressive. I returned to our cabin to find the telephone had slid off the table and onto the floor, followed by the pamphlets and newsletters I had stacked on the shelf.
It’s about an hour later, and we’ve just received a further message to say another vessel has run into trouble in the channel, so the route is now closed to shipping. We’ve been forced to anchor for the night mid-channel, which will delay our entry to Buenos Aires tomorrow. Let’s hope nothing else goes wrong!