Buenos Aires might not be the most obvious water sport destination, but Argentina’s extensive coastline frames a nautical tradition that spans nearly two centuries. The country is not only the birthplace of expert yachtsmen, but also producer of some of the world’s prominent naval architects, who have built top competitive racing yachts. The city’s many marinas play host to the majority of the international regattas and offshore competitions in Latin America, and Argentina is one of the more successful sailing nations in world competitions.
The waters of Río de La Plata offer strong winds and are apt for good, challenging sailing. The idea of cruising the brown open waters – “the colour of the lion”, as Jorge Luis Borges put it – is a pleasing way to spend a hot summer day in the city, letting the breeze cool you down and make you feel worlds away from the big, bustling city.
It was midday on a sunny weekday when we stepped on board Mario Marrazzo’s 30 foot yacht; an outboard sailing dinghy. We headed to Puerto Norte, one of Buenos Aires’ eleven marinas, and met up with Mario who greeted us warmly and welcomed us to step on board while he started preparing to set sail.
Our weathered captain, born and raised in the city, has been sailing the waters of Río de La Plata for over 40 years. With his yacht he takes tourists, or porteños, keen to spend some time out on the sea, on day, evening, or even over-night trips.
Mario is a relaxed and sociable man, and talks about the growing interest for sailing and boating on the Río de la Plata. He tells us about Argentina being one of the most important boat producers in the world, and that the sailing sport has lead to many medals in recent Olympic games and global competitions.
As we leave the harbour behind us and Mario turns off the motor and spreads the sail, a silence settles. Complete relaxation follow and in an instant we are all on vacation mode. The peace and the sounds of the waves striking the hull of the sailboat is a priceless experience for city dwellers like us.
As always when it comes to sailing, the wind determines the route. We set sail straight out from the dock, and turned around going in a straight line from the harbour out and back. Sometimes a route closer to the shore is possible, making for a kind of offshore city tour.
According to Mario, a trip to the Paraná delta is a given favourite among tourists who come to spend a full day sailing; for this you need to have a good six-eight hours to spend sailing. In the Tigre canals, one of the five unique deltas in the world, you can watch the still island life as you pass through the jungle-like landscape. The shortest trip is a two-hour sail, but full-day trips, as well as over-night and weekend trips, are available. Mario is flexible and talks excitedly about the range of possible trips.
Guests can enjoy food and drinks prepared by Mario, ordered in advance, or they can bring their own. If you are out sailing for a longer period of time, you can choose between staying on the boat or getting a hotel and using the boat solely for the sailing.
On the upper deck there is a cockpit where at least six people can sit comfortably. In the below there is a berth (sitting and sleeping area), a galley and a toilet.
This day the wind is strong and the water is a bit rough. Mario explains that since the river is very shallow, in many places only two meters deep, the surface tends to be choppy. We are too busy appreciating the refreshing wind and constant sun on our necks to worry about the waves.
Looking back at the city from the river perspective you realise its immensity. From the boat we get an outstanding view of the vast city, from Puerto Madero and the skyscrapers of microcentro in the south and the San Isidro cathedral and the greenery of the north. Past the bow of the boat we see glittering, endless waters where tankers bringing goods in and out of the city clog the entrance to Puerto Madero. Some other sailors are out trying today’s winds and just like us, and glide quietly through the river waves.
On our way back towards the port Mario points out buildings in the nearby Nuñez, and he makes sure not to miss the River Plate stadium, mentioning it in two languages just to make sure we registered the importance of its location.
Sailing with Sailing Buenos Aires is relaxed and flexible; an activity that stands out from regular tourist options in Buenos Aires — highly recommended!