Plans change, which is the fun part of traveling.
The plan was to take the train to Tigre, a town away from Buenos Aires close to where the Rio Parana de las Palmas meets the Rio de la Plata, to visit the Museo Naval de la Nacion—the national marine museum. All went according to plan until I stepped off the train, looked up and down the river, and saw many varnished mahogany lap-strake pulling boats. Some singles, some doubles, some doubles with a seat for a passenger, but all with sliding seats. A few were in use on the water, but more were pulled up on ramps in front of rowing clubs. Many rowing clubs. I now had another mission.
The museum is a good one with many models showing early boat types going back to early Greek and Roman biremes and triremes, reed and balsa craft, Viking cargo and war craft, and more. Very thorough. But of course the core of the museum is dedicated to models of Argentine naval vessels from early sailing ships to the more modern types. Well crafted models that come close to rivaling what’s in the Paris museum as well as a series of paintings done in the 1960s of naval encounters from the early 19th century. Good work.
There were also many references to the little ongoing disagreement that Argentina has with Great Britain over the Malvinas or Falklands or whatever you’re into calling them.
In the last room is the fully restored LEHG II, Vito Dumas’ Colin Archer derived 31-foot ketch that he sailed alone around the Southern Ocean, becoming the first man to sail solo past the three great capes—Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin—south of Australia. He did this at the start of WWII. Dumas is a hero to Argentine sailors as well as a mythical figure for all solo sailors.
After lunch I accosted a fellow who was hauling a boat up one of the club ramps to ask about anyone who might be building these boats. This fellow turned out to be an American from Saratoga, NY, who was deeply into the horse scene (it’s big here) in Buenos Aires. He introduced me to the fellow who keeps his club’s boats in repair. He does not build new, but he told me about another fellow at the Club de Regatas America who is actually building new boats.
I found him. Angel M. Gil, about 50, builds and repairs these pulling boats in his shop adjoining the Club de Regatas storage building. Gil speaks no English and I speak no Spanish, but we could communicate due to the universal language of boat nuts—gestures and drawings.
They’re of conventional construction with seven planks per side, copper riveted, on a small keel, stem, stern post and tiny transom and thin, sawn ribs copper-nailed in place. They’re built upside-down on a waist-high strong back with molds set up about every half meter. Gil adjusts the shape of the mold depending on whether it’s a single (no adjustment) or a double, when he adds width, especially down low, for more buoyancy. Enough technical stuff. They appear to be nice boats and judging both by the number in existence and how easily they seem to row, time has proven them to be a worthy hull form. There sure were a lot of them on the river today.