_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Saturday, March 27, 2010


bumble fly

In the interest of full disclosure, mention must be made of a certain type of aggressive biting fly that lives in this part of the world. For a few miserable days, it was unsafe to venture on deck alone. One needed protection to do any job, someone to swat as the other worked. Soon, though, we either got far enough north and thus out of range, or the weather changed – in any case we were no longer harassed by these flies. After crossing the Gulf of Corvocado to Chiloe and the outlying islands we found ourselves in a well populated gentle pastoral world. It's an area of small farms, small towns, and attractive coves. The people here seem to be equally at home at the the helm of a tractor or a fishing boat.

Mechuque tractor

up a creek Mechuque

bridge house Mechuque

Rowing boats are everywhere.

double ender Mechuque

Meulin visitors

Some little boats are not very pretty – stryrofoam planks are often used as tenders.

foam boat Mechuque

We got a nocturnal visit from a fisherman and his wife wanting to trade crab for just about anything.

Pto Lagunas fisherman and wife

With wooden boats in daily use, it isn't surprising that we spotted many boats under repair and new construction.

caulking Pto Montt

backyard project Mechuque

Ginger found a pile of lumber ready for the next big vessel. The trees are cut with the curving grain of natural crooks preserved for knees or frames.

big crook Mechuque

We were offered tea in the kitchen of one house as water was heating on the wood stove.

tea water Mechuque

The weather was predicted to breeze up beyond comfort level, so we found a nice secure nook to wait for a couple of days.

Mechuque shelter

The little bay soon filled with other boats also seeking shelter. One fishing boat was beached to repair a plank that had sprung loose while bashing into the weather.

beached boat Mechuque

For some reason, on that particularly windy afternoon, everyone vanished. All the fishermen rowed ashore and disappeared.

Loaded dinghy Mechuque

The little fishing boat just upwind of us dragged alongside. We spent hours fending off, expecting the captain to return any minute and deal with the problem. Finally Peter rowed out, pulled the little anchor, and repositioned the boat downwind. Problem solved, but where the heck did everyone go?

fending Mechuque

dragger reanchored Mechuque

That evening, as people returned to their boats, we heard that there had been a tsunami warning. It was sheepishly explained that everyone had climbed to high ground in confusion. We were promised that next time we would not be forgotten. A gun would be fired by the Carabineros to alert us. Possibly the church bell would be rung as well, although that was not known in certainty. A meeting was to be held that night to discuss the situation.

raptors Mechuque

We never tested the new warning system as the weather turned nice before the next tsunami warning. We set sail for the capitol of the area, Castro, and as we dropped anchor we saw the wonderful wooden cathedral that towers over the town.

Castro wharf and church

Near our anchorage the shore was lined with distinctive “palafitos” - houses on pilings built over the water.

Castro palafito

We rowed ashore and explored. The buildings were interesting, sided with a variety of materials such as wood shingles, tin sheets and split logs.

castro building

Back on the beach we were ready to launch the dinghy when a labrador retriever decided he wanted a boat ride. He jumped in our dinghy and did not want to budge. Here doggie! Get out! Come! Peter tried his best dog bossing voice.

Castro dinghy dog

Maybe he should have tried to reason with the dog in Spanish.

Castro dog still in dinghy

We needed to lift him bodily from the boat, and even then he paddled after us for a while. It was time for us to move on, so we sailed the distance to Puerto Montt, the biggest city we'd seen since arriving in Chile. As we sailed up the channel, a low tide provided opportunity to boat owners of vessels large and small for painting and maintenance.

Low tide Pto Montt

On the hard Pto Montt

We were reminded that we also needed new bottom paint. We arrived at at Club Nautico Reloncavi and in short order arranged for a haulout by travelift. How nice (and inexpensive) it would be to use the tide instead. Some small cruisers dry out here on every tide, with the help of legs to stay upright.

low tide Reloncavi

floating Reloncavi

Soon enough, Marcy headed back to the water sporting a new blue bottom.

Pto Montt launch

While at Puerto Montt, which is one of the major crossroads of cruising, we had the pleasure of meeting many international sailors. We have good new friends from Holland, Norway, Australia and the UK. We had been on the lookout to meet one couple, Annie and Trevor, for some time. They sail a gaff rigger named Ironbark that is a near sister ship to Ariel, whom we had cruised with in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It was good to finally meet friends of friends.

Trevor and Annie Ironbark

Trevor and Annie (Annie Hill, marine author) were freshly back from the New York Yacht Club where they had just flown to accept a prestigious award from the Cruising Club of America. They haven't let the awards go to their heads. They were great fun to chat with. Iron Bark has wintered over in both Arctic and Antarctic ice, and we heard many fascinating hints and tidbits of staying warm and happy in such a severe environment. Our time for socializing was limited, though, because we had to prepare Marcy for our longest open ocean passage yet. Our next destination is Hawaii, 6,000 nautical miles away, where we will return to the northern hemisphere for the first time in over three years. We must quickly shoe horn two months of supplies aboard Marcy and shove off.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Lots of Wild Country, Few Small Towns

Cta Riofrio sunset

We enjoy the wilderness. We've often wondered as we cruised our home waters – what was it like before the pioneers, or even before people? Here in Southern Chile we get an idea of what that might look like. We have spent many days traveling without seeing a trace of mankind.

Marcy anchored Isthmus Bay

We saw no other boats, no towns, roads, power lines, no logged areas, no airplanes in the sky, no lights at night – only wilderness. The only sounds we heard that we did not make ourselves were birds, seals, frogs waves and wind. Only the occasional navigation marker and the daily radio contact told us that we hadn't somehow been transported back in time.

Pozo Omega anchorage

Of course, there is a sad history of why this area is so deserted. Two hundred years ago, the coast was the home of thousands of indigenous canoe people. Tough, warlike, and independent, they were virtually wiped out by the European newcomers and disease. The only trace we see today of them here are the names of geographical features such as Ushuaia.

Eden ferns

We have seen a lot of wildlife. Even some shy marine otters in quiet anchorages at sunset.

Point Lay seal rock

We passed a dead whale on the beach. Sad for the whale, but the albatrosses were very happy.

Cono whale

In one bay, hot water bubbled out of a spring near the beach. We made a hot tub using our inflatable kayak, piping in spring water through our awning battens. We cooled the water with buckets of seawater occasionally to keep from melting the kayak or boiling Ginger.

beach hot tub

We enjoy wilderness, yes, but when we came across one of the few small fishing towns we were very glad to greet people and see buildings again. Our eyes were happy to see bright colors after only seeing the browns, greens and blues of the wilderness for so long. As we approached the tiny fishing village of Eden, we saw the bright yellow fishing boats from a distance. We spotted the masts of a couple of other cruising sailboats, too.

Pto Eden main wharf

Our French friends Pierre and Amelie, who we first met in Brazil and hadn't seen for weeks, took our stern line as we approached the pier.

Kyre Pto Eden

We loaded fuel by siphoning from a drum on the dock. Ginger was stationed at the critical valve, ready to stop the transfer if anything went wrong. A friendly cat dropped down on Marcy's deck and kept her company.

Eden refueling

Fuel on board, we moved Marcy out to the anchorage and turned our attention to exploring the town.

Pto Eden at anchor

Some of the buildings were a bit ramshackle. And the waterfront supermarket didn't look very appealing.

mussel shack Pto Eden

Eden supermercado

A nice board walk connects the houses, with many small booths lining it. We thought maybe they were school bus shelters but there are no motor vehicles here. We never did find out what they are for.

Eden boardwalk

At one point there is a shrine for St. Peter, patron saint of fishermen, complete with a beautifully built model fishing boat. The Armada had filled out and posted a zarpe, paperwork all vessels need here in Chile for permission to leave port.

St Peter shrine

The pilot house door on the “Capitan Cristo” had a bright mural of a determined looking Christ driving his boat.

Capitan Cristo

As we walked along, Ginger was a magnet for all the cats.

Eden cat

We noticed a strange thing – there was no wind! And it wasn't raining! As we worked our way north, the weather has gotten much better. As we headed back out the next morning, we hoped the trend would continue. We'd like to order some wind from the south, we feel we've used enough diesel fuel for now!

Atun at anchor

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Wind and Rain, Sun and Ice


We're in the rhythm of cruising the canals here in Chile. It's been cold, so we wore lots of clothes and kept the heater running day and night.

patagonia hail

It was usually blowing a gale the wrong way, so in the rare calms we motored north. Even more rarely we got to sail, to reach or run for half a day or so. Most of the time, we rode out the winds at anchor, explored the shore and kept warm down below.

windy anchorage magellan st

Ginger is very happy to use our radio capabilities, restored fully after our catastrophic radio failure in Namibia. She chats daily to the “Patagonia Net,” reports (en español!)to the Armada ships and shore stations, keeps up with emails, and downloads weather gribs and charts.

ginger deskwork

Using as much diesel as we were, made us glad to finally reach Puerto Natales, our first fuel stop. We felt like a big boat as we refueled directly from a tanker truck.

p natales refuel

After getting fuel, we anchored across the fiord to get a bit of protection from the wind. The view from the boat was magnificent.

p natales view

Beautiful black necked swans cruised by Marcy.

p natales swans

Interestingly, Puerto Natales is just outside the coastal rain belt, getting only a tenth of the rain that falls just a few miles away. Ginger was giddy with happiness as she peeled off the foulies she had lived in for weeks.

ahh sun

The terrain reminds us of Eastern Washington with dry hills and blue skies. It was good to dry out, but Ginger's weather information told us we needed to move on – a spell of high pressure promised good conditions for northbound travel. We set course for one of the many great glaciers that spill out into the channels. As we motored up the twenty mile long fiord, we passed groups of seals warming up in the classic “jug handle” pose and chunks of ice.

jug handle seals

Pio bergy bit

Dolphins seemed glad to see us and escorted us along.

dolphin escort

Seno Eyre dolphin escort

The skies kept clearing, and we began to see awesome peaks that had been hidden in the clouds.

Cordillera Darwin

We made a quick pass by the 150 foot tall, two mile wide face of the glacier named Pio XI, then retreated to a nearby cove for the night. The next morning dawned clear and cold.

Pio XI sunrise

The wind was very light, perfect for sailing among the bergy bits – since the motor wasn't running, we didn't need to worry about the prop being damaged by ice.

sailing Pio XI

Ginger went up in the rig to take some pictures.

photo perch

Marcy in ice

The dolphins, bored with our slow speed, hunted nearby.

dolphin foraging in ice

We felt very lucky that one of the very few brilliant sunny days we've had since arriving in Chile would occur as we visited the photogenic glacier. What are the chances? After some last looks at the glacier, we turned and motored back out the long fiord.

sunny Pio XI

Pio XI close up

The dolphins were happy that we were moving fast again, we were happy to have had such a wonderful day at the glacier and to be heading back to resume our northbound course in the channels.

bow dolphins near Pio