On Tuesday the 17th of January we were waiting in Puerto Navarino for our zarpe to Ushuaia, when at 1530 Alamiro, the Armada watch-keeper called us on VHF and said there was a problem with our papers. He asked me to come ashore to discuss options. I took Non Sequitur to the float and walked up to the Armada office. I was told there that Sequitur's Declaracion de Admision Temporal had expired, and that we had to go to Puerto Williams to renew it before a zarpe could be issued for us to leave Chile.
Frustrated and confused, I rushed back out to Sequitur and explained to Edi what I knew of the situation as we hoisted the motor off the dinghy and hoisted and secured the dinghy. I flashed-up the engine and sent Edi back down into the hole to shift the transmission, and at 1550 we slipped from the buoy and headed out of Puerto Navarino, bound for Puerto Williams.
The wind was initially in our stern at 10 knots, so it barely shaped the sails as we motor-sailed eastward along the Beagle Channel making 7.5 knots with the tide. I had reported our departure to Alamiro by VHF, and gave an ETA Puerto Williams of 2000. Along the way we met one sleek high-speed and two obviously cheaper catamarans whisking tourists back to Ushuaia from day-trips to view penguins and glaciers.
I ran the water-maker for 3 hours to bring the tanks up to better than half full. At 1850 the wind veered from light westerly to light east-northeast, and I adjusted the sails. Within ten minutes the wind had veered around to east, and increased to 15 knots. In less then a quarter hour it had gone from west at 10 knots to east at 15, directly on our nose. I rolled-in the sails.
By 1940, when we rounded the cardinal buoy marking the north end of Banco Herradura, the wind had backed to north-northeast and increased to 20 knots. I contacted Puerto Williams Radio to announced our approach and explained our compromised anchoring capability and our lack of proper engine control. I requested a mooring either alongside the Micalvi or on a buoy.
The Armada radio operator told us there was no space available at the Club Naval de Yates Micalvi, nor was there an available buoy. He told us we must anchor. I chose a spot out of the channel with the broadest belt of soundings between 5 and 10 metres, and when we found 7.5 metres on the sounder, with Sequitur slow ahead and stemming the wind, I went forward to hand-launch the Delta. Just before I let go, Edi called me back to tell me the Armada operator called and said, "No, not there, further north". As we fell off and I manoeuvred back up into the wind, I again explained our compromised handling and anchoring capability to the Armada.
The Armada was watching Sequitur both visually, by radar and on AIS, so they knew exactly where we were. We slowly motored directly into the wind, which at 20 knots kept us barely moving forward at engine idle; this was good, as it gave me some control on our speed without having to banish Edi to the engine room to shift in and out of gear. A few minutes later, the Armada operator told us to anchor where we were. It looked safe, so at 2016 we came to 30 metres on the Delta in 8.8 metres of water, and I sent Edi below to shift the transmission to neutral. The wind pushed us back and we gently set the anchor on the mud bottom. Off our port bow was a pair of leading marks on the slope of the shore, and we were south of their transit line.
After we had shut-down the engine and settled-in, another Armada voice called us on the VHF. We were told we couldn't anchor there; we were in the airport runway approach. The transit markers that we saw off our bow mark the northern edge of the runway. We discussed our great difficulty in weighing and manoeuvring. Then the skipper of Polar Wind came on the radio, explaining he had seen us come in, and had rushed over to the Armada office, and would explain our compromised situation.
At 2124 the Puerto Williams Pilot called on the radio and informed us we must move to a buoy in the inner basin. I reiterated our difficulty in moving. The pilot said for $100 the pilot vessel could take us in. This seemed a good bargain for the service, and I told him to arrange it. At 2142 the pilot boat arrived with its crew of three, plus four Armada personnel. The boat was quickly secured alongside, and under the direction of their petty officer, the three Armada ratings hauled-in the anchor rode as I pointed its lay to the skipper of the pilot vessel. At 2155 we secured to the buoy in the basin close to Micalvi. I gave the skipper 50,000 and thanked his crew and the Armada personnel. We had arrived in Puerto Williams.
The barometer had floated between 1005.8 and 1007.0 all day Tuesday and was at 1006.4 when I got up at 0845 on Wednesday. It was completely calm with a low stratus overhead. We were less than a cable from Micalvi, the Armada supply ship built in 1925 and after long service in the south, purposely run aground in 1962 to serve as a mooring pontoon and it subsequently became the most southerly yacht club in the world.
After breakfast we launched Non Sequitur and rowed over to the gravel strand next to Micalvi, and we walked along the gravel road to the offices of the Capitan de Puerto. There we were told to go to the Aduana, the Customs office. We followed the sketch map we were given and arrived at Aduana to find the office empty. We were told that the lady would be back in a while. We waited.
While we waited we met Martin, ground agent for some small cruise ships, including Via Australis, which we had seen a few days previously in the Beagle Channel. He speaks very fine English, and he kindly offered assistance. We asked where we could buy diesel, and he showed us on our map where the Copec station is. Then he offered to help us transport some to the boat with his truck.
The Aduana official did return in a while, as promised. With great flurry and gesticulation she showed us a copy of an email, blunting her finger as she pointed-out that Sequitur was illegally in Chile. She spoke no English, so our conversation was rather choppy and truncated. From it, I gathered that we must get down on our knees and write an email to Aduana in Iquique and offer contrition for our not having renewed Sequitur's Declaracion de Admision Temporal every three months, and beg that we not be given too many lashes for our grievous transgression. She said that in five days or a week, a decision will be made on our fate.
We met Martin outside the office, and he drove us back to the dinghy and we all went out to Sequitur. I loaded the four diesel jugs into the dinghy and Martin and I rushed back ashore, hoping to make the filling station before the 1300 shut-down for midday siesta. We made it with a couple of minutes to spare, and for 54,500 I had 80 litres of diesel pumped into our jerry cans. Martin then drove me and the fuel back to Micalvi, dramatically simplifying the process of getting fuel.
We had arrived in Puerto Williams with an empty auxiliary and nearly empty main fuel tank. The level was below the intake for both the Espar furnace and the generator, but thankfully, not for the engine.
I poured the contents of the four jugs into the auxiliary tank and then transferred it all to the main, bringing the level there up to just a hair shy of the quarter mark. The main holds 150 US gallons, 568 litres, so the gauge indicated we had brought the level up to 130 or 140 litres, and that there would have been about 50 or 60 litres remaining when we arrived.
After fueling both Sequitur and ourselves, we headed back ashore. This time we needed to get our passport visas renewed; it was 90 days since we had returned from Vancouver, and our visas were due to expire at midnight. We had hoped to have arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina before their expiry, and avoid the 110,000 Pesos internal renewal fees. The immigration officer was not in, so after waiting for over an hour, we finally collared a young fellow from another office along the corridor and an officer from the Policia de Investigaciones Control Migratorio, and asked if we could leave our passports in their care for processing, and we would pick them up the next day.
We went shopping for some fresh produce.
Puerto Williams is a town of about 2000 people, and it is considered the southernmost town in the world. The vast majority of the population is Armada and government employees and their support structure. They have a government store and supermarket, which used to be available to visiting cruisers, but the few local merchants protested, and cruisers are now relegated to meagre selections of overpriced and over-the-hill goods.
We went into a tienda and found six good tomatoes among the many dozens in a large bin of mostly unpleasant-looking ones. There were some semi-fresh 'hockey pucks' the flat cylindrical things that pass as bread rolls, and we picked-out a dozen not-too-bad-looking ones. There were two 1 kilogram packets of pangasius fillets in the freezer, we gambled on one of them. Our bill came to 8330 Pesos.
On our way to and from the Aduana and Migracion offices and the tienda, we had walked past the prow of the Armada ship, Yelcho, which in midwinter 1916 rescued Shackleton's crew off HMS Endurance on Elephant Island in the Antarctic. This time we paused to look.
We stopped at Micalvi on our way back; we had brought our computers with us in our backpacks, and we used the wifi in the lounge to catch-up, and for me to compose and send an email to Aduana in Iquique requesting special consideration for our expired Admision Temporal. I ran the Aduana email through Google Translate and got: "Estimated Ruth, for this yacht has not extended course. To do so would be late, that the captain send an email to this one, request, to regularize situation;". I think I got the gist of it. I composed and sent a reply:
We were informed yesterday, the 17th of January that the Declaracion de Admision Temporal for our sailboat needed to be renewed. This was the first time since we arrived in Chile in December 2010 that we were told of this requirement to renew every 3 months. From January through December 2011 we were issued a zarpe in Iquique, in Antofagasta, in Valparaiso, in Juan Fernandez, in Talcahuano, in Valdivia, in Puerto Montt, and at none of these were we told of the need to renew the Declaration.
We renewed our passport visas as we were told was required, we paid the required Servicio de Atencion a La Nave fees, and Senalizacion Maritima fees in both 2010 and 2011. We left Puerto Montt on 09 December 2011 with a zarpe to Puerto Williams, and even then, we were not informed that we needed to renew our Declaracion de Admision Temporal. We assumed all of our documentation was correct and in proper order.
On 13 January in Caleta Olla, 50 nautical miles short of Puerto Williams, we experienced mechanical problems with the boat, in which our windlass broke, making anchoring and weighing anchor extremely difficult. At the same time the linkage to our transmission broke, and we lost the ability to use the engine. We were told the problems could not be repaired in Puerto Williams and that we needed to go to Ushuaia, Argentina for parts and repairs.
We were told to go to from Caleta Olla to Puerto Navarino, where a zarpe would be issued for us to go to Ushuaia. With difficulty, we made it to Puerto Navarino and anchored. It was there we were told that our Declaration had expired, and that we needed to go to Puerto Williams to correct the problem.
With difficulty, we made it to Puerto Williams at 2015 on 17 January, and needed the assistance of the Pilot Boat to safely moor. This morning at the Capitan de Puerto office we were sent to the Aduana office and there we were told to write you an explanation of our circumstances.
We ask your kind attention and assistance with this."
After I sent the email, we spent another four hours online, catching-up on emails and news and I managed to load 260 photos and post an addition to this blog. About halfway through this, there was a call to Sequitur from the Capitan de Puerto on the club's VHF. I replied and was told our decision had come in from Iquique, and that a zarpe could now be issued. I told the person at the Capitania that we would be in in the morning. So much for the five to seven day doom-and-gloom estimate of the Aduana lady.
We took our computers and our groceries back out to Sequitur and I sautéed the filete de pangasius in butter with a julienne of garlic and shallots and served them with tarragon basmati rice, bottled white asparagus with mayonnaise and a garnish of Puerto Williams tomatoes with chopped basil leaves in olive oil. With dinner we enjoyed a superb bottle of Montes Leyda Vineyard 2010 Sauvignon Blanc.
For breakfast on Thursday morning Edi prepared basted eggs and sautéed sausage rounds on toasted hockey puck bread lapped with hollandaise sauce and garnished by sliced tomatoes with basil leaves and accompanied by fresh-ground Starbuck's coffee.
We walked over to the Capitania, and there were directed to the Aduana office. Ruth was in, and she presented us with the letter from the Aduana in Iquique, which translated as:
"VIEW AND CONSIDER: The information provided by e-mail, the officer in Puerto Williams, Ruth Asencio B. presentation by Mr. Michael Walsh, Passport Canada XX000000 request an extension to the Temporary Admission Statement Foreign civilian ships for non-commercial Nº 004 dated 27.12.2010 due on 26.04.2011.
By mistake, it was considered Temporary Output Statement, and Statement of Temporary Admission.
That, considering the above at the request of Mr. Michael Walsh, Passport Canada XX000000, request an extension to the Temporary Admission, which covers a sailboat, name SEQUITUR, the flag of Canada, that there were some problems, having the ship, enter the shipyard.
BEARING IN MIND: This background and powers conferred on me in Articles 15, 16 and 17 of the Organic Law of the National Customs Service, Decree-Law No. 329 of 1979, the Ministry of Finance DO 20.06.79 and Resolution 3061 / 04.08.2008, item 2.6, issue the following:
GRANTED, special terms, the following document:
TEMPORARY ADMISSION STATEMENT WITH FOREIGN SHIPS FOR CIVL NON-COMMERCIAL
Special Term Date: 31/01/2012".
Reading through this, it appears that the Aduana official in Iquique stretched the rules to near breaking to make them fit; nonetheless, we were absolved and free to go before the end of the month. We went upstairs to the Migracion office to find our visa extensions requiring only a trip to the bank to pay the 10,800 Pesos extension fees. A three-block walk to the bank, a payment, a stamped document, a walk back and a notation on our visas took little time, and we headed back to Sequitur for lunch before my 1500 appointment at the Capitania for the zarpe.
After lunch I went to the Capitania for my 1500 appointment. I arrived to find out that several others also had 1500 appointments; they group together the zarpe applicants, so that the Aduana and Policia officers could make only one trip to do their rubber-stamping. Within an hour, the four officials had typed, printed, written, signed, dated, stamped, copied and stapled enough paper that Sequitur was deemed fit and ready to leave Chile.
I went back to Mcalvi and sat on the foredeck with my computer; Sequitur was just outside wifi range out on the buoy. I downloaded weather forecasts and grib files, and the conditions looked good for a midday departure on Friday. The winds were forecast to be strong overnight, but decrease to southwest 15-20 by noon.
On Friday morning, the slowly ebbing tide and the light wind were keeping Sequitur's stern pointed eastward, opposite to the direction we needed to head to exit the narrow inlet. I timed the yaws, and at the appropriate moment, sent Edi down into the hole to shift the engine into forward. At 1109 I slipped the mooring line and ran aft to the helm and we slowly turned and motored out through the narrows. Once we had left the protection of the harbour, we were in 20 to 25-knot winds.
Shortly before noon we rounded the cardinal buoy marking the end Banco Herradura and turned westward into steep 1.5 metre seas and winds of 25 to 30 knots. I rolled-out the staysail and a third of the main and we motor-sailed with the wind about 25 degrees off the port bow. At 1205 we crossed into Argentine waters, and an hour or so later, we were overtaken by an Armada patrol ship of about 25 metres length, pounding heavily into the steep seas.
The winds increased to 35 knots, the seas grew to over 2 metres and became more confused. The skies were mostly clear, with a scattering of cumulus over the mountains. I rolled-in the staysail and left a stabilizing fin on the main. We were being tossed around, but were warm and dry, protected by the full cockpit enclosure.
The winds continued in the mid-to-upper 30s, and clocked between west-southwest and west-northwest as we pounded into increasingly confused seas. In the pounding, the Rocna snapped its secondary lashings and hung a-cockbill, bruising Sequitur's nose.
At 1700 we were at the entrance to Bahia Ushuaia, and I reported our arrival to L3P, the Argentine Armada radio station. We were told to go alongside at AFASyN. I contacted AFASyN on VHF and we were told to raft onto a South African flagged boat on the north side of the pier. Fortunately, the wind was down to about 30 knots, and was directly on our nose as we slowly motored in. It was a delicate balance keeping Sequitur's nose into the wind at just sufficient speed to make headway as we organized lines and fenders. About half a cable out, we finally spotted the South African flag, and I let Sequitur fall-off and looped around to gain time with the lines and fenders. We crept up into the wind again, and as we were just about centred on the South African boat, I sent Edi below to shift into neutral, while I went to the side deck and passed the breast line to the person on our host. I rushed forward and tossed the bow line to a burly man on the bow, just as I heard the rattle of the Variprop, indicating we had gone into neutral. We had arrived in Ushuaia.
The skipper of the South African boat is an extremely nervous person, and he very obviously did not want anyone rafted alongside him. He fussed and fumbled with lines and fenders as I told him Edi had grown-up in Pretoria, South Africa, and asked him where he was from. He said that neither he nor his boat had ever been to South Africa; it is a flag of convenience and he is from the USA. He continued to fuss with lines and fenders.
A uniformed person came aboard and checked our zarpe and passports, and told us we must go to the Prefercura Naval offices to clear in. We bundled-up in many layers of fleece, pulled our toques down over our ears, put on our heavy offshore foulies and headed out into the 30 to 35 knot winds and the 6 degree temperature of the summer day.
The most difficult aspect of the clearing-in process was the half hour walk in the cold, dusty wind. For the first time in over two years there were no fees to pay, nor were there any bribes, and we were quickly cleared and welcomed in a one-person, one office process with no redundant bureaucracy. It felt like Canada.
We asked the Armada rating who cleared us for directions to the closest supermercado. Five blocks later we found Argentinian beef and we had the butcher cut two 6cm-thick medallions. Among the other things that we found were fresh mushrooms and basil, and in the evening we enjoyed our first good steak since summer in Vancouver. With it we tried a couple of malbecs, starting our process of finding some Argentine wines to add to Sequitur's cellar. Neither was a repeat.
The winds abated in the late evening, and were down to under 10 knots when we went to bed. I awoke in the middle of the night to the sounds of footsteps on deck and looked up through the hatches over the bed to see a boat had come alongside us and was tidying-up its lines. Quickly I saw that they were competent, needed no assistance, and I went back to sleep.
On Saturday morning I started working on disassembling the windlass to see if I could find the problem. I chatted with the skipper of the boat that had come in overnight. It was Christophe of Antipode, the fellow who had taken our stern lines when we had arrived in Caleta Olla, and who had come aboard and organized with me our tow off the Rocna on the following day, and had taken our Delta out and set it when we arrived back in the lee of the trees.
I continued working on the windlass, finally concluding that I needed to dismount it. While I worked, the skipper from the South African boat fidgeted with his lines and fenders, and then he came over and announced that he had asked to move to another spot, and that I needed to stand-by for the imminent move. I had earlier learned from the Russian who had helped on the bow when we had arrived, that South African boat's skipper had told the marina officials to send us away and to not allow us to come in out of the storm and raft on his boat.
I had to empty the contents of the sail locker and climb down into it to remove the panel in its forward bulkhead to gain access to the wiring connections on the windlass motor. Also, this made it easier for me to get a wrench on the after two bolts attaching the windlass to the deck. Access to these was very tight, and each wrench turn gained half a hex, and the wrench needed to be flipped to gain the second half. I progressed at twelve wrench pulls per thread, each wrench set requiring fingertip manipulation. The space was too constricted for a socket. When I finally turned the nuts off the over-length bolts, it was nearly 1400; I took a break for lunch.
After lunch, the skipper of South African boat was still fidgeting and fuming around, impatiently waiting for one boat to leave and another to move so that he could make his move. Back at the windlass, before I removed the wiring, I marked the terminal boots and took a series of photographs, so that correct reassembly would be easier. I then brought in the heavy guns; the lower cone was seized on the shaft, and required heating and much rubber mallet bashing to break free so that I could drop the shaft with the attached motor and gear-case down from the bolts beneath the deck.
Finally, after fussing and fretting all day, things were in place for the South African boat to move. The skipper insisted because he was moving to the next space ahead, that he move out forward. I pointed-out that the wind was about 20 knots from dead ahead, and the only thing holding Sequitur and Antipode against the wind was our bow line to Paratii 2, the 30-metre aluminum schooner that was the inboard vessel of the raft. I told him he had to back out. He demanded to go forward. I turned and walked away.
Christophe, the skipper of Antipode was on deck on his boat by this time, and I spoke with him in French, the language we most easily share. When I told him of the South African boat's insistence to move out forward, he rolled his eyes. We began to rig our lines for the canoe-hulled South African boat to move-out astern. I like Christophe's casually competent seamanship. We ran one of our polypropylene bow shore lines from our port stern cleat, outside everything, and around the South African boat's bow and back to a cleat on Paratii's starboard quarter.
The South African boat squirted out easily astern, and Sequitur with Antipode attached to her starboard side, swung slowly in on our bow line, aided by the polyprop line to our stern cleat. A few minutes later our springs were set and our fenders adjusted, and we relaxed in the peacefulness of having no fussing and fidgeting alongside. I had the windlass out and decided to lay down the tools for the day.
The wind howled in the rigging on Sunday, blowing above 30 knots for most of the day. My fingers were cut, scraped, bruised, and hangnailed from the line, chain and tool handling of the previous week and a half, so I decided to take a day off. On Monday morning I attacked the engine control mechanism. I removed the port wheel and then the engine's electrical panel.
With the panel out and the wheel out of the way, I could stick my arm in through the hole far enough to take some flash photos inside. After checking results and re-aiming the camera a few times, I finally got pictures showing the transmission linkage. I compared the photos with the mechanical drawings in the Lewmar repair kit, and quickly found the problem. The capscrew that secures the cable sheath had backed out. I could see the undisturbed blue of LockTite on the threads, so it appears the capscrew had been insufficiently tightened.
I dug the contents out of the port cockpit settee locker and tunnelled my way in. I dismounted the control mechanism, removed the snap-on cable-retaining cover, reattached the cable hub with a new screw and fresh LockTite, reinstalled the snap-on cover and remounted the mechanism to the bulkhead. With Edi hanging into the hole over the transmission, I tested the linkage. It worked correctly, and Edi was pleased to be relieved from her engine room duties.
On Tuesday morning the skipper of Paratti 2 knocked on our hull and informed me that they had embarked their ten "friends" and were leaving within half an hour. There was nobody aboard Antipode, so Edi and I would have to do the move by ourselves. Paratti 2 is a 30-metre aluminium schooner owned by the Brazilian sailing adventurer and author, Amir Klink.
The wind was light from right ahead, or slightly on the starboard cheek, so I ran a line from our bow under Paratii's bow and to a bollard on the pier. Paratii sprung off and then let-go Sequitur's lines from her starboard side, and backed out.
A few gentle tugs on Sequitur's bow line and a slow walk up the pier with it, assisted the wind in blowing Sequitur and Antipode across the gap to nestle onto the pier. Edi passed the stern line and in short order, we were settled-in and secured. I ran one of our spare mooring lines from Antipode's bow to the pier to share the strain from the expected southwest winds.
We were now directly alongside the pier, and directly astern of the South African boat, which had by then gathered a very large French-flagged commercial boat and a smaller German-flagged private yacht alongside. The skipper was near apoplectic with all the traffic back-and-forth across his decks.
For us, being alongside the pier meant that loading would be much easier, and we needed to do a lot of it. We walked into town looking for the closest car rental office that showed-up on GoogleMaps on my iPad. We followed the iPad's GPS, but there was no car rental office. We asked in a Peugeot sales office, and were directed north along Avenue Maipo to a car rental next to a Renault dealership. There was none there. We went into the lobby of an upscale hotel and asked. The clerk made a phone call to confirm availability, and gave us a card with directions to Jumping Rental. There we waited for a fellow to arrive and drive us a few blocks to an office building and we followed him in and up the elevator. He filled-in a form, I signed it and we had a car for a day.
We drove back to Sequitur and loaded three propane bottles and four diesel jerry cans into the car and drove-off in search of propane. Two of our four propane bottles were empty and one still had a bit remaining, but prudence dictated we get it filled anyway. We have been averaging 41 days per bottle, so four full bottles should do us for five months or more. We had been given directions to Sartini Gas, across on the northeast extremity of the city near the roundabout; lots of tanks; you can't miss it.
After a false stop at a truck depot that had Sartini Gas tanks out in front of its building, we found the real place. We have never seen such inexpensive propane fills. It cost 54 Pesos ($12.50 Canadian) for three 4.5-kilogram charges. Not each; for all three.
We drove back into the city and were informed by billboards, posters and bumper stickers that Ushuaia was the Capital of the Malvinas. We had thought that Stanley was. There is apparently a renewed claim by Argentina on the Falklands, South Georgia and a slice of Antarctica, and we had been informed of heavy fines if we took Sequitur there without Argentina's permission.
We stopped at a large supermarket and loaded a cart with all the heavy and awkward items we could imagine needing. We also found four large cauliflower heads, some fresh-looking zucchini, a couple dozen nice Roma tomatoes and a few kilos of potatoes, onions and carrots. The produce selection is very slim, mostly root and other long storage items.
Continuing on our way back toward Sequitur, we stopped at a gas station to fill the jerry cans with diesel. The pump operator said they were allowed to do only two jerry cans at a time. He filled two and I followed him inside to pay. He poked a few keys on the computer, he winked, and we went back out to the car to fill the other two. The cost for 80 litres was 296 Pesos, $68.31 Canadian, about 85.4 cents a litre.
We continued on to Rombo Repuestos an importer/distributor of machinery, tools and equipment. We had been told that they might be of assistance with our windlass. I met Edgerdo, who speaks some English, and he told me they had no windlasses. He went on to tell me that bringing one in would take three or four weeks. He motioned me to follow him, and we hopped into his truck and drove four blocks to Torneria Industrial Percara, where I was introduced to Jorge Percara. He said he was very busy with other projects, but Edgerdo persuaded him to strip-down the windlass gearbox and see if it was reparable. Jorge said he could start on it manaña la tarde, tomorrow afternoon.
I rejoined Edi, who had been patiently waiting in the car, and we drove back to AFASyN to unload our groceries, diesel and propane and wheel them out the pier to Sequitur.
On Monday evening the fuel level in our main tank had fallen below the intake for the Espar furnace, so we had no heat or hot water. The first thing I did after moving things aboard was to add the 80 litres of diesel to the tank, re-flash the Espar and restore our basic comforts. After we had refueled and stowed the groceries, we went back to the car and went in search of the fish shop.
It seems people do not eat much seafood here; there is none fresh in the supermarkets, and the frozen selection is extremely basic and uninviting. We had been asking where the fish market is, and mostly came-up with blanks. However; two people had indicated a fish shop called La Costa five blocks up the hill from the water to the north of downtown. We found it, but there was nothing fresh, only frozen. There were some slide-top freezers along the wall, and in them, besides the whole frozen salmon, hake and king crab, were small bags of shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, crab and other shellfish, plus calamari and unidentified dark fish fillets. Nothing was labelled, and there were no prices on the bags. I asked the bored and uninspiring lady at the cash register behind the display counter for prices, and was told the bags were 20 Pesos ($4.60) each. They appeared to be sized according to value.
In the display cases were trays and bags of frozen fish, and I disturbed the bored lady again to ask for the names of the various fish. With indifference, she rattled-off names that were completely unfamiliar. We forced ourselves beyond her attitude, and bought a large fillet of a white-fleshed fish, plus six bags of scallops. Her demeanour and presence caused us to wonder why she was there. She may have been a family relative, pressed into the job.
For dinner, I sautéed the fish fillet with one from a small packet we had bought in the supermarket to see if either was worthy of stocking. Neither was.
For breakfast on Wednesday morning Edi basted some Puerto Eden eggs on sliced ham and served them lapped with hollandaise sauce and a sprinkling of Asiago on toasted split baguettes, and garnished the plates with sliced Roma tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. With it we enjoyed our usual cups of fresh-ground Starbuck's coffee.
After breakfast, Christophe knocked on our hull to tell us he was heading out within the quarter hour to Puerto Williams. For the past few years he has been taking "friends" out on ten-day and two-week sailing trips along the Beagle Channel and around the Horn from Ushuaia and Puerto Williams. He has a wealth of sailing experience; he entered his first solo round-the-world race, the 1990-91 BOC Challenge, and won it in 120 days. He entered his second solo round-the-world race, the 1994-95 BOC Challenge, and won it in 121 days. He entered his third solo round-the-world race, the non-stop 1996-97 Vendée Globe and won it in 105 days.
We again thanked him for his assistance in Caleta Olla, wished him bon voyage and cast-off his lines as he backed Antipode out.
We then loaded the four diesel jerry cans into the car and went off to refill them, after which we drove to Jorge Percara's shop to see if he had torn-down the windlass gearbox. We arrived at 1430, and he told us with a broad grin that he had meant at the other end of the afternoon. We dropped the diesel at Sequitur and then went downtown to return the rental car.
We stopped at a couple of supermarkets on our way back, looking for fresh produce. At one we found some fresh-looking broccoli and bought five large crowns. We also bought some firm avocados. We have seen no produce stands here, nor anything resembling a farmer's market. Neither have we heard of any. We walked back to Sequitur.
At 1745 we headed out to check on the windlass gearbox, following the gravel road around the south side of Bahia Encerrada and then along Fuegia Basket to Rombo, where we dropped-in to see Edgerdo. He phoned Jorge and encouraged, motioned us to follow him to his truck, and drove us the four blocks to the machine shop. Jorge greeted us with an impish smile and showed me the gears.
There was a sector of about 45º that had broken cogs, most stripped to below their roots. It was easy to understand why the windlass had ceased working. I asked him if he could repair it, and was pleased with his quick positive response, and with his proposal to braze on new material and cut new cogs.
I looked around his machine shop and saw he was well-equipped for the job. I asked him ¿Cuando y Cuanto?, When and how much? He mentioned 2,000 Pesos, about $460, and then a discussion ensued with Edgerdo in the middle interpreting. Jorge pointed to all the big projects he had on the go, I pointed to the calendar and our need to get around the Horn and onward to South Africa. We settled on his starting on the gears on Monday and agreed on the 2000 Pesos. As we were leaving, he added "tal vez antes", maybe sooner.
I was awakened on Thursday morning at 0745 by the sounds of wind howling in the rigging, and by an unfamiliar sound from the fenders. I quickly dressed and went out into a 45-knot north-easterly blowing Sequitur directly onto the side of the pier. The tide was very high, and our deck was about half a metre above the top of the pier. A couple of the fenders had popped out and they all needed to be readjusted lower. With Sequitur's side again protected, I went below and checked the tide chart. There was just half an hour and only a few centimetres to high tide, so I considered that the fenders would do.
The wind played games through the day: northeast 30 with gusts to 45 at 0745, southeast 5 with gusts to 8 at 0915, north 15 with gusts to 25 at 1015, southwest 10 with gusts to 18 at 1400, south 20 with gusts to 40 at 1600, southwest 35 with gusts to 45 at 1610, south 20 with gusts to 35 at 1900 and calm at 2340 when we went to bed. It varied from drizzle to downpour to sunny and back, and the barometer bounced around between the low 980s to the mid 990s. Except for my moving the fenders back up to the gunwales when the tide receded, we stayed inside.
After sleeping-in until 0915 on Friday morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and then popped out of our cocoon to a sunny and calm day. Two more boats had come in overnight and moored, one third-out astern of us and the other third-out across the pier. There were now six pretending-not-to-be-commercial 16 to 25-metre boats on the pier, and the place was teeming with "friends" disembarking luggage, backpacks, ski equipment, mountain bikes and other paraphernalia.
We have for the past few years read repeatedly updated accounts in the cruising press and internet sites, such as Noonsite, of Argentina's draconian treatment of innocent cruisers, with very heavy fines and penalties for reportedly impromptu transgressions of unknown regulations. Watching the scene in Caleta Olla, Puerto Williams, and now Ushuaia, we can now make some sense of the reports.
It appears to us that many foreign-flagged yachts are here conducting commercial cruises, while pretending to be cruisers on innocent passage with some friends. We have watched the boats arrive, disembark their "friends", embark new sets of "friends" and head back out on a well-oiled schedule. We suspect that the scare stories published in the press and on the internet have been submitted by these pretending-not-to-be-commercial operators. We have received wonderful hospitality from the Argentine authorities, likely because they recognize us as legitimate cruisers.
Shortly before noon we walked into the centre of the city and up the hill to the La Costa. We had tried the scallops, and were back for more. We were relieved to see that the bored lady was not there; in her place behind the counter were two friendly and professional men, likely the owners. In the freezer cases were an apparent fresh stock of scallops and some large, plump shrimp. We picked-out six bags of each, paid the 240 Pesos, put them in our cooler bag and headed back to Sequitur. We had wonderful shellfish sufficient for twelve meals for two for the equivalent of $2.30 per plate. On our way back we stopped at an ATM and withdrew 2000 Pesos, in preparation for paying Jorge for his work on the windlass.
We had repacked the shrimp and scallops into stouter bags and topped-off the after freezer with them, and were relaxing after lunch, when Edi spotted Edgerdo on the pier through the side lights. I quickly went up top to see him walking slowly away, looking closely at the boats. I hailed him, and he told me that he had come to tell us that Jorge had finished working on the windlass. As he drove me over to the shop, I hoped that finished meant successfully completed, rather than unable to continue and quit.
When we walked into the shop, the broad smile on Jorge's face told me he had been successful. Not only had he rebuilt and recut the stripped gear, he had also shaved-down the faces of and added a seal to the motor to gearbox joint, which had suffered from slight electrolysis. When I commented on his speedy work, he proudly pointed to his involute gear cutter. I happily counted-out the 2000 Pesos. On our way back to Sequitur, Edgerdo stopped at his store so I could buy some 80W90 oil to fill the gearbox, which Jorge had said was the only thing left to do. By the time I arrived back onboard, it was nearly 1900, so I decided to wait until the morning to begin the reinstallation.
Saturday morning after a delicious breakfast of toasted split baguettes slathered with cream cheese, sprinkled with capers, loaded with smoked salmon, garnished with basil leaves and washed-down with fresh-ground Starbuck's coffee, I set to work on the windlass. I quickly noticed that the circlip and delrin washer were missing from the bottom of the shaft. I assumed they had been left on Jorge's bench, but to save the 5 kilometre walk, I searched our spares, and could find no 20mm ID circlips.
I finally decided to walk over to the shop. On my way past the club office, I stopped in to pay our moorage bill. I said we would likely be ready to leave on Sunday, and I asked to pay for the eight days. Because it was our first visit to AFASyN, we were given three days free, and our total came to $158 for the stay.
We could not find the missing pieces, and Jorge sent me over to Rombo Repuestos, from where I was given directions to Bolonera. There for 3 Pesos I bought two circlips, but they had no delrin washers. Back onboard I fashioned a washer from a thick polypropylene bottle cap. I'm sure the windlass won't mind a green washer rather than the white one.
The outside diameter of the new circlip is too big to fit onto the shaft and then into the hole. Extrapolating from the very poor drawings and sketchy information provided in the Lewmar windlass literature, I gathered that the circlip's purpose is only to prevent the drive key from sliding out of the keyway. I took some Monel locking wire and did a double wrap in the circlip groove, cinched it and saw that it replicated the circlip's job. The roll of locking wire had been issued to me by the RCAF in 1964 as part of my toolkit, and it has been in my mountaineering and sailing repair kit ever since I moved up from Aero-Engine Technician to Pilot in 1968.
The remounting process took several hours, during which there were heavy rain showers. From some of these I retreated to the warmth and dryness of the salon, from others I climbed down into the sail locker and closed the hatch to work at the nuts through the wiring access hole. It was late evening by the time I had finished the installation, and left the tidying-up until morning.
On Sunday morning Edi prepared French toast with ham and basil leaves, and served me a huge, hungry-man portion with sliced Roma tomatoes and fresh-ground Starbuck's coffee.
After breakfast I finished-up with the windlass installation and did a few other chores up top, while Edi prepared below for sea. Shortly before noon we walked the 2.5 kilometres across town to the Prefectura Naval to get our zarpe to Puerto Williams. Again we were delighted with the simple one-office process, with no fees and no hassle. After we signed a very heavily worded oath not to visit the Malvinas without Argentina's permission, our passports were stamped and we were granted our departure papers to Puerto Williams.
We took a route back that allowed us to stop at two supermarkets. At the first one there was a fresh bin of bulk crimini mushrooms, and I loaded a kilo and a bit into a bag. We also bought some big, fresh red and green peppers, some small zucchini and more Roma tomatoes. At the second we found two more rather fresh cauliflower heads, and I loaded some more Roma tomatoes into a bag to juggle at the check-out to get rid of the last of our Argentine money.
The AFASyN pier was overflowing with boats, rafted as many as five deep along both sides. Many of them were pretending not to be commercial operators, but there were a few actual cruisers, including Polonius, a small Polish sloop with eight men aboard, which had rafted along our starboard side Saturday evening, fresh from their Atlantic crossing. Also just arrived was the French sloop, Ilena with Patricia and Philippe, with whom we had shared Champagne and dinner in Puerto Eden at New Year's.
We quickly organized our lines for departure; Polonius had already moved, so it was a matter of getting a push on our bow so we could motor ahead out from tightly between rafts of three boats forward and four aft. At 1444 we slipped and headed out of Bahia Ushuaia, past Holland America's Veendam and four smaller cruise ships alongside the commercial wharves. The wind was variable, 0 to 4 knots and the sky was mostly covered with stratus,and cumulus.
At 1513, as we were motoring eastward the engine hesitated and slowed. I went below and switched from the starboard Racor filter to the port one. The engine picked-up its rhythm for a bit, but at 1542, as we were enjoying lunch in the cockpit, it slowed and died. I had intended changing the engine-mounted secondary fuel filter, but hadn't gotten around to it. It looked like my opportunity had arrived.
I rolled-out the staysail and half the main and we ghosted along in a 6 to 8 knot northeast breeze. I would have put out more sail, but there were a few squalls to the west that appeared to be tracking toward us. The fuel filter's awkward positioning is the main reason I had deferred changing it. I was interrupted in my task three times as squalls overtook us, and I needed to tend the helm and the sails. Leading up to, during and following the squalls, we made between 5.5 and 7.5 knots eastward toward Puerto Williams.
After the filter was changed, the engine started immediately and ran smoothly. I switched back to the starboard Racor, ran the engine for a few minutes to ensure all was well, then shut it down and we continued sailing in the 12 to 15 knot following wind. In the late afternoon the wind died and we began motoring again, reaching Puerto Williams and coming to anchor in the quarantine area at 2001. We launched the dinghy and motored it ashore to the Capitania, where we were welcomed and told to come back at 1000 the next morning to clear in. While we were there we applied for permission to use the Armada wharf to take-on about 700 litres of diesel at noon on Monday.
Back onboard, I tossed some scallops in a butter sauté of criminis, shallots and garlic and served them with basmati rice, julienned carrots and baby zucchini and sliced Roma tomatoes. The 2011 Cono Sur Chardonnay again drank well beyond its price.
After breakfast on Monday morning we took the dinghy ashore from the anchorage and walked up the hill to the Caiptania to clear in. This was an easy, but rather long one-office process, which required the payment of another 49,500 Pesos.
We dinghied back out to Sequitur, and had the opportunity to test the windlass for the first time. After I shortened-in to sit over the Rocna in the light swell to break it free, it came up easily, but covered in kelp. As Edi motored toward the Armada wharf, I cut away the kelp and stowed the anchor. The wind was westerly about 15 knots, so we easily stemmed it to gently come alongside the wharf, where I clambered up the three metres or so to take the breast line to a bollard. We ran a long bow line and sat on it against the wind while we waited for the fuel truck.
We took-on 692 litres of diesel oil, bringing our tanks back up to 920 litres. I walked over to the Copec station to pay the 485,784 Pesos bill, and then we motored along to the Micalvi, where we rafted fourth out, alongside Land Fall, a US-flagged sloop.
I counted nineteen foreign sailboats on Micalvi when we arrived, and within three hours there were two more. The barometer had been below 1000 since Thursday morning, down to 985 that evening, up to 994 on Friday, back down to 978 on Saturday, and then remained quite stable in the 977 to 979 area through Sunday and Monday. We appeared again to be in the centre of a very large low.
I downloaded grib files to try to make sense of the weather, and to look for a window for us to round Cape Horn. From the predictions on Monday afternoon, the first decent opportunity appeared to be midday on Thursday, when winds were forecast to be down to less than 25 with gusts under 40 knots.
We decided to look at new gribs midday on Tuesday, and if it still looked acceptable, to apply in the afternoon for a zarpe for an early Wednesday departure for the 90 mile trip down to the Horn. From there we would let the conditions dictate our onward route.
On Tuesday the predictions for Thursday looked quite similar, with slightly stronger winds, so in the early afternoon we dodged rain and hail squalls and walked over to the Capitania and applied for a zarpe to Cape Horn, departing early on Wednesday morning, the 1st of February.