At 1115 on Tuesday the 14th of December, Jorge our clearance agent arrived onboard Sequitur with our passports and a thick pile of signed and stamped paperwork. We had expected bureaucrats from the Sanitario and Autoridado Portuaria Nacional offices to accompany him, but he was alone, and he handed us our zarpe, which is our permission to leave Peru. We were free to head to Chile.
I went ashore by launch to organize our disconnection from the electrical buoy, and to sign the guest log at the Yacht Club. While I was writing in the log, Frano presented me with a bottle of wine and wished us a bon voyage. When he said that he had never had a visit to Sequitur, I asked him to come out with me then in the launch, as we waited for the work boat to come and undo the electrical connection and the fore-and-aft mooring buoys. With Frano looking so comfortable in the galley, we were tempted to Shanghai him as our chef for the passage to Chile. In the end, we didn't keep Frano; he went ashore with the launch that had come out to disconnect us.
At 1315 we slipped from the final mooring, and we slowly motored out of Bahia de Callao while attempting to contact Tramar on VHF Ch 16 to announce our departure. Finally, at 1338 Tramar called us and asked for our ETD. I told them we had departed at 1315. The radio operator then asked for our destination and ETA, to which I replied we are a sailboat and depending on the winds, the current and the sea state, we could be in Iquique in seven to ten days. This was no good; the operator wanted a time and date. I told him I could give a range of dates. He insisted, so I reeled off a totally imaginary time including minutes and seconds. This apparently satisfied the idiotic bureaucracy.
At 1430 we rounded the northern cape of Isla San Lorenzo, altered course to the southwest and continued motoring, looking for the wind to help us on our way. We were still waiting for a breeze at 1830 as we watched our first pretty sunset in months. We had watched sun go down rather ingloriously throughout the spring in La Punta, with the low cloud cover hiding all but a hint of colour.
We called Tramar as required at 2000, and received the customary response: Absolute silence. What a farce this bureaucratic nonsense is; all vessels underway in Peruvian waters are required to report their positions twice daily, at 0800 and 2000. Not one of our many dozens of VHF and SSB calls in May and June were ever answered, and it appears that the office continues to maintain the same standard of service. They can watch Sequitur full time on AIS, so I have no idea why they need verbal reports.
The Peruvian system of dealing with foreign cruisers is so asinine and nonsensical that it causes us to very strongly recommend that cruisers avoid visiting Peru by boat. Had we known it would cost us nearly $1,000 in Sanitario fees to anchor in some of the most polluted water we have ever seen, we would have thought seriously. Had we known it would cost us fifteen hours in paperwork and nearly $1500 in fees, bribes and graft to enter the country, we would have thought even more seriously. Had we known of the culture of corruption and crime along the waterfronts that would see Sequitur stripped of her dinghy, motor and safety equipment, we might have considered visiting Peru by air from Ecuador or Chile. Visitors by air are automatically granted a six-month visa on entry and the total fees are $21.
Yet, had we not stopped at La Punta, we would have missed the hospitality of the Yacht Club Peruano. We would have missed meeting Gonzalo and Magdala, and enjoying their wonderful spirit, their hospitality and their dedication to cruising sailors. We would have missed meeting Frano and having him show us through Minka, Makro and introduce us to Peruvian cuisine in his restaurant on the Yacht Club pier. We would have missed the introduction to Rafael Picasso and our wonderful experiences with him at his winery and distillery in Ica. We would have missed the cheerfulness, kindness and generosity of Eugenio, who introduced us to Luis for a new dinghy and motor and to Jaime for new stainless steel. We would have missed the wonderful tripulantes at the Club, Godofredo, Agusto and Julio outstanding among them.
The facilities of the Yacht Club Peruano are good, with many dozens of mooring buoys in a 24-hour guarded roadstead. Our mooring fees for six months came to S/2103, and until 30 November, this included launch services. This was a reasonable charge. However, from 1 December a launch services fee of S/20 per day is being added to the mooring fee, nearly trebling it. There is a further S/20 per day fee for club services that was to have been introduced on 1 December, but has been deferred until later. When implemented, the cost for moorage on a ball in La Punta will be more expensive than that for a private slip in downtown Vancouver's False Creek with electricity and water in a secure marina with wonderful facilities in the heart of one of the greatest cities in the world, which is situated in of one of the finest cruising areas on the planet. We think that YCP might be a tad out of line with its new charges.
The wonderful people notwithstanding, the compelling thing in our minds and souls was that we needed to get Sequitur out of Peru. The governmental systems seem to do everything that they can to make visiting boaters feel unwelcome, uncomfortable and unwanted. That spirit is what spawned my "official" passage plan from La Punta to Iquique: Get out to the 200-mile limit as quickly as possible and stay at least 200 miles off as we paralleled the coast.
On Wednesday morning we were still motoring southeast directly into a 4 to 6 knot breeze and into the 2-knot Humboldt Current looking for the wind to strengthen, or veer or back to give us something useable. To lighten the mood, Edi served eggs Benedict for breakfast, and we began to settle into the rigors of being at sea again.
By noon, the wind had swung around to SSE 10 knots, so we pulled out the full main and jib, set the Hydrovane to steer our best course to the ESE and we took off at 4.5 to 5 knots. The sky was clear and we were enjoying some of our first blue skies in months. Winter and spring in La Punta are mostly overcast and very humid. Sequitur was now finally able to begin drying-out.
The winds had taken us back in toward the coast, and rather than stick to our artificial "official" passage plan, we continued where the winds took us. Sounds like sailing, doesn't it? Screw the bureaucrats; God seems to know what she is doing. At midnight we were off the entrance to Bahia de Paracas, and we continued on in.
The Navionics Marine HD program in my iPod gave a wonderfully useful fourth look at the navigational situation as we passed through a group of unfamiliar islands and reefs in the middle of the night. It is a great supplement to the Raymarine chartplotter and Navionics charts. With its built-in GPS and charts, its quick and easy scalability makes a very convenient and highly portable addition to eyeball, radar and chartplotter.
At 0150 we came to 20 metres on the Rocna in 6 metres of water on a sand and mud bottom in Bahia de Paracas. We attempted to contact Tramar and Guardia Costera without response. After a good night's sleep, a nice leisurely breakfast and some drying-out in the sun, at 1220 we weighed and proceeded out of the bay. We attempted to contact Tramar and Guardia Costera without response.
An hour later as we motored out around the northeast point of Peninsula de Paracas we passed the famous Candelabro de Tres Brazos, which is often erroneously related to the Nazca Lines. The Candelabra is visible only from the sea, and in one report I read that it has been dated back about 2000 years.
As we watched the huge geosculpture move past, we imagined all kinds of scenarios that might have led to its design, placement and production. Why there? Who was meant to see it? What did it mean?
While we answered none of the questions, we did strike another line off our list of "must see" sites. We motored through El Boqueron and out into the open Pacific and went looking for different wind. There was a southeast 8 to 10 knot breeze as we headed out, and coupled with the Humboldt Current, the only use our sails could make of it would give us way too much westing on the one tack and take us onto the rocks on the other. We continued motoring, bending our course to the southeast as the headlands allowed, and as we went we ran the watermaker, producing 296 litres and bringing the tanks to their full marks.
At 2115 on Thursday evening, after we had finished making water and had wasted more energy on attempting to contact Tramar and Guardia Costera without response, there was a smell of scorching varnish. This could mean only one thing; an alternator was overheating. I shut-down the engine and we hauled out the jib and main. The breeze had strengthened and was now SE 7-8 knots and moved us along at 3 to 4 knots to the south-southwest. As the influence of the Humboldt increased, and gave us too much westing, we tacked to the east slowly closing again on the southeast line of the coast. And thus we sailed through the night and into mid-morning on Friday as the winds slowly increased to around 16 knots and the resulting seas built.
We were in a very confused combination of steep south-easterly wind waves crossing a 2 to 3 metre westerly swell and being influenced by the sheer at the edge of the Humboldt Current. We hove-to to provide a comfortable motion for breakfast and watched as the current and wind combined to set us north-northwest at just over 2 knots. After breakfast, we set off again, endeavouring to remain in the band of relatively undisturbed water between the coast and the edge of the Humboldt.
At 0505 on Saturday morning, shortly after the eastern horizon had lightened to announce the pending sunrise, there was a loud bang, followed by the fluttering and flapping sound of a flogging sail. The clew cringle on the main had parted. I hauled-in the main and we continued along under jib alone. At 0800 I again went through the futile effort of attempting to contact Tramar and Guardia Costera.
The winds continued in the 15-knot range from the southeast, and this made Puerto San Nicolas a feasible port of refuge to come to anchor and repair the sail and investigate the alternator smell. As we approached the bay, the winds gradually increased and were by mid-afternoon in the 25 to 30 knot range. Under jib alone, I made five tacks through the bay and at 1519 we came to 50 metres on the Rocna in 12 metres of water on a mud and sand bottom. We were tucked in a corner under the huge complex of an industrial facility and its loading wharves, and still the wind howled over us. While the land was close enough to deny fetch for wind waves to build, it provided us no protection from the wind. The wind howled through the rigging and we saw gusts well into the 30s. I again went through the futile effort of attempting to contact Tramar and Guardia Costera.
An hour or so later an industrial barge with an un-muffled diesel came alongside and we were informed that this was a private facility and that we were not supposed to anchor here. I told the man we had sought refuge to do some repairs, and once done, we would be on our way again. He seemed satisfied with this, and the noisemaker departed back to the pier, leaving us with only the howling of the wind in the rigging.
On Sunday morning, after I had again gone through the futile effort of attempting to contact Tramar and Guardia Costera as required at 0800, I began repairing the clew. The webbing attaching the cringle to the sail had chafed and parted.
We dug-out one of our stitching awls, some waxed twine, nylon webbing and other items needed for the repair. The stitching awl I chose is one that since the late 1960s had been in my mountaineering repair kit. It had been with me on expeditions up Mount Waddington, the culmination of BC's Coast Range, on a solo grand-traverse of New Zealand's Mount Cook, on first-ascents in the Stikine Icecap on the Alaska-BC border, on more first-ascents in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan and on lots of playing in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps on such peaks as Mont Blanc, the Eiger, the Matterhorn and a new route on the Torre de Vajolet. The awl had repaired more than its share of boots, packs, gaiters and crampon straps and now it was put to work repairing a sail.
The wind had decreased somewhat overnight, but as the sun warmed the barren mountain slopes across the bay, the cool air was pulled in off the sea and soon the wind was up into the mid-20s again. I dressed in double layers of fleece to try to keep warm in the cool wind and started stitching double layers of webbing to reattach the cringle. Holding on with my thighs and flopping back-and-forth as the boat weather cocked in the wind and threw the sail from side to side, it took an hour and a half to stitch the first strap into place.
I took a break, and after being revived with a breakfast of bagels and cream cheese with hot coffee, I went back at it. After another ninety minutes in the buffeting wind, the second strap was firmly stitched into place, and I took another break. The third strop took only an hour and a quarter to stitch into place. The four and a quarter hours of tensed muscles from holding on against the wind and flailing sail had wearied me and given me aches in areas I have not had them in many years.
Out of the direct roar of the wind, I unwound a bit, and then began investigating the alternator smell. I could detect no odour on the new 210 amp unit, but there was a residual smell on the 120 amp. Since the drive belt on the 120 also drives the engine's fresh water pump, I couldn't simply take off the belt. Instead, I decided the best course of action was to disconnect the harness at the 120's regulator, and allow the 120 to spin without any exciting current.
While I was deep into the engineering spaces, I installed a temperature sensor between the 210 alternator and its regulator. Then I serviced the engine and ran it up to see that my remedy had worked. Everything checked-out well; the 120 was free-wheeling and staying nicely cool, the 210 was putting in 140 amps at the engine's 1500 rpm, and the newly-installed temperature sensor was reading a cool 68 degrees.
As I was running-up the engine, the un-muffled barge approached with four uniformed passengers and motioned it wanted to come alongside. I hauled three fenders out of the transom locker and ranged them along the starboard quarter. The barge was skilfully manoeuvred into place against the 25-knot wind and all four uniforms came onboard. They were from the Guardia Costera and wanted to see our papers and to find-out what we were doing there.
To give fuller access to the engine while I had worked on it, I had removed our accommodation ladder down into the interior of the boat, and also removed the engine cover box. While Edi held the Coast Guard at bay in the after end of the cockpit, I scrambled down into the salon and got the dossier of ship's papers. I handed the spokesperson our passports and the file from our clearance out of La Punta. I told him we had put into San Nicolas to repair our mainsail and to do some engine and electrical repairs. The sail was now repaired and the engine was just being run-up to check the effectiveness of its repairs.
The uniformed minion dithered through the papers, trying to make sense of them; I doubt that anyone knows what they all mean. He finally asked if we had a photocopier onboard, to which I replied an honest "no", ignoring our scanner and printer that would provide copies. I told him if he wanted copies, the offices in Callao could provide them, adding that there are five and six copies of each document on file in the various offices there. For nearly half an hour the three spare stooges stood there looking ridiculously awkward as their dithering and indecisive leader fumbled back and forth aimlessly through the papers, trying to look important. I told them that if my electrical repairs proved effective, our intention was to leave at first light in the morning, before the day's winds begin building, and then I added forcefully that I needed to get back to the repair and testing. Eventually it must have dawned on them that we weren't going to offer them any bribes or gifts, and they left.
At 0535 on Monday the 20th we weighed and proceeded out of Bahia San Nicolas as the sun rose. Our visitors the previous day had been from the base in Puerto San Juan, ten miles down the coast, and they had told us to report our departure to them. We received no reply to our multiple attempts. There was an 8 to 10 knot breeze from the southeast, and this gradually built as we motored out and around the headland, where we hauled out the staysail and half the main. We sailed out to the south-south west to stand a safe distance off the land and at 0800 we again went through the useless exercise of calling the Guardia Costera.
Through the morning we sailed close-hauled on a port tack, making to the south-southwest at five knots, then in the early afternoon we tacked across the wind and current to make very slightly north of east at 4.5 knots. The sun set at 1830, and with it went much of the wind. We flashed-up and motored directly into the breeze with a piece of the main flattened as a stabilizing fin against the beam swells.
We had a craving for pizza, and knowing that delivery would be difficult, I made one. We enjoyed it off the cutting board in the cockpit with the light of the full moon adding to the ambience.
The days were hot and sunny and we relaxed in the cockpit as we motor-sailed to windward or when the breeze increased, we tacked back and forth across it. Edi prepared some delicious spring rolls, which we had with the last of our peanut sauce.
Watchkeeping, navigating, napping, reading, cooking, eating and sleeping filled our days, interspersed with running the watermaker, running the washing machine and relaxing. I had noticed my muscle aches were not going away, and I had developed sore and swollen throat glands. Edi had the same sore throat, and then I developed severely inflamed gums and a few hours later, so did Edi. We were wheezing and congested and we had headaches.
We started to realize that we had been poisoned by the fine dust blown off the ore heaps by the high winds in Puerto San Nicolas. Sequitur was caked with a black sooty deposit. I must have breathed in huge quantities of the black dust as I sat stitching the sail, and it was now showing its effect. We began a routine of mouth rinsing with Perichlor, a chlorhexidine gluconate anti-gingivitis rinse, and slowly our inflamed gums eased. Ibuprophen relieved our headaches and lessened my body aches.
Shortly after 0500 on Thursday the 23rd, as we were motoring directly into a 10 to 12 knot southeast wind, the engine stalled. I suspected a clogged fuel filter, and rather than attempt to clear and restart the engine, I hauled out the jib and two-thirds of the main and set off to the eastward on a starboard tack. We were making poor progress, much less speed than expected and yawing and wallowing. As the dawn came, it dawned on me that we were trailing lines from our stern. Things now made sense; the stalled engine would be from our running over a line and wrapping it around the propeller, and the sluggish sailing would be from the trailing lines.
I tied a heavy galvanized chain hook to the end of a 13mm nylon line and used it to snag one of the trailing lines. There was too much pressure from the sails to pull a bight of the line aboard, so I rolled-in the sails and tried again after most of the way was off the boat. I brought 3 or 4 metres aboard using a sheet winch to assist, then tied-off the end and cut the line free.
I had wanted to leave sufficient lengths of each of the lines so that we might possibly be able to work the tangle free from the prop. I repeated the process with the other trailing line and we soon had two ends secured to the transom cleat. I attempted without success to work the lines free of the propeller.
Thirty-two minutes after I had noticed the lines, we were free again, and I hauled-out all three sails and we set off east-southeast at about 4 knots. The winds continued favourably and we maintained hourly runs in the 4.5 to 5 knot range and course made good between 110 and 115 degrees. By 2200 we were just over 20 miles off the coast of Chile, and our course to Iquique was 160. The wind had started backing, and by the time we tacked, we were able to sail a course just a few degrees above south at about 3.5 knots into the current. This held and improved through the night, and by sunrise on Christmas Eve, we were making a course just a few degrees west of our rhumb line.
At 1309 we received a "Merry Christmas" message on our chartplotter. It took me a minute or so to realize it had come from a passing ship, Industrial Century, on her way from Iquique to Balboa. It had been sent by DSC using his AIS to get our MMSI. I called him on VHF and returned the greeting. For land-bound text-messaging freaks, this is the sea equivalent. We chatted for a bit and then went on with our separate worlds. Besides being a wonderful show of fellowship, this also confirmed again for us that our AIS and VHF were working. This was the first response we had had to our VHF transmissions since the idiotic exchange with Tramar as we were leaving Callao.
In anticipation of our arrival in Chile, Edi began stitching together a courtesy flag, and I dug-out our quarantine flag from the locker.
In the mid-afternoon we tacked and started making hourly runs above 6 knots for the first time in months. The wind was south-southeast 10 to 12 and we were tracking east-southeast. In the evening I ran the engine to charge the batteries and to make water. By 2000 the wind had veered to the south at 4 to 6 knots and we ghosted along toward Iquique 22 miles away.
By midnight we were 18 miles northwest of Iquique and the wind strengthened a bit and allowed us to continue slowly but directly toward our destination. At 0400 we were 5.4 miles from the port and moving toward it at about 3 knots. I thought that if the wind held we should be at anchor by 0600.
As we sailed into the harbour the wind decreased and nearly died. We ghosted along making the last 2 miles at 0.2 to 0.5 knots through near glassy seas and using the occasional puffs to move us. In the middle of this was a necessary tack to take us to our anchorage. Also, we had to thread our way in past many anchored fishing boats and mooring buoys. It was Christmas morning and the harbour was very quiet.
There were many very large jellyfish in the water, and some very playful seals. Fortunately, we didn't have to try to manoeuvre around these. At 0752 we came to 18 metres on the Rocna in 4 metres of water. I left the sails up for a while hoping to set the anchor, but there was insufficient wind to give much strain on the chain. I set the snubbers, rolled-in the sails and we were in Chile.