Cheers to Charlie Porter
03 March 2014 | 65 06.5'S:064 04.4'W, Pleneau
On Monday we woke to sad news. Our Puerto Williams friend Charlie Porter had died of a heart attack in Punta Arenas. Despite the fact that Charlie was, frankly, ancient, it still came as quite a shock, he always seemed fitter than most men I knew in their 30's. I'm not normally prone to outbursts of emotion on the blog, but I'd like to write a few words about Charlie because he was one of the true characters that make places like Puerto Williams special. Charlie was a bit of a legend amongst climbers, one of the early generation of climbers in Yosemite, with numerous big name solo first ascents to his name, as well as (we think) doing some pioneering ice climbing in Alaska. Unfortunately I know little about Charlie's acolades as he would never have dreamt of talking about his own achievements. When I first met him, Pelagic had arrived into Puerto Williams at dawn, and Dave and I had managed to grab a couple of hours sleep before launching into a marathon tea drinking and go ssip catching up session. We were a little dazed and confused to start with. And then Charlie walked onto the boat looking for another skipper, plonked himself down and proceeded to start talking. Whereupon I made the error of feeding him coffee, and getting him talking even more, and there he stayed for the next 3 hours. Afterwards I felt like a tornado had been through the boat, and I knew straight away that Charlie Porter was brilliant. This became known as getting "Charlie Portered", stopping in for tea and leaving 5 hours later, most likely having watched a load of timelapse footage of glaciers receding and growing round the Beagle channel. After initially meeting him, I googled him, the ultimate indignity, and still keep an article on my ipad about how Charlie, on returning some epic solo first ascent, turned straight round and went back up to assist in mountain rescue, without even mentioning the achievement. The article was about doing things (like climbing) for the love of them, and relishing the challenge, rather than for the praise and glory they bring. To me, it seemed like Charlie through and through. He could often be seen bombing around the Beagle Channel, on his yacht Ocean Tramp, gallivanting up and down mountains, taking ice cores and setting up time lapse cameras, he was a prolific amateur glaciologist, and he seemed to do it out of interest and passion, rather that for any recognition or need for praise. Although I'm sure he'd cringe to hear me analyse it like that, it strikes me as a rather noble ideal, something we all, myself in particular, could learn from. His practically grammatically perfect Spanish was still thick with Boston accent, making it the only Spanish that Dave claims he understands and was always heard across the Micalvi, volume set to 10. I think part of the reason news of his death came as such a shock, was that last time I saw Charlie, Ocean Tramp was alongside Pelagic Australis in Puerto Williams, and despite having plenty of people around to winch him up if he'd asked, Charlie had prussoked up his own halyards and was sitting on the spreaders, chuckling to himself as we did some manoeuvres about how he could see where it was all about to go wrong. More full of life you couldn't imagine.
So that's it for the reminiscing. We all had a beer for Charlie that night.
And still no bloody leopard seal in Pleneau.