G40 and a Rainbow
24 December 2011
We get an early start pulling up anchor and leaving Caleta Añihué by eight. The anchor is thick and heavy with kelp. You can not even tell it is an anchor. It looks like a small mountain. The kelp is easily removed with the kelp knife Jeff purchased for this purpose. Once again I am grateful that he is such a thoughtful and careful planner. We have to motor as there is little wind and we want to get to the Marina Quinched by closing time. As we motor away, there is a little piece of rainbow on the Eastern horizon saying goodbye to us.
Jeff raises the main and pulls out the genoa. The wind stays light and we motor sail along at about eight knots. Along the way we look for old wooden churches. This area of Chile is known for them, built by the Spanish in the 19th century. Also along the way, we notice a golden yellow fishing boat, the Maria-Francsica in our path. I am on watch and don't know what to do to avoid hitting them as every time we move so do they. Jeff makes a clear move to pass behind them and so avoids hitting them, but they turn to motor a parallel path to us. I get my camera out because it's a cheery boat in the gray overcast day; golden yellow with green trim and a white pilot house. We see no people on deck, but as they pull along side us, four men pile out in the rain and begin taking pictures. I take a picture as their cameras flash my way. I wave and so do they. Hekla seems to get lots of attention and it is not a rare thing to see men leaning towards her, arms outstretched and pointing a camera.
It has rained off and on for the last three days, and today is no exception. Though we can see patches of blue sky, we are also often sailing into gray skies with or without rain. I use Jeff's nice binoculars to see the churches as we go by from afar. Most are simple rectangular shapes with a single steeple on the front. Some have a portico some don't, some are painted some are not. The one on Isla Linlin in Curaco is painted cream with blue trim. It has a rusty corrugated tin roof except where mossy green. There are wooden shingles on the front and on the steeple tower. It has no portico.
I head to the galley to start lunch, but just then the sailing gets rather interesting. Suddenly I feel Hekla lean over, more than I've ever felt her lean. She makes a quick turn. There is a loud noise and a increase in boat speed. I run up the three stairs and out to the forward cockpit to see if Jeff needs help. I glance at the true wind speed as I rush by, 28.9 knots! Holy moly! Jeff is not there. He is not anywhere. Hekla is going really really fast. I scream, "Jeff!" I am in a panic and all I can think is that Jeff fell off during that huge gust. I feel my heart race and I don't even care if I have a heart attack. Once more I scan the boat, head for the back to see if I can see Jeff in the water, and then I see him climbing out of the aft hatch. I am relieved and a stream of four letter words cross my mind. I want to hit him much like a scared parent who grabs and slaps an errant child out of a busy street, even though they are overjoyed that their child is safe. My heart is still racing, but it will slow down. Jeff is already handling Hekla and the gust singlehanded. He eases the sheets, she slows. He puts a reef in the main when the wind lightens. I return to cook the new potatoes from Laura's garden, fry the merluza in butter, and make a simple salad. But the weather does not make for a relaxed lunch. The squalls roll in on fierce gusts between light winds. Jeff eats standing up.
We pass by the town of Achao. I look for the church. It is hard to spot. I see a church with a cross on it's side, I know this is not the old Catholic church. I keep looking and finally see it. It is unpainted wood aged a gray green color that blends in with the hillside behind it. Now surrounded by newer more colorful buildings, it looks like it belongs to this land. I glimpse it's arched portico between colorful newer buildings as we sail past. Jeff takes a call from the armada wanting to know where Hekla has been and where she is going. We pass a protruding rock called, Roca Achao, a seat for a few seagulls and a recliner for more than twelve sealions. I notice all this with the help of the binoculars, otherwise I would have mistaken the sealions for smaller rocks at the base of the larger one.
We swing south around a point and are hit by really squally weather. We experience a gust topping out at 38.9 knots. Jeff and Hekla handled it quite well. I was proud of them.
Jeff tells me later that it was his first ever 40 knot gust. I don't know what to say, 40 knots takes your breath away. You can tell it's 30 knots by your stocking cap almost blowing off, but not quite and by your breath being taken away when you put your nose right into the wind. 40 is worse. Two hours of light wind followed by five hours of squalls followed by light winds followed by squalls. I am happy to finally see the marina. We dock with the help of William, the marina's owner. We take a late afternoon nap.
The evening stays rough and cold with gusts up to 30 blowing through which sends the flags of all the moored boats flapping straight north east. Hekla being a large boat, a 57 foot long boat, we are tied up to the dock, but still our flag flies straight out when the gusts blow. Thank goodness for the heater. William tells us evening storms are common here, but that it's been bad weather lately; too much wind and rain for this season. He tells us in English and I am grateful for that. Laura told us the same thing in Spanish, but I wasn't quite sure that is what she had said. By eightish there is a calm rain here and the threatening storms are distant. We notice a huge rainbow in the Eastern sky, all of which is visible. It's colors darken and intensify. And a second lighter rainbow appears above. It is a beautiful end of the day gift.