Exploring the World by Sail from A to Z

Jeff and Zia's adventures aboard the catamaran Hekla

12 January 2015 | 62 31'S:59 47'W, Antarctic Peninsual
09 January 2015 | 65 54'S:62 52'W, Antarctic Peninsual
07 January 2015 | 65 15'S:64 16'W, Antarctic Peninsual
04 January 2015 | 64 19'S:62 55'W, Antarctic peninsula
31 December 2014 | 54 48'S:68 19'W, Ushuaia
27 December 2014 | It's 6am must be Miami...
26 December 2014 | Guatemala
09 June 2013 | 17 35'N:80 42'W, Caribbean sea
06 June 2013 | Jamaica
04 June 2013 | 18 28'N:77 57'W, Montego Bay
02 June 2013 | 19 20'N:78 49'W, on passage Cayman-Jamaica
23 May 2013 | 19 43'N:82 58'W, south of Cuba, NW of Cayman
19 May 2013 | 24 34'N:81 49'W, Key West, Florida
30 April 2013 | 23 25'N:85 38'W, Gulf of Mexico
27 April 2013 | 21 15'N:86 45'W, Isla Mujeras
19 April 2013 | 18 17'N:87 50'W, Xcalak
17 April 2013 | 15 34'N:89 12'W, Lago Izabal, Guatemala
10 April 2013 | Rio Dulce
10 April 2013 | 15 39'N:88 'W, Rio Dulce
01 April 2013 | 16 05'N:88 32'W, Southern Belize

Southern trekking wrapup and new crew

25 February 2012 | 44 08.8'S:73 06.2'W, northern Patagonia
by Jeff
Ah, land travel in Chilean Patagonia...adventurous! The rugged and wet landscape makes road building difficult, in fact the major route Carretera Austral was first hacked out of the rainforest by hand some 25 to 30 years ago, during the Pinochet era, now sometimes referred to as "the dictator's road." Despite being largely unpaved, it is served with some regularity by bus and truck services. We took one of these busses from Puyuhuapi to the Balmaceda airport. First off there are no published bus schedules, we had to ask around, buy the ticket at a small family restaurant, and be on the street corner at 6am. We bounced along the gravel road for 3 hours and another 3 on pavement to the airport, that's as good as it gets here. This road is actually popular for long-distance mountain bike touring, we saw a few hardy cyclists wearing mud caked rain gear or just toughing it out in wash and wear bare skin, riding from muddy campsite to muddy campsite with the occasional luxur ious splurge at the rare hotel along the route, such as the lovely Puyuhuapi Lodge and Hot Springs.

After a short time in Punta Arenas we took another 5 hour van ride to the Eco Camp in the Torres del Paine national park. The Eco Camp is really quite nice, a number of steel framed geodesic domes are in place for lodging, plus two very large ones for the common eating areas. These sleek domes are designed for 240 km/hr wind speed, and we were frequently rocked by winds not quite that high but that I thought fully capable of ripping a yurt off of its platform and sending it frisbeeing down valley. The Eco Camp is run with great efficiency and the food quality is excellent; highly recommended. We were part of a tour group planning to day hike all of the major trails of the park over a period of 5 days. The raging winds will be one of the more memorable experiences of the park. We watched violent katabatic winds (aka williwaws), which are masses of cold air descending from high valleys at great velocity, crash upon the sea or lake surface, raising great plumes of water an d racing across the surface. They last only a few seconds but can be real boat-busters. Zia and I looked at each other with silent gratitude that we had not chosen to sail to this region. The park is itself a wonder, massive granite spires and other geological features are a feast for the eyes. It is one of the most tourist visited places of all of Chile.

Following on the heals of the Torres del Paine tour, we took another 10-hour bus ride into Argentina, through the vast, windy and treeless pampas, to the town of Chalt´n, for some trekking on that side. Chalt´n was founded in 1985 as a civilian outpost near the Chilean border to protect the Argentine interests in the area. Today, I found it to be an incredibly beautiful and enchanting place. It has a permanent population of only 1000, 3000 in summer, and enjoys a brisk summer tourist trade. There is nothing luxury here, though plenty of nice hotels and restaurants, the people come here for the view (see photo above) and the endless hiking and mountaineering opportunities that can be accessed by foot from one's front door. I call it a mountaineering paradise; climbing at all levels from bouldering to big walls to multiday, world class high peaks, some of which have been summited only a few times ever. There are endless valleys and safe slopes for winter ski touring, and frozen waterfalls forming on the edge of the town, for those who fancy that sport. And to top it off, three breweries! Mind you, two are true homebrew systems with 40 liter brewhouses quite closely resembling that of Zak's Garage in Fort Collins, yet they have bottled and labeled product in some shops. The third is in a restaurant, where the brewer proudly showed us her 100-liter brewhouse and methods of producing Czech style pils and bock. These were very enjoyable beers.

We slowly backtracked our land route, with stops in Puerto Natales and a sheep and llama ranch in Chile, and flew to Puerto Montt to meet Kati and Zach, two of our three incoming crew for the passage north. I'll save the stories of further land travel obstacles until a different time, and close by saying we are all on the boat, cozy and warm in the heavy rain today, and enjoying the new energy aboard.

Reflections on Patagonia

06 February 2012
by Jeff
Reflecting upon our boating time in northern Patagonia, I like to describe it as an area of endless national parks adjacent to each other, displaying great natural beauty and rare human activity. The human density is extremely low, and therefore any sort of infrastructure, such as trails, roads, services. The brush is usually so thick that it is impossible to go anywhere on land without walking up the middle of a creek, though we have found an occasional trail hacked through the brush near some beautiful rivers. Though humans are rare, the sign of humans from generations ago are plentiful, in the form of deforestation. Loggers seeking timber for far away railroad projects or shipbuilding often burned large areas intentionally, clearing the brush but not destroying the heart of the straight and strong Cypress tree. Quite common are views of chest-high dense brush spiked with gray skeletons of scorched, majestic tree trunks. Wildlife is plentiful, particularly birds. Fro m Punta Arenas we took a ferry to a penguin colony island, where tens of thousands of Magellanic penguins were roosted in ground burrows raising their chicks. In about 7 weeks that island will be deserted of penguins until next spring.

Not many cruising boats come here. It is a difficult place to get to from most anywhere else in the world, and the conditions are challenging in many ways. Those that do make it, describe it as a long sought goal, richly rewarding, endearing beauty, and steeping in nautical history. Similar experiences might be found in southeast Alaska, Norway, or southern New Zealand. We speak daily on the long-range radio with the 20 or 30 boats strung out in the area from Cape Horn to out in the Pacific, still making their approach, thanks to a cruiser radio net operated by a sailor-turned-farmer living on the flanks of an inland volcano.

After our inland excursion, we collect some of our kids and begin our passage north together. We'll have about 3 weeks of sailing and preparations on the boat, before embarking upon the 12 or so day offshore journey to a different land, the Galapagos Islands, seeking adventure, team building, and an entirely new experience for most of the crew.

Cool things seen and toilets ...

06 February 2012
by Zia
Still looking back, I remember vividly; an inky green inlet pulsing with tiny cloud quarter sized jellyfish, and another kind of jellyfish clear except for gold ribbing that pulsed bubbles of neon red green and blue along its sides. Bare branched and twisted bonsai trees, misty mornings, rocks, boulders and isles sprouting miniature landscapes and tiny ecosystems remain etched in my memory. We kayaked by rocks that look like beached whale planters. And sailed by bare rocks barely above water with birds, one rocky isle having a party of three kinds of comarants, a few gulls and squatted among them one turkey vulture. Images of rocky cliffs wearing a forest of wild hair, vertical rock walls sprouting fern stubble and everywhere on lushly clad green slopes white crazy stitches of falling water linger in my mind's eye. We've seen double rainbows often and once a perfect sun ring. Today we are south of the 46th parallel in Patagonia proper. This part of Chile is a visual tre at for people who love landscapes, especially rugged natural looking ones. Whenever we hike, I keep thinking Andy Goldsworthy would have a heyday creating art here. This place has many moods; poetic misty mountain days when I half expect a Chinese poet sage to step out and begin painting and reciting poems, bright bold decisive days that skip sparkles across waves and define clearly the white capped giants living here, groups of islands that swim in turquoise waters wearing Hawaiian shirts and hosting penguin parties or sometimes days when the green forested sameness lulls one into a stupor. I am as moody as this land. This is an excerpt from my journal several days ago, "The barometric pressure is falling. I feel unsettled. There is an unsettled feeling. A low high-pitched whine in the lines and shrouds from the wind is annoying. It's the day of flies. Jeff's blue hood was covered by them. Flies. Hundreds. What do they eat? I mean if we were not here? I've seen one squirrel, two sea otters, lots of sea lions, dolphins, whales, but no other warm blooded animals in five months. These flies like it hot and sunny, opposite of our mos quitos back home. A mean feel, irritable and grouchy". And so it is, sometimes. This sailing life is life. Sometimes it is great and sometimes it is not. The thing is, packed along with my suitcases was me, myself and all the filters through which I experience the world. Now I'm having a conversation with this place, and sometimes I can't get myself out of the way to see it with new eyes. This is frustrating. I'd like to be able to share with you the magic, the incredible beauty, the stunning scenes that we move through here, only today I can't get past the frustrations of sharing a small space with two other people. Loud music with lyrics and battery charging beeps fill the cabin. The sky blankets us suffocating, heavy and white. Out of Hekla's windows I see white. It's rained for six days straight. And there was a huge mudslide left in the bowl this morning. I might as well share the bodily aspects of our sailing life with you. Sensitive squeamish folks might want to skip this paragraph. I never realized how much I took flushing in the United States for granted. Boat toilets are not a push one button affair, and they are often full of surprises starting with lifting the lid. Depending on the success of the previous flush, you might find something left over. Or depending on your boat mates, you might find skid marks or worse as I've already shared. The first step after raising the lid, is to use the little foot pump below the sink to put some sea water into the bowl. Do this first because once you sit down and start your business, no amount of twisting, turning and stretching your leg out is going to reach that little lever. I know. If you forget to fill the bowl first, try to go only number one, number two is going to hit bottom and stick every time. Second use the bare minimum toilet paper necessary, as Jeff says, "twelve tiny sheets will go down nicely", more than that and it could get ugly. Using the tp, one must remember that these are BOAT toilets, therefore they are shallower than standard issue USA toilets. Watch the clearance. Okay third stand up and close the lid. Please make sure you close the lid. And fourth, start pumping and praying. Pump slowly and steadily at least ten times, or at least a few times past when you feel the pump suction and pull down your deposit. Fifth, pump some more sea water in wi th the tiny lever below the sink. Repeat pumping with the long handled toilet pump, just to be sure. Sixth, carefully open the lid and take a peak to make sure it's all clear for the next user. If not repeat steps three, four, five and six until it's good to go. Remember to wash your hands kids, and there you have it the profound and the mundane all in one blog post, just like life.
Vessel Name: Hekla
Vessel Make/Model: Atlantic 57, Chris White Designs
Hailing Port: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
Crew: Jeff Lebesch, Zia Zybko
About: Jeff has been sailing for 11 years, and has completed two singlehanded TransPac races on his former trimaran Hecla. Zia is enthusiastic about adventure-exploration by sail

S/V Hekla

Who: Jeff Lebesch, Zia Zybko
Port: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
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