Loving being in Valdivia for the second time around
10 January 2019
Well it’s been a while again...and I can’t procrastinate any longer- after all, it is the new year. Last year at this time we were almost ready to start heading north from Puerto Williams. We started leisurely - determined to enjoy the anchoages - and did so for the most part. No matter how hard you try to pace yourself, though, there come strong winds or rain and you start playing a “go while the going is good” game to sneak another base while the weather pitcher winds up. We hopped from one protected anchorage to another and did our spiderweb ties to shore.
My last blog was sent from Caleta Tortel nearly 9 months ago after a water taxi barrelled into us when we were at anchor. That did shake us up. All the tasks ahead suddenly became daunting; dealing with the insurance claim, filling with fuel, propane and provisioning, plus renewing our tourist visas. Not to mention the most challenging parts of the trip lay ahead of us- the Golfo de Penas and the Golfo Corcovado. It was looking like we would have to make a day trip to Cochrane 2 hours away for most of the preparations and we had lost our confidence to leave the boat at anchor alone! Thankfully some thoughtful locals helped out by selling us fuel and letting us tie up to a sturdy mooring.
Dave made safe the damage on the bow and we headed off with trepidation.
In the accident I got a bang on my head and had a headache, neck and back pain. I could only tolerate sitting behind the helm where the movement of the boat seemed easier on my back. Therefore when I wasn’t on watch I was lying down or preparing quick meals. We did both the challenging crossings at night and the golfo was pretty rough but we managed to tuck in safely to caleta cliff on the other side, which we had been to before. I think we got away without anymore shoretying after that which was fortunate as I did not feel up to it.
When we arrived on Isla Chiloe, it was like arriving in a different country. Peaceful pastoral anchorages, quaint churches... and sunshine!! We had some lovely protected anchorages and great walks as we planned our way north on the east coast of Chiloe. Things really started looking up when we met up with our friends Mark and Rosie on Merkava on Isla Abtoa. We were able to enjoy long walks and catch up while we waited for the right exit out of Canal Chacao. It had to be timed carefully taking in the speed of wind ( always from the west) , the direction and speed of current, wind against current etc.
First part- A-OK, mind you we were almost flying. Then the wind got up higher than expected, against the strong current and it proceeded to become the most challenging passage I’ve ever been on . We had considered going right out and anchoring in Caleta Godoy on the outside, but the weather had changed and we did not want to fight against strong northerlies at any point to get to Valdivia. So we pulled in at the lighthouse in strong winds. Rosie pointed out that what we had just been through had all happened in a few hours! Anyways they had caught some kelp in the propeller so on top of being burnt out from the wild passage Mark had to dive in and saw the kelp off his propeller. The next day we decided to move backwards toward Ancud to Caleta Deeks to wait out the following days off strong northerlies. It was one of the most protected anchorages we could remember and offered long walks in the sunshine. At the first agreed upon weather window, we set off together and arrived into the Rio Valdivia together 24 hours later. Heart and Soul pulled in at Alwoplast and Merkava settling right beside us at marina Estancilla. Of course this called for a celebration and off we went to the first of many eat-outs at El Growler with the cruisers from both marinas.
Next followed the painstaking setting up of the work to be done on the insurance claim acting as go betweens for the insurance company and the boatbuilders. Luckily, evenings were lightened up by getting together with friends.
Both Rosie and Mark and Dave and I left for home (Australia and Canada) for six months and returned back at around the same time.
We just passed a very special Christmas anchored out with Rosie and Mark and a few other cruisers. Just before New Years , Merkava set off . Their plans are to take in the festival on Easter Island , then Hawaii, Alaska and home to BC arriving October 2019. Our plans are to take in French Polynesia hopefully on a 6 month visa, then Hawaii, and arrive home in July 2020.
But first things first - the mast needs to be put back in! Happening as we speak. Also, something has come up that I must go home for next week. SO by time time I get back and we apply for our 6 month visa, we’ll hopefully be able to take off in May for French Polynesia.
Meanwhile we do love it here in Valdivia. It is summer here now, roughly a similar latitude to Northern California and it would be like our July. It gets intensely hot for a few days, then some southerlies come through with the cold Antartica air and you need to dress for the cold! There are actually 3 boats here from Canada (there was 4 when Merkava was here). We’ve got a young Austrian family beside us on the dock. Baby Isabella is 8 months old and has stolen everyone’s hearts.
Adventures and Misadventures of SV Heart and Soul
16 March 2018
At present there is weeping from the Heart and Soul. We are in Caleta Tortel. One more stop and we would be in Puerto Francisco waiting for the weather break of 35 hours to make the passage around the Gulf of Penas.
But weeping? As David’s father, Henry always used to say, “everything was going so well….” And everything was. We were so excited to have arrived in Cta Tortel and we hoped to treat ourselves to a break in our journey here. It is a spectacular place. A small town of about 500 people built on a hillside at the mouth of the Rio Baker. The road from the rest of the country has fairly recently made its way here. You get the feeling that it was thriving with ecotourism and trade long before the road arrived. Anyways, to break the suspense, one morning we were just about to go out for a walk when we were ploughed into by a water taxi. He broadsided us, luckily on our bow, and rode up far enough to take out the pulpit. So, even though it is all cosmetic and the insurance will fix everything up, it has changed our easygoing mindset. Now instead of taking our time to proceed north, we must get going in order to get the insurance repair underway before going back home.
Still, as bummed out about this as we are, it is hard not to love this place. One of the two English speakers in town heard us on the radio with the armada and called to offer any help she could. Her friend sold us some diesel and gasoline, so we no longer had to rent a driver to go to Cochrane (2 ½ hours away). The winds really whipped up later that day and we were considering just getting out of Dodge but another boat in the harbour offered to share his mooring bouy with us. So now we are safe in high winds. Yesterday, we took the bus to Cochrane and got our visas renewed and a few provisions. Bonus of all bonuses, the few tiny grocery stores here which had nothing - not an onion or carton of milk when we arrived, have had a once / month top up of supplies brought in by air and transported into town from the airfield by boat. So we now have some even fresher fruit and vegetables than we were able to get in Pto Williams. Plus we had plenty of good exercise on the stairs in town and the trails around town.
Filling in on the journey from the last blog where I think we had just left the Beagle Channel, the next well-protected anchorage where we sat for a few days , was Isla Medio. From there to the famous Cta Brecknock where we again met up with another boat from Micalvi and enjoyed a bbq on a rock beach. We waited out weather for a few days here and had the most amazing ridge walks in the surrounding high rocky hills. Also saw an indigenous fox fairly close. From there on, we seemed to make great speed motorsailing from Canal Cockburn, up Canal Acwalisnan, all the way along Magellanes, Canal Smythe with the help from an ebbing tide, and choosing only to go out if we didn’t have wind over 15 directly on the nose. We found Pto Eden was the same as we had left it last year, although a lot of upgrading had been done around town. We enjoyed our stay, getting in a lot of walks and were able to pick up more fuel and a few provisions. One of our next stops was Cta Chaski which is my all time favorite. Often we found it was a real struggle to get out for a walk at anchorages, as you pretty well had to climb straight up a mossy cliff through thick woods to get to a decent place to walk.
We knew we were facing a challenge when we chose to go into Tortel to get our visas renewed and fuel up. We didn’t realize quite how much of a challenge it would be. The Caleta gets strong winds from all quarters here and even if the accident hadn’t happened, we were not feeling good about leaving the boat unattended to get provisions so far away. Mind you, it all worked out as far as getting everything we need and now we are ready to get going again.
Summer Sailing in Patagonia
02 February 2018
Last year at this time, when we were heading south in the Chilean Patagonia, it only took 2 weeks to get from Natales to Puerto Williams. This year we are heading north and mainly east since Pto Williams against the very strong westerlies coming off the Southern Ocean. So far it has taken us 2 weeks to go about 130 miles! Mind you we did meet up with some friends for a while in the Brazo Noroeste. On this stretch of the trip these strong winds (50+ sometimes) are fairly common, so our aim is to make it to the most protected anchorages. Then tie up to shore with at least 4 lines (commonly 6). Then we can wait out any weather coming at us until the next chance to move. Thanks to surprisingly accurate GFS models, which forecast wind, rain and gusts and are downloaded using HF radio or the sat phone, we can carefully plan our next leg. We have managed to make 42mile days so far when we have a days break in the weather. It means getting up at 4am, starting to disconnect shore lines by head lamp using the dinghy, then trying to get away at first light. Going against wind and sea, we can only calculate our passage with 4 N /hour, and its good to get into a safe anchorage by early afternoon before the winds pick up again. It can be a bear getting tied to shore while the boat is being swung around by afternoon gusts. Meanwhile, if you are tied up well in a protected anchorage, the days can be very relaxing. The land is like tundra here - thick spongy tough moss and lichen on rock with a few hardy stunted trees, which makes it fairly easy to climb the hills and get off the boat for a good explore. The flora has changed quite a lot since we left the Beagle Channel. I had been picking Chaura berries which were profusely laden. We love them cooked for a few minutes with sugar. I thought I would have a continuous supply of them, but it looks like this is no longer the area that they thrive. Its not only an area of very strong winds, but also mostly rain. Today it is 12C, however for a day or two there it didn't get any better than 6C. We don't run the diesel heater a lot, as we have to conserve fuel, but its nice in the morning and the evening. We are taking a lot of pictures, but wont be able to put them on our blog until we are back in internet range - which at this rate may be a few months!
Hello again from Patagonia!
21 January 2018
It�'s been a while since I have added to the blog. I think we were all ready to head north into the Chilean channels. We were, in fact, fully provisioned and ready to go in August. Mind you there were a few concerns which wouldn�'t go away. We finally decided that we would just have to deal with these problems- so instead of heading up the Channels in the Patagonian winter we packed the boat back up; took down the dodger, took the jib and staysail off, sealed her up and flew back home to the end of the Canadian summer. We hired Francisco, the yacht club manager to look after the boat and a friend of ours in town also kindly kept an eye on it. Before leaving though, I was busy using most of our perishable provisions. Of course we spread it around having people over and distributing cakes and pies, etc. But I�'m quite sure all that rich food went straight to my middle. Our concerns were easily dealt with, and it was great to be home. We feel so grateful we are able to enjoy both aspects of our life so much. When we were preparing to go cruising I listened to a few other cruisers saying that they felt differently about home when they returned- in some way alienated. It scared me a lot- why would I put myself in that position? Family has always, will always be most important to me. So glad that I have never felt alienated. It�'s always great to get together with family and old friends. In fact, the family got bigger when we were at home. We are now grandparents of of the most beautiful baby boy! ( okay I�'m a wee bit prejudiced!) Nothing like it- seeing your �"child�" so joyfully bring up a wonderful new human! The end of summer turned into, autumn, then full on winter, which meant full on summer in our other home in Pto Williams, Chile. Our friend sent pictures of summer hikes and t-shirts. We spent Christmas with Dave�'s family and flew back to that home on the 1st of January, 2018 , arriving on the 3rd with one overnight at our favourite place to stay in Punta Arenas, the Samarce House. Now we have the summer to go north in Patagonia. Stronger winds ( and predominantly against you) with more gusts, but longer days and of course not as cold!! It was great returning to friends. And of course meeting new cruisers arriving from east and west. We were surprised to meet up again with a fellow we had met in Ensenada, Mexico, in 2013, who will soon be finishing his around the world cruise. And Philip on Ness who is a single handler who took 8 months to get from Pto Montt . I had a great afternoon with him talking about bread and bagel making...Always fun at the Micalvi. We made good time getting boat put back together and all systems tested, then were off to Ushuaia, Argentina, to re-enter Chile in order to start the timer on our boat permit again and zero our 90 day tourist visas. Last provisioning again, last chances to get business done on internet, and last chances to say goodbye to our new friends and Puerto Williams which we had grown to love. We would really like to come back someday... We have untied and set off on our journey now, determined to enjoy the wonderful anchorages and taking our time going up.
Back home in at the micalvi in winter
09 August 2017
A hug and a kiss in Chile, a kiss on each cheek in England and three kisses in Holland. Of course it is crucial the kisses be aimed for the right cheek first ( as it happens it is the right cheek!). But be aware that there are dislexics out there ( you may be one yourself?). You must be prepared to change the approach if it looks like It's going that way before it is too late. Too late can be disastrous - clinking teeth with the unsuspecting wide smile, or ramming someone's glasses into their nose etc. You get the idea, I'm sure. Not that I've ever done it!
Dave and I took some of our over-wintering time here in Puerto Williams to visit friends in England and meet up with Daves family in Holland. Both portions were wonderful. England is so lush in June, in the Cotswolds. We didn't quite get our fill of friends and family in that short time, but we did find a few different types of orchids in the grassy fields, which I was thrilled about. The two weeks we had in the Netherlands were perfect. We met Daves brothers and their wives coming from Vancouver at the airport and were picked up by his cousin. From there it just got better and better, joined by two nephews the next day. We all stayed in the same huge farmhouse. We got together with the Dutch relatives often and generally had a hilarious time, visiting, walking, cycling , getting lost in our rented cars in spite of the GPSs...
On our way to Europe, we booked 3 nights at the Samarce House in Punta Arenas, so we could case out the city for provisioning on our way back. It didn't disappoint. We even found a source of coir bricks for our composting toilet. On our return from Europe we broke the journey in Santiago for a few days. This time instead of staying in the city, we took a 2 hour bus trip to Viñas del Mar, and stayed there instead. We had time to explore ConCon and Valparaiso and check out the city of Viñas. Then to Punta Arenas where we were able to provision up and deliver it all to the ferry which comes to Puerto Williams every week. We ourselves took the plane back as, sadly it was cheaper.
It was great to be home again on the boat. We've had a busy few weeks getting it back in order having taken sails and dodger off in case of strong winds while we were away. We picked up our provisions when they arrived and gradually found places to stow everything. (Vacuumed ziplock bags are a great discovery)
The weather here has been really up and down, temperatures hovering just below zero, usually warming up enough to melt the water hose in the afternoon. High winds are common in the Beagle Channel, but we are nicely protected at the Micalvi. Plus we are tied down so well the occasional gusts are no drama. There are at least 25 boats tied to the Micalvi and 4 of us are occupied. We make a point of getting together for occasionally happy hours, of course. One evening, we were all heading out to dinner for some crab enchiladas and walking into town on the icy road having a gay old time. And Bang! our friend slipped on the ice and broke at least two ribs. The moral of that story is don't walk on icy roads with your hands in your pockets! He wasn't able to get them out fast enough to break his fall. It sucks for them because they were just about to head off to Puerto Montt the next day. Now they are grounded for another month. It's good for us, though, cause we like having them around.
Puerto Williams rocks! They had a winter carnival the other night with a really well done parade ( chains on all the parade float tires) at 8 in the evening. It was dark , cold and windy, but totally worth going to see the spirit of the town. The next day they had a polar bear swim with about 200 hundred people taking part! Now that is tough.
I've made friends with a couple women in town and we want to get together every Sunday on their day off. We practice our English and Spanish and eat and have a few laughs.
Around Isla Gordon
11 May 2017
May 2017 blog
Can there be anything like the quiet of the wilderness anchorages around Isla Gordon in the Beagle Channel? Of course there is, but I think every humbling encounter with natures solitude refreshs the soul. The awesome expansive scenery, the reds of changing autumn colour, the crunch of your steps through the frosty forest, the tricking of water and as the day warms up, thunderous breaking off of ice from the icefields. You might think we get our fair share of nature’s solitude living in a boat in this part of the world, but unless we make a point of getting away from civilization we tend to let ourselves get way too busy. Travelling on your boat requires so much organization that its hard to wind down sometimes. So wind down we did. Plenty of late breakfasts, hiking and reading. Ahhh – who needs palm trees and sunny beaches?! We met up with our friends on Merkava at a couple of anchorages and then – more walks in the mountains, berry picking and generally relaxing. Dave and Mark tried making a crab trap with an old frame they found in the woods. It caught a few that were too small to keep, but a fun experiment. We spent a month going around Isla Gordon and of course we could have spent longer, but duty was starting to call.
We wanted to get the boat set up in a spot at the Micalvi that it could stay for a few months without having to be moved, especially since Dave wanted to do a few maintenance jobs that disabled the engine and we are flying to Europe in June. Considering it was well into the autumn season when we got back we were amazed at how busy the Micalvi was. We had to move about 3 times our first day back. Thankfully though we were able to get on to the inside which is occupied by boats that wont be moving for a while. It will become shallow enough at low tide in the next few months that we will be sitting on the bottom, for sure, but its all mud so it should be ok.
Since we’ve been “home” at the Micalvi for the last 2 weeks, the cruisers have gradually been dwindling away leaving their boats here for the winter in the only protected anchorage in the Beagle Channel. There are five occupied boats left. We get together fairly often for shared meals and some good laughs. Soon, Mark and Rosie will be leaving, then we will be heading off for 6 weeks, too. The temperatures are slowly dropping – often frost in the mornings and we have had snow that came and went. Still very mild winter conditions, so far and lots of clear sunny days. Lucky for that, as I still have to do our laundry by hand and hang it up to dry. The diesel stove chunders away pretty well 24/7.
I have started teaching English to Marcelo’s kids two evenings a week. I made a board game which is working out quite well. After the class I’m not allowed to speak English and they help me with my Spanish. One of the local shopkeepers was telling me she is trying to learn English. I told her that I’m trying to learn Spanish, so we have decided to get together to help each other. I still have a hard time remembering vocabulary and how to put sentences together when I’m on the spot. Necesito mucha practica.