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Friday, 20 October 2017

Glaciers and Icebergs

Having missed seeing the tidewater glaciers in Laguna San Rafael and in Seno Iceberg due to weather issues, we really wanted to see at least one Chilean Glacier on this voyage. We have, of course, seen many glaciers that calve ice into the sea in previous voyages to Chile, Alaska, Antarctica, Norway and Greenland ... but memories are not the same as seeing something NOW.

The Pío XI glacier, named after Pope Pius XI, represented a diversion of some fifty miles round trip just south of Puerto Eden and, more importantly, a brief two day period of reasonable weather was available for the viewing. It involved a punishing slog up the fjord against twenty knots of wind and cold rain but this all cleared up, as expected, just as we arrived.

Pío XI presents quite a varied spectacle. First, it is immense, measuring around four kilometers across its snout which is fifty meters high above the sea. At first viewing from a distance of 30 km as we turned into Seno Eyre we could see the top of the glacier as it flowed down from the Patagonian Icecap. The concept of ice "flowing" downhill was obvious with two lines of dirty rocks ground from the fjord walls drawn along the upper surface along with other flow lines that gave the ice a bit of the appearance of white plastic from that distance.

As we got closer, the upper surface disappeared, hidden by the height of the forward face.

Glaciers on the land melt at their lower elevations in a much less spectacular way than tidewater glaciers. A glacier that ends in the sea is melted rapidly from underneath by the sea. It then loses support and large volumes of ice crash spectacularly into the water. This is accompanied by a noise like nearby thunder or an explosion and very large waves. We were able to witness this from a quarter mile away ... which felt quite close enough.

In order for a glacier to produce large icebergs, the water at its face must be deep enough to float them away. With two hundred meters of water at the face, very large icebergs can be calved from the glacier as in Greenland or Antarctica. Pío XI sheds a lot of ice into the water, as evidenced by the care and effort involved in dodging all the chunks while navigating to and from the glacier. Nonetheless, the pieces are not large - no more than perhaps six meters across or about 100 tons - because the depth at the face is only about 30 meters or less. In fact, as can be seen in the photo, parts of the face are out of the water now, having emerged onto a terminal moraine. While this is perhaps not as attractive as a completely tidewater glacier, the variety presents an interesting study.

It is difficult to put into words the incredible magic of the scene here. Fine days are rare enough that they are treasured. The sky is blue; the winds are light; dolphins play among the floating blocks of ice.
In places, the surface of the water is so calm we can see those dolphins playing three meters beneath our bow, so sleek that the smallest wiggling motion with their tails sends them along at the speed of our boat with its powerful diesel engine.

The walls of these channels are carved out of enormous single rocks reaching the sky - sparsely covered in their lower levels by forest struggling for existence against the typically fierce weather. The heights are snow covered. The bright sun shining through the very clear air shadows the fissures in the rocky shores with a sharp contrast. And everywhere you look, myriad waterfalls carve silver lines into the mountain sides. What a day!

But we must hurry on on a day like this. The forecasts show a fifty knot storm in the open ocean by tomorrow evening. While it is true we are in relatively sheltered waters, we need to tie ourselves to many trees in a tiny cove to achieve a measure of safety. This type of storm blows fierce and gusty through the channels and we must hide from it.

At 2017-10-20 17:26 (utc) our position was 49°52.20'S 074°22.79'W

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Murder, Sex and Drugs: The Underwater Reality

I helped contribute to an illusion in my blog about the undersea
fissurella oriens
world. When we look out over the placid sea and imagine the world down there as a beautiful, peaceful haven from which we humans could learn about a benign order of life, this is fiction and far from the truth. The animals we see are intent on feeding and eating each other. It seems perfectly normal to most of us to feed on other animals – we eat species like chickens, cattle and pigs. The snail you see here (fusitriton cancellatus) is happily eating the fissurella oriens (keyhole limpet) underneath it. But they’re both gastropods and members of category 6.2 in our Linnaeus ordering system. Cannibalism! This is considered to be dreadfully abnormal to us humans.

fussitron cancellatus
When John Rae found proof that members of Franklin’s 1840s Northwest Passage expedition had resorted to cannibalism (in a last desperate attempt to stay alive), Lady Franklin successfully campaigned to totally discredit him. His navigational discoveries were effectively buried for years. Only recently (and many years after his death) has he received due credit for his work leading to navigating the NWP.

Cannibalism is perfectly normal behaviour underwater.

comasterias lurida
There’s also plenty of ‘unprotected’ and highly visible sex going on in the sea if you know what to look for. These intertwined and aptly named lurid sea stars (cosmasterias luridae) are mating. You’ll find huge clusters of them ganging together for group orgies and they’re not shy about letting you look on. This is probably why most reputable dive schools won’t allow kids under 12 to take dive lessons!!

The Drug world is also an element in the underwater scene. The beautiful nudibranch tyrinna nobilis is rumoured to assist in curing skin melanoma. So far there are plenty to be found here. Perhaps its commercial properties have not yet lead to over-harvesting in Chile.
tyrinna nobilis
The drug potential of newly discovered organisms or discoveries of well-understood organisms in new locations are part of the discovery process. As soon as the animal has been immobilized, killed and stabilized in some type of appropriate solution, it’s sent for dissection and classification by the appropriate scientific expert. After that it goes for a chemical evaluation to see if it can be of use medically. My family included a mushroom expert. Shipments of newly discovered examples of cyathus olla (Bird’s Nest Fungus) arrived from all over the world for my stepfather to codify taxonomically. Some that he sent on to the lab were later discovered to contain new and helpful chemical properties.

squat lobster
Underwater pests: Unfortunately, the underwater world also contains pests similar to the mosquitos that live with us up here on terra firma. The galatheid crab is known in Norway as galatheaa nexa, in Canada as munida quadraspina, in Australia as munida haswelli and here in Chile as munida subragosa. It’s common name is ‘ Squat Lobster’. When you’re on a dive, squat lobsters bound around everywhere - ineffectually clacking their claws and interfering with photographs. They’re media-hogs and try to horn in on every photo. When you look hopefully down into the placid sea at night from the deck, you’ll find thousands of their unfriendly bright red eyes staring back at you. We’re happy because there are not nearly as many of them now that we’ve crossed the Golfo de Penas.

At 2017-10-17 22:51 (utc) our position was 49°07.66'S 074°24.74'W

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Nearly Eden

Caleta Point Lay
A day after the fish boats left Estero Cono, we decided the weather had settled enough for us milder-mannered sailors. As we've gotten used to, the period of fair winds would only last JUST long enough for us to cross Golfo de Penas and arrive at a sheltered anchorage on the other side.

Our welcome back to the open seas was heralded by the immediate return of the five meter southern ocean swell but the fair westerly wind soon had us surging along at seven to eight knots. Soon after leaving shelter, we passed our fishing friends on the 18 meter long "Don Nestor" of Quellon. Most of the time, their boat was hidden behind the waves, occasionally picking itself up to full view on a crest. Their work certainly didn't look easy with all that motion - and we must have been quite a sight for them too.

The timing of our passage to take advantage of the winds led to an arrival in Caleta Ideal in the black of night in the pouring rain just before the wind shifted contrary. I yelled steering instructions from the radar inside to Mary Anne outside until we were in position to let the anchor out.

Caleta Ideal may actually be as ideal a cove as it's name suggests but it's openness led me to hunger for a more confined space in which to weather the next actual storm (as opposed to the equally common simply contrary winds). Caleta Point Lay proved perfect for this: it was more like a tiny alpine pond surrounded closely by mountains rising up forever and bathed in the sounds of all the nearby streams and waterfalls.

But now we have moved on again. Isla Vittorio keeps out the waves but not the howling winds. When you start tugging trees this way and that with your lines, the noise of the wind makes those trees seem suddenly less substantial. Thus I was out this morning adding lines to different trees as a sort of backup. Don't worry ... the new line ties the dinghy to "Traversay" as I head through the gusts to the shore - thus there is no chance of blowing away.

In case all this arrival and departure rope work seems not enough to keep us busy, on the way from Point Lay to Vittorio, our high-output alternator failed. This is similar to an automobile alternator in that it charges the batteries when the engine is running but is about twice as powerful and is more carefully regulated to maximize the life of the large batteries (200 kg - 440 lbs) that power our boat. This was more an inconvenience than a catastrophe as we have a number of different ways of charging the batteries.

Investigation yielded a failed cable terminal that had led to overheating, melted insulation and a minor (but hidden) mess. A few hours with a cable terminal, wire terminals, crimpers and wire of various pretty colors led to it all looking as good as new - and, more importantly, functioning again.

We'd rather be here during the unsettled weather rather than in nearby Puerto Eden. In the little town, we would worry about our anchor dragging in a storm (there is nowhere for us to tie up) and we would have to visit shore and the Armada (navy) offices in our not-extremely-windworthy rubber dinghy. We expect October 17 might dawn quiet enough for us to untie all these shorelines and cover the last fifteen miles into town.

At 2017-10-14 19:32 (utc) our position was 48°54.17'S 074°21.75'W

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Underwater World

As a solo sailor, Larry took a scuba course thinking it would be a handy way to solve some underwater hull problems on Traversay II. I came along as a dive (and life) buddy, and when the time came to build Traversay III we knew we wanted to be able to dive almost anywhere we could anchor safely. We had a list of necessities which were communicated to and understood by Waterline Yachts in Sidney British Columbia. They constructed not only a marvellous dive boat, but a wonderful all-round steel vessel. So far, we've dived together around 500 times - mostly in cold water.
sea star: henricia studeri

Practically from the start of our diving life 26 years ago we attended marine identification courses. I ended up as a docent at the Vancouver Aquarium shepherding young children through sleepovers with whales as well as helping Grade 11 students learn about the animals in the Wet Lab.

Somewhere along the way we borrowed the graded Linnaeus-based Species List used by our two marine I.D. teachers. When we w
ere in Patagonia 10 years ago, we put together a systematic list under the heading of '14 Dives'. Now we're trying to re-visit those divesites with the same list and methods. Larry takes somewhere between 49 and 73 pictures on each dive - afterwards, I edit the photos, identify the animals and we publish a photo-log of each dive. We're trying to work out whether the animal life here has changed. However, this can only be a rough measure. We've found that even diving the same site at night or returning the next day to the same site, there can be enormous variety.

When I first started diving, I couldn't believe that 90% of what we saw were not flora but fauna - animals. You too might find this hard to believe. A notable and welcome exception to this is the bright pink-coloured algae which greets you every time you leave the surface of the (usually cold, rainy and dismal) places - like Norway, Patagonia, BC, Alaska or New Zealand. You can see it in this spectacular photo of a sea star. The green colour is certainly supplied by a green algae. However, the vivid pink colour on the wall behind it is an algae called 'styletheca'. It takes various forms including little tree-like variations. All told, when you enter the water from a cold and rainy landscape in BC, Washington, Greenland, Alaska or Patagonia and discover the fabulous underwater colours, you instantly see this bright pink colour and can forget the cold and isolation. And although the cold-water places mentioned have their own endemic species, this pink coralline algae is common to all.
anemones: metridium senile

It's a new world when you start 'getting wet' in scuba gear. There's an added boost to that 'New World' feeling. It's the sensation of being able to move in novel ways. Ways you've never experienced aboveground. You can go around, over and under things as if you're in a self-contained little airplane.

We've found that the colours underwater in cold-water venues are among the most varied and spectacular in the whole world. We've also found animals that fit into most of the species we first learned to I.D. in BC. Like this star - 'henricia studeri' here and 'henricia leviuscula' at home. But I admit we can't even make a secure identification with sea stars!

That's because we are only amateurs. To completely define certain species, you need to be able to preserve and dissect them or even have a handy electron microscope handy to differentiate between them!

At 2017-10-08 12:16 (utc) our position was 46°36.78'S 075°27.68'W

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Caleta Suarez

Traversay and fishing fleet sheltering from the storm
As October 6 approached, at first it seemed it would offer a long enough period of good sailing weather to allow the 180 mile passage to Caleta Ideal on the other side of the dread Golfo de Penas (Gulf of Sorrows). After Caleta Ideal we would be once more in sheltered waters as we move further south.

Because the weather here is very perverse though, the window of acceptable weather shrank until it would only allow half the passage - and only if we started as the previous period of bad weather was playing itself out. Happily there was somewhere (sort of) to stop at the half-way point. And so, not totally enthusiastic about spending another week in the same pretty though deserted spot, we set off in the pre-dawn hours.

The gentle breezes wafting the drizzle about our dark anchorage gradually segued into a strong persistent breeze from dead ahead as we entered the more open waters of Bahia Anna Pink on our way to the open sea. We felt discouraged by our abysmal progress against big waves, contrary winds and currents but were buoyed up by the encouraging forecasts that suggested that all would improve shortly.

A small passing cargo ship left us in the dust (spray?) as he shouldered aside the big seas and forged on to his distant destination far to the south. Nonetheless, as we neared the open sea at the mouth of Anna Pink, the wind DID shift to a more favorable angle, we DID deploy more sails and our speed increased from four knots to five or six. Soon, as we were able to turn off the wind and parallel the coast south, we reached eight knots and sometimes more in the fitful sunshine that had replaced our earlier drizzle. By late afternoon, we had significantly reduced the distance to that cargo vessel that had earlier smoked past us!

Larry and fish boat crew
By evening, the expected bad weather with its increasing wind was beginning to make itself felt but our half-way destination, Caleta Suarez (Suarez Cove) in Estero Cono (Cone Fjord), was only a few rapidly diminishing miles away. The rock-bound coast of the Taitao Peninsula is imperfectly charted but our book confidently asserted that the approach was easy with an obvious cone-shaped mountain immediately north of the entrance. With four to five meter seas crashing on a vertical landscape in increasing proximity, we worked at reconciling the various clues into a navigationally useful picture of the coast ahead.

The cone-shaped mountain was unhelpfully obscured by low cloud but an island in the entrance to Estero Cono, visible both by eye and radar, gave us confidence we were in the right place. The chart plotter showing us passing across the middle of an island was just a reminder of the limitations of GPS and the importance of using your head.

Inside the fjord, the awesome height of the waves outside rapidly diminished and, with the distance to our remote and deserted cove quickly disappearing, we downed the sails and continued with motor. In the process of dousing the sails, I stupidly tripped over a rope and, grabbing at the nearest support, managed to put a thirty centimeter tear in the mainsail. This later gave Mary Anne an opportunity to display her sewing talents by putting all right again!

Rounding the final corner into our "deserted" cove and preparing for our anchor and shore-tie procedures, there was a surprise: it was not deserted! Three fishing boats from Quellon on Chiloe Island were taking shelter from the coming storm. As we contemplated how to deal with this disappearance of our planned anchorage, the crew of one of the boats gave us hand signals to tie up along side them.

After a hurried installation of fenders and lines - docking having replaced anchoring - we began to experience the delightful hospitality so common in Chile. After a couple of days, we have had help tying up, with the sail repair, installing sail covers, information, dessert. We, in turn, have tried to reciprocate with wine, cheese, olives.

We'll be here a few more days exploring the beaches and awaiting another patch of good weather. In the meantime, what a special and unexpected surprise!

At 2017-10-07 21:39 (utc) our position was 46°36.79'S 075°27.69'W

Monday, 2 October 2017

Isla Prieto

The only real problem in this manner of traveling is deciding what to do with each tomorrow.

Laguna San Rafael and the tidewater glacier that tumbles into it constitute one of the scenic gems of southern Chile. The Chilean small boat sailors seldom take their boats to the far south of Patagonia but take pride in their voyages through the relatively sheltered inside waters to that special place. I'm not sure if it is more or less beautiful than the myriad of tidewater glaciers further south or if it simply better known by dint of being more easily accessed. At any rate, we wanted to see it to find out what the fuss was about.

A relatively good day, wind-wise, was available three days out of Puerto Aguirre - just when we would get there. On the flip side though, the weather after that would present an ugly trip back up the channels to access the route further south. Additionally, forecasts suggested the skies would be gray and rainy. I finally decided a break from all the traveling would be nice and a fine glacier visit didn't seem enough of a sure thing.

So off we went instead to this spot on the south shore of Isla Prieto. We are just short of where Bahia Anna Pink opens up into the 180 mile ocean passage we must make to access the sheltered waters on the other side of Golfo de Penas. Our initial plan out of Puerto Aguirre was to divide the Isla Prieto voyage into two days. Nonetheless, arriving at our planned overnight anchorage at the end of a long blustery day, we found it offered no shelter. An unusual easterly breeze was blowing wind and waves right into the anchorage. So on we went for another three hours before settling for the night.

Our spot here at Isla Prieto is contained by high green mountains that block the fierce Patagonian gales. Waves cannot enter our sanctuary because of the collection of tiny islands that surround it. In addition to all that, Traversay III is almost immovable with four strong lines to stout trees suspending us in the middle of a tiny elongated cove. In the mornings, the occasional shaft of sunshine illuminates the mist clinging to the tops of the surrounding hills. Whitecaps in the channel outside our sheltered bay give clues to the strength of the winds outside.

My first punishment for passing up Laguna San Rafael was the dawning of October 1, the day we would have been at the glacier, clear, calm and very sunny. Oh well, there will be other glaciers to tour further south and, in the meantime, we can SCUBA dive to pass the time.

They say that the best way to make the gods laugh is to tell them your plans. As I assembled the stowed SCUBA gear, I found Mary Anne's buoyancy compensator, an important piece of equipment, had failed. This was no doubt additional penalty for my having passed up one of Chile's scenic wonders. Various increasingly invasive attempts at repair finally revealed that a small air valve in the inflator had become irretrievably corroded. It's amazing how little of what you buy these days will give more than ten years of trouble free service!!

Finally, I gave up on the valve and replaced the whole inflator/deflator assembly with a spare carried aboard for years for just this possibility.

Eventually, somewhat late, we got into the water. The dive was excellent and yielded up many fine photos. A dinghy excursion later in the day showed us some early spring flowers being visited by a hummingbird. The flowers waited for a photo; the hummingbird did not.

There will be more diving for sure because the weather forecasts promise totally unacceptable weather for an open ocean passage until at least the 6th of October.

And so here we wait.

At 2017-10-02 18:28 (utc) our position was 45°48.01'S 074°23.47'W

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Our first days in Patagonia

There is no cheerfulness like the resolution of a great mind that has fortune under his feet. He can look death in the face, and bid it welcome; Open his door to poverty, and bridle his appetites; This is a man whom Providence has established In the possession of inviolable delights.

When Roman philosopher Seneca wrote these words back in the first century, he certainly didn't imagine that some twenty centuries later it would resonate strongly with a septuagenarian offshore sailor, let alone a North American woman on a little boat, far from home and from customary friends and family. Yet I often feel gifted with those delights – they are mine through the delights of voyaging. The last few days we’ve had gentle winds and seas and dolphins have accompanied us in and out of our anchorages. Breaks in the scantily clouded sky allow beams of sunlight to make a beautiful path through the azure waters. Morning and evening clouds of seabirds take off at our approach and one wonders if their paths of navigation are as carefully plotted as those which Larry construes every day. Today we have spent the entire day gazing at a snow-white volcanic cone within a chain of mountains off towards the east. I’ll be able to include a few photos with this blog as we have hi-speed internet for a few hours now while we’re in Puerto Aguirre.

We lifted a stone with the anchor
Not every day starts idyllically - yesterday after surviving the many other bad experiences Larry described in the last blog, we hauled up a rock (see photo). We eventually freed ourselves.

Later ... we went ashore – thought about getting a few groceries and perhaps eating a meal … but the two small restaurants were closed as were the grocery stores. I had a small package to mail but there’s no regular mail from here and it would cost $100 to send express. Businesses and schools close from 1-3 every day. Everyone goes home for the big meal of the day and (probably) a short rest. We’d already eaten lunch and all we really wanted to do was check in with the Armada office and to buy more fuel – we did both of these - so we’re back on Traversay

Tomorrow later in the day, a spell of bad weather is on its way, so we’ll leave here early in the morning and head towards a safe spot to anchor – perhaps for a few days.
Bad days are not a problem for me – there’s exercising and piano playing. We’ve been able to scuba dive twice so far and Larry’s underwater photos take a lot of time to edit and to classify. I could also write a lot more about our experiences, and I have books I want to order for my e-book. We have various series of movies and tv shows which friends have recommended – we’re quite tired at night and we watch ‘tv’ series on the computer – just like millions of other folks our age!

pelicans flying away at the approach of Traversay III
There’s a joy in the wilderness which is almost an addiction. Even though I very much miss individuals, there’s nothing as ‘freeing’ as being away from PEOPLE – no dinners to reciprocate, no need to obsessively clean this little space, no real need to communicate apart from writing in the blog … no reason to go shopping. In fact, there’s no requirement to prove one is a contributing member of society. What a relief!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Welcome to Patagonia

Isla Chiloe is a beautiful land of gentle rolling fields. The nearby smaller islands are similarly covered with small farms and little villages. Aside from the satellite television antennas, you could imaging the Hobbits of Middle Earth living there.

Nonetheless, Patagonia was for us one of the major attractions of Chile. It was time to head south!

In fact, the mainland coast across from Chiloe is very different from Chiloe itself - a tree covered mountainous wilderness. Only a day's travel from Chiloe, we found ourselves in Bahia Tictoc, part of that wilderness. The one to two meter waves of Golfo Corcovado faded as we rounded up under the shelter of the outer islands of the bay.

Memories of our last visit to Puerto Tictoc ten years ago involved a dragging anchor and having to reposition ourselves in the middle of a black, black night. Hoping to avoid a repeat of this, We chose to settle into Puerto Juan Yates, an island encircled pool in the outer part of the bay described in our yachting guide as "one of the prettiest and safest in the area". Holding - an indication of the tenacity with which an anchor will cling to the bottom of the sea - was described as "good" in sand. We were planning to stay through a storm system that would sweep the area in a couple of days so the description was certainly appealing. We got our anchor down and, in an attempt to prevent any movement and benefit from the shelter of the nearby land, ran lines to two trees on the shore. When the mooring work was done, we noted a sunlit, snow-capped mountain peeking at us from between two of the surrounding islands. It was certainly as pretty as advertised!

Dorid Nudibranch on Pink Coralline Algae
The next day, we donned dive gear to see if the underwater life was as we remembered it. In our last dive in New Zealand, Mary Anne had injured her knee and surgery was required in Valdivia to repair it. The dive was a bit of an experiment to make sure we could still enjoy the underwater scene together. To prevent a repeat knee injury, we decided to place the heavy tank and weights in the water ahead of time and have Mary Anne put the gear on in the water where it is more or less weightless. Similarly, everything heavy could be taken off again before climbing up the ladder at the end of the dive.

This all worked out fine and made it a totally knee-friendly dive. We even got pictures of a dorid nudibranch (in this blog), urchins and of a few of the unlimited number of squat-lobsters that frequent the area. An ominous result of the dive though was the discovery that the bottom was not the good-holding sand of the guide book but mostly smooth rock. I moved the anchor into a patch of sand but not with a lot of confidence in its storm-proofedness.

The dive was made on what was supposed to be a stormy day but the day itself was actually quite pleasant. By evening though, there seemed to be a few gusts - mostly from the land where we were tied firmly to trees, but occasionally from the side. This was all accompanied with a grating sound of either chain (or worse yet) anchor moving across the rocks.

We have an excellent anchor alarm which will wake us if the boat moves. I stayed up quite late to develop a degree of confidence that the boat would not move and then went to bed trusting in the alarm. Morning saw us only a few feet closer to the rocks than the night before.

Today, the weather was supposed to be improving but, while I was in the middle of doing an oil and anode change on the generator, a big gust hit from the side and the incredibly-loud anchor alarm sounded. A quick glance showed us to be MUCH closer to the rocks astern; clearly the anchor was dragging across the rocks.

Immediate use of the motor held us away from the shore while we got on our rain gear against the deluge that was now falling. We then moved out the full length of the shorelines - one hundred meters - and re-anchored hoping the anchor would now find that promised patch of sand.

Less than a hour later it became obvious once more that the holding was definitely not good. Plan B involved running a very long line from the bow straight forward to an islet conveniently located 150 meters off the island behind us (to which our two stern lines are attached) and suspending Traversay between three shore lines. I had more confidence that three stout trees would stay put than an anchor on rock. Anchors are really for sand and mud.

A digression on running a line: This simple sounding operation involves tying the dingy to yourself on a very long line, placing the shore line in the dinghy in a way that it will not tangle, then rowing toward a distant tree. Outboard motors tend to get tangled in weeds and ropes and are thus not used. On arriving at the shore below the tree, you try to climb onto the slippery (or sharp shellfish-covered) shore and make your way through dense underbrush with the shore line until you come to a tree you would trust your boat to. The long dinghy line is so that you can forget the dinghy floating in the water without having to tie it. Just make sure the oars don't fall out!

The best way to tie to the tree is to go around it and tie the knot where it will be accessible from the water. This avoids another climb up the rocks when it is time to leave.

Rightmost of two shorelines is tangled in rudder
Of course, while one crew member is performing all these gymnastics on the rocky shore, the other is trying to keep the boat from coming to grief in the gusty winds. This is done by using the motor in forward or reverse and using winches to apply tension to each rope immediately after it is made fast to the shore.

All of the above went well and we now feel safe for the night. Securing in this manner, and later the process of leaving, seem to occupy an hour or more at each end. A further minor problem resulted from the anchor dragging: One line became so slack that it tangled in the rudder such that only a SCUBA dive could free it. More work!

This is a difficult part of the world for cruising and one cannot expect the writers of cruising guides to have visited every anchorage in every possible type of weather to tell you realistically how each anchorage will be in a storm. Similarly, most cruising guide authors do not visit the bottom of the sea to assess its quality for anchoring - they just describe how THEIR anchor held on the random piece of seafloor on which it fell.

Having learned all this ten years ago, we're learning it all over again. Future days will, no doubt, be easier.

At 2017-09-24 20:47 (utc) our position was 43°38.38'S 073°00.71'W

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Our Extra Large National Day Chile Flag
Fish Market Roof
I wanted to seize the opportunity to post lots of pictures before our rare access to high speed internet is replaced by our usual glacial-paced short-wave radio and satellite in a few days.

We made our way from Marina Quinched the short distance to Castro, the provincial capital, in order to take part in the national Day celebrations.  It seemed that the capital city would also allow us to top up any fuel we had depleted before our foray into the wilderness to the south.

The Cueca
The National day celebrations did not disappoint!  There were bands, marching assemblies of firemen, navy and police personnel, endless nearly-understood speeches and lots of couples doing that colorful and romantic national dance - the cueca - which involves a lot of teasing moves with handkerchiefs. To add to the general merriment, the many little children were dressed in oh-so-cute national costumes - and even some of their pet dogs! Those firemen by the way are unpaid volunteers - like all firemen in Chile.

A foray to the grocery store put off the day (for a bit) when we have to switch from fresh food to tinned and frozen.

Dressed for the Day
Also Dressed for the Day
Fueling was not as straightforward as in Valdivia where a truck came down to our dock and stretched an incredibly long hose from the parking lot to our boat at the end of the dock.  While trucks are sort-of available in Castro, they don't like to appear for a sale of less than three or four hundred liters.  So just like years ago in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, we set off for the shore with eight 20-liter jugs.  A phone call summoned a taxi who took me up the hill to the service station while Mary Anne waited with the dinghy.  After returning to Traversay in the dinghy, four of the jugs were siphoned into the tank and a return visit to shore refilled them (with the help of another taxi) to serve as a reserve. With a seven meter tide range and no floating dock, the dinghy had to pulled up a long launching ramp and rolled back down it with each trip ashore.
The Bomberos (firemen)

The visit to Castro finished up with rather long visits to the Navy to receive our permit for the next portion of our voyage south and to the post office where all the correct procedures were followed to send two vital letters on their way to Canada.

Time seems to be slipping away very quickly and we must now be on our way south!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Marina Quinched

William and Valeska with their first grandchild
This marina hosted a huge National Day Celebration when we were here 10 years ago. Alas, the inspiration behind this marina – William Bannister – passed away several years ago. However, the greatness of his vision continues and his wife and sons are carrying on. He would be gratified at the size of the beautiful araucaria trees he planted as seedlings all those years ago, and also at how well his ‘Dream’ marina is being maintained. The moorings (which had been too light to restrain the heavy wooden boats tethered to them) have been reinforced and a diver was out checking them as we arrived. Boats stored here were
being aired in anticipation of the summer season.

Quehui Cathedral
Altar decorations - National Day
Unfortunately, there are no festivities here
this year, no guitarists and singers, so we’re moving on to Castro (the main town on Chiloe). We’ll be back here Wednesday night to enjoy this peaceful place and to use the laundry facilities. Of course, the old saying “you can never go back” holds true both for the loss of people and changes in places.

Surprisingly, we sometimes (and unexpectedly) have the reverse experience. Yesterday we re-encountered an old acquaintance.
Church guitarist practicing

Chiloe Island is known for its wooden churches which have been given Unesco World Heritage Site designation. We were able to visit many of these churches ten years ago, but on arriving at Isla Quehui we decided that one of the two churches in view had NOT been visited 10 years ago.
Christ's image

We launched the dinghy, motored to the beach, tied to a fence post and chatted with the owner - who then directed us to the ‘correct’ route to the church. As we approached the church, a well-dressed man in his late 30s ‘found’ us and took us across the rain-soaked lawn and inside. As we entered, he tried to stop us from proceeding into the church - I obeyed - but Larry went up to the front and asked the guitarist whether he could take pictures of her and of the church. It was acceptable (as it had been all those years ago).  We left a donation, and started back across the lawn whereupon Ignacio tried to insist that we go straight on with him – after our insistence that we needed to get to Chiloe, he resignedly pleaded that we take his photo and email him a copy. And THEN (almost simultaneously), as we realized it was not a real e-address, we both remembered that he was the same person who had manoeuvred us into an expensive meal 10 years ago. I had felt sorry for him and  subsequently sent him postcards from places we visited for over a year. And yet (with few visitors) he forgot us. With limited abilities, he does help his own economy and the village he lives in as a meeter-greeter. We had not only forgotten him, but also forgotten that particular church until we started photographing it.
Eliana - singer-guitarist 
Hearing the guitarist practicing for the upcoming Mass reminded me of our most recent guitarist friend – Eliana – met in Valdivia and instrumental in getting us some copies of Violeta Parras songs of the 80s. She and her style are great – and reminders of Joan Baez’s protest songs of that era. Ellie came over a few times to play and sing with the piano, and she secured a print copy of V.P.s most famous songs, so we’ll be trying to learn them during our trip south…it’s a great way to learn the language.
As the time approached to leave Ellie and the other friends we’d made, I felt my usual mixed feelings and regrets. However, Nature helped me in two ways.
Firstly – Chile apparently has a limitless supply of wood and it’s the cheapest heating choice. Only now are people able to concern themselves with the health implications of this smoke. Along with myself, many Valdivians suffer from smoke allergies. Throughout the winter, we experienced connsistent wood smoke except when the rain kept down the wood fumes. Fortunately (?) it rained a lot of the time in the last 3 months we were in Valdivia. However, two nights before we left, I awoke from a nightmare. I was still back teaching in Ontario and desperately looking for the emergency Epi-pen (for one of the kids) in my desk at school.  I couldn’t breathe.
Secondly - the arrival of Spring with it’s pollen-producers had decorated our boat with yellow pollen.
Gradually as we motored past Valdivia and the last garden of yellow shore-dwelling bushes
I started to be able to fill my lungs. Now we are going to have to trail south either ahead of Spring or out of reach of pollinating trees.

Friday, 15 September 2017

On our Way Again

During the last six months since arriving in Valdivia, Chile, we had barely moved our sailboat TRAVERSAY III more than a few hundred meters. Some of the winter storms in Valdivia are indeed fierce but at our berth, the river is less than a half a mile wide and any discomfort was limited to the sound of heavy rain hammering on the deck and wind howling in the rigging. Inside, we were warm and dry.

We benefited greatly from social occasions with friends, old and new, and from the cultural scene in this fine university city. There were concerts to attend, museums and colonial fortresses to visit and fine dining, sometimes just ourselves and at times with company.

The Yacht Club de Valdivia where we and our boat stayed was friendly, helpful and secure.

As is usually the case though, after such a long time stationary we become restless and feel that it is time to leave. We have a large part of the coast of Chile to explore and a limited time available. The first difficulty though is getting away! The first 10 miles is easy ... down a calm scenic river with high green hills on each side. After that though, the route is south 100 miles through open ocean before sheltered water is again found. That hundred miles is generally either very stormy or has strong contrary winds. Once every week or so, there is a weather window just long enough that the usual unpleasantness is limited to 2-3 meter seas flowing across the entire Pacific from storms thousands of miles away.

To add to this timing burden, the entrance channel from the open sea to the sheltered inside passages of southern Chile has tidal currents so fierce that there are only two periods each day that allow entry. Not only are the contrary currents stronger than our boat speed but they also cause those large Southern Ocean swells to rise up and break dangerously. Timing is everything!

We have now run that gauntlet and are peacefully anchored with sheltering green islands close all around. We visited the nearby village of Mechuque this afternoon and chatted with people who have spent their whole lives there. Large wooden motorboats and passenger ferries are dried on the beach as the five meter tides recede to allow work to be done on them. Across the harbor a wooden skeleton of a new boat was taking form at the local shipyard. The whole village and its people seem to have been transported magically from a more peaceful time and dropped into our present busy century.

Tomorrow we move a short distance to visit another island village as we slowly move towards Castro, our last city on the way south.
At 2017-09-15 02:04 (utc) our position was 42°19.37'S 073°15.28'W

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Time in port

sunset view from our cockpit
Underwater scene - New Zealand
Late-blooming in Valdivia
A boat on the outside wall
We have now been in Valdivia for just over two weeks. We feel very fortunate to have been allowed to secure Traversay III at one of the outer dock spaces in the marina (there are only three such spaces available). This is where we tied up 10 years ago when we stayed here because with our relatively deep draft, we would be aground at low tide in the inner docks. The marina doesn't allow rafting out (being tied to another boat which is adjacent to the dock) in the winter.  It is still Autumn - and many roses and flowers are still blooming. Until our final space becomes available we're tied to a fine neighbour-Eduardo- whose boat is a sister-ship of the renowned ship 'Wanderer IV'. She is steel - as we are - so the chance of damage between us during contrary winds and currents along the river is remote. The large Motor Launch currently occupying what will become our final location is waiting to have generator repairs completed before cruising back up towards North America.

Gymnastics in the cockpit
We've been busy. No longer walking with a cane, I'm having some physio sessions for my injured 'rodilla' (knee).  I need to overcome what happened in New Zealand when I rather stupidly tried to get out of the cold water and climb up the skinny boat ladder wearing many pounds of lead dive weights to counteract my own weight and the buoyancy of the drysuit. We did get some nice photos, though!
sea-lions and pelicans at the fish market

defensive tower

Valdivia building

Niebla Castillo from the sea
The most exciting event for us has been the arrival of our grand-daughter for a 2-month stay. She's 11 and lots of fun and brings sheer joy and brightness to our lives. Everyone here is amazed that she would attempt the 10-hr flight from Toronto on her own (although we did pay for the Unaccompanied Service of Air Canada). They do not realize that her mother waited until her plane had t
aken off, and that I was in Santiago to meet the flight. The more amazing fact was that she then undertook a 10-hr overnight bus trip down to Valdivia with me - and still had the energy to eat a 3-decker chocolate coated ice cream in Santiago before we left (the 3 flavours were bubble gum, vanilla and chocolate!) Perhaps we need to start a new dietary program as insted of getting progressively more tired (I'm exhausted by 8pm) she seems to get a second wind at 10pm. We both help with school in the morning (Larry with math and French) and I with English, reading and violin. Then we can set off to do (mostly domestic tasks - which seem to be a major part of being in foreign ports) or to see some interesting features of the city. She's been to the local fish market (not just fish but also sea lions and pelicans attend this place) and also to one of the forts which defended Chile against the French, English and even Dutch in the 18th Century.
Niebla lighthouse

We're all learning how to communicate better. Larry is already very good, and reading books by Isabel Allende |(in the original) and Valdivia newspapers. I recently bought the 'Rosetta Stone' downloadable version which is highly acclaimed.So far, our little girl has made more use of it - perfecting her pronunciation on words such as dog, cat and learning about the gender issues associated with the language. She's already familiar with some of the issues of learning a 'Romance' language as she studies French at school (as do all Canadian children).

Yesterday we visited the Castillo in Niebla ... it was quite a misty day ('niebla' means 'mist or fog' in Spanish). The lighthouse was not 'on' however!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Valdivia; Closing Notes

Chilean fishboat
We arrived safely here to Valdivia Chile on Monday March 13th and have had brilliant sunshine ever since. We feel lucky as we remembered that it mostly rains here from our stay 10 years ago. We took a few photos of the 'authentic' heavy wooden fishboats which we've seen all along the coast here. They're so colourful - they're often pulled ashore and left up to dry during the low tide. 

Snowy Wanderer displays his pink ear patches
Larry's really enjoying speaking Castellano and he's very good at it (having sailed into Spanish-speaking countries on/off for some years now). My own range is much smaller, but I have really appreciated the friendly and helpful people we're meeting here. One of the workers here at the marina actually lent me his cane. After the 39 days we were at sea, my right knee declined to work properly. It's gradually becoming more affirmative and probably some care and physio will take care of it. I'm looking forward to making some Nanaimo Bars for the office staff - this is a gesture which my friend Frida Audette taught me when I met her on "SV Arabelle" in London UK some years ago.

Royal Wanderer 
I have been remembering some glorious moments from the offshore trip. Our last day at sea was quite spectacular. As we were adjusting the Mainsail, we saw a beautiful rainbow which extended from one end of the heavens to the other, dipping into the water at both ends. Then, while coming in from the huge ‘altamar’ we’d been in for so many days, we were met by a school of several hundred dophins. I’m not proficient at counting mammals – but I could see splashes and indications of the many many animals all the way to the south of the boat. When dolphins accompany a boat, they are often quite interested in the boat, and treat it as a novelty – interweaving around the bow and criss-crossing under the boat. However, this time the dolphins were clearly focussed on filling up in the very rich hunting grounds they have on this coast of Chile. There seemed to be several species – all co-operating and showing a hint of the magical zest and spirit which many species seem to have (even humans when they’re young!)

We were also entertained by the enormous numbers of birds – large and small – who were  fishing out there. We saw many mollymawks (they’re the slightly smaller albatrosses who can be distinguished from the Wanderers because they appear to be wearing black mascara and eyeliner!) I again attempted to take bird photos. Ever since we were in Alaska the first time about 15 years ago, I have not been too good at ‘getting’ photos of birds. So I was really pleased this trip. I got a somewhat fuzzy photo of the male Snowy Wanderer – you can tell he’s the male because he clearly (or – reasonably clearly) – has pink EAR patches. I also got a very good picture of the Royal Wanderer – and of a Mollymawk.
Sunset - East View

Sunset - West View with the 'wine-dark Sea'.

There were some memorable sunsets - here are two taken on the same evening - one looking eastward and one into the setting sun to the west!


At 2017-03-13 15:12 (utc) our position was 39°49.46'S 073°15.09'W