Wednesday, January 23, 2019

You Know You've Been Here A Long Time When....

….Swallows Try To Take Roost in Your Boom.

Gary seeking shade while installing the heating system
Although we arrived at the boat on December 30th, it took us a while to get organized and start working on all the boat projects that needed to get done.  Both Gary and I caught a cold when we arrived, which pretty much put us out of commission for the first 10 days or so.  We are now both healthy again and the boat projects have commenced.  Since we arrived we have worked on the following:

- Replaced 8 lights
- Oil change/engine inspection (so far so good)
- Installed the hydronic heating system – this was a biggy and took us DAYS!!!!!!!  As of about 2 minutes ago we have both heat and hot water.  Woohoo!  Now we just need to remove all the gear from storage in the shower area…
- Removed several litres of water from our diesel.  Not sure how it got there, but we now know that our Baja filter that we use whenever we add diesel to the tank actually works.
- Polished the diesel.
- Installed a new shut off valve in the diesel system.
- Fixed the furler, which apparently cracked some time last year.
- Made correct sized poles for the stack pack (sail bag on the boom).  Made adjustments to stack pack to ensure poles can’t come out.
Keeping the new oar locks in place while the glue dries
- Glued new oar locks onto dinghy.  Tried to find location of the new hole that has developed – still a mystery…
- Made new genoa sheet lines (we chaffed through our big line last year).  Funnily enough, we found a sheet of exactly the same diameter on our boat when we got back from Christmas.  One of the other Cruisers found it in the water and assumed it was ours.  As no one claimed it, we decided to keep it.  After much soaking in fresh water and fabric softener, it is almost as good as new and will work perfectly!


- Put the genoa up – WE ARE A SAILBOAT AGAIN!

There are still many things to do, but we are getting there.  The weather is good (sunny and windy – sometimes warm, sometimes cold), the company is great (still a few Cruising boats here) and we love Valdivia, so it hasn’t been a hardship being here. 

This brings me to our story about the swallows.  I finally got around to removing all the covers from the mast, boom, winches etc  a few days ago.  The next morning we noticed several swallows dive bombing the boat and fighting in the air.  Strangely, they seemed to keep landing on the back of the boom.  Then we noticed they were carrying nesting material.  Oh oh.  In less than 24 hours they had managed to find the hole in the back of the boom and decided it was the best place they had ever seen to make a nest.  I have to admit that from a bird perspective it was a pretty awesome spot. 
Notice paper towel stuffed in the hole at the back
Unfortunately it wouldn’t be so awesome for the birds when we become a fully functioning sailboat and actually leave the dock… So, we stuffed the hole with paper towel.  The damn birds have been persistent though and have continued to guard the “spot”, just in case it miraculously opens up at some point.  We’ve been serenaded by them each evening and morning.  We thought that was kind of nice, then realized they had chosen the inside of the hydrovane as their next nest location… Sigh.  A couple of well-placed sponges seem to have taken care of that.  We’ll miss the music, but the birds will ultimately be happier.

In addition to doing boat projects we’ve taken some time to enjoy the local sights.  We spent a day wandering around Valdivia enjoying the river, and we did a day trip to nearby Niebla and visited the fort that guards the entrance to the harbor. 

Mmmm, crepes....







We worked up an appetite walking around the fort and so felt justified in eating an enormous crepe filled with ice cream, bananas and Nutella.  Then we had a bowl of fries for dessert.  Yum.  Feeling slightly guilty after all that fat we walked through town and down along the lovely black sand beach that runs almost all the way up the coast.  Despite the sun, the wind was cold, so I was happy to have a sweater.  Even Gary agreed that the water was FREEZING. No swimming here!

Some of the locals - Black necked swans



We are heading up to Santiago later today to meet up with our friend Dina who is there for work.  We plan to take advantage of the fact she speaks perfect Spanish and visit Valparaiso and do a bit of sightseeing in the city.  We are looking forward to it.
 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Chile - First Impressions

The Promised Land - Mouth of the River Leading to Valdivia

We’ve been in Chile for a week now and have fallen in love with the country.  At first glance it looks a lot like channels at the top end of Vancouver Island.   The hillsides are green, and there are boats transiting back and forth across the narrow waterways.  But then you look closer and realize that the trees, birds and marine mammals are all completely different.  We will definitely need to buy a whole new set of wildlife identification books!  

South American Sea Lions
The sea lions were the most stunning.  They are about three times the size of the ones at home, and the males have what can only be described as big manes (like a lion).  They are incredible.  They hang out at the outdoor fish/vegetable on the edge of the river in town.  Despite a big chainlink fence, two had made it inside the market and ‘helped’  the workers fillet fish, to the delight of all the tourists (us included). 
Fillet-guy fends off a hungry sea lion at the outdoor fish market

Currently the boat is in a marina about 5 miles up a river from the ocean, and 5 miles south of the town of Valdivia.  It is probably the most tranquil place we’ve ever stayed.  It is literally in the middle of nowhere, but the bus stops right outside the gates and goes by every 10 minutes, so it is very easy to get into town.  The marina facilities are great – free hot showers (assuming they haven’t ‘borrowed’ the propane tank for the BBQ...), free laundry (no dryer, which does make it a bit of challenge as you can really only do the washing on a sunny day), nice docks, super friendly staff.  It is an ‘outstation’ of the main marina in town, but has slips that can handle boats over 40 feet.  Most of the boats are Chilean, but there are currently three foreign yachts here (including us).  There is a Swiss single handler, Renee, and a British/US couple on a catamaran called Begonia.  Funnily enough I had met Maryanne from Begonia last March at a pressure cooking class I took in La Paz.  It was nice to arrive at the dock to a friendly face and we’ve enjoyed getting to know them better over the last week.   The locals are also incredibly friendly and welcoming.  On our second day we got invited to an impromptu party in the work room being put on by the workers and other yacht club members.  They fed us BBQ’d meat (the first we’d had in many many weeks) and red wine (even Gary drank a glass!).  No one spoke much English, but we made do with our Spanglish.  It was a very fun afternoon. 



The town of Valdivia is quite nice.  This area was settled by Germans and so the town has a distinctly European feel.   The chocolate stores in town have wonderful Easter window displays at the moment – it is almost like being in Germany.  
There is a wonderful outdoor fish and vegetable market that sells the biggest mussels I’ve ever seen.   We haven’t tried them yet, but I think I’ll only need to eat 2 or 3 to be completely full.  We spent our first day off the boat walking around town in the pouring rain.  We loaded up on fish and vegetables at the market, and then all bought alpaca sweaters as none of us seem to have enough warm clothes (Gary in particular).  The man in one sweater store even threw in a free pair of wool socks when he saw Gary’s bare sandled feet. 


Not sure about this one...
On Tuesday we rented a car and drove down to Puerto Montt (220 km south) to check out the marina and haul out facility there.  We also dropped Nadine off so that she could catch a flight down to Punta Arenas, where she hopes to get on a couple of Patagonian cruises before she flies home at the beginning of April.  The town was a bit grittier than Valdivia, but I think we’ll enjoy spending some time there as well.  We ended up having dinner at the ‘German Club’ in town and so I finally got the bratwurst, saurkraut and spatzle I was dreaming about while on passage.  Mmmmmm.  

The marina/haul out facility in Puerto Montt was fine and we’ll definitely haul out there next year, but we’ve decided to keep the boat in the water at our current marina in Valdivia for this season.  This marina is more protected and we know the staff will take very good care of the boat.  Plus the boat will be in fresh water.  We’ll just have to prepare for a lot of rain.  We’ve already had quite bit of rain this week and so the boat has been thoroughly rinsed off - Sea Rover no longer feels like a salt lick.  Our poor bimini leaked like a sieve during the first day of rain, but has finally decided to be waterproof again.  Luckily for us all the panels seem to still zip together even though they haven’t been used in four years.  They are certainly a necessity here.


Public washrooms, Chile-style
So far life is good.  We’ll spend the next few weeks tackling boat projects (ie, installing the hot water/heating system, finding and fixing leaks, cleaning every compartment) and exploring the town.   I think we will enjoy owning a floating condo in Chile...


Monday, March 19, 2018

Passage Reflections - Karina 's Thoughts


Karina:
We’ve now been on dry land for 4 days after what I found to be a very long, difficult 3 week passage.  I thought I’d write a few quick notes on my impressions of the last passage before it is all too far in the past to remember how I felt.  Maybe this entry will be useful later when Gary has some crazy idea to sail around Cape Horn or to do something equally crazy…

I’m still not sure if I feel a sense of accomplishment yet, or just massive relief for having made it here in one piece without any major breakages.  We went through at least five major weather systems (or was it six??), each with seas greater than 4 meters and winds in the 30 knot range during each event.  We’d have 24-36 hours of crap conditions, then about a 12-24 hour break before the next one.  The breaks were definitely required, but not necessarily restful as it was often difficult to keep the boat moving in the light airs and big seas.  We ended up running north 250 nm to avoid one big system, only to be smacked immediately following it by another, even bigger system on our second last day.  We saw sustained 30 knot winds and 5 meter seas for about six hours.  We managed to fill the cockpit with water three times on my shift which was incredibly scary… the only good thing about it was seeing how fast the water emptied through the cockpit drains.  Thank heavens for small miracles.  During that storm I declared I’d be perfectly happy to never sail again.  And there are no pictures as I never want to remember those conditions… Being on the bottom of one wave and looking up to the crest of the next many, many feet up was not a pleasant experience.  I definitely never want to go through conditions like that again.

One of the things that kept me going during the difficult hours was watching all the sea birds.  We had a flock of either petrels or shearwaters (need a bird book!) follow us pretty much the whole way.  I’d watch them and imagine that they represented all the people at home following us on the blog or on our tracker.  That helped give me the strength to make it through my watch.  Interestingly, on the really, really tough days, when I needed an extra shot of courage, an albatross would make an appearance...  I think I have a new spirit animal.

The boat took a beating this year but managed to make it through reasonably unscathed.  We’ve worked it out that she (and Gary) spent 59 days offshore.  The vast majority of those days were in rough conditions.  Despite a few leaks, she looked after us really well.  Frankly, I don’t know how she didn’t shake apart.  In terms of issues (at least on Legs 2 and 3) we chafed through two furling lines and the genoa sheet. We also lost the pins out of 4 shackles – the genoa shackle, and two separate shackles on the boom vang (we lost one of them twice!).   In addition, two sets of screws for the bimini came undone (but were luckily found before they escaped overboard), and the top pins that hold the bimini together came out twice.  We also developed a stress fracture on one of the hydrovane mounts (note, the hydrovane is our device that steers the boat by the wind).  We monitored the crack daily and it did grow in size over the course of the trip, but happily it (and the back end of the boat) didn’t fall off.   We also broke the lazyjacks again, although that was caused by handler-error, not the seas.  Overall, I can’t say enough good things about Heidi, our hydrovane – she steered us faithfully in every condition we encountered, from the light airs to the 5 meter seas.  Our autopilot (Otto) also had no problem in any of the conditions we put it through.  And our engine, Myrtle, started reliably when required.  We couldn’t have asked for more. 

As for making it here in one piece, I’d like to thank Nadine for helping us get the boat here.  She was very helpful crew and kept us fed and allowed us to get some rest.  And of course, I need to thank Gary for getting us here safely.  I don’t think he slept more than 2 hours a day, but made all the right decisions on where to go and when.  He calmly dealt with every issue as it came up (always at 2 am) and constantly reminded me that our boat was just like a rubber ducky in a big bathtub.  He was right – we just kept bobbing up and down each wave, no matter how big.

Am I glad I did this trip?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I’m glad we are here and will definitely enjoy exploring Chile, but I’m a Cruiser, not a Sailor.  I didn’t hate being offshore (at least not all the time), but I certainly didn’t love it either.  Obviously I can do it, and I can see the appeal of trade wind sailing where you set the sails and forget them for two weeks.  As that should be the type of conditions we encounter when we leave Chile in a few years’ time, I know I will do another passage.  But, I’m happy it won’t be any time soon.

Overall trip details:
Leg 1: La Paz to Galapagos = 22 days; 1900 nm (~3600 km)
Leg 2: Galapagos to Easter Island = 16 days; 2000 nm (~3800 km)
Leg 3: Easter Island to Valdivia, Chile = 21 days; 2300 nm (~4370 km)

Overall distance travelled this year = ~11,700 km (greater than all the way across Canada and back)

 



Thursday, March 15, 2018

Made it to the Promised land - Day 22

Gary:
We made it.
Well, not quite yet but we are pulling into the river to go up to Valdivia now.  It's been a very long journey and it will take us a few days of sleep before we realize what we have done but tonight should be spent at a dock and that is all that matters right now.
More to come later

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Heading to the Promised land - Day 20

Well Sea Rover has just made it through her first "Storm". Yup, Gales are soooo passe now, in fact we are still in a gale and I'm down here writing a blog post. We hove to/forereached for about 12 hours yesterday and again for 4 hours this morning but are now underway at best possible speed to get into Valdivia before the next one wholops the coast sometime late tomorrow night.
The seas are still huge at about 5 m but the winds are down to 20 knots so we can make way safely. Wind and seas are forecast to dimish through out the rest of the day and into to tomorrow. We hope to arrive in port sometime mid day tomorrow but if we are a bit late we at least have a safe anchorage where we can weather the next Gale until the seas come down enough to let us go up the river to Valdivia.
All is well on board
93 NM to go!

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Monday, March 12, 2018

All is well

Gary:
Just a quick post to state that all is well on board. Yes, we know our tracker shows us slowly drifting north. The wind and seas are such that it doesn't make sense to keep trying to sail south so we will wait out the storm and continue when conditions improve.
Hopefully we won't loose too much more ground and we'll be able to carry on shortly.
278 NM to go to Valdivia.
Gary

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Leg 3 - Heading to the Promised Land - Day 15

Karina: The "Gaia Principle"

If you've been following us on our tracker, you are probably shaking your heads right now and saying 'those poor creatures have finally gone mad in the southern ocean'. Although we've spent a few days traveling directly towards our destination, we veered off yesterday morning and started to sail north. No, we haven't lost our minds (although that is debatable). We'd traveled in the southerly direction for the past week knowing we were going to get pushed north with the last gale. And that is exactly what happened. The wind veered to the south and so the only direction we could travel with any kind of comfort was NE. As it turns out, this was a good thing...

Now to explain the "Gaia Principle". We have friends, Desiree and Damon, on a junk-rigged steel boat called 'Gaia'. They've are about our age and have been Cruising for at least 10 years. They've done a number of ocean crossings and are famous for never using their engine. They sail to anchor, they sail off anchor. Basically, they just sail. I wasn't even sure they had an engine until Damon talked about needing to buy diesel - shocking. Anyway, we got to talking about our upcoming trip back in the fall and Desiree told me how they literally floated in the monsoon trough between the Galapagos and Hawaii for 14 days. Their overall trip took something like 30 days. Ugg. I asked her how she could handle being 'out there' for so long, and she said that she considered the boat her home, so where ever the boat was, she was home. Therefore it didn't matter how many days a passage took as she had everything she needed with her. Gary and I both thought this sounded good in theory, but weren't sure either of us could put this into practice. We called her attitude the 'Gaia Principle', which I've been trying to live up to ever since (mostly unsuccessfully, I might add).

We now have a chance to put the "Gaia Principle" into full practice. We were hoping to make it into Puerto Montt before a big low hit the coast of Chile, but it doesn't look like that will be the case. If we'd kept our current course of heading straight to Puerto Montt, we would have ended up right in the middle of it. Having been in 4.5 m seas twice now in the southern ocean, I'm not keen on experiencing the 6 m seas that are being predicted with this latest system. Both our weather routers (yup, we have two) have told us to run north for the next few days to get out of the winds and big seas, so north we go! So no, we haven't gone mad, we are just moving to 'safe waters'. This of course means that we will not be into port by Monday, as we were all looking forward to, but as Desiree said, this is our home and so what else do we need? We will be fine being out here for a few more days. Sometimes the way to your destination isn't a straight path.

Oh, and it now looks like our final destination will be Valdivia instead of Puerto Montt. Stay tuned.

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