|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!
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...