Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Puerto Agirre, An Oasis in the Wilderness

As you recall from our last post, we were both looking forward to spending a few days parked in an anchorage next to a small cell tower so Karina could do some work and I could see about fixing the watermaker with duct tape and seizing wire.

Civilization in the wilderness...
Our trip to Puerto Aguirre had been a stressful day.  It was our first time "sailing in the white" while here in Chile and the winds and currents hadn't been given their daily briefing and had gone rogue.  We finally passed by our last uncharted island and rounded the corner.  Our eyes focused on the houses and yes, there was a cell tower.  Houses meant people.  Surely we could get a few fresh vegetables.  Then we saw the high pier and a large 100 m ferry.  Wow, this place is happening!

The welcoming Marina Austral
The wind and current, sensing our arrival, switched in our favour.  We blasted down the channel.  I turned on our cell phones but strangely there was no connection.  Karina is up at the bow preparing the anchor.  Sea Rover is flying to our planned anchorage past the pier... but wait???  Is that a sailboat at the dock with a Swedish flag???  Is there a marina here that we don't know about???
We tear past the large ferry and Karina spys a small sign above the dock just before it passes out of sight.  "Marina Austral, Ch 09"

Minutes before entering the channel we had tried to contact the Port Captain.  As usual the officials sensed an impending difficult conversation in Spanglish and decline to answer.  We assume the same will be the case for the marina and decide to tie up first and ask questions later.

Karina dives into the lazarrete for lines and fenders while I struggle to turn back against the wind and current in the narrow channel.  I decide to employ the bow thruster for assistance and the instruments lock up with alarms and a last depth seen of 0.5 m.

The town of Puerto Aguirre with marina below
To buy time and calm nerves, we motor down to the anchorage and consider just sticking with the original plan of anchoring.  But it seems we don't have cell service (a major problem for Karina) and maybe the marina will have water.  This would save an emergency repair on the watermaker...  We decide to try again to arrive at the dock.  Sea Rover is finally turned into the wind and current and we edge closer to the giant ferry with the marina dock just beyond it.  Just as we are alongside, the ferry applies both stern and bow thrusters and casts off from the pier without a horn or whistle of any kind.  Mission aborted and we slink back to the anchorage to plan our next attempt.

20 minutes pass and the ferry has finally maneuvered off the pier, opening up our view to the dock.  Yes, it is a marina and there is a nice man patiently waiting to take our lines.
We have arrived.

Sea Rover and Rum Doxy enjoying the novelty of a dock
The next few days are spent enjoying new company, amazing hot showers and reasonable internet.  The highlight of the stay is the marina owner Jamie, an energetic, friendly Chilean who opens up his home for us and plies us with great  cuisine and wine.

We fill up our water tanks, rest and relax and plan for our next and last unknown leg of the season down to Laguna San Rafael.  We provision with better than expected produce from the local "supermercado" (ie, a 1 room house) and add an extra safety margin to our diesel tank.  Two weeks later we return to Puerto Aguirre and again accept the hospitality of Jamie and Marina Austral.  New friends are made with m/v Iron Lady and s/v Threshold and we catch up again with Rum Doxy.

Jaime and a reluctant Pejijo from Marina Austral
The neatest thing about Puerto Aguirre as a Cruiser is its location.  Those going south view it as the last bastion of civilization and those going north see it as a nice cold drink of water in a dessert of wilderness.  All who arrive are starved for companionship and friendships are easily made with stories of all the amazing adventures we've just completed.  Jamie is a gracious and welcoming host and goes out of his way to ensure everyone enjoys their stay.

This small new marina is perfectly placed and managed.  It will certainly be a stop for us in both directions next year.

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