Sunday, December 22, 2019

Unexpectedly in Puerto Aguirre for Christmas Part 1

Our plan was to be well south of Puerto Aguirre by now.  But as they say, making sailing plans is like writing in the sand at low tide.  Instead of waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulfo de Penas, which is where we expected to spend Christmas, we will be spending it at the dock in Puerto Aguirre waiting for parts to arrive from the US.
The 2020 season is off to a good start.
As I had to work in Vancouver until mid-December, the plan was for Gary to single-hand the boat from Puerto Montt to Puerto Aguirre, a distance of about 300 nm.  I would then fly into the tiny town of Balmaceda and make my way to Puerto Aguirre via minibus and ferry.  A chance email to friends Ty and Hillary, who we met while sailing in Mexico back in 2017, resulted in them flying down from Seattle to help with the delivery.  As they are hoping to sail Chile in their own boat in a year or two, this was a good opportunity for them to see a bit of the country and to figure out how things worked.  A win win for all.
The Dreaded Destructo Ball

After returning to the boat from a three week land trip in Peru with Gary’s parents, aunt and uncle, Gary went into overdrive trying to finish various tasks and put the boat back into the water.  The Crew arrived a few days later, and after a flurry of activity provisioning and doing last minute jobs (ie, putting on the sails etc) they left the marina at the end of November.  They had a few easy days enjoying the pastoral anchorages around Puerto Montt and Isla Chiloe.  Then the weather began to change and a few hard days ensued.  Luckily the Crew were up for absolutely anything and everything.
Gary with the new line
On one particularly difficult afternoon, Sea Rover II sailed around the corner off Isla Tranqui and encountered large, confused seas.  Anything that wasn’t fully attached to the boat went into the sea, including the two mesh bags containing our three x 100 m lines used for tying the boat to shore while at anchor!  The Crew leapt into action and managed to retrieve one bag and two lines, while the Captain tried not to get the lines wrapped in the prop during the recovery mission.  Did I mention this all happened close to shore near rocks in 30 knots of breeze?  Good times.  Anyway, one bag and line was lost to the sea but Sea Rover and crew survived the day and limped into a nearby anchorage to recover.  New lines were purchased the next day in the town of Quellon, while performing a massive diesel run (3 trips with the jerry cans), and then Sea Rover was on her way again into the wilds of Patagonia.
Penguin Colony???
Their first stop was the lovely protected anchorage of Bahia Tic Toc, which is one of the nicest in the area.  They spent a few days swimming (yes, Gary went swimming in 18 deg water), looking for the penguin rookery (didn’t find it) and exploring the area, then they moved further south.  After several more stops in beautiful anchorages (see the “Adventure Adrift” YouTube channel for some fantastic drone footage of the areas they visited, and possibly some shots of Sea Rover), they decided to spend their last night out in a small anchorage just north of the town of Puerto Aguirre.  Just before entering the anchorage the depth sounder died.  Using the guidebook as a reference, they maneuvered through the tricky entrance and got the boat safely anchored without hitting anything. 
Ty trying to stay warm
After spending the rest of the day trying to coax the depth sounder back to life, Gary admitted that the depth sounder was good and dead.  Having decided that this was a “helpful” piece of equipment for sailing in Chile where the charts are so-so, I received an urgent satellite email from Gary on Friday at 11am telling me “try to find a new depth sounder” before leaving on my flight to Chile at 11pm Friday night.  As I had a full day of meetings and lab celebrations that day, my stress level skyrocketed 1000%.  In between meetings and Christmas lunch with my staff, I called every marine store in the Vancouver area, only to be told that no one had it in stock.  Not knowing what else to do, I got on the plane and flew to Chile.
After many hours of travel, I met up with Gary in the small town of Chacabuco on Sunday night (the Crew left to go home on Saturday).  He then gave me the second piece of news regarding the boat.  Upon arriving at the dock in Puerto Aguirre the day before, the throttle cable (ie, the gas pedal for the boat) snapped.  Ty and Hillary had the lines on the dock and asked him to put the boat in forward to move further up the dock.  Gary put the boat in gear and… nothing.  No forward movement.  He was incredibly lucky that it hadn’t snapped 30 seconds earlier as they were docking into a 30 knot headwind and he probably would have put the boat up on the rocks before they got the manual throttle down below sorted out.  Lucky.  But now we had to find two specialty parts while in a very remote location in Chile!
We have many spares and repair material for most things on the boat but in 20 years of sailing we’ve never had any issues with these two so we had spares for neither item.  Neptune’s laws go as follows:
Law number 1:  If its going to happen, its going to happen out there
Law number 2: If there is a bad time for it to happen, it will happen then.
Law number 3:  No matter how many spares you have on board, the thing that broke won’t be one of them.
I know there are other Neptune’s Laws but repeating them is known to be a method of invocation so we’ll leave the list there…
As for Ty and Hillary...  Hopefully we didn't colour their dreams of sailing to Chile by keeping the boat too cold and making them sail in crazy conditions.

Ignacio wants to know if they will be back???
Stay tuned for Part 2…

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