Monday, March 18, 2024

Out of the Roaring Forties!

Well, we did it. We managed to get Sea Rover II back into the water and on her way North. 

Sea Rover going back in the water

We had a less than auspicious start. We had tested the engine while on the hard to make sure that is would actually run. No problem - she started on the third try. A few days later, on Tuesday March 12, they put us in the water, we turned the key.... and nothing. The engine turned over but didn't really try to actually start. We started going through the checklist. Is it getting diesel? Yes. Is there an airlock. No. Is there an issue with the starter? No. But wait, the glow plugs aren't working. Why? Hmmmm. Hard to troubleshoot properly when you are sitting in the slings with 3 yard guys standing around waiting for you to get your boat going. After a long painful spanglish conversation, the yard guys agree to tow us over to one of the outside slips in the marina so we can sort ourselves out. Great. They drag us out, drag us close to the slip, then let go of the line and let us coast into the slip. Thankfully all the yard guys were all there to catch us and it went off without a hitch. We (ie, Gary) then started to troubleshoot the problem. To make a 2 hour story short, he figured out that the wire to the glow plugs in the control box had broken and was hitting the case, which shorted out the start solenoid. A new wire fixed the issue and the engine started right up! Yippee!

The next day (Wednesday, March 13) Gary put the engine through it's paces and all seemed well. Thursday we completely rigged the boat, from going up the mast to pull out all the halyards (we sky them up the mast when we leave to boat so they don't bang and can be kept semi-clean), putting on the genoa, putting on the main, installing 3 bags of lines (ie, all the running rigging), and fully soaping and cleaning the deck. It only took 12 hours...did I mention that I also worked 8 hours at my day job that day?

Friday, March 15. The weather window to move North that we were watching seemed to be holding so we headed to the Port Captain's office to obtain a zarpe (exit papers) to Validivia. After a 1.5 hour wait (we are convinced this was part of a social experiment) it was done and we were officially cleared out of Puerto Montt! We paid our bill at the marina, did a bit more shopping, went out to dinner with some friends and then put our exhausted selves to bed.

Goodbye Puerto Montt!

Saturday (March 16) morning. Prepared to leave at first light (7:45 at this time of year). Delayed by a huge rain squall with a beautiful rainbow - a fitting way to leave anywhere in Chile! After the squall had passed, we quietly slipped away. Winds were light, but we were OK with that as we wanted to test the engine. A 6 hour motor southh brought us to beautiful Puerto Abtao, where we shared appis with Swiss neighbours also heading to Valdivia on the same weather window. 

Sunday morning (March 17). Left just before first light. Almost got the damn mooring ball stuck under the boat! But thankfully it popped up just as I was truly starting to panic. We got it and the anchor on deck, and officially began our first offshore passage of the season.

To leave Patagonian waters, one has to traverse a 20 nautical mile pass that funnels all the water from the southern Pacific Ocean through a 1 nautical mile wide area. Currents can run up to 8 knots in the channel and so it needs to be timed. We had an 'exciting' entry into the area 5 years ago when we first arrived in Chile, where we encountered huge standing waves that knocked the boat down, causing our salon table to topple over (yes, it was our fault as we hadn't gotten around to screwing the floorboards down in our haste to leave Validivia on a favourable weather window). Thankfully nothing 'exciting' happend on this trip. We lamented during our transit that this would likely be the farthest south Sea Rover II would ever be again (41o49' S), at least with us as owners. Hopfully it is all north from here! 

Marina Estancilla, Valdivia

The penguins and albatross led us through the pass and into big, confused seas on the ocean side. Right. We remembered why we don't love passage making. We hoped the seas would settle out a bit once we got out of the mouth of Canal de Chacao, but it was not to be. We had confused seas with a main swell of 2.7 m from the SW and a 0.5 m NW swell which magnified it every 2nd to 3rd wave. Did I mention we had 10 knots on the nose most of the night, so there were wind waves in there as well? It made for a long day and night. The Captain didn't fare well, but the Crew was smart and took seasick meds before we left. While the Crew didn't want to spend a lot of time down below, she didn't actually feel sick. Needless to say, the planned lunch and dinner were not eaten and the Captain spent a lot of time lying down. The Crew snacked on power bars, crackers and peanut butter, chips, fruit. It was a violent night where the waves tossed the boat around - you never knew which direction things would be tossed. I thought I had done a reasonable job at securing everything, but I definitely missed a few things, which made themselves known by hurling themselves from one side of the boat to the other. Sigh. We stood 2 hour watches so sleep was at a premium, but the little bit we both got was the good, solid sleep of the truly exhausted. Sometime between when I went to sleep at 4am and got up again at 6am, conditions had moderated to a gentle roll. By sunrise we officially crossed out of the Roaring Forities (latitute 40o-50oS) and into the (hopefully) calmer 30's. 

By noon (March 18) we were in a slip at Marina Estancilla, almost 6 years to the day of our first arrival in mainland Chile back in 2018. We cleared in with the Port Captain, caught up briefly with old friends we'd met 6 years ago, and are now ready for a good nap. 

The Captain and Crew need a few days to recover and will enjoy the quiet and peace of Validiva, which will be a nice change from 7.5 weeks living in an acitve boat yard. We will be watching the weather and looking for a window to move north starting next week.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Time in Puerto Montt

Club Nautico Reloncavi, Puerto Montt

You are probably wondering what we did for the 5 weeks we were waiting for the heat exchanger. While we had decided to put off doing things like rigging the boat and putting the sails on, there was a long list of other boat jobs that needed to be tackled. We re-installed our hydrovane (wind self-steering device), installed new bilge pumps, fixed the stove, installed new navigation lights, fixed our canvas bimini, cleaned, cleaned, and cleaned, washed the engine, got the alternators rebuilt, got the life raft serviced (had to send away for this), painted the bottom (thankfully paid people to do that), tightened the steering etc, etc, etc. Oh, and we rescued the batteries, which was an absolutely massive job. It took a huge amount of cleaning, but both start batteries and all the lithiums are now back in full operation.

Swimming in the ocean!
In between working on the boat and working my full-time day job, we have found time to explore a bit more of Puerto Montt. We had spent a few weeks here in the spring of 2019 but didn’t get to do a lot of fun things as we were focused on getting the boat put to bed. Our first impressions were that it was a bit of a rough working town. When we came back in the fall of 2019 the riots had just started and so most of the town was boarded up with plywood and everything was closed or on fire. Last year when we were here I was very busy with work and had no time to do anything extra. But this year we made time. One weekend we took the local bus to the end of the line. I knew there was a small town and a beach there but didn’t know much else. It turned out to be a really interesting place. We went on a hot, sunny, Sunday afternoon and discovered that this was where all the people from Puerto Montt go when it is nice out. The beach wasn’t that nice (coarse sand, mostly rocks) but it looked like Kits beach on a busy weekend. There were people everywhere! We dipped out toes in the water and were surprised to discover that it was warm. I vowed to come back with my bathing suit the next week. We had a nice dinner on a patio overlooking the ocean, ate salmon cerviche and enjoyed the ambiance. The next weekend I suited up and we headed back to the beach for a swim. The weather wasn’t quite as nice as the week before, but I did go in. It was amazingly warm, which I don’t understand. It must have been at least 22oC as I was able to walk right in without cringing. Very enjoyable. 

Isla Tenglo

Salchipapas - a southern Chilean delicacy
The next weekend we took the little ferry next door over to Isla Tenglo, which is the island directly in front of the yacht club. We walked the entire length of the island on the beach and only got chased by dogs once. We ended up at the far end of the island where we thankfully discovered a restaurant as the Captain was tired and hungry! That definitely perked us both up. We had a good rest and enjoyed a plate of ‘salchipapas’, which is again a Puerto Montt delicacy consisting of French fries with cut up fried wieners. Very salty, but tastes better than it sounds. We were both thirsty for days afterwards.

Curanto cooking

While at the restaurant, we were introduced to another southern Chile dish called a ‘curanto’. It is basically the Chilean version of food covered and cooked on hot rocks. It looked really intriguing so we vowed to come back the next weekend to try it out. As promised, we recruited a few other Cruisers and did another walk on Isla Tengo the following weekend (no dogs this time). We visited the big cross that is at the highest point on the island and then went to the restaurant for lunch. 

Removing the first layer
Gary and I ordered a single curanto to split between us and got a piece of chicken, pork, a sausage, a potato, a dumpling, weird Chilean flat bread, and a bowl of seafood that consisted of 5-6 huge mussels, 3-4 clams and a very large barnacle. Thankfully we shared! I can’t say I’ve ever had barnacle before but it was surprisingly good. Tastes like crab, which I thought was weird until my Dad told me they are crustaceans, just like crabs. Makes sense.

Curanto opened

The meat and potatoes plates

So, we are keeping ourselves entertained. Living on the hard for the last 7 weeks has been a pain, but we’ve mostly gotten used to it. I expect it will feel weird to float again when we get launched next week. It will be nice to have access to a toilet again though. We are at the far end of the boat yard, so it is a bit of a trek to get to the toilets and showers etc.

Very large cross on Isla Tenglo
Our impressions of Puerto Montt have certainly evolved this time around. We have discovered some really neat neighbourhoods and have explored a bunch of new areas. We can see one of the volcanoes from our position in the boat yard, and we can see the Patagonia mountains in the distance. We alternate between being amused and annoyed at the neighbourhood dogs, who either sing (ie, howl) or bark pretty much all night. We love it when an ambulance goes by as and all the dogs start to howl together – it is quite an experience. 

The weather has been really good so far, mostly sunny with only a few days of rain and wind each week. The locals say that this has been the best summer in a long while. 

So, even though things haven’t gone according to plan, we’ve been making the best of it and just trying to live our lives.



Wednesday, March 6, 2024

It's been a while

Sea Rover II safe in Puerto Aguirre
When we last left off (November 2022), Gary and Mark were stuck in an anchorage waiting for weather, just after crossing the Gulf of Penas. To make a long (and sometimes barfy) story short, they managed to make it the rest of way up the exposed coast (in 4 m seas – hence the ‘barfy’ part) and into more protected waters. As there was no room at the inn (ie, marina) in Puerto Montt, Gary left the boat in the small town of Puerto Aguirre a few hundred nautical miles south and came home for Christmas. He and I then returned in January and completed the trip up to Puerto Montt, where we hauled out for the season. Sea Rover II wasn’t much of a sailboat in the 2022/2023 season.

Our original plan was for Gary to return to Chile in October 2023 to get Sea Rover ready for our departure from the country. However, life intervened and we spent the fall celebrating 80th birthdays, digging a trench in our backyard (don’t ask), and replacing aging infrastructure on our pier. At the time, it didn’t seem that leaving the boat on the hard for three extra months would make that much of a difference.

Fast forward to mid-January 2024.

Meat!! (and vegetables)
Day 1: Gary and I arrived at the boat after a long 27-hour journey. At first glance, everything looked good. The cockpit wood was still in good shape despite being exposed to the elements for 11 months, and the mold wasn’t too bad. Everything looked clean and orderly. Then we stepped on the floor. “Squish”. Oh dear. Up came the floorboards – there was water up to the very top. We had left a through-hull open to prevent exactly this scenario, and we had 2 separate bilge pumps that were supposed to keep things dry… But the bilge pumps failed, and the tilt of the boat on the stands meant that the engine room and battery compartment were lower than the hull opening. One of our start batteries and all the lithium house batteries were completely submerged, as well as the lower 6 inches of engine. Not an awesome thing to deal with in our sleep deprived state. We immediately started manually pumping all the water out the bilge. One hour and one very large blister later, the water was down to a more manageable level. Step 1 complete. Step 2 was to figure out how to get power onto the boat as the batteries were not useable. After accomplishing that, we set out to the local fruit stand to buy something to eat. There would be no cooking for us until we got the batteries sorted out. We ate a few plums and nectarines and set about unearthing our bed, hoping that things would look up in the morning.

Day 2: Things did indeed look better after 15 hours of sleep. A shower and more fruit put us into a better frame of mind. We worked through all our options (walk away from boat, sell boat, fix boat), made a list and started working through the problems. We did some shopping and discovered an excellent place for dinner. A heaping platter of pork, beef, chicken, vegetables and French fries (typical Puerto Montt fare) was a welcome sight as the last hot meal we had had was in the LA airport several days before.

Day 3: Cleaning day. We pulled about 20 L of sludge out of the engine compartment and cleaned the battery compartment. On a positive note, we determined that all the engine fluids were still in their correct compartments. Then I worked my day-job.

Day 4: Finally got one battery hooked up so that I could use the stove. Food!!! And tea!!!! Everything got better after that and we just got on with it.

 A hole!!

Unrelated to our little flood disaster, we discovered that we had a second major issue to deal with. For the last few years, the heat exchanger on our engine has been leaking a bit of coolant from the end cap. When we had the engine rebuilt in 2013, our Volvo mechanic told us that this was the one part he was unable to replace. As such, he told us to never touch it and predicted that it would be the thing that killed our engine. Eleven years later, he might be right. While it didn’t look awesome last year, it looked much, much worse this year. Gary decided to take it off to have a closer look…better to do that on land than offshore…and discovered a good-sized hole just above the end cap. Sigh. The heat exchanger is a critical part of the engine. We knew that if it couldn’t be fixed, the engine would have to be replaced. Here. In Chile. While not ideal, as it would create an issue with the boat and Chilean Customs, we decided it was a viable option. We agreed that we would start with Phase 1, which was to see if we could get it fixed. If it could be, and if the engine ran, then we could put the boat fully back together and plan to heat north.

A chance encounter with another Cruiser in the yard that afternoon sent us into town the next day in search of “Mauricio”, who could apparently ‘weld anything’. Despite cyptic directions that included a photo of the building and an approximate pin location on Google Maps, we managed to find his shop. Mauricio took a look at the heat exchanger, nodded and said “Wednesday”. We were delighted! We had a short conversation to make it clear that we only wanted the hole welded and he shouldn’t touch any other part of the exchanger. Gary explicitly said, ‘do NOT take it apart’. And so began the saga of the heat exchanger.

We went back to pick it up on Thursday full of hope and optimism, only be discover he hadn’t looked at it yet. “Next week”, he said. We returned the following Tuesday. “Later this week”, he said. Gary returned on Friday – some progress - the heat exchanger was now in pieces and the hole still wasn’t welded. Oh dear. Would it go back together??? Regardless, Mauricio said he’d have it done by “Tuesday”. And so on. Sometimes Gary would go up there, sometimes Mauricio would send a preemptive text saying it wasn’t ready. On it went. Four weeks later, Gary told him that we needed it by the following Tuesday or he was taking it back whether it was done or no. Apparently the threat worked, as he texted Gary on Monday night to say that it was done. Gary picked it up on Tuesday and it looked beautiful! Mauricio had managed to reassemble it (a miracle), the hole was filled and he’d even painted it Volvo green! Mauricio told Gary it shouldn’t be touched again but would probably last another 1-2 years. Gary was ecstatic. Until Wednesday. Gary went to complete the re-assembly and realized that Mauricio had installed the heat exchanger core incorrectly. Doh! It would have to come apart again. Thursday – back to Mauricio. I’m sure he was horrified to see Gary again, but he spent the next 3 hours pulling it apart. Gary then spent Friday reassembling it (very challenging!!). We put it back on the engine on Sunday and started the engine on Monday to see if it leaked. So far so good. We won’t know for sure until we are back in the water and can run the engine for a long period of time, but we are confident enough that we can move on to Phase 2: launching the boat and preparing to leave Chile!