Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Shakedown Cruise #2

After a bumpy ride from Puerto Montt to Valdivia, we were ready to re-explore the town where we first arrived in Chile 6 years ago. The marina was much the same, and much to my delight, one of the marina dogs, Samantha, was still around. Like me, she is older and grayer, but seemed happy to see us again. 

We spent our time wandering around the town. We had a delicious banana split at the EntreLagos chocolate store, visited a few of the local fish, fruit and craft markets, caught up with some old friends and made some new ones. Gary was excited that the movie Dune was still playing at the local theatre. We thought we were being smart by going to see the English version (with Spanish subtitles), but it turned out that much of the movie was spoken in a weird alien language instead of English and so the Spanish subtitles didn’t really help. We did our best, but we may need to watch it again as I’m pretty sure we missed some key information. Overall, it was a relaxing week. 

Typical street market in Valdivia

As a weather window started to open up the week of March 25th, we began discussions on next steps. Even though we had run the engine for a solid 30 hours on the trip up to Validivia, Gary was concerned about leaving for a long offshore passage where checking on and working on the engine would be difficult. The new engine belts and a bolt or two were all quite loose by the time we pulled into the marina in Validivia and he expected he would have to make a few more adjustments after it had run for a few more hours. As such, we decided to do a second Shakedown cruise to the town of Algarrobo, 450 nm north of Validivia. 

There is a small, local marina there, with a haul out facility. Algarrobo is just south of Valparaiso at latitude 33oS (same as Santiago) and effectively out of the Patagonian ‘weather’ zone.

The weather window looked good. Seas were expected to be mostly from the south between 1.7 and 2.5 m, with winds in the mid-teens to early 20’s from directly behind. Sounded pretty perfect. 

We planned to leave at first light (ie, 8am) on March 27th. As usual, things didn’t go as planned. We were up early to do the final preparations. As it was Gary’s birthday, I was making a special batch of banana pancakes. Halfway through cooking the propane sensor went off. I shut everything off and waited for Gary to get back from the shower. We did some quick troubleshooting to determine whether we had an actual propane leak or if the sensor was malfunctioning. We had an actual propane leak. It was like Sea Rover didn’t want to do the passage... We determined that the leak was on the tank side and not at the stove, so we pulled apart our very carefully packed back lazarette and got to work. Gary found the cracked fitting and spent the next few hours replacing the defective part. We put everything away and were ready to go again. 

We said goodbye to our new friends at the marina and were motoring down the Validiva River just after 2pm. By 3:15 we were in the open ocean and hurtling along at 8 knots with winds on the beam. The Crew instantly felt ill in the big swell and so the Captain manned to boat for the first few hours. The Crew dragged her carcass up on deck by dusk for the beginning of our 3-hour on/3-hour off watch schedules. As the evening wore on and we made our way north, the wind and seas clocked around to be directly behind. Unfortunately, the short period of the waves and the brutal cross swell made for an ugly and uncomfortable combination. Doing anything below was out of the question. By morning the seas were up and the motion even more uncomfortable. The Southern Ocean was not going to let us go without making us remember her awesome power. I was awoken on Thursday morning by a particularly violent wave that caused our 3-tier hanging fruit basket to blow apart. I spent the next 10 minutes in a groggy daze chasing avocados, tomatoes, plums and Easter eggs all over the inside of the boat. After securing them the best I could in one of the lee clothes, I dragged my carcass on deck for my watch while Gary gratefully fell into bed. As so it went. It was too rough to cook so we ate what we could grab from the fruit basket, although neither of us felt hungry. I hadn’t intended to give up caffeine on the trip but ended up doing so as it was too hard to boil the kettle. Trips to the bathroom were a nightmare. Sitting down was fine, but we were literally beaten to a pulp for the 10 seconds needed to pull up our pants. I had read an article years ago where a woman described this bathroom experience as being in the ‘hurt locker’ – an apt description. You’d think you were in a good brace position but then a sneaky wave would come from the opposite direction and you’d find yourself hurtling in a whole new, unexpected direction. It got to the point where we both stopped tying to undress when we went off-watch. We lay down in our foul weather gear, with our boots and life jackets still on. The seas moderated a bit on the second night as we were blanketed by a thick, drenching, bone chilling fog. A meal was eaten and we both got a bit of sleep. But the seas and wind were up again the next day when the sun finally burned off the fog. 

Despite the hardships on board, we made good time. By Saturday morning we were beginning to believe that we might make it into Algarrobo by dusk. We shook out a reef, sucked it up and pushed to get there in daylight. Sea Rover seemed to want out of the mess as well as she bore down and picked up speed. By 5pm we were rounding the headland and heading towards the marina. 

Walking the plank
And then came a new challenge. Weekenders!! Despite the 2.5m seas and breezy conditions, there were people out on the water doing everything you can think of – paddle boarding (on knees), sailing in small dinghies, small and big sailboats, jet skis, water skiers, kite surfers, etc etc. God Chileans are tough. Gary didn’t know which way to turn. We finally made it to the mouth of the marina, not having a clue where to go. 

Luckily one of the marina guys saw us coming and made the correct assumption that we needed help. He jumped in his dinghy and came out to meet us. The marina uses a med-moor style of docking that requires you to grab a mooring ball at the bow and then back into a dock, where you then tie up. I told the guy we had never done this before – he said ‘no problema’ and beckoned us to follow him. He took us to the far end of the marina – this required an act of faith on our part as we could see that the fairway was getting narrower and narrower and there would be no way we could turn around. For once the wind gods were with us and had piped down to a gentle 7 knots, which made things much easier. With the help of our bow thruster and the marina attendant, we got attached to a ball, and Gary managed to back us up to the dock where another kind soul was waiting to take our stern lines. We were fully moored by 6:00. Phew.

Time to rest, reflect and think about next steps. And to explore Algarrobo which supposedly has the worlds largest swimming pool!

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