Last night I spent my first night aboard Southern Cross since her arrival here in Chile. It was better than could be. Outside the air temperature was snap cold but inside of her low profile tent was snug and warm. She is staged at the Nao Victoria Museo in Punta Arenas a place of amazement to many yet unknown around the world.
The museum has invited me to stage for my final preparations to voyage and I am glad to be there, honored actually. They seem as excited to have me as I am to be there in the shadow of so many famous ships. Punta Arenas is a old port city and the embarkation point for many significant voyages south and to the ice of Antarctica. Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen and many others began right here. Of course Magellan, Drake, Fitzroy/Darwin also stopped here before there was a Punta Arenas.
The Mast Build
My project has gone along very smoothly although slowly stretching out to over five years. Work and life dictated how fast I could go. It has also been a challenge affording everything, it costs a bunch to build a boat, equip it and ship it to Patagonia. But dreams are dreams and I believe in living life to the fullest so I kept going in spite of all odds. I am not the chest beating seek sponsorship type for this kind of endeavor. This is a personal voyage and one I don't find particularly worthy from a marketing and promotions view. To me it is just another small boat voyage I am on and not much more than that. I have come to realize that it seems to mean something to others as an inspiration piece and that's begun to make sense to me. I get it as I have been inspired by many others in my life beginning with Robert Many.
So I made a big error the day before my boat shipped from Michigan and had to go into full on ad lib mode to solve the problem. I accidentally drove over my mizzen mast and crushed it, oops hardly does justice to the moment. In any case I managed to collect a few bare essential materials and in the shipping crate they went. I made the truck the next day with 30 minutes to spare.
Here in Patagonia Chile John my pal and I have built a mast in the open and partially (one half day) in a small shed on the shore of the Strait of Magellan, a shed which produced a full size HMS Beagle, James Caird, Ancud and Nao Victoria amongst other boats.
Hull model of the HMS Beagle in the shed that built her. My new mizzen mast is sticking out of the door. I rented a power plane to do the initial shaping. John and I figure we built the mast to paint, varnish and hardware in 7 man hours! Not bad for cutting wood in the open rain, shine and really cold weather.
Living Large, err Small
I moved aboard last night and had a lovely night of it as the cold west wind blew. In the low profile high wind tent with padded seats and floor I was toasty warm and fell asleep to the tap tap tap of wavelets kissing the hull. I slept soundly but lightly as I always do on small boats and awoke to early morning birds calling to each other. It was a bright sunny morning and very cold. I sorted gear, restored some items according to my stowage map and then drove to the hotel where John is staying. Punta Arenas is a tough town to find an early breakfast in and Sundays are no exception. We found ourselves back at our usual haunt the Hotel Cabo de Hornos (Hotel Cape Horn) adjacent to the spot where Robert falcon Scott mailed his final packet of letters before going to Antarctica where he perished after making the South Pole. Punta Arenas is steeped in history.
I began final rigging but ran out of time and will finish up tomorrow. I have a few minor elements to complete on the new mizzen mast and a short list of "To Do" projects including final provisions of fresh vegetables and fruit. Then it's all about picking the right weather window. I will be adding consumable stores for the few days I will likely have to wait for the right window so I am not cutting into my 3 month food supply.
My first challenge will be to hit the early morning high tide just right as the exit from the small estuary where I am moored is not navigable except for a precious few minutes at high tide, which will be very early. If need be I can implement my beach strategy and raise the boat onto air rollers for the last few feet, it's going to be a challenge. Picking the right weather window means everything every day. If I mess up I can be stranded out with no option but to shorten (reef) sail and hope to make shelter somewhere. I have a few options as I head south down the Brunswick Peninsula but none are really good until Puerto del Hambre and that is a stretch for one day but I plan to go for it, no choice really as all coast line south is full exposure except for a few river entrances, which can be treacherous if it blows up.
I'll pass this Cape Horn clipper wreck on the way south out of Punta Arenas
In the background you can see the narrow and dry at any tide other than the "high" high exit from the estuary. Punta Arenas is no place for a yacht or sailboat of any size there is virtually no protection. This little creek at the Museo Nao Victoria is it!
A small fishing village just north of Puerto del Hambre. Not much protection here but I may have to stop and make a go of it given the frequency of high winds.
We scouted south in December (Pals Dr Phil McGowin, John Welsford, Denny McNae and David Nichols. This is the chapel in the tiny fishing village north of Puerto del Hambre. This is Phil (aka Gadget!)
The last bit of civilization I will see before hitting Cabo Froward and south. Two houses, a Carbinero station and a fleet of fishing (Centolla) boats post season. The Centolla season closed on November 30th and the fleet is in for repairs, rest and awaiting the next season. This means the waters south of Punta Arenas will be particularly empty. I will hopefully be here for a night but could end up hiding out due to high winds, we'll see. The last time I sailed the Beagle Channel and south I was tent bound for twenty of the first twenty one days of the journey. The winds blew in excess of 70 knots at times, these were hard days. Patience is the key down here and for this voyage I have a significant library, musical instruments, two language courses, drawing course and audio books.
Build a Boat, Build a Life
Happy New Year!
New Years eve was another magical Chilean experience and one I will not soon forget. John and I were hosted in the home of our Argentinean friend Mauricio Archinti along with his mother and son. What a night. We had a lovely evening with a midnight dinner together, great time. They had stopped by earlier to look at my boat, which has not yet launched but should on Tuesday if the truck I am hiring is free. Mauricio is a friend we met last February who owns the El Bodegon restaurant and who offered to store my shipping crate while I voyage. The hospitality of the people here is legendary, they are warm, engaging and wiling to meet foreigners. Viva Chile!
Yesterday was another day of meeting new people. An American sailor stopped by to see the boat and meet me. He is sailing an Ingrid 38 and we spied him about two weeks ago anchored off of Punta Arenas in the Strait of Magellan. I noted his boat as it is very rare to see a yacht here as there is no harbor and the weather is generally rather treacherous. One day while in town we spotted his dinghy on the beach and I left him a note asking if he had come from the south (where I am headed) as I thought it might be good to talk. I always look for information opportunities. He has been sailing solo for the past 6 years and has been as far west from here as Cape Town and has bounced through a number of Pacific islands. He came here from Argentina and headed south the day before last weeks big blow of 60 knots. He tried to round Cape Froward and was hammered by waves and wind (not even the big blow just Cape Froward) and ended up seeking anchorage off of Froward.
He had an issue radioing the Armada (two day radio checks are required here) and after two days they sent a search plane to find him. Finally they raised him and he was ordered back to Punta to explain why he had not maintained radio contact, a communication snafu for sure.
He stopped by when I was out yesterday and when I came back he and John were talking next to my boat. They came into our hotel room and we offered him breakfast and sat for about two hours talking. I asked why he had come so far and was not sailing south to the good stuff, Beagle Channel, glaciers, etc. He was emphatic that it was sheer madness to do so in a large boat and I had to agree. The poor guy was pretty freaked out by the conditions here and wanted to get west and north as soon as possible. He asked for advice on weather windows, strategy for getting south and north in the west arm of the Strait of Magellan and I gave what I knew. I have been tracking weather daily and he was relieved to hear my observations. We both felt for this guy, alone in a big boat in such a place. He got my boat in spades and agreed it would be the way to go here. He anchors out in true terror, me I can chose to anchor, tie off to shore or even pull my boat on to shore for safety. He unfortunately seemed scared and kind of oblivious to the power of the environment here and this after 6 years of solo sailing. I suggested he had a two day window before the next low rumbles through from the west and yesterday we spied him motoring south to hide out at Dawson Island, a very smart move.
So back to "Build a Boat, Build a Life."