It’s been a month since I last wrote, and not much achieved. We left Marina Quinched on the 13th of April and navigated our way past many many mussel floats to Estero Tocuihue where we stayed the night before travelling the next day to Bahia manao which it right at the north eastern corner of Isla Chiloé.
The next day we had a good, well quiet, weather window to make the 130 mile hop to Valdivia. We had to wait for the tide to transit Canal Chacao; which separates Isla Chiloé from the mainland which has tidal current of around 10 knots. There is no way we can fight that so timing is critical. We got going around 10am and were soon in the channel and hitting 10 knots over the ground, quite stellar speeds for us.
The channel, as are most areas with disturbed water, was full of wildlife. The salmon farm on the north shore of Bahia Manao was home to hundred of sealions with at least one sitting on top of each mooring buoy. Further out there were big flocks of pelicans and shags. We passed a huge colony of sealions and shags on Isla Donna Sebastiana with thousands of animals, there was definitely a slight whiff of sealion in the air!
There was a short bouncy stretch of water as we crossed the shallow Bajo Aquiles but from then all the way to Valdiva we had smooth water. We arrived in Bahia Corral at the entrance to the river complex leading to Valdiva during the late afternoon of the next day and just had time to find our way up the river in failing light to reach Marina Estancilla just before dark. It felt strange to be navigating in water where the main channel was only 4 or 5m deep after spending so long in the channels where water is hundreds of metres deep and 30m on the sounder means you are about to hit something. Marina Estancilla is located about half way between the sea and the city of Valdiva; which is about 20 minutes away by bus.
We had a warm welcome from the marina staff and from Weitze and Janneke of “SY Anna Caroline” whom we last met in Puerto Williams (you can read about their adventures here; if you read Dutch). We also received a warm welcome and the usual efficient service at the Port Captain’s office and at the marina’s town office when we went to check in the next morning – that all changed when we went to the police station to see about getting our visas extended.
We were two days over the time limit on our original visa issued in Puerto Williams but had not worried about making an earlier trip to a big city to extend it as we had been assured by the Navy officers in Puerto Eden that as we were involved in navigation under a ‘Zarpe’ issued by them that we did not have to worry about renewing our visa until the end of the trip detailed on the Zarpe. That sounded a bit too good to be true so we asked if they were sure and then we asked again the next day if they were still sure, they were so we didn’t worry about it, but I took the precaution of logging the conversation in the logbook just in case.
Anyway the border police took a different view to the Navy on this matter and promptly declared us ‘infractor extranjero’ (foreign offender) and put us on record complete with mug shots etc.. We then had to make statements about why we were late and appeal to the Governor for dispensation. This was duly granted after over a week of numerous visits and phone calls to half a dozen different offices all in all a tedious and stressful process. Most of it was handled professionally enough but these Roman Law countries really do know how to make a rookery out of an egg when it comes to paperwork.
One funny event occurred while we were having our mug shots taken at the police station. The police office was your typical third world police office as depicted in just about any movie; the plaster was falling off walls that had not been painted in 40 years, there were a few marks on the wall where pictures had once hung, there was one really small, smoke stained, terrible, photo of Valdivia on the wall, two desks, a crooked ceiling fan, the obligatory filing cabinets and an old tube TV with wood veneer effect trim (remember those) playing the Simpsons, loudly. The officer took our mug shots in a very modern way though, with his phone and download them to his PC. He was processing the photos on his PC and burst out laughing turning his monitor around to show us: my mugshot was on the screen and there in the background was the TV with Bart pulling a moonie or something (anyway his shorts were down and his arse bared). We had a good laugh and the photo was duly cropped so that I didn’t appear alongside Bart’s arse on my criminal record card!
I learnt a couple of things from this.
- Never trust the word of an official in South America when he is talking about the workings of another department, even when he checks with Valparaiso (I knew this anyway but still fell for it).
- Whilst everybody always say that your vessel’s logbook is admissible in court of law I had never thought that it would carry any more weight than say a personal diary or whatever. However producing our logbook with the record of the conversation with the Navy officials really did seem to carry some weight. I’ll be more careful about logging stuff in the future.
Once we were, again, legally in Chile we could start trying to make plans for our next move, or not. This is compounded by the need to make good some temporary repairs to the boat, that it’s already late in the season to start a leisurely trip across the Pacific, it’s an El Nino year and therefore the trade winds are weaker than normal, it’s expensive to stay in a marina, etc., etc..
We still haven’t decided what to do. We have a couple of quotes for some of the work and it turns out the propeller shafts are really expensive here! We are keeping our options open. Paula’s brother drove over to visit and she went back with him to get a new passport; which she now has. We think we have a plan for getting the work done that will leave us clear to leave so in theory we could go soon(ish). I still don’t know for sure if I have my usual winter work with Pelagic Expeditions in Cape Town or not and I guess that is the final piece of the jigsaw that we need right now.
In the mean time I can add Valdivia to the list of cities where I know the industrial estates intimately; hard-woods over the bridge, screws here, stainless steel bolts there, paint just down the road past the water tower!
One of the projects I have is to sort out the fuel system and to replace the plastic day tank with something that is clean, and cleanable. Purpose built fuel tanks are expensive everywhere and as money is tight I decided to find out what all the little fishing boats use. We were talking to a guy who is working on a very nice project boat here (it blends traditional Chiloé wooden boat building with a super yacht grade fit-out; more on this soon) who also happens to own the Calle-Calle brewery and I asked him my question on fishermen’s fuel tanks. He laughed and said “stainless steel beer kegs” – “of course: said I, “brilliant: do you know where I could get some?”. I’m still waiting for the sample kegs to arrive, hopefully they will need emptying too, so that I can see which size fits best but that seems to have solved one problem. I have a cunning idea to make a BBQ from a small keg too.