Cruising Chiloé – at last!
The middle of November saw us almost at a stage where we were ready for sea; almost, I’ll write about the final little jobs in another post soon! So we started scrabbling around making the final arrangements, ordering fuel, paying the marina bill, provisioning etc.. Paula’s parents came to visit and stayed in a cabaña nearby for a few days and we took advantage of their car to carry some of the provisions from the supermarkets.
Stage one in our escape plan was to pay the marina. They don’t seem to have a set table of tariffs so it was with some trepidation that we made an appointment at the office to find out what the final bill would be. Luckily it was more or less what we expected with no sudden unannounced price hikes imposed by the “socios” (members) that would have required some firm negotiating to bring the price back to where it should have been.
With our dues all paid up we had a few days to do the final shop, have farewell dinners, fill up with water and wait for a nice weather window to depart.
The weekend of the 21st November looked good for making the trip south to Chiloé. Off to the marina office in town we went to get our Zarpe (permission to sail a kind of float plan) however Don Jorge decided not to come in that afternoon; this is Chile. The next morning we went direct to the Armada office to get the Zarpe for ourselves and armed with permission to sail from Valdivia to Castro valid until mid-January we were free to go.
When we applied for our Zarpe we told the duty NCO that we planned to sail at 07:30 in the morning. This was to avoid having to come into town again in the morning as if we had told them that we were planning on sailing later in the day, at say 10am; usually they will only issue the Zarpe on the same day in that case. Soooo the next morning at 8 we had a knocking on the hull; it was the Armada wanting make an inspection, that had come at 7am but nobody was awake in the marina and they had been unable to find the boat. The inspection consisted of the NCO standing on the pontoon asking Paula if we had everything on his checklist; which we did, of course!
Off we went. The winds were light and we motored down the river to Bahia Corral where we hoisted the main and our larger working jib and tacked out of the bay into the ocean swells of the Pacific; which was indeed as pacifico! By 9 in the evening the wind had died and gone ahead so we dropped the jib and continued under motor with the main up to help stop us rolling.
We motored along gently overnight at between 4.5 and 5 knots. I pumped some fuel from the keel to the day-tank at midnight and then again at 6am what a pleasure to have a day-tank with a sight-glass and a fuel transfer system. The morning arrived with very light winds that were predicted to pick up slightly after lunch from the west before backing so we banked a bit of westing ready for the header later in the afternoon. All of that actually worked; the forecast was accurate (the new 0.25 degree GRIB files help this close to the coast), the plan worked and late afternoon saw us hard on the wind in a nice breeze charging towards Canal Chacao at 6 knots.
The apparent wind swung aft as we made the turn into Canal Chacao (the channel between the north end of Isla Chiloé and the mainland) and we flew across at 8 knots to an anchorage in Puerto Ingles with a couple of hours of daylight to spare. The tide in Canal Chacao is ferocious and we didn´t have time to run it that evening in daylight so decided to on a first-light start to catch the first tide of the next day.
Paula didn´t even puke or feel sick on this trip, partly I think because she is getting the hang of this sailing lark and partly because she tried a different approach to taking the sea-sickness pills. She started a couple of days before we left taking a quarter pill one evening then a half pill the next evening and a whole pill in the morning before we left. It seems that part of the misery of sea-sickness is the side effects of the drugs taken to combat it and that can be mitigated by getting the body accustomed to having those extra chemicals swirling around inside it. I think an even longer ramp-up to full dosage will be more beneficial for her.
The 23rd saw us up at 5am underway at 5:45am and two and half hours later saw us through the channel having hit speeds over the ground in excess of 10 knots several times sometimes currents really are favourable. In the narrows of the channel we passed a big jack-up barge and could see that the preparations for the shore ends of the new bridge that will link Chiloé to the mainland well advanced so perhaps they´ll start building the bridge proper soon. By 11am we had dodged a couple of salmoneras (salmon farm cages) and mussel farms and were anchored inside the pool at Bahia Hueihue; which is a nice 12 metre deep pool only accessible at high tide when the 5 – 6m tides provide enough water over the entrance sandbar. A couple of local Chilean yachts have permanent moorings here and it seems a very safe spot.
We stayed in Hueihue for a couple of days just chilling out and relaxing for the first time in months. I had one modification to make that could be regarded as a teething problem with the new shaft. You may remember from my previous post that we ended up with a 1 prop-shaft instead of a 25mm one as ordered. We had found some black stuff coming from the PSS shaft seal which at first I thought was just the carbon face of the seal bedding in to the new angles but later realised that it may have been rubber from the cutlass bearing: not good that! I decided that the cutlass may have been overheating a bit so decided to plumb in a water feed from the engines raw water circuit to help cool it ( this is standard on faster boats and arguably should have been done on Morgane anyway ).
The plumbing was simple in principle I needed to T off a 5/8 feed from the engine to the exhaust with a 10mm feed to the shaft seal. Hmmm of course I dont have a stock of plumbing fittings on the boat so it was time to improvise. I had some hose barbs of the correct sizes; the 5/8 ones salvaged from an old water filter and one new 10mm one but no T fitting. I have a bag of stainless steel fittings for building awning frames and the hose barbs were a loose fit in one of those and the grub screw could hold them firmly in place. Lots of polyurethane Sika 221 glued the barbs in place and once the whole thing had 24 hours to set it was a 20 minute job to plumb it into place. Fingers crossed that problem is solved and well buy the correct thing in Castro or whenever we get to civilisation.
After Huiehue we moved about 15 miles south to a little anchorage in Estero Tubildad. This anchorage required some precision anchoring between the shore and a huge mussel far, but provided a lovely sheltered stop for a couple of nights. There were brown hooded gulls nesting on some of the floats and some had little fluffy chicks. There were lots of black-necked swans in the bay too. The little town on Quemchi is nearby with a population of around 1,700 and there is lots of aquaculture activity in the area.
Our next move was another 15 miles or so south to the Islas Chauques area. A very pleasant few hours motoring into a gentle southerly breeze (southerly breeze means high pressure and generally good weather in these parts) saw us to an anchorage in a little bay in Isla Anihue. The anchor didnt like the bottom in our first choice spot and we were just moving when we got a visit from a local in his skiff who was presumably on his way home from the pub as he was definitely three sheets to the wind. He came alongside for a very slow and slurred chat before falling flat on his face in the bottom of his boat picking himself up explaining that he was very tired and had had a long day the zooming off at about 25 knots. We re-anchored in a spot with a nicer bottom and have a very quiet night.
The next day we moved into the little natural harbour of Mechuque. There are a couple of small passenger boats (I’m not sure if they are aquaculture crew boats of some kind of tour boat) so there is not much swinging room and you have to pick your anchoring spot to suit the forecast winds. The 6m tide keeps you on your toes too. We had lunch then went ashore for a walk around the little village.
The first surprise was to find two museums and a couple of restaurants and then later we found a craft fair. It turns out that tourists are brought to the island daily on boat trips from Castro. The museum that was open was a very quaint place with peeling paint and hand written labels on the exhibits. The collection was the personal work of Don Paulino who was there to answer any questions and give a little tour. Most of the exhibits were very familiar to me and could have come from a farm museum in the Falklands; such items as a big black ex war department RT (Radio Telephone) set, slings for lifting livestock on and off ships etc..
The village consists of several palafitos (houses built over the inter-tidal-zone, on wooden piles) a police station and a few other buildings. The community is seemingly fairly widespread around the little archipelago and rely heavily on boats. There was the inevitable St. Peter (San Pedro) in his little boat watching over his flock and a couple of virgins scattered around the place. The little cemetery had a lighthouse in one corner (not a headstone but a real lighthouse).
When we returned to where we had left our dinghy we found that it had been borrowed by yet another drunk boatman and was tied up alongside a little craft, that looked as ancient as its owner, who had not made enough allowance for the tide when he stuck his anchor in the beach: or perhaps he spent longer in the pub than he had planned. We got his attention by shouting and a few well aimed stones bounced off his cabin top (there was no chance of breaking one of his windows; there were none) and he stopped bailing his boat for long enough to pole his boat close enough to the shore to pass us our painter and for me to hand him his jacket and carrier bag of beer that he had left on the beach.