Everything including the kitchen sink – comes on the ferry

The church at Metahue, Isla Buta Chauques

The church at Metahue, Isla Buta Chauques

42:36.66S 073:13.15W
We spent a couple of days in Metahue observing life, chilling and doing chores. We saw the ferry arrive one evening bringing half a dozen people home from their travels and unloading their shopping which included not only the kitchen sink but a wood fired range and its chimney. There were sacks of animal feed, sheets of plywood for the new gymnasium and boxes of fruit for the shop.

The little general store took me back in time to my childhood in Stanley and going Hawkie Coleman’s shop. We had to ring a bell and heard the lady shopkeeper clattering down the stairs to open the door for us. The shop was stocked with basic groceries, fruit, eggs, cooking pots, jeans, Christmas lights and Vuvuzelas left over from the Copa America (those trumpets blown at football matches in South Africa and made (in)famous during with world cup there, but they seem to have caught on here too). We found a new plastic bowl to fit our galley sink. We left with new potatoes, onions, eggs and bananas; and the plastic bowl. Paula was even able to buy a new toothbrush to replace her one that had snapped at the head a couple of weeks ago and had been repaired with a splint and some whippings (the toothbrush repair was whipped not Paula).

We walked up the hill to the church passing the school and community centre with its outdoor exercise machines. You can’t knock the government here for not trying to get the public fit but the machines didn’t look heavily used! The gymnasium that I mentioned last week is not finished yet and somebody had modified the finish date on the sign from July 2015 to July 2018.

There are no secrets in small communities; posted in the window of the community centre, the shop and the ferry landing’s waiting room were lists detailing the doctor appointments for the travelling doctor’s visits on Tuesday. The lists not only showed the time but the specialist that they were seeing and whether the appointment was for a chronic illness control or not.

The churches are something of a feature of Chiloe and the surrounding islands; there are over 180 of them. Most were originally build on the orders of the Jesuits who’s itinerant fathers would visit each community once a year or so, often travelling by canoe. A missionary of native birth was appointed to maintain the church and provide ministry year around. The Jesuits were eventually chucked out of South America in 1767 and the Franciscans took over the ministry. Some of the churches are quite grand others just a tiny chapel, some are falling down others well maintained, but there is no doubt with some dating back to the early 1600s they are of historical importance.

We spent one afternoon tweaking the performance of the HF radio antenna. Due to reactance with the rigging it wouldn’t tune on some important frequencies. I made a lot of measurements (I even made a spreadsheet and got quite scientific) to work out where the existing antenna was naturally resonating and calculated a new length for the wire. I added a bit to my calculated length, for luck, hoisted the antenna on a halyard, to save having to climb the mast for every adjustment, and painstakingly pruned the antenna bit by bit, hoisting and testing each snip until it was behaving on all the frequencies that we use.

A couple of days ago we made the 30 mile hop south to Isla Apiao and are now anchored in Estero Pellu. Estero Pellu is a narrow bay that almost bisects the island. The inner part of the channel is very narrow and shallow so we haven’t ventured all the way inside yet. It is certainly a very pretty place.

A lot of the larger birds have chicks at the moment. The other evening in Metahue a pair of black necked swans swam past Morgane with their cygnets on their backs. Today we saw a pair of steamer ducks taking their brood for their first swim. Many of the birds common to the Falklands and Patagonia are noticeably smaller on the continent; the most obvious are the Upland Geese but you can see it in others species too including the Steamer ducks. I also noticed that the chicks have a much darker colouration here where they are a very dark slate grey.

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