Day 510: Time to regroup

Scott and Mary finally make it to Puerto Montt where they reflect on the last couple of days

Position: Oxxean Marina Puerto Montt, Chile

Scott (YT) and Mary Flanders (MS) left Gibraltar on 16 September 2006, and we’ll be following their journey every step of the way, thanks to this unique online “blog”. For a complete list of all the couple’s blog entries click here 

Scott and Mary finally make it to Puerto Montt where they reflect on the last couple of days

Saturday 2 February
Well, mis amigos as soon as we posted our last blog I looked up and saw the snow capped mountains of the Chilean mainland to the east. It’s hard for us to believe sitting in this heat and seeing snow. The best of both worlds. The wind and tide have been kind, allowing us to easily make our anchorage at Caleta Huechun, Isla Alao. According to our Italian guide the next anchorage over has salmon so we cast a bonefish wiggle jig for a while but have now reduced ourselves to soaking a piece of steak fat on a hook off the stern. We’ll see.

In the meantime we amused ourselves with some boat chores. We changed the injectors in the generator, a learning experience but not at all difficult once you figure out the routine (we were blowing black smoke that was sooting the hull). We also changed the air cleaner for the main (two hose clamps – filter off and on).

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Once we had anchored the tide fell so low that a local was able to ride his horse along the beach. A little while later he splashed through the surf driving cattle to a different pasture. The homes in sight of the anchorage didn’t have electricity (bottom picture). Earlier in the afternoon MS saw a small rowing boat with a dad and four little ones rowing from around the bend. When they off loaded they were carrying grocery bags. The nearest grocery store is a long way off.

We received nasty winds from the north, northwest and west. The anchorage was totally exposed to the south and this of course was where the wind was coming, pushing us towards the beach (a whopping 13-15 knots). At low tide we had just six feet of water under the keel. This is a bit different from the past year when we have often had 300-plus feet beneath us close to shore.

At 0410 this morning something wasn’t quite right. The boat movement was different. We had run aground in soft mud. The depth finder was reading 5.2ft (aground) but that reading comes from midship. I took a fishing pole and stuck it in the water off the transom but I couldn’t feel the bottom. Then I took a scrubbing brush and stuck it brush down and there was the bottom. We started the engine, thank goodness she has a keel cooler and not raw water-cooling, and we used the windlass to move forward before putting the prop in gear. The wind and tide had stretched the anchor chain letting us drift back a little too far. In the end we re-anchored and all was well.

We left our anchorage just after daybreak (0630) for the 45-mile hop to our next anchorage before the tide swung south. There are two passes going north to Puerto Montt. To try and push through those passes on the opposing tide is not something we wanted to risk when 18ft of water is moving south through those restrictions. Arriving at Caleta Zapatero, Isa Malomacun in the early afternoon we dropped our anchor (TK) in 39ft but he didn’t hold in the rocky bottom so we had to reset. We don’t take chances.

There were a few very basic tin homes on shore along with a few houses on floats. In the north of Chiloe Island and from what we have seen here so far (further north) the homes are made from simple tin sheeting over a wooden frame. In the south of Chiloe Island and further south the homes are mostly wooden. This area was developed from north to south stripping the forest as they went. Much of the native forest in the north was burned years ago to make pastures for grazing livestock. Sad. The ferries serving these small islands are 20ft or so narrow wooden open skiffs with small outboards (top picture). What is funny is that all the passengers wear bulky life jackets. The first skiff to arrive had school kids. Unlike the last anchorage these folk have electricity. Because of the following wind on the run to Caleta Zapatero we dropped the paravane poles, which gave us a little push. We left the poles down overnight and everyone came by for a peek and a wave.

Egret just hit another milestone – 5700 main engine hours. A lotta miles, a lotta sights, a lotta stories, a lotta fun.

Egret is currently under way for Puerto Montt. We are passing numerous colourful islands on the port side and have snow capped Chilean Andes to starboard. The temperature is a comfortable 74 degrees Fahrenheit in the pilothouse, the wind is calm and the sun is shining through the early morning haze. Things couldn’t be better. We’ll see what today brings.

Sunday 3 February
Egret arrived in Puerto by mid afternoon and was jerked back to the reality of civilization for the first time in a year. Commercial boats were hustling everywhere. Dire warnings and security announcements were being broadcast. We later found out it was for a departing Chilean warship.

Puerto Montt is on the Chilean mainland. It is a working harbour, which accommodates boats up to 200ft and the long, narrow offshore island of Isla Tenglo protects it (open on both ends). The 24ft tide (springs) race back and forth through the harbour keeping things interesting. Today is a non-work day so we have been trying to communicate with a very non-English-speaking watchman. Finally, by using hand signals we managed to find our berth at the floating dock. By this time we had drawn a crowd to help. There was a nice Swedish couple that we met in December 2006 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, three Americans, a couple from the 80ft trawler next door (owners of the local supermarket chain), a few Chileans, an Irish couple and others we didn’t know.

Finally, after answering their questions and receiving pages of advice we were able to wash our little white fibreglass ship for the first time since leaving Ushuaia on December 3. She stayed spotless in the Channels with the rain but got heavily covered in dust in Castro thanks to the Armada helicopter and normal dirt road traffic.

So here we are in Puerto Montt ending the adventure of cruising the Chilean Channels and waiting to start the next leg of our journey, crossing the Pacific to New Zealand. Our time here won’t be idle time, however as we have boat chores to do. Mary is also flying to Minn to see her mother and we have some inland touring to do. Because we will be land-based for the next two months our blogs will slow a little until we are under way again. Once underway, as we have done in the past we will keep you updated as much as possible.

To recap the Channels leg the stats are:
Engine hours 281.2
Generator hours 92.4
Nautical miles travelled 1503.4 (Ushuaia – Puerto Montt)
Nautical miles from Gibraltar 9949.35 (11,441.75 statute miles -18,413.71 kilometres)
Remember the engine hours include warm-up, lifting the anchor, lifting the dink and putting both overboard.


PS. We received lots of emails concerning the little princess, Chonos. When I said, “we will miss her” I hope I didn’t come across as too matter of fact, she really touched us both.



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