Day 573: Exploring the island

Island life suits the crew of Egret but they still yearn for a few home comforts

Position: Cumberland Bay, Robinson Crusoe Island Juan de Fernandez Islands, Chile (339nm offshore)

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 

Island life suits the crew of Egret but they still yearn for a few home comforts

Monday 8 April
Well, mis amigos, this place is great. After a quick trip to the office to check in we took a short hike around the waterfront. The small town (800 people live here in, 300 in winter) is spotless, particularly when you consider most of the town’s trade is fishing. By far the majority of the commercial fishing is for lobster (more like a large crayfish). It is a clean fishery and the lobsters are kept alive in pens. The second main trade is ecotourism, Robinson Crusoe Island is a Chilean National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s comforting to know this place will remain pristine over the next few decades.

The town has a road, which is mostly gravel but it is being paved with concrete and nearly all the paths to the houses and trails have been finished. There are local flowers everywhere you look, both wild and decorative and we have already spotted several different types of rare hummingbirds. Our new camera has proved its worth, with the super fast motor drive shooting these elusive devils. We have toured the caves carved into the hillside that once housed political prisoners. We couldn’t imagine living here in open-faced caves over winter at the mercy of the elements.

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Tonight it was one of the cruisers’ birthdays so a party was held in a small local cottage on the hill in front of the anchorage. There was plenty of food, too much wine and lots of conversation. In our little group of four boats there were two Germans, one Finnish, one Scotsman, one Italian, one local Chilean and four Americans. The conversation flowed in English, second language English, a bit of Spanish and Italian. We have grown quite used to these mixed conversations and catch nearly every word. Poor Frank, on the other hand, has to try and translate from Spanglish/Italglish, to English to his Tennessee dialect, a three-step process that is very time consuming. Alfredo, our Italian friend, had caught a large local fish and prepared it in three different ways, two of which were more or less raw with a marinade. Delicious. One of our German friends brought a super potato salad and the rest of us supplied the wine. Presents were typically boatie; a small pack of cookies (unopened, which isn’t always the case) with a candle on top, a bar of chocolate candy wrapped with a bow, and so on. The birthday girl was thrilled. By 2200 we bailed to get back to the boat for some well-earned rest after our long day and night before.

The Finnish/German boatUltimaleaves today for the Chilean mainland and a trip up the coast to Peru and on to Alaska. Peru is traditionally a rare destination for cruisers because they get so few cruisers there they treat you as a ship, which can be quite expensive. Now, however, there is a port serving Lima that has a yacht club and welcomes boaters with a nominal charge and 30 days’ free dockage to attract cruisers.

The departing boat gave us its yachtie book to sign. Many cruisers have these books and they can be quite entertaining with imaginative entries from different cruisers. For our entry we put a small picture ofEgretin front of a glacier in Seno Pia, Chile, a place also visited byUltima. We also cut out a small picture of a hummingbird in the flowers, a picture of the anchorage and wrote the boat names in the sidebar. We also gave them a 20-minute-old picture of their boat lit up by the setting sun against the mountain background and we made them a CD of our short tour of the town. This was all great fun and easy to do with a modern printer and a laptop.

Tuesday 8 April
After our generator burn and a quick breakfast we took the dink to the dock to begin our hike to the mirador (overlook) that Alexander Selkirk (the real-life Robinson Crusoe) hiked every day to look for passing ships. The trail is over a mile long and 1800ft high. Selkirk did this trek for four years and four months, he must have had legs like a race horse. Two months with no serious hiking added to a couple of sore heads from the night before meant it was a struggle, but eventually we made it. The pictures show exactly what he saw in 1704 (minus the boats and buildings) when he was deposited on the island after an argument with his captain. The view here is absolutely beautiful, with shades of green and brown creating a sublime picture against the sharp peaks.

We hiked through arid areas and saw trees with a bluish tint to the leaves, the like of which we had never seen before. We walked stooped under a canopy of ferns in a cool tropical setting and finally emerged to a scrub setting near the top. Lining the walk were wild blackberries and red ‘2 bite’ berries, a small wild berry that you crunch twice and spit out the balance. Delicious. At the top, quite by accident, Mary found a plaque set in 1988 by one of Selkirk’s direct Scottish descendants. There was also a cast steel plaque set by a British warship in the 19th century, along with graffiti carved in the soft rock from the 18th century.

After all this effort, and with only a bag of peanuts and soy to eat at the top, Frank and I started fantasising about food. We decided a huge hamburger and an ice cold mug of beer would fit the bill. So it went with the boys torturing each other on the way down with food fantasies. Frank stopped by the Chilean Park office and asked where we could go to eat. We soon found ourselves at the Cumberland Restaurant with the best fish sandwich ever (a huge hunk of grilled fish on an 8in bun with tomato, sliced avocado, lettuce and mayo) and a truly cold local beer. Not bad mis amigos.

After returning to the boat we were brought the Club de Yates Higuerillas Robinson Crusoe (RCYC) guest register to sign and add our comments and pictures. This particular book started in 2004 and is a who’s who of world travellers. We recognised a number of the boat names from magazine articles we read in the past and we were flattered to include our little white fibreglass to the cast.Egretis the first powerboat to be honoured. Pretty cool.

Today is maintenance day. We have emptied the 100 gallon cockpit fuel bladder into the port tank and put the balance in a jerry jug. So far, so good, 94 gallons burned for the trip, including two days generator burn. We also changed the oil in the main. It didn’t need changing but with the longest single leg on our trip to New Zealand coming up (nearly 1800nm), we wanted fresh oil.

Friends have just popped over with four fish they have speared. They are coming over for dinner with the fish and Mary is fixing some other things. A couple more days in the life, not bad.

Our buddies at Nordhavn are having their first Nordhavn rendezvous for Nordhavn owners and owners to be. Click here for details.Egretwon’t be there but perhaps we can have a mini rendezvous in New Zealand in the summer. We all learn from each other and it is the perfect way to meet folk with the same interests and issues as you to trade tales and maintenance tips.



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