Starting the journey

‘I wouldn’t buy it in that state,’ was the conclusion of the friend whom we’d asked to check out our prospective boat while deciding whether to travel down here. On the basis of his photos, and also his thorough written survey, we differed from this sufficiently to make the journey. We doubted we could afford any boat in any better state. But we arrived in Puerto Williams a bit apprehensively.

We’d come south from Brazil to this far extreme of Chile, over several nights in airports and days in planes, with the temperature dropping the whole way. We descended through the clouds for the final time, banking above the Beagle Channel abruptly, and flew low over the little settlement, approaching its one small runway. We’d been here last at the end of the last summer, nine months since in autumn season; we now returned at the start of the next summer, so the snow on the hills was less this time. Otherwise we found Puerto Williams much the same, with the local herd of wild horses wandering through the square, the navy on their patrol vessel having a cheerful-sounding party, and the three shops out of vegetables till the Saturday ferry. We went aboard the dock Micalvi, a ship itself in a former life; besides the yachts tied to Micalvi, some were on moorings out from the shore.

‘I wouldn’t stay on that boat in that state,’ said our contact, hearing that we’d asked the owners if we could stay aboard the boat we aimed to buy. We pointed out that it would be an improvement on the tent in which we used to reside close by, but somehow we seemed unsuccessful in this effort to reassure him as to our sanity. But he took us to the boat, one of those out in the bay, and we could return for our luggage in its own dinghy. Though not then inflated, the tanks of the dinghy were believed to be fine.

Perhaps our standards are lower than some people’s, for the state of the boat surprised us pleasantly. There are the dents each side, amidships at the waterline; our About page has the full backstory, but the boat was wrecked in a caleta nearby. Yet these appear worse in pictures than to the eye, and haven’t compromised the thickness of the steel plate – and aside from this the condition of the hull’s remarkable, with a lack of rust seldom seen even in less neglected vessels of this age.

Dents in the hull of our boat Space Oddity
Dents in boat’s side

The engine wasn’t part of the pleasant surprise, having water in it and problems with its valves, plus with the piston-rings probably. We were a little concerned to find oil to improve poor compression in the engine, and a lot concerned to find such poor compression in the machine, indeed, that it can be turned without resistance. There’s better news on the interior, which we thought would be waterlogged and mouldy, but which is dryish if messy and dirty.

Cluttered main cabin of Space Oddity
Main cabin mess

And much of the excellent equipment is usable, from electronics to a sea-anchor (based on his kit the deceased skipper knew his stuff for sure). Above all it seems that Van de Stadt’s designs deserve their reputation fully, with everything sensible/seaworthy, and nothing that we’d change. (Except for having the water-tank fill from a more obvious place? We literally can’t find that fill-hole anywhere.)

In short, we decided to buy the boat, and we’re completing the paperwork currently. Since we can’t haul the boat to repair the hull here, the main task is to repair the engine. But first we’ll clean out the interior, so making the motor accessible. And before even that, we ought to mend the holes in the rubber dinghy. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be particularly fine. To make the 10-ish metres to the land it must be pumped continually.

And that had better be it for today; somehow we seem to be a bit busy… Here’s hoping that some ‘after’ pictures will soon follow our ‘before’ pictures.


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