The tale of a stove

Back in January, I wrote that we were about to buy our then-derelict boat to start our sailing journey. Four months later, the boat’s looking a lot better, though the sailing remains in the future. We’ll be forced to make our first excursion shortly, when our vessel’s import permit expires, which will require that it reenter Chile. So we’ll visit Argentina on the Beagle Channel’s opposite side.

In the meantime, we’ve finished the disassembling/cleaning/reassembling of the interior, removing the water tank to scrub solidified diesel out of the bilge. And Gean’s also started on the electronics, though the last owner’s labelling of the wires in Dutch did hinder him slightly; this was in one of the internet’s absences, so that in the end we had to head over to one of the Dutch boats for some assistance. In terms of the motor, both its alternator and its starter-motor have travelled off to Punta Arenas on the ferry, and following a few months of not-fast repairs we’re told that they’re returning to us currently. Hopefully all will function with no further hassle once they arrive (wouldn’t that be nice?).

A boat's electrical panel
Electrical panel

We’ve been looking for heating since first landing here, looking harder as temperatures dropped steadily. Every house in town has woodsmoke coming out of its chimney, and a number of gardens have disused wood-stoves, weed-covered and rusting away. We saw a small homebuilt job which used a broad metal tube for the body, just the perfect size for our purposes, and its owner and builder sold it for a tenner with surprised pleasure. But we still had to weld in a deck fitting for the chimney, and lacked the machine with which to do so. We couldn’t work without electricity anyway, moored off out here. And our lack of a motor made it difficult to move.

At this moment we re-encountered the crew of a local fuel-transporter anchored in the bay, having already spent a night with them in the town’s sort-of disco in the course of their last stay. The ship’s welder offered to do our chimney on the morning of the next day; he’d depart on the evening of that day. Despite the preparations for the Cape Horn race, we enlisted some people in the project of getting us to the shore; gusts from the mountains caused the two dinghies towing us to struggle, so we ran out some ropes to be hauled the rest of the way. We readied ourselves for the welder by chopping a hole in the ceiling for him to fit the chimney, trusting that he’d indeed arrive.

The crew of the ship appeared the next day, completing the task in a snowstorm with speedy efficiency, and all the while cursing the Ponton Micalvi’s appalling power supply. We then retreated to our moored position before anybody imposed a fee for our brief presence. The surrounding vessels took something of an interest in our stove by this time, bringing various visitors the instant smoke started to rise, one of whom even gave us a gift of chocolate. Another stuck some water on the stove to make mate.

Interior of boat with wood-stove and kettle
Installed wood-stove (and my beer-labels, aren’t they lovely?)

Wood-collecting and wood-chopping have therefore been added to our activities, though at least there are large amounts of free logs in the forests on our starboard side. Our acquaintances at the sailing school which owns the land watched us labour for a week with handsaw and machete, and after this lent us a chainsaw which we took most happily.

With autumn changing to winter, the heater’s now highly necessary. The leaves on the nothofagus trees have turned to rusty, this starting in colder air at the tops of the hillsides, descending on the green in a contrasting reddish stripe. The autumn colour came down to our level some weeks since, and the snow was soon to follow; the hours of sunlight are now dimmer and half as many. The other yachts staying the year round are empty, so it’s only us here.

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