Since we bought our boat going on six months ago, it hasn’t moved from an inlet of the Puerto Williams bay, thanks to engine troubles of which our readers are aware. Or rather it hadn’t until recently. Thankfully we became mobile shortly before the temporary import permit’s expiry, enabling us to fulfil the requirement of re-entering the country. More detail in earlier updates. The standard solution is a visit to Argentina’s Ushuaia, 45 km distant on the Beagle Channel’s other side.
Departures and arrivals are always dominated by official formalities, as anybody who travels on boats is bound to know very well already. On this occasion we had a surprise inspection from the Chilean navy, not a procedure which most need expect in Chile (it was related to the vessel’s having been so long in the country). Perhaps charmed by Gean’s compliments on his medals, one of the commanders came down personally, letting us off lightly. The safety equipment which we’d hastily borrowed from our neighbours was scarcely necessary.
We left in a rare easterly; favourable, though slight only. Despite this fact we motorsailed at the disappointing rate of three-and-a-half knots or so, not helped much by our motor and our non-holed sails being of small size, or by the bottom’s presumably weedy state. Stranded travellers are always after a ride for this particular journey, because of the lack of more formal transport links across to the next-door country; we took two French hitchhikers in memory of our own backpacking days. It was a calm uneventful eight hours approximately, with several of the whale sightings common around here. The wind rose at dark to introduce some dramatics coming alongside.
So here’s how to clear into Ushuaia. First you take yourself to see the Prefectura, who are fond of baggy khaki attire, and pastries and mate, and the completion of forms in triplicate. The use of a photocopier for this last is sometimes suggested but sometimes forbidden entirely. After that it’s Immigration, whose office door is flanked by bold posters which proclaim this the capital of both the Falklands and Antarctica, and who leave their numbers on this door pencilled on pinned shreds of paper while they disappear off home. Lengthy efforts to reach them on the phone are followed by lengthier efforts to then convince them to come. Back across town to the Prefectura, taking them Immigration’s stamp this time, and obtain Prefectura’s stamp to show Customs, whose place is next to Immigration’s place. And back to the Prefectura and done.
Therefore, while we were in Ushuaia for three days, paperwork accounted for two of these. The other we spent shopping for items nonexistent in remoter Puerto Williams, stopping for one of the attractions of Argentina, the ability to purchase most of a cow in a sandwich at a minimal price. Then another uneventful motor back to Chile.
We had a third crew-member waiting in Puerto Williams to move aboard Space Oddity. Zib’s one of seven puppies whom we’d come across outside one of the fishing-port houses one day. Since his mum’s called Laika, we named him for another Russian space-doggy, one of the few others we found pronounceable. Laika’s a German Shepherd – we’ll see about Zib’s full size. We’re far from reassured by her owner’s claims that the father was little… Guess he’ll be good in his guarding role anyway.
Winter had arrived when we returned to Puerto Williams. Now the snow’s often thick on the decks when we wake; at times the semi-fresh water around us is frozen on the surface. A picturesque if cold experience.