Before Space Oddity
Gean’s from Brazil, and Xoe Joanna’s from the UK; we were married in 2018 in Chile. We’d come mainly to visit Xoe’s family, longstanding sailors then cruising the South American coastline, and we weren’t planning a wedding initially. But it wasn’t easy for either of us to marry a non-citizen in our own country, and we found it was far easier to be married in Chile. We invited all our local acquaintances at short notice. Three months later, we travelled south to do a boat delivery; we were without our own vessel back at the time. It would be a lucky decision to do this delivery.
We left Valdivia, where we’d had the ceremony (a lively riverside city, and famous for its craft-beers excellence). Arriving via coach in Puerto Natales, we set off down the uninhabited channels perforating Chilean Patagonia. After a month amidst the glaciated summits and glacier-smoothed valleys, we traversed the Beagle Channel to reach Puerto Williams on the Atlantic side. This small town is the world’s southernmost one.
We noticed an abandoned boat moored in the bay; being told it might be for sale, we emailed the owners briefly. We continued with our journey.
Our destination was Brazil (Xoe still hadn’t met Gean’s family). We hitch-hiked thousands of miles through South America, crisscrossing the Andes continually along the way. We waited days by endless roads in Argentina’s steppes, and camped on the shores of the numerous lakes of Chile. And we made friends all through this adventure.
When we’d been six months in Brazil already, we were asked to buy the boat now behind us by such a distance; no more would our little tent be our only home.
As we motored into Puerto Williams following our four-week delivery, Gean looked around at the different vessels there. Some were familiar from his earlier visits, but one he’d seen elsewhere. He’d met its Belgian skipper in Argentina previously.
Recalling this, Gean said: ‘What’s happened to it since?’ The boat was in a dented and derelict state.
We soon discovered that the yacht had been beached, a year before, in an isolated caleta nearby. A rope trapped around the propeller had disabled the engine, a common occurrence. On snapping its anchor chain in a storm while sheltering, the boat was washed ashore and was stuck for a week, being pulled off by a passing charter craft finally. And then came the sadder end to these sad events; it happened that the owner died subsequently. His boat had become his relatives’ property.
This was the yacht we’d buy eventually, a steel yawl by Van de Stadt, built in the seventies. Its likely future was to be claimed by the navy when its papers expired shortly. We bought it from the skipper’s relatives before this could take place.
We called the boat after a Bowie tune, Space Oddity.
When living in Puerto Williams following our purchase, we came across some unwanted puppies under a house. Though hesitant at their German Shepherd mother’s substantial size, we brought one back to our small boat to grow into a guard-doggy. The mother was known as Laika for the first animal in space, so her son’s named Zibby for another Soviet space-puppy. We hoped that their father had been of less than the mother’s size. Which doesn’t appear to have been the case…
Zibby likes food, sticks, food, cuddles, and food, especially lettuce. And biting intruders, of course. We hope.
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