In the Beagle

Space Oddity leaving for the Beagle in mid-January, from which we returned at end of January. Once our paperwork problems were sorted to some extent, we headed off towards the Horn and did trials of our windvane, though didn’t reach the Horn this time. We’re now back in Williams to make alterations to the windvane.

We’ll be leaving once more shortly, going to the glaciers which we’d like to visit again while still in Chile, before we depart completely. Hopefully the windvane works by that time…

Wind, waves, and PAPERWORK: welcome to sailing life…

There’s one bit of boat life I’ve seldom discussed on this site, but it is a biggish part of the life; sooo much bureaucracy. To provide a picture closer to accurate, I’ll recount our current problems for once…

As those who’ve travelled by boat beyond their own borders will know already, check-in involves at least both an immigration authority and a customs authority, this second department dealing with the import/export of property. Customs supply some sort of permit so the yacht can stay unimported in the country (under laws aimed at all vehicles, thus at cars, usually). Here in Chile this lasts a year with one more year available after that routinely, and extra extensions allowed rarely. After this the boat’s confiscated unless it leaves the country (once it leaves it can come back immediately). Chile’s rules are pretty standard really.

Wishing boat life was like this all the time…
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Sailing in the glaciers: Space Oddity’s first journey

After so much time in Williams, and after much work on Space Oddity, we started the year by taking the boat on what was (for us) her first long sailing journey. The famous Canal Beagle or Beagle Channel cuts through Patagonia slightly above South America’s most southern cape (the Horn of course). In fact it consists of two forking channels which have a landmass of reasonable size, Isla Gordon, in the middle. In the course of a month we ascended one arm and descended the other arm and went round Isla Gordon in this way.

Chart of Canal Beagle
Credits for this useful illustration to the Chilean navy actually, as it’s the permission they issued us for the journey
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On the move (finally!)

Another year’s start, soon to be followed, on the 6th of January, by a second anniversary of our coming to Williams to buy Space Oddity. It looks like by chance this may also be the date, tomorrow or the day after anyway, of our leaving the world’s southernmost city. We’ll be spending a month or two sailing in the Beagle nearby initially. We’ll be back to Williams before we leave wholly.

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About our masts: it’s varnishing time

Our boat, in fact, has masts, in spite of the impression some might have been getting lately. It has two wooden masts (but it’s a yawl, so that’s one and a half, really). We lowered them to varnish them, six months back, and hold-ups happened and snows came. This was a problem in that varnish doesn’t set in such low temperatures. So we were mastless through the wintertime (we’d likely have been stuck here anyway). Did reduce the wind-in-the-rigging noise.

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Boatwork in quarantine

When we bought Space Oddity we had plans to sail to Brazil and then haul the boat there, somewhere better equipped than here in the remote south of Chile; but it became clear we’d have to do something about the weeds on the bottom anyway, or we wouldn’t be travelling too speedily. We decided to haul in Puerto Williams eventually; then the start of lockdown shut down such ideas for a while. We were able to haul in late April, once restrictions had relaxed partially. This left the last of the early-autumn sunny days, after which the weather turned wintry.

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Yachts in quarantine

The news of the Covid-19 disease, and then the first cases of the disease, seemed to reach South America somewhat behind Europe or North America. UK friends were filling Facebook with coronavirus memes before we could appreciate these fully, and Brazil’s president’s supporters still suspect the communists of inventing the whole story, even after the US president has reluctantly started to advise that everybody stay inside. Here in Chile, as perhaps in other places, the news and the first cases formed a start from which the rest escalated rapidly. One day the neighbour’s saying it sounds like it’s only some sort of a cold really, the next he’s shouting through a mask from two metres away.

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New year, new pets, same place…

Hatch of boat with Gean and Xoe

With the start of 2020, our arrival in the Cape Horn province, which was I think 6th of January, is now a year behind us already. We weren’t planning on spending so long here, but as we bought a rather dilapidated boat in a rather distant place, a lot of delay was always likely. Gean has some work restoring another yacht locally, so raising some rather necessary money. But of course repairs to our own boat have decreased in the meantime. Still the area’s a scenic one, if sometimes limited and chilly. Not bad till we can be off on our journey.

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Repairs to the puppy

It doesn’t seem so long since we last left for Argentina, at the start of winter, our first trip in our semi-repaired Space Oddity. Three months later, when the frosts were thinning and the snows were falling less frequently, the same visa-related reasons compelled us to repeat the journey. Which was a problem for our ever-expanding German Shepherd crossbreed Zibby, whom we’d adopted after the first trip as a six-week-old puppy. Without his vaccines he’d be unable to leave his homeland of Chile, and he hadn’t had them due to an unforeseen difficulty. The ordering of parcels to Puerto Williams, one of the planet’s remotest places, is an exercise in optimism or at least in patience. And this applied to the vaccines as much as anything else, awaited by vets since Zibby was a baby. These still hadn’t appeared on the day of our departure.

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