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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Our new chart on our not-so-new table

Winter in the south ended outside work for a while, so I finished a less structural boat project lately, one started last winter but discontinued since. This was to draw a chart of the world onto our central wooden table, admittedly not the most essential project aboard Space Oddity. But it’s something which can be done while the snow’s blowing by, if made harder by the short hours of light in the day. And here’s the result finally.

The result: our table
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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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Bible boat: Chilean-built tall ship Victory

Wreck of Williams

Bow of Chilean-built wooden boat Victory

Tied to the Ponton Micalvi, the stranded naval vessel that acts as dock in Puerto Williams, are boats of two varieties, all moored onto one another in rows with the last to arrive outside. There are the charterers, with their trips in the summer to Cape Horn or to Antarctica, and there are the cruisers, stopping for a few months at the tip of South America before they turn north from here. But one yacht’s never left Micalvi in the years we’ve known the place, innermost boat in the innermost row throughout that time, next to Micalvi with six visitors outside. An enormous wooden schooner with the paint lost from her planks long before, adding to her folkloric appearance. To port, the name on the bow was now incomplete. The starboard bow read ‘Victory’.

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Officials and puppies

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.

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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.

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