Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Galapagos, unique and expensive!

Motu visitor in Galapagos - NOTE:
Wildlife management not very effective!!

We departed Robinson Crusoe Island on Jan. 26, 2018 headed for Mexico non-stop or so thought one half of the crew.  The winds were fairly light at about 6 to 8 knots behind us once we cleared the the beautiful roadstead anchorage.  The seas were another issue since they were running at 2 to 3 meters with a mighty short period.   This, of course, equals slamming and banging.  There is always the tradeoff when ocean voyaging when the winds are enough to sail but the seas toss you around.  The tradeoff being that Mexico was a long ways from Robinson Crusoe so the engine stayed off, but the sailing gear was under stress.

The seas continued to plague us but the wind did pick up and we made sometimes slow progress north and didn't go insane.  The third day proved challenging as the end fitting on the boom pulled out so I climbed up the jungle jim and jury-rigged a line affair with a block for the outhaul.  That was lots of fun in the now three meter seas.  This worked well until the clew pulled out of the main a day later.  We took down the main, hauled out the faithful Sailrite, which Marja thought  wouldn't sew through the clew, but the machine just thumped through the layers of material.  Part of the sun protective stripe on the sail was also coming off so that too was repaired,  and soon the sail was back up, Motu back under full canvas.

Sail repair at sea
Jury-rigged outhaul
It was about then that the Admiral decided we needed to stop in the Galapagos.  Now, the mere Captain of the good ship Motu thought this wasn't a very keen idea due to the costs but Admirals outrank Captains.  Also, the Admiral did have a point, we were headed right through the chain on our way to Mexico.

A big blue-footed Booby!!

You need to have an autographo, which is a PRIOR permission to visit the islands.  Note word "prior".  You must go through an agent.  We used Bolivar Pesantes (Bolivar.pesantes@hotmail.com). He somehow arranged the autographo while we were at sea but no matter which agent you use, you are much better to arrange everything before you leave for sea since you must send them copies of your vessel documentation and passports for all crew.  If you are thinking of going to the Galapagos, Bolivar, will send you a breakdown of all the ridiculous costs----about $1500 for us for visits to three islands, then another $125 in fees along the way (each time you enter and leave an island it is $15, Isabela has a $10/person landing fee, and $25 to immigration to check out in Pro Ayora).  I suspect other agents do the same.  Ecuador uses the US dollar.

The problem with visiting the Galapagos from the officialdom point-of-view is that the rules keep changing.  You cannot simply talk to someone who was previously there by boat and know the current rules or interpretation of the rules.  We fired off some emails via the Iridium to cruising friends to get more information.  Alan Nebauer, our dear Australian friend, who frequently goes through the islands, sent us some information from an agent he uses.  The bottom line is the old scam of the "breakdown" of some piece of gear doesn't allow one to visit a single island at a cheap price.  O yes, you can stop but the repairs will be verified by officials and you will still spend a lot of money on paperwork and end up very restricted in what you can do.

Please note you can only go to "inhabited" islands without paying additional and hefty sums to visit the uninhabited islands with an onboard guide.

Another couple of things of note:  the bottom of your boat must be spotless.  The captain spent two days cleaning the bottom in 1700 to 1800 feet of water  (how I dream of having a hookah setup). Secondly, you need to pay the $120 for the fumigation since there was a scam going on in Panama where yachts could get the certificate for $50.  That was included in our $1500 initial fee.

Captain cleaning the bottom - Admiral on shark watch
Entering Wreck Bay
Arrived at bottom cleaning spot on day 23 out of Juan Fernandez on Feb. 17th, and  entered Wreck Bay, San Cristobal on Feb. 18th.

Concerning fuel, it was excellent and 72 cents a liter.  I suspect fuel prices are all over the place depending upon when you are there. Fuel is delivered via panga.  Propane was $35 for a US five gallon 20 lb tank,  We did all shore trips via the water taxi for about $1 each way per person.  The exception was Isabela Island, where the cost is about double.

Here is what we found on the three islands we visited:

We made landfall on San Cristobal.  Sailing in there was quite an experience since we saw what we first thought could be an uncharted reef, that was in fact hundreds of sea turtles.  Never seen anything like it.

all together now! - Seal, Iguanas, Sally Lightfoot Crab

San Cristobal  (Wreck Bay or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno) is a busy place, anchorage wise, but of course, it didn't help to have an ARC Rally armada in the anchorage when we arrived.  This island has some lovely walks one can take.  (Please note---any kind of an excursion is very expensive so everything we did on the islands involved taking no tours).  We enjoyed going to Interpretation Center and taking nice walks from there to several beautiful view spots and a good look at the desert terrain alongside crystal clear blue water.  It did rain like crazy.  We also walked to La Loberia, with lots of surfers but few lobos.  Once again, we got drenched on trip back with rain pouring along the streets like rivers.  Guiseppe Pizza was fun.

Cerro Tijeretas view

Sleeping on the benches, everywhere

San Cristobal is also the sea lion capital of the world---there are seals everywhere, and we mean everywhere!  The marine iguanas look like something out of a mad max movie and the sally lightfoot crabs create a colorful backdrop.  The seals are a very good reason why to use the water taxis.

Mom, wait, I'm hungry!!
Protected anchorage behind lava islets 

We next went to Isabela Island, which was our favorite of the three.  The main town and anchorage is at Puerto Villamil.  If you are careful, you can work your way in past the metal moorings (not yacht friendly) and find a good anchorage behind the volcanic rocky islets of the Tintoreras.  Do NOT try to get too far into the bay if you do not know where the rock reefs are located.  Visibility was very good and we could see the reefs and dropped the anchor in about 15 feet, sand.
Nursery for baby land tortoises

Walking with the Tortugas

Pretty scary dude
Old soul

Once again we grabbed the Keens and took some great walks out of town along marshes with pink flamingos and finally on to a turtle breeding spot. There is another site worth visiting to see the big land turtles in the wild, called the Lagrimas Wall of Tears (built by prisoners in the penal colony as a make work project (1945 to 1959).  Many died.  The road is called the Camino de Tortguas.  The turtles are everywhere. Do not make the mistake we did and walk there from town.  Rent a bike.  A couple of boats took the tour to the Volcano and enjoyed it, and also took the Tunnels Tour, which most found disappointing since at that time there was large surf and access to these volcanic rock tunnels was limited, but they had paid so had to go.  Yachties are not allowed to swim, row, whatever from their boats to the Tintoreras, which we were anchored behind.  That also is a tour and you have to pay to do that.  Saw boobies on the islets.

After a lovely week at Isabela, we set off for the about 48 mile trip to Santa Cruz, going east again!  About half way there a wind kicked up a little chop, had to motorsail and got into Puerto Ayora, known as Academy Bay, in the afternoon.  Some ARC boats were still there.  Wind was blowing right into the anchorage making it a bit lumpy bumpy.   No vessels around us had stern hooks set so we went with the flow.  Our agent's representative came out and checked us in (another $15) and we arranged to have fuel jugs and propane bottle picked up.  Pto Ayora is in a beautiful setting, but the anchorage can get pretty wild if wind from E/SE/S .  Had one of those days, remainder not too bad.

Las Grietas

We loved taking the water taxi over to the drop off for Finch Bay/Angermayer Water Front Inn, and walked along the Playa de los Alemanes to the Las Grietas,  which are fissures in the lava rock forming two giant arms towering over a magnificent pool of very clear water that runs into the sea.  Great swimming and snorkeling spot .  But a very hot walk.  It was beginning to get hotter and hotter in the Galapagos, which made some of the hikes a challenge.  The town of Pto Ayora is very nice, with some great restaurants and coffee shops, and the Darwin Research Station there is definitely worth a visit.  For those who like Farmer's Markets, don't miss the one on Saturday Morning, not located in the daily Municipal Market area but further east on Isla Duncan Road.  It was fantastic.  And also not to be missed is the Fish Market right in the harbor, where pelicans and seals compete with humans for the wonderful tuna and wahoo.  Our last big hike we took was to Tortuga Bay.  The Bay is a large white sand beach, with a protected swimming hole at the far west end.  Lots of birds and sea turtles in this area.

I'll have some of that tuna, please.

Tortuga Bay

Definitely worth visiting this amazing, scenic, historic, environmentally important - and challenged - place in the world.  However, if on a tight budget, you might think twice.

March 13, 2018 anchor up and underway.  Here we come Mexico!!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Robinson Crusoe Island

Robinson Crusoe Island
March 11, 2018
Leaving Valdivia

This is the first attempt to add to our blog, Sailing Aboard Schooner Motu, for some months. One of the many joys of cruising, (we will forego a discussion of the less joyful moments at this time), is being away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in so many parts of the world.  Unfortunately, Marja and I cannot escape the calling of the internet, and wanting to connect with family and friends, which is another joy, but not so joyous when using internet in many places.

When we were a lot younger, we did a seven and half year circumnavigation on a Cal 2-27 sailboat.  This was in the era when everything was done without electronics, let alone the Internet.  We could go months before aerograms were sent and received (sometimes never).

The lack of good Internet is our excuse for lack of recent blogs and we’re sticking with it.

Anyhow,  we decided some months ago while in Valdivia, Chile, that we would return to the United States for this coming summer (in Northern Hemisphere).  One important reason was Marja’s 90 year old Mom and also we would like to replace some gear on Motu without having to pay a minimum of double in import fees.

We had big discussions about the best way to get to Southern California from Southern Chile.  We were tempted by going to the Gambiers, the Marquesas, Hawaii and finally Southern Cal.  but alas, this is really a lot of miles.  This route would be the one for going to the Pacific Northwest or Alaska.

We decided that Valdivia, Robinson Crusoe Island, Galapagos, Mexico and San Diego would work, even though we hate that beat up the Baja coast.

The Wedding

Before making the jump, however, we took a little side trip - via Boeing - to attend the wedding of a very dear friend, Annie Nebauer, in Australia.  Annie is more a family member than a friend, as is her whole family, so off we went with a quick stop in New Zealand to visit more wonderful friends in Auckland area, and then to Sydney and ultimately Jervis Bay for the fantastic Annie and Kenny Saether wedding.

After a horrible return trip we won’t go into, we finally left Valdivia the 16th of January for Robinson Crusoe (Juan Fernandez) and had a rather unpleasant trip.

First we had 3 meter seas and too little wind and then 3 meter seas with a lot of wind, albeit, behind us.  We arrived in Cumberland Bay, which is an open roadstead, with bullets coming off the mountains and our engine overheating  (bad thermostat) as we tried to get into the anchorage. We zigged  and we zagged  for several hours because if we had enough sail up to make progress, we would nearly get knocked down.  We finally called the Armada, who runs the harbor, and told them we were going to continue onto Mexico.  The Navy didn’t like that idea and sent a small patrol craft with huge engines to tow us to a mooring.  This proved once again to us that the Chilean Navy is a model of what every world Navy should be.  They confirmed that it is impossible to sail into the bay under these conditions.  In fact we waited a day to go ashore for final check in because the gusts were so strong, and our 2 HP Yamaha might not have been up to the task!

Robinson Crusoe Island is a fascinating place with a challenging anchorage.  It was here Alexander Selkirk chose to get off his sailing ship in a dispute with the captain and ended up being the inspiration to Daniel Defoe for Robinson Crusoe. The island was used by privateers and pirates as place to hid out, get water, and goats.   It was also here that the WWI sea battle took place between the German Cruiser Dresden and the British combatants Glasgow and Orama.  You can still see the projectiles stuck in the cliffs from the sea battle.  The Dresden was scuttled by her crew and sits in deep water (I think 50 to 60 meters) in Cumberland Bay.

Motu, French vessel Wallis and US vessel
Mar de Luz at Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe, and two nearby islands, are the only places in Chile with lobsters—big lobsters.  Unfortunately, we decided to wait for lobster until we get to Mexico since $33 a lobster seemed a bit pricy to us.

Projectile in the cliffs from WWI Sea Battle
Monument to Dresden in Cemetery

The town of San Juan Bautista is a charming place and with a number of surprisingly good restaurants and nice beer, in spite of having few tourists.  The island is mostly a national park so there are good walks.  We took the hike to the look out used by Selkirk to check for potential and British sailing vessels so he could get off the island.  The hike just about killed us but then again, Marja and I hadn’t been running around the island chasing goats for dinner.  This would have to get you in great shape.

After a week at the Island, with some days williwaws or rachas, as they call them in Chile, sweeping down into the anchorage at 30-40 knots, then several days of little wind, but rolling what felt like gunnel to gunnel, we decided it was time to head north.

Hiking to Selkirk Mirador
Hiking companion

There was great discussion and disagreement among the crew as to destination.  There was no plan to stop in the Galapagos, our Zarpe said Mexico.  Next installment takes us to the land of giant tortugas, scary looking marine iguanas, cute, curious, and playful fur seals, and of course the blue footed booby.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Back to Valdivia----the hard way

20 June 2017
Valdivia, Chile  (S39 50.953 W073 19.077)

Moon over Valdivia River

Our previous blog mentioned how we got stuck in Chiloe at Quinched Marina, about 200 miles from our final destination to put  Motu to bed for the southern winter at the Alwoplast boatyard in Valdivia.  That is where we spent last winter.  The area is considered one of best or perhaps the best place to leave a boat if planning to do some travel on land in the winter months.  Other favorites are Puerto Montt a rather large city located somewhat near the location for exiting the protected channels before heading into the Pacific.  The third location is Puerto Williams at the extreme end of southern Chile in Tierra del Fuego.

In our opinion, Puerto Williams is way too far south to spend the winter and has this white stuff that floats down and makes us long for the tropics.

Club Nautico in a very tranquil Pto. Montt

Pto Williams - too cold for us! (Heart 'N Soul photo)

There is nothing wrong with Puerto Montt and it is probably the most popular choice among cruisers and the only place in southern Chile where it is fairly easy to haul out a boat and leave on the hard,   but we much prefer the university city of Valdivia with its good restaurants, nice walks, and student atmosphere.  The temperatures require the diesel heater to be on  some hours of the day but the rain---there is lots of it--- defines the area in winter.  Think Seattle.

Patience is everything when it comes to weather but our patience really got tried as it took about 19 days for a break from the almost constant northers for heading the final leg to Valdivia.  The first issue is that the final 120 miles to Valdivia is out in the open ocean with a very inhospitable coast.  The second is the notorious Chacao Channel with its swift currents of eight knots plus.

The night before leaving to enter the Chacao Channel we dropped the hook in a big bay called Caleta Manao  about three miles from the eastern entrance of the natural canal.  We left at  1130 to catch the ebb current as it started flowing out to make the 12 plus or minus miles toward the entrance to the Pacific Ocean and leaving the last protected channels of Chile.  (When heading south, you are pretty much, with some exceptions, inside channels that can take you all the way to Puerto Williams in the far south.) The good news is that while you go out in the ocean to points north or northwest,  you are climbing in latitude.  Valdivia is just out of the "Roaring Forties."

The ride out the infamous Chacao Channel was fast with dear old Motu going between eight knots and 12 knots.  In other words, we were getting up to six or seven knots of current.

There is a short cut that is used by local yachts, called Paso Chocoi, that allows you to exit the canal and stay in relatively protected waters to make some northing before going out into the Pacific as opposed to heading straight out the channel into rough seas beyond the lighthouse Punta Corona and an anchorage near the lighthouse called Puerto Ingles.

Not stopping at this anchorage proved to be a mistake that added a little excitement to our exit.  We entered Paso Chocoi and noticed that it was rather rough but certainly not alarmingly so.  The big surprise we got was that  the further we went north, the rougher it got.  We banged and crashed our way through the turbulence, feeling a little stupid about not going first to the lighthouse anchorage and waiting for the current to abate, but soon we were out in the Pacific heading north.  We initially had some nice wind but soon we were doing our all too usual motor-sailing.

We proceeded through the afternoon and then night with light conditions and continually dropping seas.  The morning was lovely but with only about six knots of wind.  We were heading right for the river entrance at Valdivia and suddenly  BANG AND CRASH!  We hit something with the prop and the vibration was terrible above 1100 rpm.  At this point we were 42 miles from the nearest anchorage and we were making about 2 knots under sail.  We kept thinking this is going to get interesting when the current runs out from the river system upon which Valdivia is located.  It did.

We've traded penguins for pelicans!

Capt. Steve's Birthday

Our 0800 morning arrival turned into 2030 at night and we entered a commercial harbor, called Corral,  under radar and dropped the hook.  The final chapter of that passage may turn out okay as we discovered that once we tied to the dock at Alwolpast, whatever caused the prop problem disappeared in the current.  We suspect we picked up a heavy plastic bag of the type used by fishermen here or a polyprop rope.  The GoPro showed no damage to prop but we will know more when we haul the boat next spring.  Now work has begun to prepare the boat for her winter stay.

Stephen cleaning the bundle on the Beta
Heat Exchanger

Motu is snug in her slip, the rain has arrived, and we are getting ready for a glass of Carmenere wine with our very dear friends from Erowal Bay, Australia, Alan and Cindy Nebauer.   All is good in Valdivia, Chile.

Stephen, Marja, Cindy and Alan with Vulcan Osorno behind us. 

Ah, Chilean wine

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Always the Weather

Sunrise in the Gulf of Ancud

April 25, 2017

As the saying goes, "bad weather rules" in Southern Chile,  and  once again we have found this to be the case.  We mentioned in the last blog that we have had almost incredibly good weather for the motor-sail from the Cabo de Hornos area to Marina Quinched, Chiloe,  which is about 180  miles from our winter destination of Alwoplast Boatyard outside of Valdivia.  How things change.

We've been here a week now and have been able to take advantage of the off-season rates at this nice little Chilean marina located on Chiloe Island, near the city of Castro.  Unfortunately, the weather has been terrible for going to Valdivia.  We appear to be in the near center of a big high which funnels the winds of depressions sweeping across the Pacific from the west.  The boat is quite secure here but the wind can howl.

We need just a two day weather window to be able to get through the infamous Chacao Canal where the currents can run around eight knots and create huge seas if  wind is against the current.  Big ships respect this canal.  We then need a further 24 hours to go the 120 n miles out in the Pacific up to river system of Valdivia.

The area is really our first re-introduction to "civilization" since the small town of Puerto Williams or perhaps the villages of Puerto Eden and Aguirre.  Castro has people, hotels, restaurants, super-markets and of great importance, hardware stores.  We mention the latter since yesterday the welds broke on the dinghy davits and the whole contraption including antennas, lights, solar panels, and, of course, the dinghy almost ended up in the drink.  Of course, if we had to have this failure, we are more than pleased it occurred here at the dock, near a big city.

Tomorrow we will walk 5 km down the country road from the marina and then take the bus into Castro,  where we will hunt down stainless u-bolts as a quick fix for where the welds failed.  When we get to Valdivia, we will look at a more permanent and stronger fix.

We understand why people say cruising is being able to work on your boat in exotic places.

People who read the blog mention they want more pictures of Southern Chile so here goes:

Poor Stephen after tiny biting flies attacked his
eyes and face while taking lines ashore

Solution to bug problem . . . BUGMAN!

Feel like the only people on Earth

A beautiful hiking day in Southern Chile

Caleta Pindo
The lovely little village of Chonchi and the many
types of Chiloe shingles

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Heading North

Leaving Pto Williams March 9, 2017
While it can be safely argued that going down the Patagonia Channels is no laid back sail, going north is another matter completely.   Usually! This is because you normally have wind on the nose and a lot more wind than you need or want. Patience and lots of diesel fuel are your best friends if you want to go north, in our case, back to Valdivia, at about 40 degrees S.

We got a nice weather break in early March that allowed us leave Puerto Williams, about 100 miles from Cape Horn, and go down further south and around Cape Horn.  We arrived back at the Micalvi, the old Chilean munitions carrier, that serves as a "yacht club" to get settled in for another blow.

Anchorage at Coloane, off the Brazo Sudoeste.  Eventually had  seven lines out for the blow! 


Our philosophy for the return journey was based upon watching the fall weather both last year while we were in Valdivia preparing to go south and reading some blogs.  While the old Patagonia hands will recommend that you make the north  trip in the winter because, baring storms, you have a lot less wind since it is cold and you don't have the temperature differentials that cause "rachas" or williwaws  that can scream off the mountains that often are on either side of the channels.

Stephen was born and raised in California and Marja was born in Texas and raised there and later in Phoenix.  In other words, we were not looking forward to winter temperatures and short daylight periods while going north.

We saw last year that the weather often had periods of high pressure systems settling over large areas of Patagonia in late February, March, and even into April.  The OCC boat,  Joyant, with Tom and Dorothy Wadlow, aboard ,went north two years ago at this time and made it to Valdivia in a month.
We decided to give it a try.  We said our good-byes to our friends David and Margaret on "Heart and Soul" and Dominique and Carole on "Hippos Camp" who had elected to leave their boats in Puerto Williams for the winter.  Burr! Our intrepid young friends, Max and Laura on "Tortuga",  went to the Falklands (rough trip).

Bundled up in THE COAT.  

We got our weather window on March 9th and proceeded north under a beautiful high pressure that allowed us to motorsail 600 nautical miles north as far as Pto Eden at S 49 08 arriving on March 31st.

Atracadero before the NE blow and anchor drag.

Steamer Ducks of Atracadero (flightless birds that use their wings like paddlewheels!)

Our Anchorage buddies at Atracadero

Now in the interests of full disclosure, we did have to sit out some strong winds for a short period, and had two nasty little encounters.  The first occurred in Atracadero.   Took a great hike in the mountains behind the boat, photographed the goofy steamer ducks, and just after returning to Motu for a cup of tea, a strong Northeasterly caused the anchor to drag due to a huge ball of kelp and some old fisherman's foul weather gear, all wrapped nicely around the anchor!  Extracted ourselves from that mess, got away from the rocks, reanchored and sat out the westerly blow the next day with up to five fishing boats all rafted together off our starboard stern by a little islet.

The bad bow line that flipped off the rock in Pto Riemann - don't know why?!?!

The next fiasco was in Puerto Niemann when a line we had tied to rocks off our port  bow pulled out.  Other than elevated heart rates and a little scratch in the boot-top when a racha blew Motu onto a rock wall, only our pride was damaged.  We also had a rather unpleasant experience crossing the Straits of Magellans with a hat full of wind.

Beautiful and dramatic Bahia Wodsworth, on the Magellan

HUGE waterfall behind the boat at Bahia Wodsworth

Now we are anchored at Puerto Eden and it is blowing out of the north.  We are hoping to continue north tomorrow and are waiting for our old friend, the HIGH, to return.

Gorgeous weather on Canal Sarmiento

Massive ice blocking entrance to Seno Penguin - in the fall can  even block main channel, Canal Wide

Back at Pto. Eden, in sun!!