Red Light

A Monday afternoon, early evening; the pause after work and before the party (there are many parties here). Tonight we celebrate because our friend Jean is leaving, heading south through the channels of Patagonia, towards his home in Puerto Williams. We like to say that this, Puerto Montt, is southern Chile, but it’s the banana belt compared to Williams. ‘Puerto Williams’ evokes memories of glaciers pouring out of mountain valleys, a small frontier town with dogs and horses on every corner, and a tiny bar that served us the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever tasted. Partly the warm drink and friendly welcome, mostly the transition from outside: cold cold windy and cold.

We celebrate becuase Jean is leaving. A week ago was a party to celebrate the departure of Francis and Christine. She was fantastic, elements of Mrs Pepperpot, elements of Ellen Macarthur. Strong, small, twinkly eyed, had sailed across the Atlantic with just her teenage son several years ago. When she and Francis met, they both had several sailing years, and boats, behind them. One marina woman definitely not fulfilling the couple stereotypes. She spoke no word of English or I French, so we communicated initially through sign language and mutually non-existent spanish. By the time they left our spanish had improved only slightly and my fondness for her had rocketed. Truth be told we only chatted a handful of times but I was a little sad to see them go. On the whole though everyone here is happy to say goodbyes. Makes a nice change.

Many of the yachties here are French with representation also from the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, UK, Sweden, Finland, Canada, the US, and, earlier in the year, Germany. The lingua franca roams between english, spanish, french, and whatever combination of words those in the conversation feel like throwing in. It’s not uncommon to hear people speaking and responding in entirely different languages. I used to speak reasonable German, at least enough to be understood in most situations, but now whenever I seek for German sentences bad spanish pops out instead. And so we muddle on.

Today has been rainy. We’ve seen a lot of rain here. Two days ago it was hailing. By that afternoon the clouds parted to reveal three stunning snowcapped volcanoes and a setting sun over the Pacific. The next day was yet again ming. But we are told that summer is coming, and that when it does arrive we shall rejoice. Not only that, but el nino is also coming. To the waters across which we hope to sail early next year. I’m not really sure of the implications of that at this stage but we’re keeping our ears tuned to the salty seafarers wisdom while also learning where to look for latest predictions from met services online. I have great respect for both sources.

Today was a pottering sort of day and as such we got lots done. Bought electrical and plumbing odds and sods in town, pulled a rag out of a tube it had got lodged in, secured cables, reorganised batteries, fired off emails and made skype calls to source good liferafts and software for the satellite phone, and generally took note of what will be done this week. In the afternoon Andy was called off to help a friend move a boat and I got Zeph to myself. We had a lovely time. I wired in a 12V cigarette charger (for charging computers, not lighting cigarettes) and a red light. Both took longer than they should have, but I enjoyed the process. The cigarette lighter twirled around and around in the hole we had made for it so I had to bodge a washer out of a floor mat that was first too large and then too small and then just right (the washer, not the mat).

The design of those 12V sockets really is stupid; I would even argue redundant and dangerous. Exactly finger size, and especially interesting to small and curious fingers. And I know no-one who uses them to light cigarettes any more,- even those few friends I have who drive and smoke at the same time use a lighter. But lots of us use the 12V socket for powering mp3 players, cool boxes, computers and mobile phones. So why not design a more sensible socket for that purpose and fit those in cars and boats instead? Consider it technological progress.

The red light was particularly satisfying because it was a complete process from start to end. I had to wire the bulb holder, attach the switch, solder them all together, crimp the other ends, cut out the relevant bit of cable running through the boat and choose the right wires (blue and green, not brown), put it all together, screw it to the ceiling, and even managed to tidy up before Andy got back. When he asked ‘what did you do today?’, I wondered over to the front of the boat, fiddled for a switch (not ideally located), and on came a red light. Made us both laugh. Not, perhaps, the most important step forward for our Pacific plans but you know, every little thing …

Unfortunately for Andy it seems I’ve re-discovered an interest in simple electricity. If he’s not careful we’ll have a boat full of redundant switches and flashing lightbulbs for every day I’m bored at sea. Now there’s a threat….

One thought on “Red Light

Comments are closed.