December 23rd, 2009, Puerto Montt:
Rain is hammering down outside. Again. The water tank leaked. Again. The person who was meant to help us didn't show up. Again. The rain really is hammering down outside; I've never seen anything quite like it. This town, without doubt, has the worst weather I have ever experienced. Rain falls such that the entire sky fills with gray. It's almost monsoonal, but without the heat. I recently complained to a friend that it hadn't stopped raining "all week". He jumped to the defence of his hometown,- only on Tuesday had it rained all day he said: on all other days there had at least been a ten minute break for breath.
Andy arrived here in January, I arrived at the end of April, just as winter was ending in the UK and settling in here. Since that time we have been working almost continuously on the boat. From March until September she was 'on the hard' and gutted entirely. Everything on the outside was removed, down to the last cleat and fitting. And the same on the inside as well. The kitchen, the bathroom, even the tiles in the bathroom and an entire wall, the beds, the seats… they all got ripped out. And then the real excavation began. Under the forepeak, the batteries, the great lumps of lead that were discovered up front presumably to balance the weight of the engine, the engine, the instruments, all the valves that connect inside with outside, all the electrical wiring and plumbing, it was all taken out. And then came the slow and painful process of putting it back together again. In each case discovering new problems, struggling with buying or importing the necessary parts, learning the relevant spanish, and becoming accustomed to the local culture in order to cope with endless mananas and the local work ethic, or lack of.
It's been a slog and promises of a beautiful Pacific cruise remain like the proverbial carrot, always dangling sometime in the future.
A couple of weeks ago we went for our first sail and only then did I start to fathom just how much was taken out, and how much was put back on again. The big things would be obvious to many: the mast, boom, reefing points on the boom, sails, ropes, cleats, runners, liferaft, rudder, radar, navigation lights, and a load of things I don't even know the name of. But also every fitting, screw, instrument, light, cushion, cooking pot, tool, book, and picture has been deliberately added back to the boat's complement. So it was really a magnificent moment when she sailed, and she sailed well.
When I first arrived Andy already knew the boat inside out and had basic conversational spanish. I had neither, and felt like a spare wheel for several months. Last week Andy went away and I thought I'd remember what it was like to achieve something for a change. I decided to tackle one of the more looming jobs in his absence: replacing the water tanks. The details are tedious but essentially we have two 200L tanks under the floor, built into the hull, that leaked. There were a number of solutions ranging from filling 200 2L coke bottles to ripping out the entire floor and commissioning new tanks out of stainless steel. I opted for something that I thought was middle ground: ripping up only half the floor and commissioning one 100L plastic tank to fill the available space. The whole thing was meant to take 3 days. Over a week later, it is still an on-going saga. Andy returned to a 5 foot long hole in the floor partially occupied by a plastic tank that ruptured upon filling. By the time we leave we'll have a sound solution, but it's given me a lot of insight into how hard everything has been here, and why it's taken so long.
We are now at the point that most cruisers who have been hiding here for the winter were at when they arrived: we have a functional, sail-able, vessel with a few problems that need fixing. We also need to move ourselves and our stuff on board completely, provision the boat for several months, and, oh yeah, I need to learn to sail. The boat has to leave Chile at the end of Jan which, from here, means a long journey whether you go south, north, or west. I therefore look forward to several miracles occurring in the next month and reporting to you when we are finally out in the Big Blue Wet Stuff.
December 26th, 2009:
It's Boxing Day, and we're gone. On Christmas Eve we packed up the last of our gear, cleaned out of the cabana we have been renting, cleaned off the jetty we have been piling crap onto, and filled up with food and fuel. On Christmas Day, at 1pm, we pulled out of the marina and headed west. The weather was pretty foul: rain and wind, lots of both, but at least wind was one of the two. And we were on the go. Three friends joined us to celebrate the festive moment, as well as a pod of about 40 dolphins, interweaving our bow, surfing on the waves we produced. Pretty magical all told, despite the british weather. A couple of hours of powerful sailing followed by several more hours of eating and drinking. One of our guests was a musician so the night ended with the guitar being undug from our pile of stuff shortly before Andy rowed two of them ashore in the pouring rain to catch a bus back to The Muntt.
The boat sailed. She sailed beautifully. Boggles my mind really, what's been happening, and where we're going next…. but most importantly, she sailed, and she has a happy crew. Today we sailed a further 25 miles to a sweet spot guided by our remaining companion. For the next week or two we'll be exploring waters around the island of Chiloe, fixing things, sorting through stuff, learning our way around inside and out, and settling into the concept that next time we leave this rainy town that has become or home, we hope to not be returning for a long while.