Thursday, 30 March 2017

Time in port

sunset view from our cockpit
Underwater scene - New Zealand
Late-blooming in Valdivia
A boat on the outside wall
We have now been in Valdivia for just over two weeks. We feel very fortunate to have been allowed to secure Traversay III at one of the outer dock spaces in the marina (there are only three such spaces available). This is where we tied up 10 years ago when we stayed here because with our relatively deep draft, we would be aground at low tide in the inner docks. The marina doesn't allow rafting out (being tied to another boat which is adjacent to the dock) in the winter.  It is still Autumn - and many roses and flowers are still blooming. Until our final space becomes available we're tied to a fine neighbour-Eduardo- whose boat is a sister-ship of the renowned ship 'Wanderer IV'. She is steel - as we are - so the chance of damage between us during contrary winds and currents along the river is remote. The large Motor Launch currently occupying what will become our final location is waiting to have generator repairs completed before cruising back up towards North America.

Gymnastics in the cockpit
We've been busy. No longer walking with a cane, I'm having some physio sessions for my injured 'rodilla' (knee).  I need to overcome what happened in New Zealand when I rather stupidly tried to get out of the cold water and climb up the skinny boat ladder wearing many pounds of lead dive weights to counteract my own weight and the buoyancy of the drysuit. We did get some nice photos, though!
sea-lions and pelicans at the fish market

defensive tower

Valdivia building

Niebla Castillo from the sea
The most exciting event for us has been the arrival of our grand-daughter for a 2-month stay. She's 11 and lots of fun and brings sheer joy and brightness to our lives. Everyone here is amazed that she would attempt the 10-hr flight from Toronto on her own (although we did pay for the Unaccompanied Service of Air Canada). They do not realize that her mother waited until her plane had t
aken off, and that I was in Santiago to meet the flight. The more amazing fact was that she then undertook a 10-hr overnight bus trip down to Valdivia with me - and still had the energy to eat a 3-decker chocolate coated ice cream in Santiago before we left (the 3 flavours were bubble gum, vanilla and chocolate!) Perhaps we need to start a new dietary program as insted of getting progressively more tired (I'm exhausted by 8pm) she seems to get a second wind at 10pm. We both help with school in the morning (Larry with math and French) and I with English, reading and violin. Then we can set off to do (mostly domestic tasks - which seem to be a major part of being in foreign ports) or to see some interesting features of the city. She's been to the local fish market (not just fish but also sea lions and pelicans attend this place) and also to one of the forts which defended Chile against the French, English and even Dutch in the 18th Century.
Niebla lighthouse

We're all learning how to communicate better. Larry is already very good, and reading books by Isabel Allende |(in the original) and Valdivia newspapers. I recently bought the 'Rosetta Stone' downloadable version which is highly acclaimed.So far, our little girl has made more use of it - perfecting her pronunciation on words such as dog, cat and learning about the gender issues associated with the language. She's already familiar with some of the issues of learning a 'Romance' language as she studies French at school (as do all Canadian children).

Yesterday we visited the Castillo in Niebla ... it was quite a misty day ('niebla' means 'mist or fog' in Spanish). The lighthouse was not 'on' however!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Valdivia; Closing Notes

Chilean fishboat
We arrived safely here to Valdivia Chile on Monday March 13th and have had brilliant sunshine ever since. We feel lucky as we remembered that it mostly rains here from our stay 10 years ago. We took a few photos of the 'authentic' heavy wooden fishboats which we've seen all along the coast here. They're so colourful - they're often pulled ashore and left up to dry during the low tide. 

Snowy Wanderer displays his pink ear patches
Larry's really enjoying speaking Castellano and he's very good at it (having sailed into Spanish-speaking countries on/off for some years now). My own range is much smaller, but I have really appreciated the friendly and helpful people we're meeting here. One of the workers here at the marina actually lent me his cane. After the 39 days we were at sea, my right knee declined to work properly. It's gradually becoming more affirmative and probably some care and physio will take care of it. I'm looking forward to making some Nanaimo Bars for the office staff - this is a gesture which my friend Frida Audette taught me when I met her on "SV Arabelle" in London UK some years ago.

Royal Wanderer 
I have been remembering some glorious moments from the offshore trip. Our last day at sea was quite spectacular. As we were adjusting the Mainsail, we saw a beautiful rainbow which extended from one end of the heavens to the other, dipping into the water at both ends. Then, while coming in from the huge ‘altamar’ we’d been in for so many days, we were met by a school of several hundred dophins. I’m not proficient at counting mammals – but I could see splashes and indications of the many many animals all the way to the south of the boat. When dolphins accompany a boat, they are often quite interested in the boat, and treat it as a novelty – interweaving around the bow and criss-crossing under the boat. However, this time the dolphins were clearly focussed on filling up in the very rich hunting grounds they have on this coast of Chile. There seemed to be several species – all co-operating and showing a hint of the magical zest and spirit which many species seem to have (even humans when they’re young!)

We were also entertained by the enormous numbers of birds – large and small – who were  fishing out there. We saw many mollymawks (they’re the slightly smaller albatrosses who can be distinguished from the Wanderers because they appear to be wearing black mascara and eyeliner!) I again attempted to take bird photos. Ever since we were in Alaska the first time about 15 years ago, I have not been too good at ‘getting’ photos of birds. So I was really pleased this trip. I got a somewhat fuzzy photo of the male Snowy Wanderer – you can tell he’s the male because he clearly (or – reasonably clearly) – has pink EAR patches. I also got a very good picture of the Royal Wanderer – and of a Mollymawk.
Sunset - East View

Sunset - West View with the 'wine-dark Sea'.

There were some memorable sunsets - here are two taken on the same evening - one looking eastward and one into the setting sun to the west!


At 2017-03-13 15:12 (utc) our position was 39°49.46'S 073°15.09'W

Sunday, 12 March 2017


After 39 days at sea, TRAVERSAY III anchored behind Isla Mancera in Bahia Corral. As mentioned in an earlier blog, we have arrived here too late to proceed upriver to Valdivia in daylight and thus will complete the journey to the city tomorrow.

At 2017-03-12 21:12 (utc) our position was 39°53.38'S 073°23.30'W

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Last day at sea

Today is our last full day at sea!

The end of this voyage is close enough that the weather forecasts can hold no more surprises. An on-again off-again area of low pressure has come and gone and proved to be a non-event. The wind shifts involved no sail changes or jibes and the breeze barely exceeded 30 knots. At this point, the 4 meter waves have become de-rigeur.

The sun is out again lighting the wave crests a brilliant white running across the ruffled deep blue of the sea. Flitting about this panorama are hundreds of seabirds of all different sizes and species. In our experience, none of these birds fear being far far from the shore. Their presence is less a result of our being near the land - after all, it is still 170 miles away - and more because of a rich marine environment just off the South American coast. We are beginning to find ourselves in that area of up-welling ocean currents as shown by a falling sea temperature.

The winds which have been our steady companion and have been driving us along for weeks will fade away tonight as we get ever closer to the coast. It is likely we will be motoring the last fifty miles or so. More patience than we possess would avoid this bit of powering; the winds will be back along the coast in a day or so.

Our arrival will be too late in the day tomorrow for us to navigate up the river to Valdivia in daylight with a rising tide (safety considerations) so we will anchor for the night in a sheltered place just inside the river entrance at Corral, moving the last few miles up the river the following day. On Sunday as we enter the Bay at Corral the incessant motion will finally stop.

We are certainly looking forward to anchoring!

At 2017-03-11 15:06 (utc) our position was 39°40.41'S 077°06.86'W

Monday, 6 March 2017

Less than 1000 miles to go

In the last day, our ride has gentled down a lot. It is not only that the wind is less, but more that it has moved more from behind. For a couple of days we were sailing as close to the southeast wind as we could and still weren't able to maintain the course we wanted. That's always very choppy. The wind will be back again though but at least all the winds predicted are from behind.

Less wind is a mixed blessing. With 20 knots of wind we can do 7 knots; at 15 knots we get 6 knots of speed and at 10 knots wind, we are lucky to do 4. We like 20 knots even if it raises a bit of a sea.

In a calm under power out here we can only do 5 knots - so slow largely to stretch out the fuel. But even if we open the engine up, we couldn't match the 7 or 8 we sometimes get with a good breeze on the quarter. We are getting close to the point where we could just make Valdivia under power with the 500 liters of diesel fuel we have remaining in the tanks. That gives a good back-up feeling for if something went wrong with the rigging, but we prefer the speed and quiet of sailing.

Our cashew supply is now exhausted (treats are the first thing to be used up) but there is still lots of chocolate and frozen blueberries. Steak is still on the menu when we feel like it. Ditto chicken, lamb, pork, fish ...

It is taking a bit longer than we might have liked but that is an obvious result from the roundabout route we have followed from New Zealand. Nonetheless, we would do the same again to avoid the nasty weather that was overtaking us or lurking in our path.

4000 miles and 33 days behind; under 1000 miles (less than a week) to go.

At 2017-03-06 17:10 (utc) our position was 38°39.82'S 094°13.50'W

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Things break, things get fixed

It is one o'clock in the morning. It is totally overcast and the moon is new. Outside, it takes about 10 minutes for your eyes to become accustomed to the dark before a vague grey sensation appears that there are waves out there beyond TRAVERSAY's deck. The mainsail can just be made out, a kind of nearly black against the infinitesimally lighter nearly black of the sky, and, by craning your head way back, you can see the wind indicator in the light of the masthead running light. The red illumination of the outside instruments casts a warm glow around the nearby space.

The wind is blowing just over 15 knots on the beam. This is not enough breeze to raise an objectionable sea but it does race us along at 7 knots. The ugly five meter waves of a few days ago have now faded to a few meters of ground swell leading to a gentle rocking motion. At this speed though and in this dark, you leave the shelter of the dodger at your peril. The dodger, a canvas shelter protecting the main entrance, is repeatedly doused with wave tops cast into the air by our motion. It is very easy for the unwary to get wet - and seawater never seems to dry.

The dark and the speed and the nothing-to-see-beyond-the-boat combine to give an intense feeling of isolation. Of course, another source of that feeling that we are in a very remote place is the failure of some important piece of boat gear. After all, we DO have another 1700 miles to go!

It is a rare day at sea, with lots of sun and a good breeze, when we can make up our entire electrical energy requirements with solar and wind power. The 730 watts of installed alternative energy is largely theoretical, depending as it does on the whims of nature. The considerable power consumption of our autopilot and freezer, by contrast, are real and unrelenting. This all leads to our running the diesel generator for a few hours almost every day.

Yesterday in the late afternoon, during this compulsory battery charging, the generator abruptly ceased making noise and electricity and displayed a high temperature warning light on its panel. A cursory examination suggested loss of cooling water to be the cause rather than some hard-to-fix internal problem. The coming night lead to some minor procrastination. It's no fun fixing things in the dark anyway.

When light returned in the morning, it was time to go to work. Usually, loss of cooling water is the result of the failure of a small rubber impeller in the water pump. A typical failure leads to the inner and outer parts of the impeller separating from each other so that the shaft rotates but the impeller does not. I expected to simply take off the cover, pull out the old impeller, push in a spare and put things together again.

Not so simple! The old impeller had disintegrated completely. I knew I had to find all the missing pieces or they would simply be lurking somewhere waiting to cause some internal harm. The whole afternoon wore on as I removed more and more pieces of generator in my search for debris, bit by bit re-assembling the broken impeller much like an air crash investigator reassembling a destroyed fuselage.

Finally, with light and mirror, I saw the last piece of the puzzle hiding inside the inlet pipe. How it moved upstream to get there, I have no idea. The inlet pipe would be far more difficult to remove than the outlet pipe, now sitting on the galley counter. It would involve yet more panel covers and the removal of the whole pump from the generator. Fortunately, the little rubber shards yielded to some very thin stainless surgical instruments that could be pushed into, and extract debris from, the tiny inlet pipe.

So just the re-assembly left to do? Oh no! My thought that the generator exhaust had run hot and dry for a little while before the automatic shutdown led me to check the rubber exhaust hoses for heat damage. Sure enough, the hose section from the generator to the muffler had a soft spot that could lead to failure, exhaust and seawater in the boat, and much unhappiness. New hose is a challenge to force over tight connections; old hose is even harder to take off. During all this time the work place is bouncing around.

But it all got done, leading to a gin and orange juice reward and a fine Thai chicken green curry dinner prepared by Mary Anne.

Our nearest land is now Easter Island 700 miles almost due north of us. Rather irrelevantly, Coronation Gulf, visited on our 2013 Northwest Passage, is far beyond Easter Island on the same line 7000 miles due north of us. And I do believe we are now two thirds of the way across this endless ocean.

At 2017-03-01 17:54 (utc) our position was 37°59.42'S 108°22.54'W