Saturday, 3 February 2018

Leaving is Never Easy

We arrived in Valdivia (again) at the start of the New Year with a plan to repair the boat, to visit the dentist and be away to the north inside of two weeks. Alas, it took three dental visits over a month to repair the tooth and put an end to the pain that had been following M.A. around for three months or more.

Summer in Valdivia is considered by the locals to be January and February. The occasional rain only seemed to fall at night. Out-of-school children took sailing lessons on the river that was our backyard during the seemingly endless hot sunny days. In the evening the twilight glow would hang over the hills for hours. Our going-away party was followed by more informal get-togethers to commemorate our "real" going away.

A horrible cold (my colds are always horrible) coupled with a windier-than-we'd-like forecast added yet another day to the long delayed departure.

Finally, with one day to go and with M.A. now sick with the cold also, it was time to complete various last minute tasks and necessary government procedures. This turned a bit Kafkaesque as various unfailingly polite and sympathetic officials told me that what I wished to do was lamentably (lamentablemente was the Spanish word used) not possible or that what I was required to do was possible only with difficulty.

First the bank: I had received a check for around $80 in the mail in return for an over-payment in the fees for an importation of boat parts I had made. I think the customs broker had absentmindedly without malice drawn two vertical lines across the check because "that's what we always do" or some such reason. I took my number at the bank and waited some time for my turn to come up. At the teller I discovered that, in Chile, those two lines meant "for deposit only to account of payee." Lamentably (that word again!) the only solution was to send it back to them in far-away Concepcion and ask for one without lines. None of this was compatible with our next-day departure.

Then off to the Port Captain's office to obtain a sailing approval or "zarpe". This is normal - all the "locals" also need one for voyages in or outside the country. I waited long enough that my friend, John - waiting outside - wandered away in boredom. It was probably lunchtime, or perhaps they were hunting around for an officer who could speak to me in English. This wasn't really necessary as the whole communication took place in Spanish anyway.

After receiving the zarpe, I phoned Mary Anne who suggested she, John, Sue and I eat lunch at Ultima Frontera. This only just arranged, I received a phone call that I must go back to the Port Captain office in about three quarters of an hour. For the others it was a fine lunch but, for me, somewhat hurried to say the least.

What was this about? It was just discovered that we had not been asked to pay "light dues" when we arrived - an oversight. At US$31, this was pretty minimal for a year's navigation along the well-marked Chilean waterways. No problem ... How many pesos is that? Well, for foreign boats, it had to be in US$; only Chilean boats could pay in pesos. The United States is one country we have not touched in our two year voyage thus we have no US cash lying around. Banks? Closed at 2pm, a quarter hour earlier. One of a small number of money changers might be open I was told. It turned out they opened at 3pm - really 3:15. More waiting in the hot sun.

But this all ended smoothly with light dues paid and receipt in hand.

During the evening, though, we were informed that the Immigration Officers were swamped with work and couldn't come to our boat the next morning. Happily, we could take a taxi to their office on the far side of town to get our passports stamped just before leaving.

Morning came and there was some confusion in the Navy's mind which marina we were at as they came to check our flares, fire extinguishers, life jackets etc. Then, after the taxi rides and passport stampings, we were aboard, untying our lines and heading down the peaceful river surrounded by beautiful green hills.

We have been asked on occasion "Why not just leave?". It would be ungrateful to a country that has shown us so many varied experiences and introduced us to so many generous and friendly people to not comply with a few rules. The compliance, in fact, leads to more experiences and meetings with helpful and courteous officials. On a more practical tone, modern officials aided by computers have long memories and we will want to return one day.

And now ... Night is falling and Valdivia is seventy five miles behind us. The sails pull us along at seven knots across a rolling sea that a few days hence we would call gentle but at the moment we see as a bit rough. Summer has disappeared, snuffed out by a damp mist and 11C temperatures (52F). The tropical Marquesas Islands are 4000 miles ahead!

At 2018-02-03 00:13 (utc) our position was 38°53.90'S 074°06.24'W

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