Thursday, January 26, 2012

Near disaster...

Upon arising at our anchorage at Isla Melchor in Chile, it was still very windy out. We decided to venture out of the cove into the main channel at 09:45 to see if it was as windy.

After about an hour, with wind on the nose and running with the tide into short wind-against-tide waves, it was getting worse so we turned in to hug the shoreline where it was very deep but less choppy seas and wind. We went past a large fish farm at the mouth of an inlet, taking note that we could turn back and anchor in there if the opposing wind became too much. At noon, the engine quit, indicating the need to switch fuel tanks.
"When the engine died in this situation, my heart beat just a bit faster. It reminded me when I was piloting a small plane back from L.A. and over the water adjacent to San José, at night, the engine died. My heart came to full attention as I switched to the other tank. All was well, but for an instant it puts you in a high state of alert", Jordan recalls.
He quickly unfurled a rag of a headsail (meaning a small amount of headsail) and turned us around to run with the wind, at the same time gaining us some shore space. He switched the tanks...engine didn't start...tried to bleed the lines...and a critical dilemma struck! A nut on one of the bleeders of the Perkin's engine broke and this was something that he could not even attempt to fix without anchoring. We had no spare.

So we headed back towards the fish farm spotted earlier. It was sailing up the inlet to anchor or sail up to the side of the fish farm floating facilities and tie up. Either way, challenging in those boisterous conditions.

It was a very treacherous area. Tight spaces, shallow areas, and hidden rocks, but Jordan's skill amazed me. We were blaring the horn at the fish farm but people waving inside thought we were just saying hello so no one came out to help. He was able to sail with only a minor crash right up to the floating facility. I was ready with a bow line and at the right moment Jordan jumped onto the facility's deck and cleated the line (S45°11.467' W073°40.882') as the wind threatened to push Sea Turtle past. There was only one chance to do this, for if we miscalculated, we would have for sure drifted into the fish pens and lines.

What a great spot to be in trouble! This floating facility, called Mainstream Aysen III, consisted of what looks like a large float home 2 stories above a work area. It is approximately 100 meters away from nearly an acre of fish pens with about 15 4-inch feed lines running from the building to the pens.

The folks inside Mainstream III came out to see what the heck was going on. The first thing Jordan indicated was we had engine trouble which evoked an immediate response of "you need mechanic?" There were 8 friendly people there - José the boss, Luis the mechanic, Luis the chef, (same name as the mechanic) and 5 others. We were invited in to eat lunch and have coffee while the engine cooled down - the best cerviche we have ever tasted!

Looking down at the large pens from inside Mainstream facility

As we ate, we watched the large salmon jumping in the 14 pens of the salmonera (fish farm). We were told that an airport nearby was closed down because of the high winds. We were also offered use of their internet and showers. (Was that a hint?!!)

After lunch, Luis then came out to look at the engine and he and Jordan fabricated a piece in the shop. With his able assistance, the engine started at 15:30! What a relief.

Luis the helpful mechanic with Jordan and Judy

Once again, the use of showers was offered and also dinner. We graciously accepted, so after we put away all the tools, many of the 8 folks asked for a tour of Sea Turtle. We laughed as they posed at the helm for photos and came below for more pictures.

After a delicious dinner, it was still windy and getting dark so we were permitted to stay tied up to the salmonera. We retired feeling safe and secure, with freshly made buns and half a large salmon in hand. It rained sporadically throughout the night.

1 comment:

White Shell II said...

What a great story! Salmon in Chili I would have nv=ever thought?