Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Isla Robinson Crusoe

We finally pulled in the dock lines at 11:00 on March 18th leaving Puerto Montt Chile (S41°30.159' W072°59.399') for our long passage north. The first 8 hours of the trip took us between islands and through channels before the open ocean. The extreme tidal range here is only matched by the strong tidal currents, so even though it is only an 8-hour run out to the Pacific, you can't do it with one ebbing tide, so we stopped overnight at a cove called Ensenada Codihue (S41°48.113' W078°21.644') before continuing.

The next morning after traversing through the Canal de Chacao, we picked up the ebb current and were doing 12 knots over land. We soon reached the expansive Ocean with 7 or 8 dolphins escorting us a distance to wish us fair winds!

Winds were very light at first but by evening we had 15 knots pushing us. The stars were incredibly brilliant in the moonless inky sky. Early the next morning, a snap shackle broke on the head sail sheet (line) so Jordan replaced the sheet. Winds and seas really picked up by 11:00 so we doused the head sail and hoisted and poled the staysail but were still doing 5.5+ knots.

The next day under mostly cloudy skies, the wind speed increased to 17 to 25 knots with rolly 10-foot-plus waves. Jordan saw a huge sunfish directly in front of us and almost ran over it! That night it was very dark with light clouds and still no moon.

The night of March 22nd and most of the next day, we were pushed along in a gale that Sea Turtle handled with no problem. Just a few days ago I was telling another sailor that since we left Victoria, we had never experienced a gale at sea. So there we have it now.

Land Ho! March 23rd at 13:45! Made a difficult anchorage in Cumberland Bay at 18:00 (S33°38.359' W078°49.541') at Isla Robinson Crusoe with winds blowing and williwaws gusting. Four other sailboats were also present.

Isla Robinson Crusoe is part of the Juan Fernández Archipelago consisting of tiny Isla Santa Clara which is 1.5 km from Robinson Crusoe and uninhabited, and also Isla Alejandro Selkirk, about 180 km west of Robinson Crusoe. Alejandro Selkirk has a few fishing villages only during the fishing season who then relocate to Robinson Crusoe. Robinson Crusoe has a current population of about 850 at the only village of San Juan Bautista. No hospital or bank here but there is a school, cemetery, new soccer field, tourism office, Chile Armada, a few markets and bars, and police. About every 3 weeks, the village receives supplies via a ship from mainland Chile.

Busy unloading supplies onto the dock

Two years ago in February of 2010, Chile experienced the 2nd strongest earthquake ever recorded. The resulting tsunami hit the village here causing extensive damage and 16 persons perished. There is a great deal of reconstruction happening but you can still see the remains of foundations as stark evidence of the disaster. Incidentally, the largest recorded earthquake was in the 1960s, if I remember the facts, and it was also in the same vicinity.

A little privacy please?

Another notable fact: The Robinson Crusoe novel was based on the real life experience of Alexander Selkirk who, in 1704 after an argument with the captain, jumped ship at this Island (not at Isla Alejandro Selkirk) with minimal supplies and not only survived but coped quite well for 4 years before he was picked up. (The islands were renamed in the 1960s to attract tourists and I assume that Isla Robinson Crusoe was named as such as more people are aware of the fictitious character than the real one.)

The Island is something you might see out of the South Pacific with verdant spiry peaks ringing obvious prehistoric volcano hollows. The village is on the north side, protected from the predominant south winds.

Snapped from atop a peak when we were hiking

Their meager economy is dependent mostly on lobster fishing, some government jobs, and a yet to grow tourist industry. Visitors have to take a small charter flight that lands on the arid east end of the Island about 15 km away, and as the terrain between is precipitously near vertical in most places, no road connects the village. So most are ferried by a 2-hour boat ride. The other option is by land but only half the way is by road - then you either hike or arrange a horse ride for about 7 km up and over stunning ridges topped in mist a lot of the time.

Topographic of Robinson Crusoe

(Bahia Cumberland, where Sea Turtle is anchored, is front and center in topographic photo.) There are lots of steep hiking trails and camping spots to different vistas, one of which we did named Salsipuedes. The trail took us through eucalyptus and pine forests, and up vertical switchbacks to a ridge with vertical drops straight down to the sea as evidenced by this topographic at the tourist office. It was a great photo op of Sea Turtle anchored in front of the village.

Sea Turtle and village WAY down there

During World War I, the British navy was in the vicinity and intercepted a radio call from the German battleship Dresden searching for coal for its engines. They coralled it in the bay and shelled it until it sank to about a 150-foot depth. We saw where the shells from the battle lodged into the rock face.

We tried to do emailing but it was intermittent on and off, mostly off, and when it was on, painfully slow. We got some basic emails done though. The winds were strong during our stay and even though we were on the protected side of the Island, extremely strong gusts funnelled down the lee side of the mountains, through the village, and knocked us about on a strained but holdfast anchor. We tried to get fresh lobster but all the fishermen were holed up because of the high seas in their netting areas. So we found a restaurant to accommodate us but were disappointed as the large lobsters were served cold and with no hot butter!

One night, 2 big deep-sea fishing boats came into the bay to escape the high winds but they didn't anchor, they just meandered around under power and large bright lights for the crew to mingle around an open fire on their aft decks. At one point, we were down below and I felt a bang. Jordan jumped up and out the hatch as the big boat was trying to back away. Jordan told them in no uncertain terms to get the hell away and stay away. To add insult to it all, the next morning our decks were speckled with black soot from their bonfire. What a mess!

When it came time to leave, the procedure is to get a new zarpe (exit permit) from the Armada office. Once that is done, we had to go directly to the boat and not come ashore again. However the plan to pull anchor was delayed a day and a half as the winds were atrocious.

But early on the 28th, with the winds decreased enough, we pulled anchor and said our goodbyes through the camera lens for our long passage north, nonstop to Galápagos about 2,000 nautical miles. (For you land lubbers, that is about 4,000 km or 2,700 mi.) Robinson Crusoe was a great island to visit as we thought about the man that was marooned were we stood!

As the Chileans say, "Ciao, ciao" (goodbye)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Leaving mainland Chile

Jordan has found time to get back into painting again while we are hanging around Chile. He recently finished an acrylic of boats (a photo of his finished painting below) and it now adorns Sea Turtle's wall. (Personally, I think he's very talented!!)

Garlic cloves are huge here. One clove is as large as the whole head of garlic that we buy back home in Victoria. Barnacles are also huge and on restaurant menus! Fresh fruit and veggies are readily available from vendors on the streets, even right in front of major grocery stores! And dogs. Everywhere you look, dogs are sleeping. Also fat and happy! We counted 6 in 1 small area.

Did we ever mention that power here is 220 volt? We've noticed most buildings are wooden with exterior walls clad in cedar shingles - some with just a section but entire houses are covered with them also. Tides - well tides vary a lot here, about 20 feet. In this photo at low tide, Jordan is reaching up towards the square light, way up...

...and here at high tide, Jordan can now touch that same light!

Jordan has re-installed our repaired autopilot and it passed a try-out with flying colours! Due to an error that the customs agent made on our paperwork when we sent the unit to the States, we were forced to pay custom dues when it was returned to us in Chile. We tried in vain to remedy this error made by a customs official, but customs did not care. Their error cost us an additional $250 for a total of $700 to send it, have it returned, and payment of the custom dues. But on the other hand, we received excellent service from the maker of our autopilot!

We are finally able to depart mainland Chile. Not that we haven't loved Chile but it's getting late in the season, meaning their winter is fast approaching. By going south to the glacier and throughout the islands via Sea Turtle and going north via rental car through all the different districts, including the Lake District and the Atacama Desert, we experienced and saw so much. We would highly recommend Chile as a place to visit.

Today we leave for a quick stop at Isla Robinson Crusoe, 1 of the 3 Juan Fernández Islands, which belong to Chile. It's about a 5-day sail north from Puerto Montt where we are and about 600 km (300 miles) off the mainland...

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Iguazú waterfalls

Once back in Santiago Chile at our nice hotel, we had a lazy day before our booked flight out to Argentina and Iguazú National Park in the north which has been proclaimed one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Someone described it as making Niagara Falls look like a trickle.

The park protects a large area of special rainforest containing an enormous variety of plants and animals. We spotted the bright red bird Surucua Trogon, the Great Dusky Swift which nests behind the waterfalls, an unknown yellow bird, and eagle-eye Jordan pointed out to us a Toucan flying by. Coatis that look a bit like raccoons were scooting around everywhere.

Click on for more information about this interesting animal.

But the best part of this National Park is the 275 different waterfalls that can be viewed from both Argentina and neighbouring Brazil. We had planned on spending our first day at the falls on the Argentinean side and then taking a bus to view them the next day from the Brazilian side. But we found out that we would now have to obtain a costly visitors' visa in advance from an embassy to enter Brazil, something that Canadians did not have to do before. What a shame, as we would have liked to see the falls from the Brazil side plus we would have spent money in Brazil - so both sides lose - we don't see the falls and Brazil doesn't gain our tourist spending dollars.

Fortunately, the best up-close viewing of the falls is in Argentina (Brazil offers a more panoramic view only). The temperature here is very hot and humid, even in the winter. The tallest fall, 82 m high x 700 m long x 150 m wide (U-shaped), is called Devil's Throat.

We boarded the Park train through an area of jungle to the vicinity of Devil's Throat where we then hiked across metal boardwalks to cross the river and to the very edge of the falls. The views were magnificent. We took lots and lots of photos, but as usual, photos just don't do it justice - so much better in person to understand the actual scale of what you are viewing. And hearing! The sound of millions of gallons of water crashing right next to you standing there! At some viewing places, the thundering falls shoot out a heavy mist and soaked us. Definitely need a waterproof camera. The views were so captivating and mesmerizing, hard to imagine. Jordan likened the scene as fairytale-like waterfall scenery, too perfect to be real almost.

A small portion of Devil's Throat

After taking the train back to the station, we next hiked the upper level and then the lower level where waterfalls are everywhere. We again took lots and lots of photos and rainbows were very abundant on this splendid sunny day!

1 of many rainbows seen

We also hiked way down to board the powerful inflatable open boat to take the ride up-close and almost beneath the falls. Everyone got completely soaked and when asked by the driver, Y otra? (And another?) everyone yelled Si! (Yes!) We must have done it at least 3 or 4 times and loved it each drenching time. What a thrill! We also purchased the video of the falls and the boat adventure as a keepsake, where everyone is laughing and drenched!

Falls as seen from water level in the boat

As is commonly stated,
From the Brazilian side you see the falls, from the Argentinean side you live them.
When this close, all you see is mist (between wet closed eyes) where you are really living them!

Right after our boat ride, a big black cloud rolled over and it started to rain quite hard. We were already wet and finished touring all the areas that we were interested in so that was good timing!

Other available activities included a photo safari or walking through the rainforest (but as it was raining hard, we decided to bypass), a boat ride to Isla San Martín for more great views of the Devil's Throat (but access to the Island was closed for some unknown reason), and a gentle boat ride through the upper river and islands (but hey, we had just had the wild ride!) There is also a full moon visit to Devil's Throat in the evening but there was not a full moon when we were there.

A slideshow of 15 photos is inserted in our Photo Gallery (on the right of this blog). Once the Photo Gallery opens, click on the green title page of Igauzú Falls which will take you to a new screen. Click again on the green title page and then wait for a few seconds as the slideshow starts. Hope you enjoy...

The following day was when we had expected to be in Brazil, but as that fell through, we spent a lazy day around the hostel swimming pool until it started to pour! A couple of hours later, we caught the taxi to the airport for our flight back to Santiago.

Upon landing in Santiago, we found out that Chile charges some countries a "reciprocity" fee to enter their country by air - including Canada. Only the international airport at Santiago charges incoming visitors. What this means is that we would have to pay a high fee to cross the border from Argentina to Chile as Canada charges this high fee for Chileans to enter Canada. We had to pay $132 US each to get back into Chile even though we had left Chile twice already and paid no fee to enter or re-enter, but we were either driving or boating and entering a smaller city.

Should Canada re-think their practices and amounts charged to foreign countries as we now have to follow the same practices and pay the same amounts when we travel to those countries?

After landing and clearing from Santiago, we made a quick trip back in our rented car to Puerto Montt and Sea Turtle. It's always wonderful for us to return to our home - our boat - especially after covering 7,288 km by car!