Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Punta Arenas to Buenos Aires: 24 March 2009

Blasted By Sand, Blasted Sand! Punta Arenas is the most southern Chilean city in this country where the mixture of European cultures has evolved into a wonderful, eclectic mosaic of people, architecture and life style. When it's cold and windy here, its damn cold and windy. Winter and the changes of season see local people flee the area for some respite from the harsh conditions ... others, well they have just learned to live with it. Myself, I enjoy the visits to Punta Arenas. The Chilean people are always happy to see a sailing yacht visit their port; they are always friendly and helpful, and over the years I have made some very special friends in this town. After the excitement of the Avro Lincoln airplane crash, myself and the Xplore team cracked on with the work list in preparations for the trip north to the River Plate, Buenos Aires, and then over to Piriapolis in Uruguay where we lift Xplore out of the water for maintenance and painting. There were some good jobs and some shit jobs that needed to be done ... After two years of travel we had found that the starboard head's plumbing pipes had built up with calcification and narrowed the pipes to the point where they just didn't flush any more !!! 'Damn Bugger' you could here us say, so we spent the best part of one day removing all 12 meters of pipes and then meticulously cleaned out every centimeter of the internal pipe walls. Yep you guessed it, we were ripping the old shit out of the pipes ... 'Nice job' hey? But done and working again we don't expect any more problems with that side, however the girls and me do know that we will have to do the port side before the boat comes out of the water ... who's going to get that job ?! After three attempts to complete the port paper work and documentation, yesterday morning I finally was able to see all the government people to clear Chile and enable us to set sail for Buenos Aires in Argentina: Port Captain, for a new "Permissions to sail"; pay the port entry exit fees; customs department; and then the international police for the stamp in the passports. The day had started calm, but our permanently running satellite weather system began showing a very large new low pressure formationn. In theory it was possible to leave, but by 1030am as I stepped back onboard with the Naval lieutenant who was completing the final documentation, even he spoke gravely about the sea conditions and wind strength in the Straites of Magellan. I already knew in my bones that we weren't going anywhere, but being keen to set off can trap many a well wishing sailor. As we sat there in the cockpit and watched the water being torn from the sea around us, there was no one onboard who disagreed with my decision to sit, wait and be patient. We roared with laughter watching some of the juvenile birds trying to take off from the bay as the gusting winds twirled them around like fairly floss. One bird, after just taking off, was slammed back into the sea, and next we saw him shake his head as if to say to himself, 'Bloody hell what happened there ?!! No one told me about that!' We sat and watched and waited till the billy boiled (yes I know, that's an Australian folk song) and we did; and nothing changed. It blew and blew: the sand from the surrounding hills covering Xplore with dirt and grit, as all day and into the night the winds peaked into the 60's. I woke at 5am, at 7am and again at 8.45. Sleep, I didn't get much of, but by 9am I had formed the plan for the day. The winds had eased and the crew, keen to break the stalemate, jumped into the tasks to get us away. We knew the winds would be on the nose for the first part of the day but we had to get the tides right to pass through the First and Second narrows of the Straites of Magellan. To get them wrong means you can go backwards at up to 8 knots and have to start all over again. Finally clear to go , with a cheer we cast our lines. More news to come as we undertake the 1450 nautical miles to Buenos Aires. Stephen

1 comment:

  1. The both places I loved the most in Punta Arenas were The Beer Circuit, in which you can do visits to the brewery where the best beer in Chile takes place with tasting and Mirador del Cerro de la Cruz (Observatory Of The Hill Of The Cross) to enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the city and Magellan's Strait with Tierra del Fuego Island. I just had the best time. Then I headed Ushuaia and it really surprised me. Even though it is a small sity, it has a lot of restaurants, and bars, and shops and everything you want. It is so influenced by tourism, that every little thing is prepared for them. They say 80% is foreign tourism. Then my last stop was BA, where I had my own buenos aires apartment in Palermo and it was awesome. That city looks just like Paris. European style all over the place!