Wednesday, February 28, 2018


[Kyle]The anchorage at Mechuque/Añihue was idyllic, but it was finally time to leave the islands around Castro and start heading north with the sun. The days are getting shorter here and soon, cold for us is going to turn into cold for here.

We had to leave at first light because of the tides, The tide floods northwards in the Gulf of Ancud and our destination for the day at Heuihue can only be safely entered on the top half of the tide. That meant we had to leave at low tide which is at 6am, except that it doesn't get light out until seven, so we had to wait until then and keep our speed up.

We had a lovely easy downwind sail past the cliffs on the northeast side of Chiloe with the Andes filling out the view in the other direction. We arrived to a cove choked wall to wall with mussel farms and exposed to the wind and sea. Our goal was behind them in a basin distressingly marked on the chart as being behind a thin line of dry land. We checked our guides and the tides about five times and they all seemed to indicate it would be possible to use the high water to get to the protection within.

Maryanne went into the cabin and pulled up a charts from a different source on our laptop and interfaced it with our AIS GPS receiver so we had two different chart sources running from two independent GPS antennas. Then she was able to guide me while I alternated between the chartplotter at the helm and watching for obstructions in the water.

We found our way to the entrance, where we were relieved to find three other sailboat masts visible. Anchored directly in the middle of the narrow entrance however was a largish local fishing boat. We're not sure if it was intended to be a message or if the guy was just clueless, but what's the deal with fishermen acting like no one else is going to need to use that water?

Waiting for the right window to head North

We eased our way in by passing close enough to lob a beer can into his wheelhouse (had we been the type inclined to such antisocial behavior {Maryanne: an example of Kyle's unique "sense of humour"}). We found our way over to the vicinity of the other sailboats through water that would not be deep enough to let us out. Because of the timing in Canal Chacao, we would need to leave when the water was a full meter and a half lower. Fortunately for us, the next morning's low tide was even a meter lower than that, the same as our draft. All we had to do was make a point of getting up early and making note of a safe path out around all of the sand bars that had appeared overnight and we would be good.

There's not a whole lot to do in Heuihue other than enjoy the birds, the good protection from the weather and wait for a window to move on. The upside is that we have a decent phone signal and enough credit left to get somewhat caught up on internet stuff. We managed to get an email out to the guy who installed our rigging. He reassured us that the broken strands were not indicative of any bigger problem. The stay would just be 4.2% weaker. He also verified that the fix was pretty easy and would restore it to its design strength, so I can probably take that off the list of things that keep me awake at night.

We are now poised at the eastern end of Canal Chacao, waiting for a weather window to leave the Gulf of Ancud and start heading north along the open coast.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Mechuque & Añihue Islands

[Kyle]We awoke to a lovely still morning and clear blue skies without a cloud in sight. Our plan was to spend the day on Mechuque, but since we had changed our plan and not anchored there, we instead rowed over to the main village on Añihue, to which we were technically closer. The scenery was typical tranquil waterway. The highlight of the row for me was when we disturbed a flock of about a hundred parrots. They were pretty swift, so I was never able to figure out if they were smallish macaws or largish parakeets. Either way, they were adorable and it's nice to see large groups of them in the wild.

Rowing Ashore - headed for another church
we spy another steamer duck, but then Parrots!

At the town, such that it is, we found nothing going on. Both tiendas were shut and the small church had a ridiculously and what seemed unnecessarily stout padlock on the door. It was probably the sturdiest part of the whole structure. We found a couple of guys doing maintenance on their big fishing boat as it dried above the low tide line. Doing “yard” work on a boat is no fun, but theirs seemed to stretch for acres.

A typical local village

With nothing else to see, we took a road to see where it went. We found a sign for a restaurant, but no one was there. No people, anyway. We did meet the world's happiest dogs, two friends that chased each other from farm to farm, often breaking away to herd something. They would then come running over to us for a scratch and some validation from the new strangers before tumbling away in a multicolored ball, alternately tackling each other. What a life! They had the whole island on which to play.

Back at the dinghy, we decided to row over to Mechuque by going the long way around the intervening islet of Pelleullo. In the center, there was a large pasture occupied by cattle having a very lively discussion with each other. I imagine that it was a heated debate about the proper way for them to govern their society, but of course, I don't speak cow, so it could have been anything.

Enjoying a tour circumnavigating Pelleullo
(including a bit of wading)
More birds, including a steamer duck family and more penguins

It got a little shallow in the back, so we had to jettison some ballast to keep the Pudgy afloat in the falling tide, but we made it over. We rowed across to Mechuque and tied the dinghy to a fishing boat that was being painted.

We popped into the one of the local museums and had a look around at their rather interesting collection of household items. I imagined its origin could be traced to cleaning out somebody's over-full shed. In the museum was a map of every building in town, along with the names of the residents. I remarked to the caretaker surprise that there was a bridge in such a small town. She seemed amused by this. How could I not know about the bridge? Most tourists arrive on the ferry from Tenaun and have to walk over the bridge to get to the museum. We arrived by dinghy from the other side and stopped in because it was the second building we had encountered after stepping off the beach. I guess that's not the usual way.

After leaving the museum, we walked into the village and found the bridge just as the day's first load of ferry passengers found it from the other side. Now I got it. It is a pretty impressive bit of structure. Atop giant steel I-beams sits a wide wooden bridge. On top of that is an observation tower that was quickly filling with people who had beaten us to it from their end. The tide was still pretty low, so it spanned over an expanse of mud. It seemed a pretty disproportionate bit of architecture for a village of a few hundred to stay out of the mud, but it provided a great viewpoint for the palafitos on either side.

We explored Mechuque along with all the other tourists

After a couple more hours wandering around, we were feeling a bit peckish, so we decided to find somewhere to eat. There seemed to be better than average odds than we have been having on the islands lately of actually finding a place that was open. We spotted a place that looked reasonably busy, where we could see people sitting at tables behind the windows and headed over.

Every, one there seemed to be on some sort of organized tour. We were standing around trying to figure out how we could get a table or even if we could get a table, when we got swept up by a crowd being led by the owner toward some smoke. It seems as if we had arrived just by coincidence at the main event. It turns out all of the other tourists had been funneled into two or three local restaurants as part of their tours for the preparation of Curanto, Chiloe's traditional gastronomic bombshell.

We had passed over a description somewhere, but it is not prepared in too many places, so we never thought we would find it and moved on. Now we were suddenly front row for the big unveiling. Curanto is prepared in a Polynesian-style earth oven dug into the ground. Sizzling hot rocks are put in, topped with clams and mussels. A layer of nalca leaves (a local rhubarb) is put on top. Then comes a layer of pork, nalca, chicken, nalca, potatoes, nalca, bread and more nalca. The whole thing is then left to simmer for two hours or so.

The owner and cook pulled off layer after layer of leaves, releasing a cloud of smoke and steam, and set them aside. He then scooped up bowl after bowl of steaming food, which was whisked into the kitchen for plating. By the time he reached last of the shellfish at the bottom, it was getting difficult to scoop, so he just invited everyone to pluck one out for a taste from the remainder. I tried a clam, Maryanne had that and a mussel. It was so hot, I couldn't tell you anything about the flavor.

Yes! We found the traditional Curanto!
A bit too much meat for poor Kyle - but I made him smile for the camera!

After finishing his dig, the owner looked at us and realized we weren't with the larger group. He asked us to wait a bit and after a little confusion with some of the other staff, we were showed upstairs to a table. Before we could even ask for a menu, two piping hot plates of Curanto arrived and were placed before us. Whoops, make that three. The shellfish came in a separate bowl. So that settles that – Curanto for lunch, then. Each item is basically a meal in itself, so we had something like seven before each of us. Even though Curanto is pretty heavy on the meat, I managed to nibble and taste my way through enough of it to leave a little beyond full. The nalca seems to impart a really nice mesquite-like smoky flavor to everything.

Cards are generally only accepted in cities. We were running a little low on pesos and had just been to a luau in Hawaii, so we were a little worried about the bill. We had been prepared for sandwiches. Just in case, Maryanne came up with a backup plan of running like hell while I grab a bottle of dish soap and a brush and ask where's the big sink. I offered to do the running, but she insisted it would be better her way.

The bill turned out to be 18,000 pesos after we threw in a tip. That's fourteen meals (and two beers) for about $25. It looks like I would get to go home with Maryanne after all.

After their meals were finished, the others proceeded en masse, parade-style, to their ferry and the island was then promptly shut. We took a short walk along the beach to a section on the other side of the bay where two large wooden fishing boats were being built plank by plank by a crew of men based in an adjacent shipping container. Their work was marvelous and daunting and they smiled and waved thanks at our appreciation. Taking the road back, we found miniature versions being built in the yard at the nearest house, presumably to be used as tenders.

Some genuine, serious boat building ashore

We had wondered if there might be some concern about our presence after the last ferry had pulled away. There is a rooming house on the island and we saw four tents set up on the grass near the beach, so it must not be unheard of for non-residents to be around after hours. The campers on the beach seemed to get quite a bit of entertainment from watching us row and row and row away toward nothing in particular before rounding a far off corner. They didn't seem to know about the catamaran we left hidden there.

And we return to Begonia, enjoing the views and birds on the way,
and some fresh flowers for the cockpit

Things break...

[Kyle]Our light tailwind was still there in the morning on leaving Caguache, and we were looking forward to another nice clear day of easy sailing. Maryanne pulled up the anchor. Just as it was making its final 'clunk' over the anchor roller, she let out a half yell/half gasp that made me think she had hurt herself. I asked what was wrong and she could only say, “Come up here!”

She was unharmed, thankfully. Instead, I arrived to find our anchor windlass had just fallen off its mounting. The anchor was teetering on the roller, the chain was still on the gypsy (the indented pulley the chain passes over), but the windlass was lying on its front. The whole mess looked like it was about to give way. The anchor and chain would go overboard. The windlass wouldn't fit through the hole, so it would just slam around like a loose bowling ball propelled by contact with the zinging chain.

Maryanne got a hook on the chain and I unwrapped the gypsy. It appears the threaded corners of the housing on the windlass where the mounting bolts attach had finally corroded through. The last bit of force lifting the anchor over the roller must've pulled it off of the last bolt.

Jeez! Well, that pretty much wrecked our day! The windlass can be used manually if the motor fails, but there's nothing that can be done if the whole mess isn't bolted in place, except raise and lower the anchor and chain hand over hand. Our ground tackle is much too heavy for that.

We knew we would need some time to figure out what to do, so we tried to just put it out of our minds and enjoy the sail. It really was fantastic sailing. It didn't work. I tried being grateful that it happened right when it did, when there was almost no strain on the system. Any other time, even only a few seconds earlier, and it would have been a lot worse. That only helped a little. Windlasses are expensive and probably really hard to get down here and we basically can't anchor without one. Ours seems too far gone to repair, so we are in a really unexpected and unpleasant bind.

We were hoping to be able to find an empty mooring ball at Mechuque, our next stop. There were a couple in the small harbor, but it seemed unlikely they didn't belong to local fishing boats that were out for the day. We had originally planned on staying a couple of nights and then moving to a different anchorage that offered better protection from some bad weather expected in a couple of days. We decided to head over there instead for the whole stay, just to reduce the number of times we would have to deploy the anchor. We nudged Begonia up as far into the shallows as we dared. And then I did the hand over hand thing to get the anchor down, which turned out to be less difficult than I had feared. Luckily, it held fast the first time and didn't need to be pulled up and reset.

A temporary Fix for the windlass

We had a good look at the windlass and decided we could perform a temporary repair that should get it working again for a few more uses by lashing it down using some high-strength, low-stretch line fed through a few holes that would have to be drilled. Man, I hate drilling holes in the boat.

Before we started, we finished up the checklist so that wouldn't also be hanging over our heads. As I was inspecting the rig with the binoculars, I saw what looked like a broken strand in our starboard shroud. Oh, boy! I wanted to go up and make sure it was really nothing, but we decided to get the windlass repair done first. It came out much better than I expected. The line actually has a higher total tensile strength than the bolts it replaced and the whole arrangement feels pretty solid. We gave it a good test, even having it pull Begonia up to the anchor without actually breaking it free and pulling it aboard. It vibrates a little more than when it was bolted down, but shows no sign of wanting to give way. It should get us out of here and hopefully through a handful more anchorages before we can have a replacement fitted. It's always something..

Which brings us to the rig. I went up there to allay my fears. That didn't work either. It wasn't a trick of the light. We had not one, but two broken strands on that shroud. Crap! I had been up there in Quintupeu and check it with binoculars every day of sailing, so I knew the failure was recent. The affected strands are difficult to see except in just the right light, so it didn't necessarily give way on our last easy sails. I suspect it was that awful day with triple the expected winds and no sea room for reefing.

I was amazed that Kyle spotted this with the binoculars - you can just see a strand to the left has a gap, and a longer one to the right

Like the windlass, the shroud has to be replaced before we do any serious sailing again. It would probably be fine, but now we don't feel comfortable sailing on a starboard tack except in only the lightest winds. We don't want to put any unnecessary strain on the remaining 17 strands in that shroud. Replacing the shroud is a relatively easy job and can even be done with the mast up. The hard part will be sourcing a quality replacement parts and locating someone to do the job. I'm sure the job is within our skill set, but if it's possible to locate an experienced professional, we don't mind paying a little extra for the expertise. The rig is an important part of the boat.

Friday, February 23, 2018

On to Rilán and Caguache

[Kyle]Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of upwind, but it was gentle and the narrow Corcavado Sound kept the water nice and flat. Tacking allowed us to see one side and then the other, instead of just drifting down the middle. There was enough width to keep us entertained without overworking us and the weather was clear and sunny.

An easy sail - with the odd penguin
and the occasional patch of water that attracted a heap of squawking birds

Our anchorage for the night was in a bay near the town of Rilán. We had been hoping for a nice, quiet anchorage there. We were the only sailboat, but we were surrounded by a salmon farm and a large area of mussel rafts. In the bay with us were all of the workboats used to attend to it all. Our nearest neighbor was one of the ferries with a big ramp built into the bow that are common around here. They were swinging on the nearest mooring when we arrived. It turns out they are only tied to it for short breaks, maybe lunch, and to wait for their turn. They drive right up to the beach and lower the ramp for loading. Their job seems to be taking giant bags of mussels that they offload from semis that arrive on the beach. They disappear from the cove for a while and then return empty for more. It seems to be a twenty-four hour operation. Even though there was plenty of room in the bay, we had the unshakable feeling of being in the way.


The reason we chose Rilán was because it offered excellent protection from the wind and rain that slashed at us all the next day. At times, it was so bad we could only see the small patch of water surrounding us, pockmarked with tiny splashes from the big drops.

A short hop to Caguache in time for sunset

The skies cleared the next morning and we had a gloriously sedate downwind all-day sail to the northeast side of Cagauche Island. Caguache's anchorage had the outstanding feature of an uninterrupted view to the east. We arrived just in time to have everything done by the time the approaching sunset started turning the snow-capped peaks of the Andes orange and then pink and then red, before fading into a background of brilliant stars.