As our passage was drawing to an end I started to think about a summary blog post.
It would be called "Three" - a precious little something about having completed our third crossing of the Pacific. It would be a restrained post, mind you, but it would also derive too-obvious delight from the merit of its own restraint. We don't think much about milestones on Galactic, but when you find yourself having sailed across the Pacific Ocean for the third time, you're bound to reflect. That sort of thing.
Luckily, the life of those who go to sea for pleasure is too filled with the exigencies of the ridiculous to allow for much navel gazing.
What am I talking about? This.
The scene, last night. We had it in the bag. Ten o'clock on our 23rd day out from the Gambier. The boys safely tucked in their bunks. Forty miles remaining to our landfall in Bahia Corral, the gateway to Valdivia. The wind had fallen to the point where the spinnaker was flapping uselessly. But we had conserved our fuel, and could afford to motor the home stretch.
I turned on the engine. And heard a muted explosion in the engine room beneath me.
When I installed the shutoff valve on our exhaust to keep waves out of our engine, I neglected to design a fail-safe to protect against the inevitable time when I would forget to open the valve before starting the engine.
Last night, I forgot. So I blew up the muffler. Shards of fiberglass and oily water were splattered around the engine room, and a smoking hole sat where the muffler had been.
Instead of cake-walking into town, we found ourselves wondering how we'd get the engine running so that we could motor up the Valdivia River.
Against my every expectation, I managed to patch the muffler back together. Is there any at-sea repair that West System epoxy can't do? But with the repair on top of the usual closing-the-coast vigilance, I got two hours of sleep last night, and Alisa three.
And then, suddenly, the passage was over. We were in Chile. The world of storm petrels and wandering albatross that we had inhabited only the day before was nothing but a dream. I found myself trying to make coherent answers in Spanish to the questions of very friendly officials. I kept saying our boat was 40 meters long instead of 14, or, when I was trying to be precise, 30.7 instead of 13.7. Big laughs every time.
And then, suddenly again, the whole family was in the back of a bus, barreling into town to get to the supermercado in time.
How did we get to Latin America? Alisa and I kept asking each other.
We were making our first visit to a supermarket in seven months exhausted, with few cultural points of reference to rely on, on the day before Christmas and three hours before closing time. The store was beyond crowded. People were queuing deep into the aisles to check out. I didn't have my passport that I needed to pay with a credit card. It was all clearly madness.
And we all loved it all.
We came home with unimaginable bounty. Meat, cheese, potatoes, vegetables, beer, milk, wine. The canned duck will be spared to serve as the main course for some other holiday meal.
And, we all agree - it was one of our best passages ever.