Sunday, March 29, 2015

Forty Years

One of the benefits of my recent work trip back to the States was the chance it gave me to load up on reading for Patagonia.  (Used books are sold for pulp prices these days.  Sigh.)

Got this one from Hal Roth, an old favorite of mine as he hailed from Cleveland, and his How to Sail Around the World remains a great introduction to running a traveling boat.  The middle book of the trilogy in the pictured volume, Two Against Cape Horn, is the account of the cruise he and his wife Margaret made to the Patagonian canals in their 35-footer in 1976/77.

So, that's near enough to forty years ago.  And I found it pretty stunning to see how different both the place, and their experience of it, were from what we are dealing with today.

When the Roths were here, Chiloé was served by a fleet of about 300 engineless sailboats that carried freight to and from the island.  Now of course they are long gone, except for a few that have been saved as yachts.

The Roths were also unable to get any kind of weather forecast at all in los canales, they used celestial navigation to get across the Golfo de Penas, and there was almost no experience of previous yacht visits to the area for them to learn from.  They had to feel their way into Patagonia-specific techniques like tying into shore in the caletas.  The book never mentions meeting another foreign yacht with whom the Roths could exchange information.

Of course, forty years ago the Roths would have been gobsmacked at our GPS and laptop plotter, at our GRIB files that give us detailed weather forecasts updated every six hours.  But I like to think that they would have been even more amazed to see that there is an authoritative cruising guide to Patagonia - the "Italian Guide", as everyone here calls it.  So many people now come to Patagonia on their own boats that there is a guide.  How the world does change.

All of our recent engine-in-chains carrying on also got me thinking about the next forty years.  A friend mentioned how much he dislikes diesels on sailboats, and as David Tideswell, the mechanic on our job, and I talked about injectors and timing gears and gaskets and asbestos rope oil seals, we also talked about how old all of this technology is.

There's a lot of grunt in a liter of diesel, which is what makes these engines the default choice for any kind of heavy work on land and sea.  But of course the carbon pollution from them is pretty inexcusable.  The future is famously impossible to predict, but as David and I turned wrenches with oily hands day after day, I couldn't help but wonder if my boys wouldn't look back at this with the same wonder I look at the steam locomotives of my grandfathers' days.

I can only hope.

And finally!  News on the hard dinghy front.  Alisa found a nice-looking dingher on a motor boat here in the Puerto Montt marina, and charmed the owner with repeated requests to buy it.

After she set up the interaction, I came in to give the boat a test row.  It went well enough - we really can't expect to find a better replacement for our stolen Little Dipper in the short time we have left in Puerto Montt.

The owner, Fernando, is a very simpatico guy, whom I could understand one third of the time perfectly, one third of the time a little bit, and one third of the time not at all.  I came away from our interaction thinking that he wanted to give us the dinghy to help us out (?).  But yesterday Alisa saw him again and he said he was thinking about his price.

So we'll see what happens.


  1. So has it stopped leaking? The Perkins diesel is an awesome motor, it sounds like you have the 4108 or 6354 which is a great motor and should go forever. Have you read "Second Chance Voyage to Patagonia" by Maurice Bailey? They cruised Patagonia in the 1970's. Well worth reading.
    Happy sailing

    1. Hi Drew - Yep, it appears to have stopped leaking, at least for the hour and a half or so that we've run it so far. And thanks for that book recommendation, I'll definitely check it out.

    2. I almost forgot Daughters in the wind by David Lewis. He did the Chile channels in the 1970s with his wife & kids. Did you know that a production Triton 24 yacht did your exact trip except they started in Sydney? The guy and his girlfriend would have remained unknown except they lost their rudder of Cape Horn and wrote to the factory in Sydney and asked for a new one to be shipped to the Falklands!!
      Good Luck