Monday, May 11, 2015

Tick on an Elephant

There are at 16 longliners rafted up here in Caleta Suarez. Galactic is boat number 17, on the far side of the front row, right up against the side of the caleta. During a brief break in the weather all of the fishing boats save one went out to jig for cierra, the barracuda of southern Chile. Then they all returned, and a crop of new boats making the dash from the canales of the north followed them. Boat after boat stacked up in ranks behind us, and we are well and truly trapped until boats start leaving. Which is fine, of course, as we can't go anywhere in the theatrical weather that's prevailing right now. But it's also a tiny bit disconcerting for us to ever give up our ability to move at will. Self-volition, and the ability to move where and when we want, are so much the keys to the game that we play.

So after everyone stacked in, the gale resumed in earnest during the night, and Galactic felt a bit like a tick on the side of an elephant. We were stuck to one side of this massive body of lashed-together boats, at the mercy of the elephant's movements. Fishing boats are designed to be heavy and strong - to bash into stuff and carry heavy loads and to be driven by massive engines. Yachts are designed to be strong but light, to be fleet before the wind. Incidental contact that is no big deal for a longliner can be a very big deal for us. And moving up from a group of eight longliners in one rank, which we were rafted to for the first three days, to 16 longliners in three ranks, felt like a big step down in control over the situation. We were more tick, and the elephant was more elephant.

Luckily, we are steel, and stronger than average for a 45' yacht. During that first night when there were 16 of us it was blowing 40 knots on the outside and gusting in the caleta. I was up on deck off an on through the night, and we were so glad to have our six massive stainless-steel mooring cleats welded into the hull.

And I've been so glad to have the little Spanish I have. I can row over to the far side of the stack to explain that we're close to shore, and ask that boat to tighten up their shore lines to give us a little more security against swinging into the shallows. And when I do that, the crew of this boat that I just met will immediately offer to set another shore line. I'll talk weather with the captain while the crew digs out a line, then I'll row a deckhand ashore with the new line, and they'll send me back to Galactic with a couple fish for our dinner. We have friends who have sailed here with no Spanish, and of course they've gotten along just fine, but I think that interactions like that one would require a lot more force of personality on the part of a non-Spanish speaking yachtie.

That interaction with the boat on the other side of the stack was typical, by the way. Throughout the five days we've been here every fisherman we've had dealings with has been solicitous and helpful. I've had some fun chats, as well, though my conversational ability in highly vernacular Chilean Spanish sets very strict limits on these.

If the rain lets up today I think I'll take Eric and make the rounds of the boats.

We got no internet, no no.
We're as out of touch as we can be,
Yes, yes.

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