Saturday, October 31, 2015


Nothing will focus a sailor's mind like the prospect of passages in the 50s South latitude of the Atlantic Ocean.

We find that a couple of boat questions are becoming resolved as we think of the season ahead. Take the 8mm stainless steel wire that serves for lower and intermediate shrouds and forestay on Galactic (in landlubber talk, the stuff that holds the mast up). Eight mm probably looked plenty robust in San Francisco, when the boat was rigged only five years ago. That same 8 mil is now looking a bad joke after both aft lowers have stranded at some point in the past season. So now we've got the stranded wires swapped out with temporary replacements, and a pile of 10mm rigging is being shipped to meet us in the Falklands, where I will get to play rigger for a while.

(Ahh, those riggers and other sailboat professionals who speak so authoritatively from their shoreside perches in the towns where boats are fitted out. Sail far enough away and they start to seem irrelevant or worse.)

Take too the new polycarbonate for our porlights, also of the 10mm variety. (We have small portlights.) For years we've thought of our old 6mm acrylic as a vulnerability. We've made various improvements, but cost and time have always led us to some sort of compromise. Now, with that same focus lent to us by the coming season, we've bit the considerable bullet of price to get that new 10mm on the same ship from the UK.

We could have done the job easier and cheaper in a lot of other places, but the time for really solid portlights, if it hadn't arrived before, is definitely with us now.

At the same time that we've found ourselves focusing on those boat issues, I find my focus on Chile fading. We've had the most wonderful stay here, but whatever has happened has happened, and the feeling that the best is behind us is hard to shake. The Falklands are increasingly the focus of our attention, as we wonder about king penguins and getting west from Stanley and what the summer might have in store for us. Chile has become a place that we're passing our last weeks in, not quite real to our distracted attention. The sailor's mind eventually bends forward, grasping at whatever is over the horizon.

Chile is as out of focus as this day, one of the first really rainy days that we've had in these three weeks in Beagle Channel. The mountains above are completely lost in the wrack and gloom, and even our starboard bow line, which is at its full extent of 110 m, seems to disappear into the haze of driving precipitation.

(Thélème, if you read this, know that we sing your praises every time we run out a hundred meters of polypropylene to make some caleta anchorage completely bombproof. If Richard hadn't told us to get 110m lines we can so easily see how we might have figured that 55m would surely be long enough. How different los canales would have been for us!)

I suppose that this wind and rain is what you would expect from Tierra del Fuego. But it isn't, by and large, what we've gotten. Enough of our days here have been focused tack-sharp that I think that is the memory that will stay with us of this place. Endless blue skies, and all the day to wonder while we wander.

That's a memory that won't lose focus soon.

1 comment:

  1. Never been there, but I reckon you'll a find Stanley a bit of a let down after the relative wilds of Patagonia, and the Spanish-speaking and native cultures of the region (how nice it would be to spend a summer exploring the region on land, away from the boat, climbing in Dientes, riding in Patagonia, etc.). From what I gather, Stanley is fish and chips and pub ale and Union Jacks and doughy-faced Brits marooned and clinging fast, to an isolated patch of rocky, gray, rainy islands in the South Atlantic. But, as you nicely put it, the sailor's mind bends forward to the horizon, always searching out the next port or anchorage. Guess you'll just have to go and see for yourself!