October 2012

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July, 2012

Goodbye Nikan
Since our last blog entry a lot has been going on. First Nikan finds itself with a new Chilean owner and will probably spend the rest of its days in Patagonia. Goodbye Nikan! Then we started to look for a new floating home around this planet! That decision involved a lot of thought... possibilities are endless... but no perfect boat yet in production anywhere. One thing was clear in our minds and that was to get a bigger boat for more storage and living space. After four years of living full time on-board of a 10 m boat, it was time to go for a bit more comfort and elbow room. So now it has been one month since we are in the Med (sweating, as it is very, very hot here!) on our Amel Santorin ketch, 14 m of length, born 1992, 20 years old boat but in a great shape. Due to the shipping cost and logistic difficulties we left lots of material behind and flew out of Chile with our personal belongings only, some diving gear, a bit of electronics, and landed in Barcelona with 138 kg divided in six pieces of luggage. We took possession of the Santorin in Roses, Spain and after a hull-up for new antifouling and mechanical check up we sailed to Port Camargue, France, only 96 nautical miles away, to bring the boat to Sun Marine yard to replace the standing and running rigging and to update few equipments. And if you are wondering what is the name of our new sailboat, so are we! The current name is Vanille, and if Transport Canada approves that, we are going to keep it - sounds sort of sweet.... And as far as planning where we will go from here - we will decide that when we will come back from our summer visit to Quebec. All is uncertain, life is great. Have a good summer, all of you, or mild winter, our friends down south.

March, 2012

How the time flies....
...we are already at the end of March and since September we had logged some 2,100 miles. The last three months we have been surrounded by thick rainforests, snow-capped volcanoes stunning fjords, narrow canals, many, many streams and waterfalls, especially since February has been such a unusually wet month. Shinning ice fields with their bright, light blue color astonished us on the rare sunny day each time we had seen one. Patagonia is also about emptiness, during the whole month of February, we have seen only two other sailing vessels. March brought us much better weather, sun practically every day, so we could enjoy Chiloe region, which is a string of 40 islands with many wooden churches, 16 of which are declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We could easily spend here another season and still not cover all the cruising ground that is between Puerto Montt and St. Rafael Glacier. “He who hurries loses his time”, locals say! How right they are...the weather decides all in this part of the world, sometimes harsh but always rewarding. Right now we are back in Puerto Montt, the sun is still shinning, but there is a hint of winter in the air. We still want to go and see few places around here, before we head to Valdivia, where Nikan is going to spend the winter. So what more can we say? Time is running by way too fast...

February, 2012

Northern Patagonia, Ensenada Baja
We are planning to spend this summer cruising between Puerto Montt and Laguna St. Raphael (latitude 46º40'S) including Los Chonos archipelago as well as Chiloé Island. Well, summer here is from December to March with a bit of luck. So far we had been very lucky and had a warm beginning last month (they haven't seen here this kind of warm weather since 30 years!) with daily average around 25ºC, but we knew it wouldn't last and since then it's rain, and more rain with some strong gusts to remind us we are after all in Patagonia. (Some islands were even out of drinking water and had to have it shipped from the mainland.) We provisioned here in Puerto Chacabuco, as well as did a short trip to Argentina to renew our emigration papers for Chile, something we have to do every 90 days. Since the past few days we want to resume our cruising but the port is closed! No cruising zarpes are issued since the local condition is around 25 knots of wind, with gusts to 45+!!! So far this cruising ground is incredible - many waterfalls, rivers, rainforest followed by scrubby steppe - it's impossible for us to describe the feeling of solitude and the grandness of the nature. We crossed path with only two sailboats in the past month! They are many bays we can anchor in, gather drinking water from the many streams around full of minerals from the glaciers' caps and on few occasions we share our anchorage with the commercial ship servicing one of the many, many salmons farms around. (There is a colour wheel the owner can use to pick up the colour he wants his salmon to be!) For now, see a little sample of photos from this remote region in the slide show. We will update you again when we can, as Internet services are far apart...

November, 2011

We reached our destination
Rainbows of flowers cover the only village on the spectacular, volcanic Robinson Crusoe Island (the Juan Fernandez archipelago), today having the population of 600 of very welcoming, friendly people. It was Scotsman Alexander Selkirk, who at the beginning of 18th century spent four years and four months scanning the cobalt horizon for some ship to save him and was an inspiration for the fictional Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe character and in whose honor the island was renamed. Nowadays there is one fishing village, famous for the Juan Fernandez lobster, which is still recovering from 2010 tsunami, that hit them at 4 am with no warning whatsoever. Two percent of population lost their life that early morning, as well as many houses were washed out to the sea and reconstruction is still in progress. As we were leaving Robinson Crusoe behind us, we both agreed, this is one of the most beautiful islands we ever visited. Another five days of peaceful sailing and motor sailing found us in front of Chacao Canal, where the current runs up to 8 kn and so one has to time oneself carefully to get safely through. Now we are finally at Puerto Montt, where after 18 months Nikan will come out of the water and get a new antifoulling paint in preparation for the summer cruising in this area. There are at least nine other cruisers' sailboats that spent winter here and now are preparing to be on their way, some south to cross to the Atlantic ocean, some north to warm waters again and some west to cross the Pacific. As far as we know, we'll be cruising this area alone, and all of them are telling us, how beautiful this cruising ground is. Something we are looking forward to!

October, 2011

Leaving the flowering desert behind us...
“Desierto florido” is how they call this phenomenon that occurs only every three to ten years, when the parched land of desert wakes up to life after a long period of inactivity and starts to blossom, due to the correct mixture of humidity and temperature. We were lucky this was the year! Now, we are back in Valparaiso region (which we visited this spring - for you, fall for us), precisely in a modern yacht club, in Concon, about 20 minutes by bus from Vina del Mar, and we are waiting for a weather window to go either to Valdivia or directly to Puerto Montt. The spectacular shows of bio-luminescent plankton during the nights, as dolphins raced along Nikan, or of any other fish which disturbed the water, slowly disappeared as we moved south and for days we have observed no sea life, except several sighting of whales, one just few meters from us, but on sighting us diving down, to be only seen again from some distance. The spring here is in full progress, and all the flowers everywhere and trees in blossom confused me to such a degree, that for a while I thought the Santa material in stores is some leftover from Christmas, until it hit me that Christmas is not gone, but just around the corner! On the way down we stopped in Yacht clubs of Caldera, on the edge of desert, and than Coquimbo, both of them very welcoming with friendly, curious people, as they don't see too many foreign boats. From Coquimbo we made a little excursion to La Serena, Chile's second oldest city with some beautiful colonial architecture and churches. From now on (latitude 33 South) the weather is going to be influenced more and more by southern depressions, so J-P is going to be quite busy with weather charts!

September, 2011

Getting ready
Our tank is full, yesterday J-P made two taxi-trips to the gas station to bring some 280 l of diesel in preparation for our passage down south. Today it's cutting down and adjusting the new chimney we brought with us from Canada. The new battery is in place, the local dive diver is reserved to scrub the bottom of Nikan from all the weed that made it's home there, all kinds of touch ups are done, bottom plates painted (so the condensation from cold water is easily wiped off), vacuum is out and being used daily - the spring cleaning is in full progress. The sun is showing it's face almost daily now, temperature is going up, nights are warmer, it's hard to imagine we are at the beginning of spring, as we just returned from the full blown summer in Canada. City is sprucing itself for the warm days ahead as well, flowers are being planted everywhere, structures on the beach varnished, houses being repaired and painted, although one can still see signs of a serious lack of money for city's infrastructures. At the next weather window we will cast off the dock lines and say good-bye to Iquique after almost six months we spent here. At the end we are pleased with our choice to winter here, we didn't have any rain at all, temperature was always pleasant, the fish market around the corner, food stores close by, pleasant, several kilometers long boardwalk with lots to observe around, especially surfers and para-gliders who finish their long flights from nearby cliffs on the beach, many prowling homeless dogs, never too skinny as people here feed anything loose, including hundreds of pigeons. We also witnessed many peaceful protests by students, and all kinds of military parades almost every weekend, as well as weekly shows of local talents open to public on the main square. Now some 1400 miles separate us from our next cruising ground – the land of fjords, canals, islands, snow-capped volcanoes of Southern Chile – we hear the scenery is spectacular! and we are looking forward to it, despite the harsher conditions we will encounter, but are ready for.