The anchorages recommended to us by the Chilean Armada turned out to be basically for small sailboats that generally anchor and tie up to trees ashore. We found most anchorages not to have enough swinging room for a larger vessel, especially with the variable winds: There's nothing worse than having to move out of a tricky anchorage at 2 a.m. in 50 knots of wind. Most times we anchored more than once, as the bottom was so hard, our anchors just dragged.
Even though the weather could be fierce, the amazing scenery when the clouds dissipated and the sun appeared, albeit for a short moment, was spectacular. We never tired of the majestic snow-covered mountains and fall colors.
A SIMPLER LIFE
Another magnificent sight that we enjoyed was the Pio X1 glacier. It's located up Seno Eyre, one of the most beautiful Chilean fjords, and is rated as one of the largest and most spectacular glaciers in the southern ice fields of Patagonia. The trip up was fairly calm, with small chunks of ice—their fluorescent-blue color unmistakable—floating downstream. After taking the prerequisite ice pictures and collecting some century-old ice for friends in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we sailed back down, en route to Puerto Eden.
The large, snow-covered peaks in which Puerto Eden is nestled make for quite a spectacular setting. Puerto Eden was the first civilization we'd had experienced in ten days. The town, built over a peat bog, surrounded by wooden boardwalks, and composed of wooden houses painted the colors of the rainbow, is quaint. We got permission to anchor in front of the town and walked around to see the sights. There are several little stores, but they only carry basic foodstuffs. Glad our pantry wasn't bare!
After navigating some tricky passages and getting a good weather prognosis, we departed the relative security of the channels and ventured out to sea, with the city of Puerto Montt as our next destination. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning and got a floating dock at Marina Oxxean. It was so pleasant to tie up and get a good night's sleep, as we'd been doing anchor watches for about three weeks.
With a population of 100,000, Puerto Montt is the administrative and logistic capital of the area. Given the ship-repair and support facilities for its huge salmon-farming industry—second in the world after Norway—there's a host of good hardware stores, and almost every kind of tradesman is available. It's said to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Chile and is becoming quite prosperous, with two gigantic shopping malls and two big marinas.
But once you leave the urbanization of Puerto Montt, you're immediately immersed in the agricultural side of Chile. In some cases you could be taken back to an era where the automobile didn't exist. Milk is still left in cans for pickup by farm entrances, and farmers use carts to get their produce to market. You can't help noticing how clean everything is and how well-manicured the fields are. It seemed like an ideal lifestyle.
The weather in the Pacific was keeping Queen of Diamonds prisoner in Puerto Montt. The fronts were like freight trains, arriving on cue every three to four days. Thankfully our marina neighbors were friendly and helped us make our way around town. We ended up taking communal Spanish lessons and meeting local residents, who rescued us from sheer boredom. Alejandro Cuevas, dockmaster of Marina Oxxean, became a good friend, and soon we were invited to some great restaurants that only a local could find.
We also got to meet Andreas and Christina, one of the local families in Puerto Varas, who proudly introduced us into their society. We visited cattle farms and auctions and were shown around their charming Bohemian town on the banks of Lago Llanquique. Once you are accepted by the Chileans, you meet truly warm and friendly people who you feel will become lifetime friends. Andreas told me that "it was better to have millions of friends than millions of dollars."
The day finally arrived when we had a favorable weather window—if we'd stayed any longer, the boss would have assumed that we'd run for politics or been kidnapped. We decided that we ought to take advantage of the good weather and head as far north as possible. We were surprised that we had almost calm seas for most of the way once we were north of 38 degrees South. It was a great, uneventful trip except for having to change a main-engine raw-water pump.
This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.