Having fully stocked up with water, diesel and food (not petrol as the Island had used up all their month’s supply!), we left Isla Isabella on Sunday 24th January after 30 wonderful days heading for the remote Easter Island.
We were sorry to leave and, not only did our (now) friendly Port Capitaine come out to wave us goodbye (well, probably to check we were actually leaving...) so did Monty’s Sea-lion friend – they had developed a very strange ritual whereby at dusk every evening the Sea-lion came swimming around El Vagabond showing off to his Girlfriend. Monty then barked his little head off running from one side of the deck to the other as the Sea-lion swam under us snorting – absolutely hysterical once we were sure the Sea-lion could not jump high enough out of the water to reach him !!!
We had very light winds for the first few days so, although it was a comfortable motion and the Seas were calm, we were not getting anywhere very quickly. By the fourth day, the winds were picking up to 20/25 knots meaning that we could sail quite nicely. They were still from the South so we continued to sail 235/240’ hoping that they would back to the South East during the next few days.
As the saying goes… “If you want something done properly, do it yourself”. Our shiny new Autohelm bracket fitted by ‘experts’ in Panama and re-bolted on by Roger in Galapagos (after it broke off on our last leg) now decided to shear in the middle. Basically, it had to be completely disconnected again. Luckily for us, the wind was strong enough for us to set up the Monitor Self Steerer which was the ‘star of the trip.’ It did a wonderful job without which we would have had over 1,600 miles to hand steer…
For some reason, on this trip, we were having problems with our Satellite Communications. We messed around with the PC and in the end gave up. Our outgoing e-mails were ok but we weren’t receiving any e-mails at all including weather reports which was a bit of a pain but reminded us that we had only recently had such a luxury. (We subsequently found out that 1 e-mail was clogging up the system with a large attachment and therefore nothing else could get through).
As a result, we were not aware of the winds that we were heading for… We had 3 days of very squally weather – winds increased to 35/38 knots with gusts of 43 resulting in big waves knocking us around a bit. At one point, all our books were picked up and unceremoniously dumped on the floor (which hadn’t happened since we were sailing with ‘bare poles’ in 60 knot gusts in the Straits of Gibraltar back in 2005)!!
The old Girl coped admirably and just kept on going with 2 reefs in both the Main and the Mizzen and a small Genoa. The only snag was that we have yet to devise how to catch rain whilst under way ! Our ongoing entertainment was provided by Monty dancing around the aft deck trying to stay standing when having a poo at 20’ without getting it all over his bottom or stamping in it – quite an achievement really…
Once everything calmed down, we only had 300 miles to go, all was well on board, the sun was shining and Vicki even managed to bake some Brownies despite the challenging angle of the cooker !!
Easter Island / Rapa Nui / Isla de Pascua
We arrived at Hanga Roa, the main anchorage of Easter Island at 4.00pm on 11th February after 18 days at Sea covering 2,015 miles. The last 8 hours under engine as the wind had totally died. This was the first time we had turned the engine on since Day 2 as our combination of Aquagen, Solar Panel and Wind Generator had been powering us admirably – luckily, it started ok !
We had radioed into the Armada (Pascua Radio on Ch 16) about an hour before arriving at the Port to get their permission to anchor and they arranged to come out to us at 6.30pm once we had dropped our hook. Luckily, whilst motoring in, Vicki had spent the time wisely tidying up the Boat and there was no Monty poo on deck awaiting these Guys…
What a jolly crowd they were !! At what we thought was 5.30pm while we were still showering (they maintainChilean mainland time out here so it is really dark at 8am but still light at 9pm), their boat came alongside looking like a group of holiday trippers. We quickly grabbed some clothes and stood gawking as 8 (yes, 8) people hopped into our cockpit all welcoming us to their Island (which is known as Rapa Nui in Polynesian and Isla de Pascua in Spanish). They were representing the Armada, Customs, Immigration, Chilean Government and Health & Safety… They filled in lots of forms, asked us where our Long Life Milk was from (Panama was ok!), played with Monty and had to be the friendliest Officials we have ever met. When they left, they were smiling, laughing and snapping photos of each other in their pirogue and you would think that they don’t see many yachts (which is what we thought until we arrived and were amazed to see 5 other yachts already here – 4 from Chile and 1 from New Zealand).
Easter Island is the most remote inhabited Island in the World – it’s nearest neighbour being Pitcairn Island some 1,200 miles to the West although it is governed by Chile (2,000 miles to the East). Mystery surrounds the Island and the origins of the giant statues that are scattered all over the place – who carved them, why and when ?
We had been looking forward to seeing the Moai and Vicki was happily photographing the Island from some miles off catching on film our first sight of these statues of which some are 9 metres high. It was only as we got closer that she realised she had been snapping groups of trees !!
There are around 3,500 inhabitants and virtually the whole population lives in Hanga Roa.
Surprisingly, in view of it’s remoteness, most of the Islanders make their living from tourism. We arrived just in time to catch the last 3 days of their annual 2 week festival “Tapati Rapa Nui” which is a singing and dancing extravaganza.
After a few days, we hired a jeep and drove around the Island avoiding the wild ponies wandering everywhere and visiting various Moai sites including Ahu Tongariki where there are 15 huge Moai lined up. This is the largest number of Moai ever erected on a single Ahu (platform) which is 200 metres long.
It was totally destroyed in 1960 when a massive tidal wave, caused by an earthquake in Chile, swept across the Island dragging the statues 90 metres inland – some feat as the statues weigh up to 30 tonnes each. Funnily enough, the restoration was assisted by the ‘Moai Restoration Committee of Japan’. They now look truly spectacular.
Rano Raraku rises from the land in a huge mass of volcanic stone. This is where it is believed that almost all of the island’s statues were produced – carved directly from the compacted volcanic ash of the crater’s outer slopes.
There are dozens of giant heads, tall thin and angular, growing out of the ground although many have torsos and arms buried as they were finished Moai brought down from the quarry but not moved to an Ahu and the shallow pits built up around them until only the heads were visible. You can also see unfinished statues actually carved into the slopes of Rano Raraku – quite a sight.
We also visited Playa Anakena by car as the conditions were not good enough to move the boat to anchor there. The beach had very white sand, exquisite palm trees and looked exactly as you would imagine a South Pacific beach should look except, instead of being deserted, there were hundreds of people there - quite a disappointment !!
We have ended up spending 3 weeks here and the anchorage hasn’t been too rolly despite rumours to the contrary. We guess we are actually visiting at the best time of year (the height of Summer and it is an ‘El Nino’ year). Even the dinghy ride to shore is not too bad although there have been a couple of days when we were mighty pleased we bought our Caribe – not sure if the Walker Bay and small outboard would have made it safely over the surf…
Provisioning has been relatively easy – fresh bread and vegetables everywhere although generally a bit more expensive than Panama. Chilean ‘Clos’ white wine can be bought for US$3 per litre so, needless to say, we have been enjoying the evenings !!
We have found the Chileans to be very friendly and eager to be helpful. The Dive shop lets us fill up our jerry cans with free drinking water and even the local Vet gave us some tablets for Monty free of charge – you wouldn’t get that in the UK !!! So, if you fancy somewhere unusual to visit, we would recommend a stop here.
On 27th February, we were awoken in the early hours by an announcement made by the Chilean Navy advising us of a “Tsunami Alert”. The Islanders were being told to congregate at the highest point of Hanga Roa by the Church (at least the Vicar was guaranteed a good crowd) and we hauled anchor and set off in the dark to position ourselves about 2 miles offshore not really knowing exactly what to expect. Monty was very unimpressed to be so rudely awoken especially as it been a bit of a bouncy night and none of us had got much sleep. We waited for about 4 hours and then got the ‘all clear’ to go back to the anchorage. The Wave was a direct result of an earthquake registering 8.8 on the Richter Scale on mainland Chile (nearly wiping out the Town of Concepcion) and caused substantial damage on the Chilean ‘Isla Robinson Crusoe’ en route West. Luckily, it passed us by with only a few large waves touching Rapa Nui and we have heard that it is expected to continue to travel right across the Pacific to Australia.
We had been very indecisive about the next part of our adventure and whether to head West to New Zealand or East to Chile and had finally decided that we were just not ready for cold and wet sailing again yet so our minds were made up - Pitcairn and Gambier Islands next en route to Tahiti.
However, that was before we went to a Birthday Party on another yacht in Easter Island - Sangoma. It was Toby's birthday and he had invited all the yachties in the anchorage over for a few drinks (as you do). All of the other 14 guests had sailed from Chile and were so enthusive about the Country and the Chilean people - what could we do ? Yep, we changed our minds yet again and on 3rd March we left Easter Island for the 2,000 mile trip Southeast towards Puerto Montt in Chile...