Having said our goodbyes to Senor Gonzales at the Armada, we eventually left Easter Island on 3rd March for our 1,933 mile voyage to Puerto Montt on mainland Chile. It seemed very strange to be heading for the cold and our thermals, fleeces and oilies were all to hand as we knew they would be needed somewhere en route.
Twenty minutes after we left the anchorage, a squall came through for an hour or so just to get us used to being back at Sea again! Once this had blown through, the wind dropped to about 10/15 knots meaning that we could progress at roughly 4 knots although there was a big Sea swell.
We progressed slowly but surely for the next few days with decent winds during the day but dropping right off at night.
As a result, we were only averaging about 90 miles a day – not really fast enough especially as we were not being blown totally in the right direction…
After 4 days at Sea (yes, you’ve guessed it), the Autohelm bracket bust again !!! We couldn’t believe it… back to the good old trusty Monitor steering system.
Unfortunately, we were still experiencing very light winds so averaging only 4 knots during the day which was dropping off to 2.5 / 3 at night – very slow progress but still comfortable and we were even able to enjoy our “Happy Hour” of Diet Coke and Peanuts every evening at 5.30…
The Seas were gradually getting bigger and bigger but we were managing to eat and sleep well. Vicki was able to bake Bread and Muffins (very domesticated – getting ready for her “Land time”) so we had no real complaints except progress was much slower than we had thought.
Mind you, we would always prefer a slightly slower trip if it is comfortable.
After ten days, we still had 1,186 miles to go and we were still putting in a lot of South to pick up those elusive Westerlies.
Luckily, we were able to pick up regular weather forecasts via our (now firmly back in favour) Satellite Phone and were able to adjust our course to try and pick up the favourable winds. We were checking the weather Gribs every 3 days or so and the Satellite Phone is now up there with Marmite and Corned Beef as great things to have on board for long passages. Although, admittedly, it is a tad spooky being able to send and receive e-mails mid Pacific miles from anywhere…
Everything was going too smoothly and, as always, it was time for something to happen… In the early hours of the 16th March, the steering cable sheared and we drifted until daylight when we managed to set up the Emergency Tiller (luckily, we had one!). This is a great bit of gear and plugs straight into the rudder shaft.
Unfortunately, you have to crouch like a “Garden Gnome” to use it – virtually impossible to hand steer and… no autohelm !!!
Having had previous experience (once or twice!!) with steering issues, we managed to rig up various ‘bits of string’ to attach the Tiller to the Steering Wheel which meant that Hand steering was possible but the Monitor was redundant (still 983 miles to go…)
On the 18th, after 36 hours of us hand steering, Roger decided there must be something he could do to the Autohelm so he disappeared into the Cabin for the day. After 9 hours of bashing, bolting and lots of sweating (or was that swearing?!) he had used every spare bolt, piece of string, tape etc etc to come up with something solid(ish) to hold the bracket in place unless we had really big seas – fingers crossed…
We knew that the weather was due to change and, when necessary, we lashed the wheel and reefed in the Genoa.
The wind picked up to 35 knots very quickly on these occasions and the waves were getting very big by now. Surprisingly, although we had the odd “big boy” over the deck, the Sea did not seem particularly threatening.
In the middle of all this mayhem, it was getting colder so Monty began modelling the wardrobe that Vicki had started to buy for him in Cartagena.
He was quite happy prancing about in his jumpers and was fantastic as a morale booster. His ability to judge the big waves, run across the aft deck, poo and race back to the cockpit without getting wet is really quite remarkable - Obviously, he got a treat every time so he was happy and we were happy that he survived each marathon adventure !
We were now sharing the helm with the Autohelm which made life a lot easier and when hand steering with the wind from behind us at 30/35 knots, the boat speed was up to 8 knots (wow!) improving our average daily speed to 6 knots.
On the 23rd, we received an e-mail from Ian & Maggy Staples – the Ocean Cruising Club Port Officers for Chile - which really raised our spirits. [We had told them we were heading to Puerto Montt and hoping to stay in Chile for about a year, spending about 6 months on land enjoying the Country before heading South to Cape Horn in October]. They invited us up to their Farm to stay in their Lodge and suggested that we might find Valdivia a nicer place than Puerto Montt (and cheaper to have work done). So, a quick course change and, Valdivia, here we come. Only an extra 36 miles – 538 still to go.
We were now getting really excited, looking forward to being on land and seeing Monty run again. He had been confined to the Yacht for 3 1/2 months by now. To celebrate, we had a few home cooked chips with our ‘Happy Hour Coca Colas’ that evening !!
On the 25th, we really knew we had hit the “roaring forties”. The wind steadily increased all day and at 6pm we had a steady 40 knots of wind gusting to 48. We lashed the helm and stayed on the wind between 60’ and 90’ with the staysail coping – forward progress about 2.5 knots. By Midnight we felt a bit battered but it had passed through and we could hoist the Main and Genoa again.
We were glad to have a bit of calm the next day – the wind had totally died and progress was slow again. We were just drifting and still 292 miles to go.
It has to be said that Ships are a bit like buses. We had been at Sea for 24 days without seeing anyone else at all and then 2 Fishing Boats came along at once – neither of whom bothered to respond to our Radio call !!!
We were now very keen to get to Port and the forecast was calm for the next few days so, on the 28th, the Engine went on and we motored at 5 knots through the night. We sighted Land at 11.00am on the 29th.
The Sea was dead calm and it was great to be able to watch Monty running around the foredeck again.
The sky got bluer and we could see the Mountains some 50 miles away. Penguins and Sea-Lions suddenly appeared from nowhere and it was a fantastic feeling to be approaching Chile some 5,500 miles since leaving Panama in December. We worked out that we had spent more time at Sea than at anchor over the last 4 months – really good news for our livers !!
We got close to land whilst the Autohelm was still just about hanging onto it’s last bolt and hove to at about 6.00pm ready to head up the River to Valdivia in daylight.