It all started in early June when a friend of mine from college came to visit. Lauren moved to Utah shortly after I left and I hadn't gotten to see her in years. She happened to be visiting her sister who was studying abroad up in Santiago and she brought Jessica and another Bucknell alum, Reuben, along for some sight seeing around Puerto Montt.
Eventually the crew had to head back to work and school and I spent a couple of days working on the Rascal and carousing with some Chilean friends around Puerto Montt. Late one night we were hanging around a marina and a plan hatched to sail the Rascal to a nearby hot spring the next day. We went to the market the following morning, bought a bunch of wine and a 15lb salmon, and pulled the anchor with a following breeze.
It snowed in the high country during the night and a few showers on the sail back made for prime rainbow conditions.
I spent the next few days getting reprovisioned in Puerto Montt and then pointed the Rascal southward once again for some more solo exploring in the fjords.
- You’ve got to wear high boots or waders because there are plenty of streams and holes and bogs and swamps that’ll swallow you up otherwise.
- Walking up streams / climbing waterfalls means that the foliage is less dense (even if you’re submerged up to your waist most of the time) and the traveling is much faster.
- Carrying a staff lets you whack stuff out of the way (which is supremely satisfying), probe the ground for quick-sandesque swamp holes, and keep your footing in a fast moving streams.
- Gortex doesn’t stand a chance of keeping you dry, rubber fishing jackets are the only thing that can begin to stand up to the rigors of thorns and bushes and constant rain.
- Steep approaches go a bit slower in terms of distance, but faster in terms of vertical feet gained.
- Machetes are pretty useless, everything is either too thick to be macheteable or thin enough that its faster to just bull your way through.
- Land slides and/or lava flows that demolish foliage are your friend.
Perhaps even more incredible is this: they found the tree to be 2400 years old at the time when it died. Which means that it was born 4000 years in the past. FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO! Incomprehensively old. And yet there in front of me was a polished block of wood, looking like a sparkling piece of furniture, as real and solid as a rock. And I could touch it and inspect it and marvel at it. And I did.
During my sophomore year of college I had the good fortune to become acquainted with a man named Brendan Ryan. We quickly bonded over our love of skiing and grilled meats and we’ve been good friends ever since. Over the past half dozen years or so, we’ve been living on other sides of the continent and only get to see each other sporadically, which is truly tragic. We happened to connect on a skype call one afternoon, and two weeks later his plane touched down in Puerto Montt.
After a fitful night’s sleep, we rose at 4am, brought in the anchor and started motor sailing north with a very light (2-4kt) wind – just enough to fill the sails. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a 25 or 30 kt gust slammed into the Rascal and heeled her over in a major way. Her lee rail buried itself and water started sloshing into the cockpit. The added weatherhelm was enough to get her to tack across the wind and all of a sudden she was totally heeled over in the other direction. I got down to sheet and let it loose so that the jib would spill its wind. The Rascal quit heeling over, but the wind was still strong and the jib was flogging around like crazy. We were both silent as all of this transpired, but B’s eyes were about the size of flying saucers and it was pretty clear he was scared half to death. I went up front to drop the jib and the Rascal promptly decided to eat one of the jib sheets for breakfast and by the time I got back to the cockpit, it was totally wrapped around the propellor and the engine had died.
We took stock of our situation for a second and found that we were both safe and sound, and there wasn't any damage to the boat besides the prop that was inoperable. We spent a few fruitless minutes trying to get it untangled, but the high winds, the big waves, and the fact that it was still 5 in the morning (and totally and completely dark out) we never had a chance. But, of course, sailboats are made for sailing and thats exactly what we did. Except we were sailing into a very fluky 20kt wind with huge waves, a 2-3kt contrary current, and no light to see the islands that were around us. Options didn't abound, however, so we kept tacking into the wind - sometimes making ground, and sometimes losing it. We talked over our options as we waited for the sun to rise (and a hell of a sunrise it was!).
I don't own a wetsuit, but I threw on some long underwear and a couple base layer shirts and jumped into the 50F water. B had a line around me in case things went bad and I started hacking away at the rat's nest around the prop with my 10" chef's knife. It was a fierce battle, but after about 10 minutes in the water, I had the prop free and we were on our way again. Some miniature bratwursts and a heavy down jacket had me warmed up and ready for action in no time!
The stress of the day slowly gave way to a protected anchorage and a glass of port to finish off the trip. It was certainly a dramatic way to end things, and we were both happy to be back on dry land the next morning as we hitch hiked to the airport.