Crew: Ian Upsall (Australia) – El Capitan
Mario Saraiva (Brazil) – Super Mario
Katerina Ruseva (Bulgaria) – Cool Kat
Liam Walke (Canada) – to be decided…
Location: Chilean fjords
Trip duration: 3 months
I will start from rather far away before I actually get to the sailing trip itself. The events that happened in the course of a few days after Sandra’s departure led to this unique adventure.
Without further ado here is what happened.
After Sandra left I started hanging out with Liam – a Canadian guy we met during the ‘W’ hike. I didn’t think much of him at first but then we got a chance to talk a bit more and was pleasantly surprised to find out what an interesting person he was. We also seemed to get along well and we spent time together.
At the hostel we also met Brian – an American traveler. All three of us spent quite a bit of time hanging out. One day Liam suggested a day hike to Glacier Martial which was nothing but an overgrown ice-cube. Rather pathetic compared to its icy brothers. We knew what we were getting into and had no intention walking all the way up the mountain for the glacier. It was the views of Ushuaia and the Beagle Channel that we were after. So we hit the road. We walked and we talked. And we laughed.
Half way up we met another couple of hikers – Gustavo, a lovely Argentinean guy I spent quite a bit of time talking to about his country’s history and politics, and Mario, a Brazilian guy and a professional charmer. We all hiked up to the glacier and as we expected there was not much of it. As a matter o fact it could hardly be called a glacier, it was just a bit of dirty snow. We shared a mate and had some snacks before we headed back to town. That evening we decided to go out for dinner. Gustavo even re-scheduled his return bus.
So, we quickly walked back to the hostel, changed clothes and headed to the center of town. We found a place to eat and once we had had enough we thought we’d had back to our hostel for some drinks and cards.
We had all raved about our hostel that day and Mario was thinking about switching hostels and moving to ours. Part of the reason we went back to our hostel was to show Mario what it was like. At least that’s what Brian’s intention was. So we get there, we get some drinks, Brian shows Mario the dorms and we settle at the kitchen table. I asked the owner whether he had a deck of cards and he said he didn’t but he also said that we couldn’t use the table because it was dinner time and others would need it. He also added that it is for guests of the hostel only referring to Mario as a non-guest.
What happened next was a turning point. I went back to the dorm to get ready so we could go out. I’d only be gone for 5 minutes but by the time I came back the guys had had an argument with the owner. They were all angry and eager to leave the place. Apparently, the owner had expressed his dislike of Mario and that he didn’t want him there in a very rude manner which had ticked off the guys. I was very surprised, almost unbelieving of what I’d heard as the owner struck me as such a mellow guy. Everybody who knew him was speechless. Nobody thought he was capable of something like that. Liam gave him a piece of his mind and we left.
We discussed the incident still unbelieving of what had happened throughout the night and eventually reached the conclusion that we would leave and switch to Mario’s hostel. After the incident we were left on the street with a bag of drinks. We didn’t know where to go and Mario suggested we went to his hostel. We asked the owner whether it was ok to spend a few hours there and he gladly agreed. He was very relaxed and welcoming. That had a lot to do with our decision to switch hostels. Now, when I say ‘our’ decision I mean the boys’ decision. Since I didn’t witness the argument I didn’t care about it. The guys did however and since I had become rather fond of them I didn’t want to separate from them. That is why I also decided to move out. All for one and one for all.
That night we had a lot of fun, hanging out at Mario’s hostel, drinking wine and playing silly card games. Earlier that day while hiking we had all talked about our travels and Mario had mentioned he wanted to sail to the East. We didn’t talk about it too much, we just mentioned a couple of related websites as well as an advert Mario had noticed at his hostel.
The next morning we packed our bags and left. We saw that advert ourselves. It said a one called Ian was looking for a crew to sail up the Western Chilean canals. It gave the location of the boat and said: Look for the red yacht.
Mario was busy doing laundry but Liam and I didn’t waste any time in finding the marine club where the yacht was anchored. We talked about it extensively on the way there, excited by the possibility of taking part in such an existing trip. We speculated about the size of the boat and the crew. I shared my concern about getting rejected for being a girl and lacking any sailing experience but I wasn’t too worried anyway as I thought the 2-3 months the trip would take was too long for me anyway. I was only going along for the information and the experience. Liam speculated about the location of the yacht. We saw a couple of rather small red boat on the way there and thought he would only need one crew let alone an inexperienced girl.
Eventually we found the yacht and it was much bigger than we’d thought. It was however empty. Ian was not there. We walked around asking whether people had seen him but nobody knew anything. We then went back wanting to leave a note, letting him know that we had been there when a neighbor lady came out of an adjacent yacht. We explained what we had come for and asked whether she could pass Ian a note from us. We tried to get some more information about the trip, Ian himself but she didn’t know much more than what we already knew. She just said she had seen him with two girls. We thought he might have already found a crew.
We left still as excited as we had come if not more. On the way back we saw a scruffy guy with long hair walking towards us. We recognized Ian immediately. He looked just like people had described him. We explained what we had come for and asked for more information. He suggested we walked back with him and we did while helping him carry some bags.
He first showed us the boat and we were amazed to find out how big it was on the inside. It had everything one could possibly need. We got so excited. We then sat in the cockpit for a nice chat under the sun. Ian explained what the trip would be like and showed us a rough itinerary as well photos from the area. Liam and I could hardly contain our excitement with the prospect. We would nudge each other in the ribs and grin wildly every time Ian wasn’t looking. While talking to him we would maintain our serious, hardcore sailor faces. We asked what he expected from his crew and his answer was very simple.
– I am looking for people with an adventurous spirit who do not mind living in isolation – he said. We would spend a lot of time in practically deserted areas and you should be comfortable spending time with yourself – he added. We liked the sound of that.
We asked about the level of experience he needed and he said it wasn’t necessary. He assured us we all will be sailing by the end of the trip. The cost of the trip was an important aspect. It turned out we would only have to spend some $200-$300 on provisions and about the same on fuel. We liked the sound of that too. Much cheaper than a regular backpacking trip of that length. Ian didn’t seem to mind having a girl on board and actually expressed his preference.
– I prefer having a girl on board as she has a civilized effect on me – he said. Having a girl on board balanced things out. I was relieved to hear that. I was happy.
It didn’t take long to feel the connection between the three of us. We seemed to be getting along well straight away. We talked to each other in a relaxed, comfortable manner. Ian struck us as a very laid back quiet man. He talked calmly and we listened to him openmouthed. He looked like an old, grisly captain and he got our respect immediately. His looks even added to the excitement. We thought it would be so cool to sail with a pirate looking captain.
After a while we seemed to have exhausted all our questions and people were waiting to talk to Ian so Liam and I made our way back. We had eagerly expressed our interest in the trip and had promised to get back to him shortly. I knew I was doing the trip half way through the talk if not earlier. But Liam needed to give it some thought as he had arranged a job for himself and since the trip was rather long he wasn’t sure he would make it back on time. He pondered the option of getting off half way through.
We were both very excited and thought we had it in a bag. The captain seemed to like us and he had even implied he would like us to be his crew.
– So guys, what do you say? – he had asked at the end of the talk.
We walked back, shaking with excitement. We knew what a unique opportunity this was and did not want to miss it. It would cover some of the least explored parts not only in Chile but also the world. The only way to visit these remote, scarcely populated or practically deserted areas was by boat. And we were being offered the chance of a lifetime.
To me personally it meant the world. I had always wanted to sail and always imagined how great it would be. There is something very appealing to sailing – the romance of it, the novelty, the sense of freedom and peace. Add to this the magnificence of Mother Nature and you get perfection in its pure form.
This was my opportunity to do something unique, something that nobody else had done before or at least not so many people have. It was my chance to break out from the ‘gringo trail’ and experience my very own trip. Ever since I started this trip I felt something was missing, I wasn’t a 100% happy with it. To an outsider it looked like an amazing experience but to me it was just what hundreds of others did. It wasn’t unique. This sailing trip was my chance of a real adventure. I was not going to miss it.
We made it back to the hostel after a brief stop at the supermarket. We were having lunch when Mario joined us and told us he had also seen Ian and discussed the trip. By that time Liam had made up his mind and it was decided – all three of us were going sailing!
Not so fast dear…as we excitedly talked about it a Belgian couple sitting on an adjacent table overheard us and asked whether we were talking about the advert. It turned out they had also been to see Ian and he had told them to think about it and come back in a couple of days. Well, a couple of days were over and they were supposed to meet him later that day. ‘Damn it!’ I thought. ‘We got competition.’ I wasn’t letting them have my trip so we quickly finished lunch and ran to the marine club before the Belgians did.
– Guys, we have made our decision. Once we let Ian know there is no going back. There will be none of that backing off. It is our responsibility now. We owe it to him – I warned the guys as we walked down the road.
We found Ian and told him we would love to be his crew if he should have us.
– Alright – he said after a moment’s silence – looks like I’ve got a crew. He looked to the side and smiled to himself. A smile that one could almost miss if not paying close attention. He wasn’t overflowing with excitement just his own expression of quite joy.
Liam Walke, Mario Saraiva and Katerina Ruseva – the new crew of Persimmon, heading to the Chilean Canals. Hell yeah! High five guys!
On the way back we were all quiet. It somehow had hit us, we were now crew and in a few days we were going sailing to some of the most unspoiled parts of the world in a beautiful yacht led by a fairytale-like captain. It was slowly dawning on us. We were going sailing…for the first time in our lives. It is now the time to mention that only Liam had some sailing experience although he had never sailed a yacht. Both Mario and I were sailing virgins. What we lacked in skills though we made up for in enthusiasm and hard work. The guys had a blast comparing Ian to Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab. On the way back we wondered whether Ian had liked us and really had wanted us to be his crew or he had just accepted us for the lack of a better choice. Like I said, he wasn’t jumping with excitement and we were left wondering…
We had agreed to visit Ian the next day and possibly help him out with a few things that needed fixing or doing, little errands in order to prepare the yacht before departure. We thought visiting the captain again would also be a good way to cement our position and demonstrate our commitment.
We went back the next day and asked whether we could do something. Ian said we should hit the shops and stock up on waterproof gear and the likes. Having proven our commitment to the trip Ian invited us to stay on the boat for a couple of days before departure. That way we would get to know each other better and also save money on hostels. We were excited. Liam couldn’t make it that first night as he had some job related stuff to take care of but he joined us for dinner. He joined us fully on the next morning.
That night Mario and I went shopping still raving about how lucky we were and how amazing this opportunity was. When we went back to the boat and before we got completely dark Ian got us to climb the mast. Way to go for a first day on the boat! We had a blast climbing that thing and the view from the top was stunning. The experience was exhilarating – I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit scared at the top of the mast. As I stood at the very top, hugging the cold piece of metal, I could hear my accelerated breathing. I was excited, happy and a bit scared at the same time. Later that day Mario admitted he also felt a bit nervous at the top. I was surprised when I heard him say that because he stroke me as a confident, adventurous type of guy. I didn’t expect him to say it even if he felt it. I was endeared though. I got a glimpse of who he really was. And I liked it. He was real.
That night I cooked pasta and we all had a blast. Despite the large age difference and the mix of cultures we had no trouble interacting. It all came so naturally. Unfortunately, two weeks later I no longer remember the details of the conversation of that very night but I vaguely remember Ian sharing some sailing stories with us. I remember sitting there imagining those pirate nights around the fire while sailors told each other stories. I was experiencing my very own fairytale. Amazing.
The day that Liam joined us we sat down and created a shopping list. We needed to get provisions for at least one month if not longer. A lot had to be thought about. We thought 15kg of rice, 30kg of potatoes and 2kg of spices along with much more in similar proportions should last us until we get to the next major port. We spent that whole day in the supermarket. I had no idea it would take that long. We took a shopping cart each and hit the shelves. The boys split up and took care of most of the vegetables and the solid base goods, while I spent quite a bit of time sorting out the meat. It had to be vacuumed and packed in small pieces, or at least as small as possible. I also had to think about its quality. I was eventually done and joined the rest in the rest of the shopping. I got most of the fruit, Ian took care of the wine and cheese, and the boys ran around collecting bits and pieces coming back to base (read Kat holding the list) from time to time.
A few hours later we had fully stacked five shopping carts, had it all checked out and neatly packed in boxes. Next we got three cabs and transported it all back to the boat. The easy part was over, now we had to find a place for it all.
Slowly we stacked it in hidden cupboards behind and underneath cushions, and any other imaginable space. It is unbelievable how spacious this boat is on the inside. There is so much hidden space, enough to put away about 250kg of food. That was a major task completed.
Since it was the first night we would all spend together we had to think about the sleeping arrangement. The boat is ideal for three people as there are two single cabins and a double one. Since there were four of us we had to be creative. We decided that Liam and I would share the double cabin and Mario and Ian would take the two single ones at the back of the boat. We cooked dinner that night and went to bed.
We were supposed to leave the next day but Ian heard that a friend of his, a young French girl was sailing towards us and since it was her birthday in a couple of days he wanted to stay and celebrate it with her. It is worth mentioning that this 20-year-old girl was hired along with a friend to sail a yacht back to Spain, leaving from the southernmost tip of Chile and crossing the Atlantic. Being French she has considerable sailing experience despite her young age unlike her sailing buddy who did not have much experience. A rather impressive young lady. Julie is her name. Ian always speaks very warmly of her regarding her as his daughter. They only spent a couple of months sailing together but have become very close. Ian always worries about her and wonders how she is doing. Always speaks very fondly of her sharing details of their time together as well as her personality. This reminds me of a trait in Ian’s character – he always talks about the women in his life – his Australian lady friend Lois, an ex-crew member – a French girl named Ann – he always tells funny stories about them, things that have happened during their trips, character traits, and he always speaks of them with love. He always says how happy they have all made him.
We all have been fascinated with Ian, he has revealed an astonishing personality. He is extremely intelligent and well-read, a wealth of knowledge. Very relaxed and laid back. He is our friend more than our captain. He has all these amazing stories about magical places and beautiful people to share with us and I feel privileged to be able to be part of that experience. The one thing that has made an impression on me personally is his ability to see beauty in everything. It is the one thing I am going to remember him for.
So we were spending a few extra days on the boat. We didn’t mind. We were having a blast. The atmosphere on the boat was great and we were all getting along very well. We treated each other in a friendly, acceptant, supportive manner. And we were all very relaxed and comfortable with each other. I don’t remember what I did during the day but the guys mainly went to town in search of waterproof gear.
We had a couple of gatherings at the marine club house while we waited to depart. The first one was supposed to be our farewell party but we didn’t leave so it was just a party. It was nothing fancy, just several yachtsmen anchored at the marine club in Ushuaia. We grilled some meat, made some salads, everybody brought a meal and we all shared a lovely dinner over a nice conversation. Mario and I spent most of the evening chatting to a lovely Italian lady who told us about her love story. Only a couple of months ago she met a man whom she liked a lot in Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in Chile. Pretty much the end of the world (despite what Ushuaia says!). They spent some time together, fell in love, and now she had to go back to Italy, leaving them both looking for a way to be together. Such a romantic story and I hope it works out for them. She deserves it.
Our second party was Julie’s birthday. She didn’t want to attract any attention to herself (she is very shy) so it was more of an informal gathering than a big birthday bash. Many people turned up, bringing various French dishes, we grilled meat, made salads again.
We were leaving the next day.