May 6, Playa Parda

After a couple of days with Bob (a fellow sailor from Aussie) we continued our journey towards Playa Parda. That morning was very quiet and we had to motor for a while, leaving Bob and his Silf Six way behind us (Bob only sails). The lack of wind wasn’t the only reason to motor. Ian had spotted a whale in the distance not so far from where we were and he decided to go after it in an attempt of getting a closer look at it. So for the first hour or so we pursued the whale.
At first it was only a puff of mist in the distance but as we got closer we could see the top fin as well as the tail as it submerged under water. A few times it did disappear under water before its next appearance on the surface, for its due air fix. We admired it from a distance, every time getting closer and closer until it surprised us not 30m away to our left. What joy that was! All three of us stood on the side of the boat shouting ecstatically ‘Woooow! Wow! Yhaaa!’. Although Liam had seen a whale before he was shouting as much as Mario and I did. It was very exciting. We saw how big it was (almost as long as the 12m boat), we saw its back and its huge tail. It swam beside us for a minute or, curiously inspecting the strange invaders before it submerged, never to be seen again. What a kick that was! We spent the next few hours excitedly talking about our special visitor. Amazing.
Afterwards we carried on sailing for most of the day with no less excitement. At 3-4pm the wind picked up and we were heeling a lot, with only one reef in the main sail. The boat was rocking a lot which made it hard to stand inside.
We reached our anchorage and we only released the anchor. It was such a luxury not to have to tie up shore lines and use the dinghy. The spot itself was gorgeous, probably my second best after glacial Seno Pia. Ian cooked a lovely feijaoada and we settled for the night. I don’t know exactly what discussion we were having but somehow Winston Churchill came into the conversation and this is what Ian had to say about him ‘It is just a shame he wasn’t smothered at birth!’.
Next day we went for a hike, slowly making our way through the thick vegetation. I love taking walks around here as most of the ground is covered with soft moss, bouncing under my feet. It is more of a theme park attraction than a piece of nature. Again all four of us split up and headed our separate ways. Ian went up the hill to the right, Liam walked more or less in front of me, and Mario took a route to my left leaving him behind a bit. I stopped on top of a rock overlooking the caleta and our boat. After a while Mario joined me, and we headed further up the rocks. We wanted to make it to a higher rock that gave us an even better view but we couldn’t quite find a way up there and it was getting late. A few times while we were hiking we heard this mysterious roar and couldn’t quite put our finger on it. At last Mario decided it was Ian raving up the motor of the Zodiac (inflatable boat with a motor) as a sign to get back.
We started making our way down and we had only progressed a few meters when I heard Ian calling my name ‘Kat!’. I turned around but couldn’t see anything. We stood there for a while looking for Ian but there wasn’t a sign from him on the rocks. Mario thought I was making it up and rushed me back to the boat while I thought Ian might have hurt himself and was trying to attract attention. In any case, we rushed to the boat only to find out that Ian wasn’t there. We bumped into Liam however and thought we better go look for Ian as there was no sign from him. We quickly rushed back up, deciding to split up on the way. I took the left side while the boys went to the middle and the right. After a while I could see then just sitting in the distance and thought they’d stopped to discuss a plan of action. I kept an eye on them and they just kept sitting. ‘It is not the time to sit around’ I thought. ‘We need to hurry up’. I got closer to them, and asked then what was happening when they told me they’d seen Ian coming down the rocks. ‘Is he well?’ I asked. ‘Yeah’ they responded casually and we all sat there waiting for him to get closer. It was a relief.
When he finally came to us we told him we’d thought something had happened to him and that we’d gone looking for him and he laughed. He was fine. We also told him about these mysterious sounds and that we’d thought it was him raving the engine up. He explained it was the wind turbine of the boat. Mystery solved.
We then hung out for a bit longer, Liam slowly mad his way back, Ian sat on a nearby rock, overlooking the water, and Mario lay in the grass taking photos of Ian. We then went back to the boat as we had to get ready for a night sail. That night the williwaws were strong and we had some adventures to tell. Ian had tied the Zodiac to the side of the boat but we decided that it wasn’t secure enough and the boys offered to bring it up and tie it down. Before they did so, I went out to see what was happening when I strong gust picked up the Zodiac and threw it onto the deck. I laughed heartily, unbelieving of the strength of the wind. The following is an extract from Liam’s diary and his experiences of trying to tie up the Zodiac.
‘When we were getting ready to leave the williwaws were ferocious! So Mario and I went out to tie the dinghy down in between gusts. As we held the dinghy a gust almost threw it into the water, taking us with it. But thankfully we managed to get it on deck. Suddenly probably 80kts of wind ripped through the Caleta, heeling the boat over 20 or even 30 degrees. Water sliced and lined, black and white, deafening screams in my ears and in the bare rigging. Mario and I both ducked, on either side of the boat. The williwaw went up my nose – it blew so hard I could not think and I almost lifted off my feet… when it passed we looked to the leeward side of the boat and saw, in the fading light, a swirling tornado-like spectre, white and dynamic twist away; spray given form.’
While the boys were on deck, busy with the dinghy Ian and I were busy around the cabin. I remember him standing by the stove, warming up our dinner, while I was fussing about, cleaning. We had had some snacks earlier and the table was covered in mate cups, a bowl of freshly made guacamole along with bottles of olive oil and tea cups. The gust that nearly took the boys down and tilted the boat threw everything off the table and on to the couch. The mate spilled, the yerba went all over the place but miraculously the bowl of guacamole landed the right side up. I ran up to the table, trying to hold it all up while picking up remains, drying the couch and hoping none of it had gone onto my brand new computer. I was so mad. And so desperate at the same time. I had only just cleaned the whole cabin only to have it all messed up in seconds. Anyhow, we put everything away and waited for the next gust.
The time to leave for our night sail had come and here is what Liam has to say about it.
‘The prognostic was for 10-15kts all night so we thought we would almost make the beginning of the Smyth Canal by this next evening some 60miles. We set out at 10.30pm – Ian and Katya were on watch from 11pm-2am so Mario and I both went to bed to get some shuteye. My shoulder was so bad that I could not sleep. I could not find any position that was not excruciatingly painful. After about 2 hours I gave up and came out to sit at the table. I had to tell Ian and Katya because there was no other way to explain my bizarre behaviour. Ian gave me an anti inflammatory which didn´t really help I think… but when my watch did come the wind started to pick up. I couldn´t do anything with my arm and apart from the standard massive seizing pain already present moving or supporting myself became a mammoth task. They made me go to bed but I didn´t really sleep because of the arm and with the wind rising to 30kts plus and 2m chop I was being thrown about like a ragdoll in my bunk. I came out again at 5.30am or so, to violent pitching and a defeated feeling in the air. Current against, wind at 30kts against making zero progress, dangerous harbor to drop anchor, 3 hours till daylight. We had to turn back: no motor, no sails, just current and wind at our backs we were making 7kts of boatspeed!! The pain was making me nauseous and the pitching was making me seasick on top of that… At about 6am they sent me to bed again and somehow I did get about 2 hours of sleep in the early morning when I woke up to coffee and a boat already tied up – everyone was awake and deflated. Distance travelled: 26miles, net distance covered: 0 miles’.
Liam had somehow hurt his shoulder the day before and it only was getting worse. Ian and I took the first watch and were having a blast. It was a beautiful, quiet night, boasting a gorgeous starry sky. There was not much to do as we were sailing smoothly and we hardly had to make adjustments. Both of us just bent our neck backwards in an attempt to see the sky better. Ian showed me the Southern Cross as well as the brightest start in the Universe – the Alfa Centori, which is also one of the two bright stars pointing to the Southern Cross. We also saw the Milky Way in all its glory and starry whiteness which is best observed from the Southern hemisphere. Ian also pointed out the Coal Sack, which is an extra black spot beside the Southern Cross; hardly noticeable if you don’t know what to look for. Ian didn’t stop there though. He showed me the Magellanic Cloud, which is another galaxy. How exciting! I am fascinated by stars but hardly know anything about them myself. It is also so exciting when you meet someone who knows.
I was also very excited about sailing itself. The boys were sleeping and I had a chance to participate a lot more. I was energetically running between the cockpit and the cabin, checking on our speed, our course, adjusting the sails, hoping to get an extra knot out of them. When Liam woke up and we saw his state, there was no way we were letting him take over. I was tired but I was willing to go on. It was almost time to wake up Mario but Ian let him sleep for an extra hour. At 2.30am he woke up by himself though and he and Ian took over. I was tired and went to bed. Everything went wrong from there on. I hoped to warm up and get some rest but the boat was rocking so hard tossing me from side to side, making it impossible to sleep. I would lie on the right of the bedroom, and then the boat would tilt and I would be sliding to the left. I clutched to one side as much as possible but it was useless as I could feel my body slowly (or not so slowly) sliding over. Left-right, right-left all night! Every time the boat tilted I would also hit my head on the wall. How could I possibly sleep?! After a while I managed to stabilize my position by hurling up in the top corner with the pillow softening the bumps to my head.
Then there were my freezing feet. They were so cold I just couldn’t warm them up. I tucked them under the blanket, I wrapped them in it, I tucked them under my knees, brought them closer to my body and nothing. They were cold and I have this weird thing that I cannot sleep if my feet are cold. Also the boat was rocking so hard that I felt a bit sea-sick and had to focus on not throwing up.
So, to sum it all up…a night from hell!
At about 7am I got up as I had to go to the bathroom. The boat was rocking and I felt sea-sick so I just quickly ran into the bathroom, not even bothering to put a pair of trousers on. I had my dark, thick tights on and thought it would do for a quick bathroom trip. Ian was alone as Mario was also feeling sea-sick and was napping on the couch. I felt bad for Ian, wanting to stay up and help him out as he was the only one who hadn’t gotten any sleep that night but I just couldn’t. I ran back into the room and buried myself under the covers, trying not to throw up. A bit later the sun had come up and Mario came to wake me up as we had arrived and he needed help to tie up the shore lines. After a horrible night of sailing we had gone back to where we had left, making NO progress whatsoever. After I’d gone to bed, the wind had picked up, making it impossible to sail. After a while Ian had decided that going back was our only option as there were no safe anchorages anywhere nearby.
We anchored in Playa Parda Chica, the smaller sister bay of Playa Parda where we were much better sheltered from the winds. Once that was done, we had breakfast and went to bed.
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