May 16, Puerto Natales

Day 1
After 3 weeks and 2 days (only 2 days over schedule) we made it Puerto Natales, Chile. We had to stop to re-stock on food (mainly!) and fuel of course but that’s not so important. I am just kidding!
In the early afternoon of May 16 we put down our sails and motored into the bay of Puerto Natales. We have been told that the fishermen’s jetty is a good anchoring spot and that is where we headed. It was the first of a series of anchoring options anyways. It was all to our left and the open canals were to our right. So we slowly approached the jetty, seeing an open space on it. As we got closer, a lady who obviously worked there stood on the edge of it, seemingly wanting to talk to us. We greeted each other and asked where we could tie up.
– You cannot stay here – she replied. I am expecting many boats coming to unload. It is too busy – she added.
‘Fair enough’ we thought. We asked where else we could tie up and she pointed us to a dock further down, but she also said that most yachts went to the other side of the bay. Hmmm, not a great options since we would have to rely on the ferry to cross the bay which wasn’t ideal since we had too many things to do, and we would be in and out a lot. We slowly headed to the other dock indicated to us, and on the way there we exchanged waves with the ferry ‘San Andres’. The guys on the deck waved at us, indicating the dock we were after and w thought we would wave back at them. I also spoke to them on the radio, asking for detailed directions.
We saw the dock, and tied up besides this tour boat that wasn’t going anywhere since it was low season. We got our papers and passports and headed to the navy office that was conveniently located just across the street. At first the officer said we couldn’t stay at the dock because it was a naval one. Then he said we could stay there for a few hours, and then he said we could stay there until the next morning when he would come to the boat and fill some more papers. We asked him how we can get water but he didn’t know. So we decided not to quiz him further. He looked kind of sleepy, rubbing his eyes when we went in, coming from a corner of the office where a laptop was plugged and Facebook peeking from the screen. Way to go Chilean Armada!
We then headed to the center of town in search of a meal and Internet. Mario, Ian and I went to a restaurant I had previously gone to for some juicy burgers, while Liam headed to a nearby Internet café. The burgers were so big that even ‘always hungry’ Mario couldn’t finish it and we had to have them doggy bagged. He is embarrassed about it and we don’t talk about it.
We had beer and sodas to go with our meal, which was so nice after a month of nothing but water, tea, coffee and wine. The guys also thought it funny to be back on solid ground among people. I felt just fine. Like I have never left. Maybe because it was my second visit to Puerto Natales and it felt more or less familiar.
We then also headed to the Internet. I left the boys at a café and headed to a different one hoping to find Wi-Fi. I ended up going to another Internet shop, which didn’t have any Wi-Fi but let me plug my machine to the cable Internet which was equally convenient. Four hours later I had updated both my blogs and had revised all my e-mails and FB messages. Liam was also there, chatting to his family and friends, while also updating his blog. Unlike me though, his is a summarized version of the most important happenings, while I elaborate on our daily endeavors.
It was rather late when I headed back to the boat and bumped into Mario, who was sitting in a nearby Internet café. Apparently, he had gone out to look for me, but had stopped to check some e-mails on the way thus never finding me. We had dinner on the boat and settled for the night.
Day 2
Next day we woke up kind of late, had breakfast and busied ourselves with the preparation of a shopping list and getting water. Ian had spotted a tap on the dock together with a hose that belonged to our neighbor Chilean Armada boat. We asked them if it was ok to use it, and since they were very nice there were no problems. We connected our hose to their, and that was long enough to reach the water tanks.
Having an unlimited water supply meant only one thing – hot showers! We all bathed and washed dishes with the water running. Once that was done, we headed to the supermarket to do some shopping. This time we were provisioning for two months which meant our task was no easier than the first time around.
I expected to spend the whole afternoon at the supermarket but somehow it went very quickly. We were all ready to go before I knew it. The guys took care of all the packaged goods while I took care of all the fruit and veg.
Once we had it all on the boat, Mario and Ian went to the Internet again while Liam and I stayed at the boat, writing and reading, while waiting for 6pm when we had to go back to the supermarket to pick up the vegetables we had ordered earlier. Once that was done we all met up at the boat and went out for dinner.
We wanted to go to this African-Patagonian restaurant but it was closed for the season and we went to a grill house instead. A bit difficult on Liam but he managed to find some salads and baked potatoes on the menu. It was a lovely, cozy restaurant, with an open grill fire in one corner. Meats, peppers and garlic hanging from the ceiling over the bar. They had a great deal on a fixed menu for two so we ordered that as well as an extra portion of grilled lamb. It was an exquisite feast! We started off with some beers, of which my ale was especially delicious. We then had some Pisco Sours (a delicious cocktail like drink that I had never heard of before), and then had some red wine with the meat. All in all a mix sure to get you drunk! We were all merry and cheerful. Dinner was over and we headed back to the boat. Mario and I decided to have a little walk before we went back and spent some time chatting on the streets of Puerto Natales. Happy and satisfied we went back to the boat for a good night’s rest.
PS As we were stepping onto the boat, Mario lost his balance and kicked a bucket or something left in the cockpit thus making horrendous noise. The others asked what had happened the next morning.
Day 3
Next day we organized all the shopping we had brought in the day before. We sorted through all the vegetables and fruit consolidating them into a manageable number of boxes that could be tight down while we are moving. The boys did a lot of it, while I was busy going through the rest of the boxes putting things behind walls. At some point Liam and Ian went to the fishermen’s jetty in order to organize the fuel delivery and Mario and I stayed on the boat, organizing things. Mario started re-arranging cupboards in an attempt to fit more groceries and got carried away to the point of re-organizing and tiding up most cupboards on the boat.
When Ian and Liam came back, they brought good news with them. The fuel delivery had been organized for about midday that same day. We didn’t have that much time left, so we tidied up a bit more and headed to the jetty to wait for our fuel. We were there at 11am and the truck was supposed to come between 11am and 11.30am. Soon after we tied up to the dock, the lady manager involved in the fuel delivery contacted us on the radio and said that the fuel cannot be delivered on time because they can’t find a driver. She asked whether it was ok to deliver fuel from another company. I asked her whether the quality was the same she confirmed and we agreed. They were supposed to come an hour later.
Liam and I decided to collect all the empty cardboard boxes and take them back to the supermarket and do some shopping as well. We piled them all onto our shoulders and set out for the long walk to the supermarket. If I knew how far it was I would never agree but what was done was done. I then stayed at the supermarket buying a few more bits and pieces and Liam went to an Internet café where he had arranged a Skype date with his sister. We agreed to meet back at the boat.
I went back first, carrying all the provisions with me, including 20kg of whole-wheat flower we use for baking bread. The guard at the jetty wanted $2 to let the taxi drive up to the yacht, and I thought it wasn’t worth it since I didn’t have that much to carry. The taxi dropped me off in the beginning and I walked once with all the plastic bags and again with the flour.
By the time I went back the guys had almost finished re-fuelling and we were soon ready to leave. We settled the bill and sat down waiting for the tour boat we were tied to at the naval dock to leave so we can tie directly to the dock. They were supposed to leave at 6pm so we just had to wait for an hour or so. Since all of us were present Mario decided to go to the Internet since we didn’t need that many people. We just agreed to meet later.
At 6pm we left, thinking we would be just on time. Of course we went there at 6.30pm and the boat was still there. We asked them when they were leaving and they said 30minutes. We had some time to kill or we could tie onto the other side of the dock where we didn’t have any protection against the winds but it was better than sailing around in the dark for half an hour.
We untied and moved all the fenders and the ropes to the other side of the boat and Ian maneuvered us next to the dock. We tied up and sat down to wait. 10 minutes later Liam comes in and says the boat has left. Ok, we untied and moved all the ropes and fenders to the other side again and Ian slowly got us into position. The wind was constantly pushing us away from the dock, and although I had tied up the back of the boat to the dock, the front was too far away for me to get the rope. We had to untie the back and repeat the maneuver again. It took three times to get us into position and tie up. Tricky business!
After that we all went to the Internet. Liam headed to a café and Ian and I settled at this coffee shop that had a decent Wi-Fi connection. Later Ian, Mario and I went for dinner at a nearby restaurant offering a 3-course fixed menu (incl. salmon as a main) for $5. Couldn’t possibly say no! Ian was feeling tired and not too hungry so we just had a seafood soup and headed back home.
PS That morning we saw the famous NAVIMAG come into the bay. I knew it was big, but so big..! Ian was out on the deck looking around when he came into the cabin and said:
– I see gringos come down from the boat. They have huge backpacks on their backs, they have backpacks on their front, and they have trolleys too! We all doubled up with laughter.
Day 4
Next day after breakfast we headed to the bus terminal hoping to catch a bus that would take us to the border. Although we still have 2 months left on our visas we decided to extend them just in case. In order to do that we had to leave Chile, enter Argentina, leave Argentina, and enter Chile again all on the same day in less than two hours. Puerto Natales is only about 20km away from the border and we figured we would never be so close again.
So, we checked at this one bus company but they didn’t go to the border. They pointed us to another company but their next bus left in the late afternoon which was more than 7h away and more importantly charged a lot of money ($8 for a one-way ticket). We then decided to go look for a taxi, knowing that they charged $40 for a return which was cheaper than the bus.
We went to the supermarket where most taxis gathered, looking for a friendly taxi driver we had used twice before for our shopping trips. I couldn’t see him and Mario suggested I talked to another, young driver. We explained what we wanted and he gave us a price of only $20! It was too good to miss. Too cheap. Half way there we anonymously decided that $20 was too little and made up our minds to give him $30. The driver was really nice, took us everywhere, and dutifully waited for us at all the checkpoints. The whole procedure took less than two hours including travel time and we had no trouble, although the Argentineans were a bit surprised with our maneuvers and took down our passport numbers on a separate sheet of paper for tracking purposes!
We were back in Puerto Natales before noon and our driver dropped us at a map store where we hoped to find a detailed marine map of the next section of our trip. He was so happy to get 50% more than what he had bargained for and personally walked us to the store where his girlfriend worked, instructing her to help us with what we needed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have what we needed but they pointed us to another store that sold such specialized maps. We then headed back to the boat, stopping to buy the map on the way.
Reunited with Liam we all went to the marine office to get the exit stamp for the boat. The officer processing the papers told us to come back in about two hours and also said we could stay at the dock any longer. We kindly told him it was our last night and we hoped to stay there instead of going to the other side of the bay which would make our crossing rather complicated. He said we could stay until they issued the exit stamp and that he would ask whether we could stay for the night when we came back. It suited us.
It was then time for another load of laundry and more Internet. But before that Ian and I went to the supermarket to buy the meat we needed as well as some other small bits and pieces. Once that was done we went back to the boat where we met a local retired teacher looking curiously at the boat. We started chatting and I noticed he was curious about the inside of the boat. I asked Ian whether we could show him around, he agreed and I invited him inside. He was impressed with how spacious it was but who isn’t! It is a very comfortable boat. After a short, friendly chat we said we had to go to the copy shop and he offered to give us a lift in his car. We had our newly acquired map to copy but it was too big to fit into a conventional xerox machine so we needed a rather specialized one. The ladies at that first copy shop wanted to fold it in order to copy it and it was out of the question. We didn’t want to bend it. It was that beautiful. We went to another copy shop pointed to us but it was closed and we ended up at a third one that didn’t have a special machine but the copy lady was smart enough to just spread it on top of the machine without folding it. We then picked up Liam and Mario who had gone to a nearby Internet café and headed back to the naval dock where it was time to pick up our exit stamp and find out whether we could stay on the dock for our last night or not.
We got our papers and did get a permission to spend the night. We were pleased. We then headed back to the Internet. Mario decided he could still talk to his parents and headed to a nearby café, while Ian and I went to the Wi-Fi place. Ian had dinner there, and after a short chat with Mario we decided to have dinner together as Liam was nowhere to be seen. Just before I left I remembered I had to check whether I could change one of my flights back. I was worried it had to be changed a month in advance and if that was the case I would miss the deadline since we would be still on the boat. I was rather worried about it, but it all turned out ok. I found out I had plenty of time to do changes.
We then went back to the Wi-Fi place where I needed to upload a few more photos before we left for another two months. I wanted my friends and family to see the boat, the crew, our captain, some of our daily activities as well as the places we visited. I wanted them to know that all is well and I am happy.
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