Pomp and Ceremony for Navy Week

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Tue 24 May 2016 01:10
The tourist shops and most of the restaurants have shut down for the winter. Nobody comes to the "end of the world" this time of year. Yet somehow, Williams seems to be more alive. This past Tuesday was National Heritage Day and the museum screened a new film 'Tánana' (meaning "let's go (in our canoe)" in the Yaghan language) about the original inhabitants of Isla Navarino. 

In the film, Martín González Calderón who is half Yaghan, builds a replica of his father's fishing boat and sets off to visit the places that were important to the Yaghan; where they lived, fished and hunted and the cliffs where ancestors painted simple drawings. They inhabited the islands south of the Beagle Channel all the way to Cape Horn and I was curious to learn that they had haul routes across some of the islands so that if the weather was too terrible for them to row/sail round, they could drag the boat overland to get home. Although the Yaghan originally used bark canoes, and later dugouts, after contact with missionaries, they learnt wood working techniques and built more substantial fishing boats. Hauling the boat over an island would have been very hard work. The screening was well attended but I was rather dismayed when I realised that I was the only one in the audience not also in the film!

The Navy

The whole of this week was Navy Week and Francisco (Micalvi manager) was busy making the Micalvi look its best. The kitchen (seldom used) was scrubbed to every last inch, skirting boards, the slabs around the wood stoves, and parts of the superstructure were all given fresh coats of paint, new chains were welded across the gates to stop visitors inadvertently falling into the water, all the yacht power cables were tidied up with cable ties and the country flags were hoisted (as usual the Argentinian and British standards were as far apart as possible - I do wonder whether this is deliberate or even subconscious).

Cachoeira and Naziq, the two yachts furthest out from the Micalvi were banished to a buoy in the river to make way for the flotilla of small racing yachts from Ushuaia that arrived for the regatta. On the Friday evening an Argentinian gunship tied up alongside the main pier and all the boats in the harbour dressed overall.

Chilean army boats in the port

Saturday morning reverberated to the sound of trumpets and the town stank of gunpowder as a canon was fired twenty-six times after the end of some very solemn speeches. The parade went off well though I did notice a few of the musicians were out of step.

Pomp, ceremony and a smile

The youth band - the drums were smart, the trumpets out of step

The regatta was a success with all boats returning despite a stiff breeze blowing in the Beagle Channel. The upwind leg was a challenge, particularly for the junior fleet of optimists, as reefing isn't an option for that class. Mauro, in the rescue dinghy, was on tenterhooks.

Before dawn, on Monday morning, the racing boats cast off, one by one, to sail back to Ushuaia. By 10am Williams was, once again, a sleepy little town.


P.S. A Chilean Navy yacht, the same as last time won the regatta, but the Chileans are far too polite to talk about it. After all, if the Argentinians stopped coming, there wouldn't be much of a field.