Meeting Maria-Ayla and Fernando
Yesterday morning at 6am we cast off from the pontoon in Puerto Montt. As soon as we emerged from the lee of Tenglo Island into the Seno de Reloncavi, a large group of dolphins joined us. One had a jugged stump where its dorsal fin should have been while another had lost the tip. There are thousands of boats in the area and we speculated that the maiming had been caused by a propeller. The fact that they survived such amputations, may be down to the tonnes of antibiotics poured into the sea by the salmon farms.
The dolphins stayed with us most of the time. They weren’t interested in fishing launches nor the slow flat bottomed workboats but they did abandon us for a fast modern vessel with a huge bow wave. We could see them having a great time surfing. Unlike the dolphins of the ‘canales’ who welcomed any kind of entertainment, this lot are adrenaline junkies.
In the brisk northerly breeze, Caramor made good progress and we anchored in Puerto Abtao in time for lunch. Canal Chacao, the narrow passage between the island of Chiloe and the mainland, is just around the corner. We need to go through with the ebbing tide as our engine is not powerful enough to fight the flood. The trouble is the wind has gone around to the west and is blowing against the ebb, raising huge and dangerous waves. We will have to wait until the conditions change.
After lunch today we inflated dinghy Arnie. Ding is no longer with us. With sadness, we left her in Puerto Montt. She has served us well but is coming badly unstuck at the seams and to repair her is a huge job which would require a dry and dust free space to work in. We left her with the duty ‘marinero’ and when we returned an hour later, she had gone, presumably adopted.
Ashore, we left Arnie with the local tenders and followed a path up the cliff … to someone’s garden. A couple of pigs greeted us with grunts while we wondered what to do next. A man appeared and we called out “Excuse me, could you tell us how to get to the road please?” There was no “get off my land”, no “this isn’t a public path, you know”, he smiled and gestured that he was deaf, he lead us to his house. His wife came to the door “Are you in a hurry? No? then please come in for coffee.”
She sat us down at the table and brought tea, coffee, bread, butter and broad beans. They were from her garden and she was boiling them on the stove. “We are poor but there is always something for guests” she assured us.
“Move up” she told Franco, “the señora has no room”. Fernando, the gentleman, asked where we were from. “W… England” replied Franco (it was simpler). Fernando lost his hearing in the 60s and with time his speech has slurred as he can’t hear himself enunciate. “In-gla-ter-ra” repeated his wife, Maria-Ayla. “Argentina?” asked Fernando. “Close enough” she muttered and left it at that.
The elderly couple live from their garden and from Fernando’s fishing, he has a rowing boat. The west wind isn’t good for fishing so Fernando stayed home today. The dog looked in and was shoo-ed away. We asked if they felt the earthquake on Christmas Day. Maria-Ayla said she had been frightened, the whole house shook. She told us about the 1970 tidal wave which destroyed most of Puerto Montt. She was gathering large mussels at low tide on Chiloe when the water went out, with her friend, she managed to get to high ground in time but many of the boats were destroyed.
As we prepared to leave, Maria-Ayla smiled coquettishly and told Franco: “I never believed that a gentleman like you (looking him up and down, with knowing appreciation) would visit me in my humble home”. Franco looked suitably embarrassed.