Position: 32 46.86 S 071 31.32 W
I didn’t follow my plan last night and as a consequence this morning we found ourselves drifting around some 15 miles off the coast and wondering whether we were going to make it into Quintero today.
As we sailed past Quintero last night at about 10 p.m. the wind was light from the southwest and forecast to back into the south. I didn’t want to go into a strange port in the dark so had decided to loiter outside the bay. My original plan was not to stray too far past Quintero as I fully expected the winds to go very light by morning. But as we got to the four to six mile range we encountered quite a few small fishing boats drifting around. I misjudged our distance from one of them at one point, I had gone below for a short break and when I returned on deck this open dory lit by two hurricane lanterns was passing close down our port side. Oops, how embarrassing! Not all of them were lit either. As I got a bit further out I could hear an outboard chugging away off our port bow, but peering into the gloomy moonless, starless, overcast night I could see absolutely nothing. Ten minutes later the sound of the outboard ceased and a light lit up about 500 yards off our port beam. These two incidents made me feel nervous, the last thing I wanted was to have a collision with a Chilean fishing dory. Most of these boats are made of heavy fibreglass and I am sure Sylph would have come off a poor second, I doubt whether any serious damage would have been incurred but obviously something to be avoided. Then of course there was also the chance that we might collide with something less substantial. The dramas I imagined that might follow the sinking of a Chilean fishing boat did not bear thinking about so I decided to continue out to sea a little, away from the fishing fleet and other inshore traffic where I could feel more relaxed. At half past midnight we tacked and started heading back in towards Quintero but, as I expected, by 3.30 the wind had disappeared and we were left rolling in the ever present southwest swell with sails slatting heavily. Bother, I thought but there is always a plus side and in this case such calms provide a good opportunity for a rest, so I dropped the sails and got a little sleep in while Sylph drifted. I figure the worst thing that could happen in these circumstances is that a merchant ship could run me down, disastrous for me and BC but pretty unlikely seeing as I was clear of the coastal shipping lanes and conditions were calm, so I should have been easily visible to any ships that might have strayed out to sea a bit. When in this sleep mode I still get up and have a look around on a regular basis (about once an hour) just to make sure there isn’t any traffic about. I further rationalise such irresponsibility with the thought that it is one thing to kill myself as a result of my own decisions but quite another to hurt or kill someone else. Of course I do not like the idea of perhaps being on someone else’s conscience but when single handing one’s vigilance and safety is also dependant on being as well rested as circumstances allow. Having thus justified a little snooze when 7 a.m. came along with a small breeze from the east, and in which direction Quintero now lay, I was well rested and ready to take advantage of it, so I hoisted sail again with sheets close hauled, which in fact did not get us very far, as by ten the wind had died again and we were once again rolling with sails a-slatting. Down sail, until 12, when a zephyr returned, now from the south, up drifter, this light weight sail will hold the lightest of airs provided we are not rolling too heavily, and give us steerage way. As the afternoon wore on the breeze filled in such that we were up to five knots, I had to drop the drifter and set the genoa in its place. As we entered the bay I came close on to the wind to work our way towards its head where shelter lay, we threaded our way through the many moored craft, tugboats, a pilot vessel, fishing vessels, lighters and as we got closer to the head of the bay a few yachts. I tacked my way through a maze of moorings, looking for an empty mooring I could pick up, loathe to drop the anchor seeing as the chart said anchorage prohibited. Eventually we ran out of room so I rounded up into the wind, furled the jib, started the engine and dropped the mainsail. About this time I noticed an large open boat with a big outboard on the back waving at me and clearly indicating for me to follow him. He led me to a buoy and helped me to tie up to it and then took me ashore to the Port Captains office where we checked in and completed the necessary paperwork.
Now I am back on board. Things look pretty basic ashore but the bay is very comfortable with the wind in the southerly quadrant, a vast improvement on the marina in Valparaiso.
Tomorrow I will put the dinghy in the water and go ashore for more of an explore.
All is well.
It has been quite a pleasant 24 hours, the motion very acceptable, though the skipper once again couldn’t stay still in my bunk for very long, and otherwise peaceful and quiet. Tuna - yes! At long last. Now I am very content, time for a …. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz