Arrived Taltal

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 15 Dec 2010 23:45

Position: 25 24.36 S 070 29.35 W
At anchor Puerto Taltal
Wind Southwest F0-2 Calm to Light Air
Weather: Sunny, warm
Days Run: 22 miles

Light winds and calms continued overnight but the swell abated considerably so when we did get a little wind we were able to use it, the sails holding the air and keeping us moving smoothly at two to three knots instead of Sylph rolling and slatting her sails and causing everything not tied down to crash and bang about. I had the watch from 21.00 to midnight, at 22.00 the wind abandoned us and with only 22 miles to go to Taltal I decided to start the engine. Initially it did not want to start, the battery was a little flat, I broke out the Honda genset and smart charger and after ten minutes had the battery topped up sufficiently to fire up Sylph’s ancient Yanmar. At midnight Martina came on watch and took over the helm motoring in the flat calm.. At 3 a.m. when I came on watch the motor was shut down and Martina had set both sails and was reaching at three knots with a light beam breeze. I was impressed, she learns very quickly. During the early morning hours the wind veered into the west sou’ west and I poled the jib out to starboard, Sylph continued to drift at one to two knots before the very light air. At 6.00 Martina was once more on watch, I expected that we would probably lose even this light air but when I awoke at a little after eight and stuck my grizzled head out the companion way hatch the sight I saw had me smiling from ear to ear, Martina had gybed during her watch, and even poled the jib out to the other side while I slept. All looked in perfect order and we were still sailing in the very light breeze. I had not heard a sound. Life just seems to be getting better and better.

As we approached Taltal we saw another sail, it soon became clear that the vessel was departing Taltal and we were disappointed that they were not arriving to give us some fellow travellers to share a gam with. Nonetheless I called them on the VHF radio and exchanged some vital statistics. The vessel was Odyne out of San Francisco, three on board, Steve, his wife and their 14 year old son. They had come down America’s west coast, we exchanged what local knowledge we each had respectively acquired. I was pleased to learn from them that we could clear out at Iquique rather than Arica, as this will shorten the distance we need to sail considerably, the light airs and calms which clearly prevail in this region putting a very serious hole in my speed time distance calculations. Steve also confirmed continuing light airs but that one could work the afternoon sea breeze and the night land breeze, plus it seems the swell remains much lower from here north. This information has helped us considerably in determining our strategy from here.

We said farewell to Odyne, continued on our way and at 10.30 dropped anchor off one of the two muelles projecting from the beach, stowed sails, cleaned up and got the dinghy in the water. Ashore our first stop was the Port Captain’s office. Formalities were brief and simple, especially now that I have a fluent Spanish speaker in the crew. We have since walked the town, compared prices in the three small supermercados and enjoyed an ice cream. Taltal is an oasis in the desert, a mining town, all is neat, tidy and well maintained, the streets are wide and paved, the central plaza is lush and green, its many trees shading the numerous well maintained public benches.

Our plan is to stay here for about three days, top up supplies, then continue north to the next major port, Antofagasta.

All is well.


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