Arrived Talcahuano

Position: 36 42.4 S 073 06.7 W
At anchor Talcahuano
Wind: South sou’ west , F2, slight breeze
Weather: Sunny, mild
Day’s Run: 102 miles (in 18 hours = 5.7 knots)

It is quite amazing how much can happen in 24 hours. Last night I was assuming I would still be at sea about now but we had excellent winds, a good 15 knots or so from right astern pushed us along at a solid seven knots. Consequently we have stayed ahead of the weather system and this morning were only some 20 miles short of Talcahuano. The winds fell light for a while, I was afraid we were going to end up becalmed but it was only short lived and at 10.25 we tightened sheets to tack in through the narrow western channel into Bahia Concepcion. It was a lovely sail, the sun was shining, the temperature was mild, the seas were smooth, and the wind was perfect - a headwind now but I just love tacking up a narrow channel feeling the edges with the depth sounder.

We were soon through the narrow western channel (the eastern channel is much wider which all the big ships use) and into Bahia Concepcion proper, a wide open bay with some very large merchant ships scattered around at anchor riding high waiting for cargo. I tried calling the port control on the radio several times but got no response, looking at the chart I decided the fishing harbour looked a good spot to aim for. We sailed all the way in, I was tempted to sail to anchor but decided that it would be safer to motor the last bit and just outside the fishing harbour dropped sail and motored the last few hundred meters to anchor. No sooner had I anchored and cleaned up a little than an inflatable zoomed up alongside, it was the Armada. The two guys on board were vrey nice and they had come primarily to clear me in, but also to tell me that I could not anchor where I was as it was too busy with the movement of fishing vessels. They directed me to another spot which on the chart was actually marked as a prohibited naval area but as it was the navy directing me this was obviously not a problem.

It took no time to weigh anchor and move the short distance to where they had indicated. In many respects it was better, the shelter was just as good, we were out of the way of all the busy fishing traffic and we were right under the watchful eye of the Armada. After a quick clean up I soon had the dinghy in the water and rowed ashore. I checked in with the Armada but was told no problem, I was free to go into town. Now I had heard that Talcahuano had been hit by a tsunami after the Chilean earthquake and before I left Puerto Montt I had asked the Armada whether there was any problem coming here and was assured there was not. Consequently I assumed that much of the damage had been tidied up and all was pretty well back to normal. It became clear however even before I had reached the shore that this was not the case. Fishing boats were piled up on the shore, one completely overturned, a wreck lay in the harbour, two masts poking skyward, not marked on my chart, the wharves were mostly shattered concrete, loose blocks everywhere, holes gaping for the unwary. I stopped in at the Armada building to make sure all my paperwork was in order, here all was clean and tidy but sparse, no furniture, wiring ran across floors, bare slabs of concrete. As I wandered into town initially I wondered where the town was, empty shops, twisted shutters bent askew in their frames, pavements broken asunder, empty courtyards, roads cracked and broken, concrete blocks directing traffic. As I made my way further into town a little more life could be discerned but not order, my immediate impression was like the opening scenes in Blade Runner, cacophonous noises, music blaring from several shops at once, dilapidated gaudy faded signs, familiar, but unreal, worn out, a post apocalyptic world. May be I am rather overstating things but I am just trying to convey my initial impression. I didn’t need much, I just wanted some bread and some wine. It turns out today was a holiday, no bread so I was directed to the supermarket, one block up, turn right and two blocks further on. I followed these direction and more of the same greeted me, mostly empty shops, broken twisted shutters, with odd spaces refurbished, clean, neat and tidy, trading an assortment of goods, shoes, women’s fashions, handbags - the essentials of life, or at least of an economy. I almost walked past the supermarket but recognized it for the all the shopping trolleys parked outside.  The supermarket is housed in a huge tent. I picked up my bread, wine, and some fresh mushrooms and made my way to the check out.

I stopped at a restaurant on the way back to the boat and enjoyed a beer and a plate of fish and chips as I read my book “A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe and contemplated the synchronicity of what I was reading and the setting I was in. The connection was loose I admit. I understand from later questions that there was no loss of life here, hard to believe, just a lot of damage, whereas in the great plague of London the loss of life was horrendous, but no physical damage, the connection then is perhaps only one of mood.

As I walked back to the dinghy I passed by a naval rating fanning a fire for a barbeque, I chatted briefly then continued on my way. As I rowed back to Sylph I noticed this person waving to me, indicating that I should come back. This I did and was delighted to find I was being invited to join him and his colleagues for a barbecue dinner. They were all on duty so I hesitatingly offered my wine as a contribution, this was not a problem.

So I have just returned from ashore, thoroughly smoked, after enjoying the spontaneous comradeship of some 20 naval ratings, only one of which spoke any English, but we all seemed to have a good time and I think it is safe to say that my two litre cask of cheap vino helped.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

You can try to hide it under that cheap rough plonk and all that smoke Skipper, but I can smell it - you have been eating FISH! You utter, utter bastard! I have had it. OK so you gave me a little tuna last night, but all I ask for is fish (and a lot of sleep) and you rub it in. You, you are a virtual vegetarian,. Where is mine? Oh I can’t stand it. Oh … something, somehting about knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care …. zzzzzzzzzzzzz