We Have Landed Far From Home

Dec 28, 2017

Caleta Olla, “cook pot cove,” is a bowl-shaped basin with a black cliff on one side and a grassy mole on the other connected by a curved, tree-lined beach. Above the cliff, a condor soars, his primaries spread wide into the gray sky like fingers feeling for the updraft. Across the channel, a pinnacled mountain is colliding with an incoming cloud, and the snow at its saddle ridge is lifting in spirals high in to the air. I hear a passerine. I see gulls and a red-nosed cormorant. Wind coming down-channel is strong this morning; there are white-caps in The Beagle. In the cove it is still.

I write to my wife, “It is beautiful here. I am building a cabin on the beach. Please bring red wine and good books.”

But I stayed only two more nights.

On my last, a boat arrived from Ushuaia, CHUGA, whose owner, Olivier, had helped Tony Gooch in making arrangements for MOLI’s unplanned arrival there. He is French, as is his crew of five. They are cruising the channels for the summer.

Dinner, an engaging curry of fresh lamb, a local staple, and my bottle of champagne intended for the Horn. I talk too much. I have a story tell. Even if half the table has but a passing graps of my language, my story will out. Olivier struggles to keep up the translation. The others nod, smile, reach for the wine bottle.

Finally I am silenced by music. As if by magic, an accordion appears, and after months of attending to the crashing wave and the song of wind, I laugh like a boy at the warm, familiar sounds.

Next day, Ushuaia, 35 miles further east down the Beagle. An uneventful motoring exercise through a corridor of ragged and snowy mountains impossible to distinguish from similar channels in SE Alaska, save for the lack of serious trees here. The only mark of civilization, a coast guard station, until one turns the corner, and there is the town, spread out over the sloping land like mould on a petri dish. Housing communities create stark, rectangular cuts into the forest. A jet rises into the air. Cruise ships.

Mo and I are met at the pier by Laura and her husband, Fede, from OCEAN TRAMP, a local charter boat, who come with fenders (which I didn’t bring for my non-stop) and Roxanna, who immediately whisks me to the several agencies who wish to approve my entrance with a stamp.

Then to domestic issues, which Roxanna intuits from my appearance. “Here are the showers with heated floors,” she says, “over there the barber shop where you may wish to make an appointment before the holiday (beards so unkempt, the mark of a local in Alaska, are unknown here); and there is the lavandaria.”

And as suddenly as that, Mo and I have left the wild.

A planned 240-day cruise has ended at the bottom of the world after exactly 60 days at sea.

The wind tears down from the mountains, first from the north with rain in the harbor that leaves a dusting of sugar on the peaks, and then from the east, dry and bitterly cold. “It is the only problem with Ushuaia,” says Laura over a dinner of empanadas and red wine aboard OCEAN TRAMP, “we don’t get summer here.”

It is December 28, six days past summer solstice. Mo and I are far from home.

12 Comments on “We Have Landed Far From Home

  1. Wow. What a wonderful welcome, Olivier and crew and Roxanna. You do have a story to tell.. the sea, the challenge, human kindness. Enjoying your writing very much! Thanks. Hope repairs progress quickly and that you can continue as planned.

  2. Hi Randall… Glad you’re safe – Happy New Year! You’re tied up to the AFASyN dock almost exactly where Nereida was after our knockdown in January 2011!! Good luck with the repairs and I hope you sort out your JSD usage. You need a retrieval line when deploying to make it easy to bring back in – shouldn’t be a problem at all, using a winch and working in rhythm with the waves. Give Roxanna my very best wishes – she was very helpful to me also. Enjoy Ushuaia – it has a few excellent restaurants and a good metalworker if you need one. Otherwise, anything else you need will likely have to be brought in from US since they are NOT set up to repair sailing boats… All best wishes, Jeanne.

  3. Randall,
    Say hello to Laura, my childhood neighbor in Virginia, and Fede from me. Small (sailing) world.
    Happy New Year,

  4. Happy New Year, Randall. Your 60 day run was a win. Your decision to put in for repairs was a win. Your superb writing is a win, and 2018 will be a be a big win!
    Sail On! Howard and Steph, s/v Holy Grail

  5. Happy New Year Randall! So glad you are able to recharge your internal battery. You probably will end up enjoying Antartica that much more!

  6. Good for that Federico & Laura welcoming!!!
    Happy sailing new year, good luck with repairs and hope you sail again soon _/),,,

  7. So glad you are safe & the you will soon have your incredible wife to see the New Year in with.take care & have a wonderful New Year! with love from me.

  8. Happy New Year my friend, wishing you good health, happiness and a safe voyage.

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