January 1st, Ushuaia, Argentina
“Option one…” I said to my wife, Joanna.
The waiter laid down a lunch-pail sized cut of lamb that had just come from the fire and smelled of ash and grease and rosemary and made my mouth water. Along with it came three types of chorizo and roasted salmon and a small bowl of mussels cooked in oil and garlic and tomatoes and another of lentils. Then he opened the ubiquitous Malbec from Mendoza. When he at last concluded his presentation, I continued.
“…is to sell the boat, return home and grow cabbages.”
“You were that scared by the storm?”
“No. But it’s an option.”
Jo scowled. “You can do that,” she said, “but you’ll get a real job during the week and grow your cabbages on Sunday.”
“Option two. It’s a long way around the Southern Ocean, some 15,000 miles, twice as far as I’ve already come. This recent adventure with the self steering that has put me in Ushuaia has now also put me behind schedule. If I return to sea in a week or two, by the time I get back for a second pass at Cape Horn, it will be fall…fall down here is serious business. Hell, summer down here has been serious business. So, I could continue this southern loop but stop for the winter in Australia, and then begin again next summer for a rounding of the Horn and then on to the Arctic.”
“How many months would you lay over?” asked Jo.
“Too much delay. I’ve lost interest.”
“Or I could go around but skip the Horn on the second pass; instead I’d sail north for Panama once I’ve weathered New Zealand and then up the Atlantic for the Northwest Passage.”
“Is that do-able within your time frame?”
“I don’t think so. There’s not much wind in the last thousand miles of approach to Panama, and what there is is a beat.
“So, what are you really thinking?
“Get Mo back in shape as soon as possible. Continue with the Figure 8 as originally planned. I think I can be done with repairs by January 10th. Take what the Horn gives when I get here. High-tail it for the Arctic and then home by the end of the year.”
Jo arrived in Ushuaia on December 31st with a suitcase full of spares. Early conversations between Tony Gooch and I focused on the highly likely, interminable delay in Buenas Aires Customs of anything sent to me by courier. “It could take weeks, and that’s thinking positive,” said Tony. “Alacrity is not a word of Latin origin.”
It looked like the Figure 8 was sunk.
Then Jo volunteered to make the trip. Two days of travel from San Francisco and four connections. “Best Wife in the World” is a title well-earned.
But even with this boon, our fear continued to be the officials in Buenas Aires and their ponderous formality.
“Y que es esto?” asked the officer as she withdrew a Monitor windvane part from one of Jo’s bags, which, disassociated from its reality more resembled a giant meat cleaver than a water paddle. Jo explained by showing the Figure 8 tracker, the sharp right turn for Ushuaia; the heavy wind off the coast.
And suddenly she was on her way.
A team got Jo through customs. At the head of that team was Mike Scheck of Scanmar, the maker of the Monitor, who stepped up in a big way to ensure Mo is whole again. He not only got the necessary parts together quickly, he arranged the paperwork and formulated a strategy for our approach to the people in uniform. Thanks also to the quick turn around of Dustin at Fox Marine who assembled the various elements of the new autopilot, and to KKMI and HOOD Sails.
We rented a small cabin in the woods and for four days acted like tourists. We hiked the Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego, strolled the town, ate, slept late. I delivered my wife’s coffee to her in bed, which is really all she requires of me.
Now Jo has returned home, and I’m back at boat jobs. It is the afternoon of January 7th, and here’s what’s been done to be ready for sea on the 10th:
1. The toilet pump has been rebuilt. This was first on the list because pooping in a bucket has a charm that is quickly expended.
2. Monte’s shiny, new pendulum arm, gear, and water paddle have been installed.
3. A brand-new Ottopilot brain, an NAC-3 unit and its Triton controllers, is up and running.
4. The broken hatch handles and dead starboard running light have been replaced.
5. Engine oil and filters have been changed and fifty gallons of diesel has been ordered for tomorrow. According to the tank gauges, we’ve burned 56 gallons since departure.
6. Water tanks have been topped off. The aft tank, the only one I’ve used, took 52 gallons, which works out to .78 gallons consumed per day for the 67 days I’ve been aboard.
7. The Jordan Series drogue is drying in the sun as I type as is my now clean woolen underwear.
What remains to do?
1. I need to retune the rig, which will require dropping the headsails, which will require a calmer day than this one.
2. The port spinnaker pole keeps slipping out of its mast attachment. Last time was in 15 foot swell, and it nearly took my head off. Not sure what the fix will be.
3. A propane tank needs filling; then some light provisioning, including a local beer called Cape Horn and some Argentinian red wine.
4. Test the new gear.
Boats from France, Germany, Poland, Australia, the UK are in and out of the Afasyn Club dock daily. Crews are dropped off, taken on, carts and carts of food and diesel and luggage trundle up and down the pier. To a one, they are all headed south to Antarctica. Only Mo and I are headed east. Soon.
Below are some shots from the extraordinary Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego.