CHILE: PUERTO WILLIAMS — PUERTO MONTT (BY BOAT)
A SNOWY START
Life aboard a yacht, even a very small one, is far snugger and cosier than travelling by bicycle and living in a tent. There is potential for heating, for one thing. And the possibility of far more elaborate cooking. I can bake bread and make jam and otherwise indulge my domestic sensibilities, such as they are.
No crystal blue waters, swaying palms, white sandy beaches. No, no. Snow and ice. Clouds. Rain. Wind.
I’m not really sure where dolphins get their mystical reputation from: as far as I can see, there’s no two way about it – dolphins are rev heads.
TIDES AND EDDIES
Our second brush with human civilisation is Puerto Aguirre.
CHILOE AND HER ISLANDS
*In a manner of speaking – actually, we leave Puerto Williams under engine power.
The truth about sailing – in this expedient world – is that most sail boats spend way way more time burning diesel than gathering wind. Disappointing, perhaps, but that’s the way it is. In this case, we are travelling against the prevailing northerly winds and so relying solely on sail would make for a lengthy and arduous trip.
**A note on the Puerto Williams Postal Service:
I have had a previous success with Correos de Chile in similarly remote San Pedro de Atacama: a small package of presents for my baby niece in Australia arrived from the deserts of northern Chile, relatively promptly, and for a reasonable cost. So I am hopeful that a disc containing digital images might find its way to Sweden from Puerto Williams within a month or two.
I arrive at the post office half an hour after the time appointed for recommencement of operations after the extended – really, I mean it, an extremely generous – siesta hour, only to I find the place wide open but mysteriously unattended. As potential customers come and go various – well, two – hypotheses are posed: an (unspecified) emergency has arisen? alien abduction, perhaps?
The post office remains deserted (with the mail and parcels in its care accessible to any casual passer by) for the best part of an hour. Finally, lacking a viable alternative, I deliver my package into the dubious care of the woman responsible when she deigns to return to her post. She relieves me of the equivalent of US$30. (The return of this officer of the postal services occurs in a moment of distraction on my part when I have wandered off to browse in a nearby second-hand clothes shop. Thus, the question of alien abduction is never resolved.)
Eight weeks later the package has still not arrived at its destination. So, in short, my advice is that Puerto Williams Correos de Chile is best avoided. It may well be a portal to another dimension.
***See note below.
****A zarpe is an all important document issued by the Chilean Admiralty to all boats navigating Chilean waters. The Admiralty take a strict and paternal view of its role of keeping the fleet – naval, merchant and recreational – safe from harm. Daily calls to report position and welfare are mandatory and failure to do so can result not only in unnecessary anxiety but, possibly, an unwelcome (and expensive!) search and rescue.