The tide was expected to turn at 17.00 – and so that was the hour at which we planned to cast off our lines and begin our journey away from Valdivia. To be exact, we would flow down the river on a current swollen by the moon’s additional influence. But in the river’s entrance we would pause for a moment or three; because, to be frank, we were still not ready to set off across the ocean.
After a year hanging out in the same place, it was hard to get going. It was hard to find homes for all the junk which, while we were in harbour was merely an inconvenience but which, at sea, would go flying around. And it was hard saying goodbye to our Valdivian family.
How to say farewell to Felipe the Lionheart, with his dapper waistcoats and spivvy shoes and his passion for Bowie and Freddie Mercury? How to bid adieu to Emma, who was largely responsible for organising our social calendar and who could be guaranteed also to keep everyone fed and watered?
I can’t recall how many times we kissed and hugged Caro and Marvin at our various leaving parties. And they would go off and do their own thing, elsewhere in the country, and then return to find us still moored in the same damn spot.
Then there is Pato, forever charming and polite, with a ready smile and a kind word. And Robin and Devon, whom we took it upon ourselves to educate regarding chips and crisps, and harbours and harbors, they being genuine Californian gringos.
Augustine, from Ghana; Beate, from Austria; Emily, from Canada, and her Chilean husband, Daniel…
Yes, ours is a multi-national family – and quite rightly, for we consider ourselves to be citizens of everywhere and of nowhere.
If it comes to that, besides the family, we also have many cruising friends in Valdivia, and the two communities overlap. Thus, Emily and Daniel are the crew and captain of Steppin’ Out. And Beate and her man, and their new, Chilean-born baby daughter, reside aboard the good ship, Galadriel.
Then there’s Martin, with Otra Vida – a boat which he aims to run as a commune. And let us not forget Mark ‘n Rosie, a retired Australian stuntman sailing with a Canadian swami.
Yes, you meet all sorts, cruising.
Moored close to our boat in Valdivia was Tomio, a delightful Japanese one-time single-hander, now sailing with his reluctant sea-wife, Kazue. And, speaking of singlehanders, this species forms a sub-genus within the greater cruising family. Rene, Ron, and Steve all sail alone and all washed up in this city and spent many months here.
All three sail relatively large, very well-found boats; and all are very experienced. But – I have to say it – they are all going to find the passage south through the Channels very hard work. All that tacking down narrow channels… All that line-tying every evening… However, Rene and Ron and Steve know what we think about this, because we’ve all spent many a happy hour chatting to one another in Valdivia’s excellent watering holes.
We had to tear ourselves away from this little lot. But, of course, the yotties were already peeling off anyway, each according to their own whims; and we didn’t actually have to leave behind all of our Chilean friends, because two had signed on for our next passage.
Allow me to introduce you to Yona, who pronounces his name Jonah. (Inauspicious? No matter, we can always toss him out.) Aged thirtyish, and the father of Emma’s little boy, Marlon, Yona was born and bred in a village in the Chilean fiords and is perfectly at home aboard a boat – but he has never yet done any sailing.
And here is Manu – or Manuela, as she was christened. With the same three decades in her wake, Manu has nevertheless lived a life completely different from her compatriot. A hippy, a squatter, an anarchist – Manu’s philosophy seems to provide an intellectual backing for the life of the fisherman who threw up a shack, as and where he pleased, but she is a city girl by birth and a scholar. Mind you, although she loves her home city, Manu seems to prefers to hang out in the countryside. And she doesn’t just hang loose. During the past year she has planted 600 sapling trees on a piece of naked land which she inherited from her grandparents; and she has planted plenty more in the past, on other people’s land and on patches of earth which didn’t seem to belong to anyone.
Manu has also travelled, and it was while she was wandering the world that she met the aforementioned Martin, skipper of Otra Vida. She sailed with him from Panama to Ecuador, and this taste of the cruising life was enough to spark an interest in getting her own boat. That dream is still far away; but in the meantime, Manu wants to build up experience. She loves to learn.
Yona, a man who was raised with the mechanical, wood-working, and general bodgery skills so vital aboard a cruising yacht.
And Manu, happy to try her hand at everything – including mopping a diesel spill from the bilge.
Together they helped us to prepare Mollymawk for the sea; and, finally – after weeks of, “Maybe next Monday” – the great day of our departure dawned.
Coming Soon! Part Two : For Auld Lang Syne