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December 26, 2010

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December 19, 2010

Greetings from Achao, off the east coast of Chiloe!

Hello everyone,

First of all THANK YOU to everyone who has written to express their well-wishes and encouragement!  It is wonderful for us to feel the support of all our friends while we adapt to our new environment.

Becky and I are currently cozily tucked away at La Nave Hostel in Achao for a little rest, some feasting, a resupply, and some sightseeing around the island of Chiloé.  We´ve been out now for about ten days.  So, a recap is in order.

We departed Puerto Montt in the midst of a 1000 Mbar low pressure system and, predictably, were greeted by strong winds and rain for the first couple of days on the water.  It truly was trial by fire and we slugged out the miles, scoured the rock beaches for shelter, and gave our muscles an expedition style shock treatment.  In some ways I think we´re still recovering from those first hard days of paddling, trying to force the miles.  We learned our lesson and are now adapting our paddling to the conditions.  What a concept! 

Behind the low we were gifted with three rain-free days in a row with skies filled with cumulous cloud, virga, and occasional rainbows as showers passed to our left and right.  The skies here are dramatic, dynamic, and completely mystifying to us.  It seems that we can watch macro-weather patterns evolving in the air before our eyes.  Three cheers to Karel at www.kayakweather.com for providing us with weather updates via text message.  The extra information is proving really helpful as we try to make sense of the patterns.

Coasting south we crossed east of Canal Chacao on the neap tide without much drama, except for racing across the ferry lanes.  It was here, in mid crossing, that we saw our first Magallenic Penguins.  This must be the southern hemisphere!

The island of Chiloé is low and pastoral with sheep and cows grazing above quiet coves filled with aquaculture operations and fishing boats.  The art of wooden boat building is alive and well here and the colorful vessels are beautiful in a utilitarian sense.  We are, however, a bit dismayed to find so many fish farms since the ecological impacts are difficult to ignore.  Whatever invisible damage might be happening to the water quality is hard to tell, but ubiquitous styrofoam, monofilimant, and other industrial trash litters the beaches.

Camping has been easy to find, but very exposed.  Most of the land above high tide is fenced for grazing leaving we kayakers vulnerable, but comfirtable, just above the intertidal.  Every night we attempt to divine the intentions of the wind, generally sw in good weather - nw in bad, and camp in an appropriately sheltered spot.  So far, we´re running about 50%.

Chiloé is home to a slew of 18th and 19th century churches and we´ve been able to use the sightseeing opportunities as an excuse not to paddle.  The buildings are worthy of a post unto themselves, but for now here are a couple of photos.

Now we´re off the the supermarket to resupply for the next stretch of about 21 days to Puerto Cisnes.  Tomorrow we start on our way across the Gulf of Corcovado!

Thanks again for all your support!

December 8, 2010

On the Water - TOMORROW!

Just a quick note, but all well here in Pto. Montt.  Yesterday, we passed an extensive equipment inspection by the Navy.  Today was a holiday in Chile, so not much accomplished logistics wise, but Nick did pound a few nails while helping the family here build a playhouse for Perla´s granddaugher Sara.  We have one last appointment with the Navy tomorrow morning and then we hope to begin paddling!  Wish us luck!  The first section of the trip is not too remote, so we should be able to post more soon.  It is going to be wonderful to be on the water!!

Trial packing the boats.  
Becky´s home cooked feast before we depart.

5 meter tides in Puerto Montt.

Protein anyone?

Signing the papers after the safety inspection.

December 5, 2010

Puerto Montt - Home at Casa Perla´s

A four hour bus ride south from Valdivia brought us to the city of Puerto Montt and Casa Perla, our home for the next week or so while we arrange permits and supplies.  Puerto Montt is euphemistically referred to as southern Chile´s "transportation hub" in all the guidebooks and it is true that the city has the edgy feel of a bus station and shipping port.  In short it is a working city with an authenticity that is lacking in more touristy towns.  Throughout Chile so far we have found the people to be patient with our Spanish, friendly and open, and the streets safe, Puerto Montt is no exception.

Our to-do list here is HUGE!  Back home if we want to go kayaking we buy some food, dump the boats in the water and head out.  Not so here in Chile.  For one we have to wait for our boats to be trucked from Valdivia.  Next we have to arrange for a permit from the Chilean Navy to transit their waters and submit to a safety inspection of our equipment.  Only then can we wander the markets and buy our food and fuel for the first month of paddling.  These complex logistics are all part of the adventure.  We must be sick.

The Navy was expecting us.  One mention of "kayak" and we were whisked out of the waiting line filled with Chilean fishermen and down to the Port Captain´s office where we waited.  Much shuffling of paper ensued.  Finally we were led to a room where an array of fully uniformed and decorated Navy officers sat bolt-upright around a polished conference table.  The Navy ensign and Chilean flag stood at the far end of the room.  It all felt very official and formal.  

Official and formal it was, however, also friendly, professional, and courteous.  We had laid the groundwork via e-mail over the last several months, so most of the discussion had already taken place.  The officers had some suggestions about our route and information about sea conditions we might expect to encounter along the way.  They did not question our plans or capabilities, or ask us to deviate in any way.  Only recommendations were given.  This was a pleasant surprise.  Handshakes all around.  The final hurdle to starting the trip will be on Tuesday when three officers will inspect our safety equipment to ensure that it meets the Navy´s requirements.  Whew!

For now we are tucked away at Casa Perla, also home of Kayak Austral Outfitters who´s principal, Thomas has paddled much of our route and has offered a bunch of useful tips and imformation.  We´re soaking up some spanish, customizing the boats and making new friends, big and small.

December 1, 2010

Valdivia - We have boats!

Brand spankin´new, we feel spoiled!
The next stage in the adventure was a critical one.  For months we scratched our heads about our boats.  Should we ship our own, use folding Feathercraft kayaks that we could fly with, or buy boats in Chile?  Thankfully, we learned of an outfitter in Valdivia who stocks P&H Kayaks from Great Britain and sells them at reasonable rates.  Becky and I prefer to paddle British style skeg kayaks and the P&H Skorpio will fit the bill nicely.
Hooray, the spray skirt fits!
Chile is a very modern country and we´d been using our cards for payment everywhere from cafes to hostels, but we did have a minor hiccup when we discovered that we were going to have to pay cold, hard, cash for the boats.  An important detail that I neglected to iron out ahead of time.   After two days gaining valuable financial spanish language skills in Valdivia´s banks we raced across town with pockets brimming with pesos.  Cheers to Jorge and Roberto at www.pueblitoexpediciones.cl  for hooking us up with kayaks and arranging the shipping to Puerto Montt!

Well fed and watered despite our poor spanish skills.
 I couldn´t resist sharing this cover shot of Pope Benedict, we saw it on every news stand we passed.
The Pope´s announcement caused a splash in this predominately Catholic nation.

November 30, 2010


Santiago, a city of four million.
Just a quick note to let you all know that we arrived in Santiago safely on Friday.  Yup, Friday!  We enjoyed a free night in Seattle and a free night in Dallas courtesy of American Airlines due to two mechanical delays in a row!  I think we sampled most of the major eateries in SeaTac during our stint in traveller's purgatory.
Si, tenemos muchas mapas!
The airline delays have had the additional benefit of allowing us the weekend in the giant city of Santiago since we had to wait until after the weekend to accomplish our errands.  Today was a busy day of running around town for odds and ends and, importantly, topo maps.  We now are the proud owners of about $300 worth of Chilean topos covering the 1200 miles from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales.  Unlike the US, where you can find topos just about anywhere, Chile only distributes the maps through the Military and specifically, only from one office in Santiago. 

We are now in the land of NesCafe.
Tonight we'll be bussing south for 12 hours to Valdivia where we'll be picking up our boats and thence to Puerto Montt tomorrow night.  Wish us luck.  More soon.
Speed rollerblading, serious business, who knew?

November 20, 2010

Sea Kayak Expedition II

It's 36 F in Bellingham today and that means.......it's time to head south.  In a few days Nick and I will be flying to Santiago, Chile to begin another long distance sea kayak expedition. From Santiago, we will head straight to Puerto Montt, where we plan to spend about ten days applying for permits, picking up our boats, buying food and finalizing any last details. 
Our plan is to paddle approximately 1200 miles from Puerto Montt south to Puerto Natales. We are estimating that the trip will take between 3-4 months. We realize that this is a fairly generous margin and are planning conservatively with the expectation that we will be spending a lot of days on shore. 
A number of family and friends have asked us how this trip compares to our last long distance kayak trip through the Inside Passage. I'm sure that we will have a lot more to say in response to this question in four and a half months, but at this point we can identify a few key differences. However, first let me start with the similarities- both trip are of equal length, spanning similar degrees of latitude (although in different hemispheres) and follow a route through mostly protected waters. The differences between the two trips originate primarily in geography. First of all, Chile is in South America, where people speak spanish. Hablamos solo un poco espanol. Secondly, the larger scale weather systems that track through the higher latitudes of the southern hemisphere are generally stronger and more frequent, so despite the fact that it will be summer in Chile, we are preparing for cooler temperatures, wind, rain and more wind.......... The third and final obvious difference is that there is significantly less information available about this section of Chilean coastline. While planning the Inside Passage we had our choice of the numerous kayaking guidebooks, cruising guides, current tables, tide tables, etc. In researching Chile, we have been fortunate to come across a a small number of very helpful resources (Thanks Reg!), but there are a lot of details that remain unknown.
Therefore, Nick and I are approaching this trip with a humble attitude, conservative judgement and hopefully a bit of good karma in tow. Wish us luck.

Meanwhile, we have been busy planning and packing and asking ourselves, "What are we forgetting?"

 Nick pouring over nautical charts, struggling with the inconsistencies in size and scale and trying to make sure we have coverage for the entire route.

At the Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Vancouver, B.C. We will be purchasing these same boats from an outfitter in Valdivia, Chile. We couldn't pass up the chance to see the boats in person before hand and try out some preliminary packing configurations.

Briefing friends on the trip, over one-two-three-four empty glasses.......

   And asking myself, "Does this drysuit make my butt look big?"

November 13, 2010

January 12, 2010

Christmas at Lake Hoare

Here are a few pictures from Christmas day at Lake Hoare.

Decorating sugar cookies in the morning.

Assembling the gingerbread house.

 The first annual DLH (Dirty Little Hoare) boat regatta.

Everyone in camp designed and constructed a boat to sail downwind and across the pond.

Another one of the contestants. This one used a balloon for propulsion, cheating? Perhaps.

All of the contestants arrived in style.

 Christmas dinner. A full house of 15 people.

Merry Christmas.