Valdivia, Chile

Date: 5/3/99

What's happening:

We've finally made it out of the roaring forties, screaming fifties and scary sixty degree latitudes for good!! For me it's a double edged sword, I don't particularly like "hot" environments and our next "cold" area will be around Cape Town, South Africa, which isn't exactly cold.  The Chilean Canals provided some of the most bitter weather we've had so far, including Antarctica and 23 days of go, go, go through everything was a little taxing on the crew. The weather here is great, warm but not hot and sunny.  The only problem is the list of repairs and maintenance has grow to 46 items!  That's a good weeks worth of work for all of us, including the guys from Alwoplast, the marina/shipyard the fleet is staying at.  More on this below.  Valdivia is the American equivalent of a university town. Most of the people are connected in some way with the university here.  It was also the largest industrial city in South America during the early 1900's.  A large part of the population here, maybe 25% is German, they still speak German in many parts of the city. We went to see our first movies since leaving the States, a Jackie Chan film and Brad Pitt's "Meet Joe Black."  The movies are in English and subtitled in Spanish so we chalked it up to an "educational event."  We won't get another chance to see films until we get to Australia, 7 months from now so...

So you want to know about the maintenance on a 57 foot boat. OK here's part of the list in a nut shell:

Change all oils & filters, engine, generator and transmission.
Rebuild all winches, 10 of them.
Polish topsides and deck and all the stainless steel.
Repair major damaged parts, rudder, navlights, windlass, refrigeration, boom and gooseneck.
Wash down entire inside of boat with fresh water and vinegar to get off the salt.
Fix satellite phone, STD-C and computer.
Sails need to be changed and repaired. The main sail weighs 200 pounds!
All the laundry needs to be done, all cold weather gear shipped home.
Resupplying for two months at sea.  We always set records in shopping center checkouts!!
And of course attend all the functions/parties for the Millennium Odyssey!!

Our biggest and most pressing problem was the damage done in Antarctica to the rudder.   We know at this point that the aft edge is damaged but how bad is the question.   Luckily we're at the foremost boatyard on the west coast of S.A. run by the owner, Alex Wooper.  Alex and his crew build the worlds best BIG catamarans, some sail others power. The Travelift at Alwoplast isn't big enough to take us out of the water but we can drop the rudder out of the bottom by disconnecting all the steering gear and autopilot stuff.  This turns out to be a big project as the rudder weighs about 1000 pounds. I dive with a local diver as the rudder is lowered to the bottom, 35 feet down in a 5 knot current.  Could you make it just a little harder please!!  When the rudder is pulled back up on the dock, to our astonishment we see for the first time how bad it is.  The rudder not only has a large chunk out of the aft edge but it has also been cracked in two halves, just like an Oreo cookie!!  I can only think of what could have happened in the Drake passage... Then next large item was the boom.  We noticed a cracked weld, just behind boom vang reinforcement plate. There's a lot of stress there and we think this also happen during the Drake Passage crossing.  The boom needs to be removed, taken to the shop and welded and it's also heavier than thought, 600 pounds.  Upon removing the boom, we note that the 3/8 inch stainless steel gooseneck fitting has cracks along the welds too.  Just a little stress...With the excellent help of all the employees at Alwoplast and of course the owner, Alex Wooper, we get Risque fitted once again for sea in time.  Alex runs a well organized yard and anyone with any type of problems on the west coast of South America should call him. He can fly, and often does, himself and his people anywhere in the world for repairs, including Antarctica.   Our sails are repaired by Dagmar Wooper in a loft above the boatyard.  Dagmar is world renown for her skills, and she flies all her machines and gear to Punta del Este when the Whitbread comes around.  The boats keep her busy 24 hours a day when staying there, some boats won't let anyone but her touch their sails.

The press coverage of the M.O. here is unbelievable.  The local TV. crews are here every day, interviewing and reporting on all the crews.  The national TV. comes for the big press conference, we become quite well known.  After the ceremony in downtown Valdivia Saturday morning, we are swamped by people of all ages wanting autographs!! I've personally never been asked before, it was a real thrill!!

Zetty's wisdom teeth have been started to give her problems and after a trip to the dentist has found out that her wisdom teeth must come out.  This looks like a major operation, they're all badly impacted and the dentist doesn't recommend sailing for at least two weeks after the operation due to the risk of infection.  The decision is made for Zetty to fly back to England for the operation, rejoining us in Tahiti in six weeks.  No joy here...

On Sunday we wave farewell to all our friends and start the journey to Easter Island, (Rapa Nui), 1900 nautical miles (nm) away.  The crowds are once again amazing, (including a lonely Zetty), lining the shores for the short run down the river to the starting line.  It was sad leaving but knowing someday I'd like to return.  Valdivia is the starting point for many "active vacations" here in Chile.  Maybe someday...

On to Easter Island...