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Isla Humos (Caleta Jacqueline)

It was I who said we passed the Golfo de Penas without problems wasn't it?

Well let me tell you straight away I could not have been more mistaken about it, Golfo de Penas has been the worse I have seen since boarding Mardek, full of wet traps and wetter nightmares.

We did cross it without mishaps but we didn't leave it, we anchored in one of its bays and got badly stuck in a spell of persistent bad weather, and after all this time we're still in it, waiting for the wind to shift, the waves to calm, waiting for an opening for our small craft to get back to safety in the channels up north.

I told you already how there is no more passage through to the forest, that we are stuck on board or diminished to walk the slippery stones the low tide uncovers. Low tide is often a very smelly business and here is no exception, smells of rotten fish and decaying algae fills our nose till noxiousness arises and then lingers there until we decide there is enough of physical exercise for our mind to stay in health.

Hakan spots a 12 hour opening in the maddening wind and we agree on taking it although we'll have to sail through the night and that it's against our habits here in the channels, but then again, tonight?s' sailing will be in open sea, 60 miles in the pacific ocean, not a big deal if you think about the fact that soon we'll sail thousands of them to reach some lost island in this immense ocean.

Soon I go to bed, try to sleep to be as fresh as I can when my watch will come. We exit the channels and the swell starts being enormous, I'm deep under my covers and monitor the movements of Mardek, rising and dropping smoothly on the water mountains. I sense we have not seen waves that big but everything is smooth, everything is fine, I drift away... bangngngng, I'm wide awake, Mardek has fallen off a wave, with all her length she's dropped on the water, like when you dive like a moron and fall flat on your belly which will stay red for the rest of the day. After that wave another and another one, and some more, I stroke the wooden wall of the cabin encouraging Mardek to be strong, not to crack up under the power of the beating. My night watch will not come, Hakan's busy on deck, the whole night facing the monstrous elements. I lie down and drift from consciousness to half sleep feeling the big waves throwing us about, listening after a fall if water is entering Mardeks belly.

Morning comes and I get out of my blankets through the books that have fallen on me, sore and stiff. Hakan doesn't look very tired and I can not figure how he does such a thing, surely it can't only be the guarana powder we bought in Brazil for such circumstances. He looks at me and says with very sad eyes ''We've turned back''
''We did?'' I ask, suddenly understanding why we seemed to have entered channels again.
''We were not getting anywhere with those waves, and we would not have made it into the channels before the storm''
A whole night of nightmarish action to end up at the very spot we left twelve hours before, I feel tons of energy drain through my feet as a make porridge for breakfast. ''Some fishermen seem to have turned back as well'' Hakan tells me extending his arm towards them. We enter a bay and throw the anchor. It doesn't hold and we start again, for it not to hold again, and again. After the third time 2 boats enter the bay and go to the far end of it. ??Let?s follow them, they know the place'' too happy to leave this place where the anchor doesn't hold I turn the boat to follow the others. We ask the fishermen if there is enough depth, they all say yes, some show 5 while others show 10 with their fingers. They surely mean meters, no? Slowly we follow the first boat, in the narrow passage they take right in the middle, so will we. The depth sounder keeping us aware of how much water we've got under us. We can't go under 2 meters because we'll hit, and hitting the ground is the last thing you want to do on a boat. We're inching our way trough the narrow, there is wind behind us and current as well, 3.1 meters 2.8 meters, 2.5 my heart is pounding, 2.2 we can't reverse in this current, in this wind, turn back, Hakan pulls on the tiller, BAANG-NG-NG we've hit, we're not moving any longer, the sounder tells us 1.6 meter. My belly is churning, what now? Hakan jumps down, lifts the wooden floor to find out if we've got water entering, no. A quick thought tells me the tide is raising, good. The other boat passes by, come they say, this way, Mardek seems to be moving again, we try to go towards the fishermen and get stuck again, this time with no explosion following the movement. After half an hour of this kind of horror we finally pass the narrow, Mardek is still water tight... we throw our anchor and go to bed, physically and emotionally exhausted we can't fall asleep but we get strength from each other in our embrace, after a while of holding on to the other we drift away in dreams.

When we wake up 3 boats are there, they are all alongside each other and they have let go a lot of rope and are very close to us, we need to move, we pull up the anchor, and they tell us to come alongside them and so we do. We tie Mardek to the smallest boat and meet the fishermen. One has a toothache and Hakan makes a temporary filling, we spend the evening with them talking laughing feeling happy, after all, the day had started badly but now all's good...

We go to bed when the sun has long gone, the wind is blowing hard, we fall asleep. Hakan gets out of bed, I wake up and he tells me we're tilted. And indeed the boat's not straight at all. He turns the sounder on, 1.2 meters! We're doing it again, this time much worse though, 3 boats are leaning on us pushed by the wind. At least 70 tons of boat on Mardek, plastic Mardek, her keel in the earth resisting this immense pressure, and the tide is lowering... the other boats must move away, lessen the pressure. We find the people, they're not asleep yet, I explain the situation as well as I can, keeping panic a bay, close to throwing up my fear, unable to control my emotions, I shiver, I tremble but I explain... All of a sudden all motors are turned on, everything is moving around us, one by one they move out, Mardek is still with half her keel and rudder stuck in the earth. A rope is tied to her bow and one of the boat pulls her out, she very nearly lies down on the water, the jerry cans of diesel attached on deck get a dip, I hold on to the sail, I listen if the keel brakes off, if the rudder snaps... Mardek is straight again, nothing has snapped, we're in 6 meters of water... I'm still noxious. It's very dark, and of course it is raining, I should not have to remind you of that but I do never-the-less, I'm quite sure you have forgotten by now, with all this mess happening... the bigger boat waits for us to come alongside and we do with my shaking knees and sick stomach. We're invited for tea after the maneuver, they tell us we can sleep on both our ears attached to them, I can't keep my mind with them too well but Hakan is even further away and so I keep the conversation half alive. All the other boats were with us in the ocean, all turned back because of the weather, the window we all had spotted wasn't there after all...

And on our two ears we sleep, in the morning the sound of the rain is pleasant, the wind seems to have calmed down, the 3 boats decide to go around noon, we're staying here, the waves will be huge still, and we won't make it in time and all our navigation lights are broken... before they leave Hakan dives in the cold water to find out if there's any serious damage to the keel or the tiller. Only minor things, we'll make it to the next port where we'll haul her out and repair her and paint her.

Hakan takes the dinghy to find another passage to the outer bay, I stay inside, the rain the wind, all that gives me the shivers, I don't like dinghy rides, they are the worse, cold slow uncomfortable wet, no no, if I can, I will avoid any dinghy ride... he comes back with a way out and for the 7th time in 24 hours we move Mardek. We bring her to the outer bay where we'll be protected for the next winds. We find a spot, carefully, attentively, throw the anchor, which doesn't hold, and again, and it didn't hold, and again, 5 times, 6 and always something goes wrong, we're still at it, trying to secure our-self, I'm losing patience, the only thing that keeps me going is the idea of the well deserved chocolate cake I'll bake, then eat, if we ever get out of this anchorage disaster, I have to go now, put Mardek in reverse gear and bring her where we want to. And for god's sake, let the anchor hold this time...

Isla Humos (Caleta Jacqueline)/11.03.2006

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