Please Meet Igor Bely

If you venture to Puerto Williams and don’t speak spanish, there is a good chance you will meet Igor Bely, a remarkable, generous man. Born at sea, he lives on the similarly remarkable Kotik, a 62′ steel yacht his father built. Rumors are he speaks 6 languages. Igor has been hugely helpful to me to get situated here in Chile, including loaning me a kayak to get to shore, showing me around town, buying me SIM card, having dinner aboard his amazing vessel, etc. etc. etc. All for a stranger that showed up unexpectedly but needed help. But this is how Igor rolls. After Sparrow dragged into town, he has been similarly helpful to another yacht that stopped in needing provisions.

Both an adventurer and sea captain here in Puerto Williams, Igor has been to Antarctica for 32 Summer seasons, meaning he has lost count of how many times he’s actually been there. He once crossed the Pacific on a Hobie Cat that took 14 months. Yes, you read that right, a Hobie Cat. Pretty sure he became more sick of dehydrated food on that trip than I currently am on my trip.

Kotik in Puerto Williams

Kotik was built explicitly for the ice and high latitudes. Insulation under the deck appeared to be at least 10 inches, the hull six inches. He explains that Kotik is more comfortable when its truly cold, say below 5 degrees F because the condensation on the inside of the steel hull freezes so the interior is not as damp. Appropriate for an expedition yacht, she is solid, comfortable with simple and reliable systems. She has a weighted centerboard allowing her to “anchor” temporarily just by dropping the board in shallow areas. She draws about a meter with the board up, allowing her to beach with the tide to work on the underbody, including the propeller and rudder. All her systems appear to be easily accessible for easier inspection and maintenance to minimize surprises. I have to say, there is nothing quite like a well maintained steel yacht to instill confidence as everything is so solid.

Igor takes passengers aboard Kotik for 4-8 week trips to Antarctica, but this COVID year he is taking a group of friends in just a few days. All groups – whether tourists, researchers, mountain climbers, or adventurers – he takes are through word of mouth, and you don’t book a berth, you book the yacht. Further, he doesn’t just take anyone. You have to pass some qualifications (not physical) to be lucky enough to join him on one of his expeditions, and I won’t divulge what his qualifications are lest anyone attempts to game his intuitive system.

Igor exudes competence from many years of living at sea. It’s evident from the way he maintains his vessel, to his systems knowledge, to his knowledge of the area, to the way he handles his dinghy. This competence yields to comfort to those around him that everything will be OK, and all will be right with the world. It’s an honor to have met him, and I am beyond grateful for his assistance while I’m here in Puerto Williams.

Puerto Williams, Chile

In my last post, I was thinking Ushuaia, Argentina was the place that would have the best infrastructure in the area to support repairing Sparrow. Alas, this was not to be. As I made my way West down the Beagle Strait on December 28, Ushuaia refused not only entry, but also even anchorage. The authorities there refused to assist a mariner in distress. I was crushed, and got emotional on the radio not knowing what to do. This all happened on open VHF channels, with many folks here in Puerto WIlliams, Chile listening in. The last sailboat to arrive in Puerto Williams was March, so Sparrow’s arrival to the area was a bit unusual.

After a brief exchange on VHF, the Puerto WIlliams Harbor Master allowed Sparrow to anchor off Puerto Williams temporarily while they determined what to do with me and Sparrow. Puerto Williams is on lockdown and a curfew due to COVID and Chile is not accepting foreigners so if they did anything it would be through a waiver process.
Puerto Williams happens to have a significant Chilean Naval presence and apparently the Navy took an interest in my case. The local authorities moved extraordinarily quickly and in the morning of the 29th two officers were onboard Sparrow taking pictures of my passport, vessel documentation, and some of the damage. Some hours later they allowed Sparrow to move into the inner harbor to a mooring, and in the afternoon there were 6 authorities in uniform onboard Sparrow where they asked me some questions, gave me a health inspection and then stamped my passport with a 90 day tourist visa. Boom.

It was all so fast I didn’t realize they had issued the visa until the next day.

But that is only the beginning of the reception I’ve received since anchoring in Puerto Williams. After receiving the visa, the captain of the Isaza, one of the naval vessels here and the number 2 Naval officer here invited me for a hot shower, meal and some lubricating beverages. 3 hours later I left with clean skin, a full stomach, two blankets and maybe a little woozy from pesco. Commander Guerrero had just received a promotion that day so was in a certain mood!

In the background also, two english speaking high latitude cruisers that are here also listened in on the VHF transmissions and have acted as both translators for the harbor master and also coaching me on what’s going on here and how to navigate entering the country, what are the lockdown and curfew rules (allowed 2 – 3 hour periods per week to shop, curfew 10pm-5am), where to find tools, supplies, groceries, banks, and most of all how to ship parts here. Their help and generosity has been extraordinary and astounding. I will write more about these two extraordinary people later, but I will say for now that they will be separately heading across the Drake Passage to visit Antarctica in about 2 weeks. One for the first time with his family, the other for something like the 30th time.

It’s hard to express how grateful I am to the authorities and people of Puerto Williams and Chile. The comfort of having safe harbor is an amazing feeling. Humanity is alive and well here.

Finally, just today Cmdr Guerrero came back aboard Sparrow to do a short video interview and left with my dirty laundry promising to deliver it back tomorrow! Nothing short of incredible hospitality that is now perhaps getting embarrassing.

And now my attention turns to repairs. I can see while waiting for parts to arrive, Sparrow may take a little cruise westward to see glaciers and who knows what else.

Happy New Year everyone. Take care of each other.

Ushuaia Bound

Heading for Ushuaia for repairs. Should arrive tomorrow morning. No idea what will happen with Customs and COVID. The port side double turning block ripped out of the deck this morning, complete with broken backing plate. This happened while I was heading upwind through the straight in 20 knots, smooth seas. This is on top of the traveler failure the other day, which I am unable to repair at sea.

No further decisions have been made.

Here is the repair list, dunno what’s going to get done before Sparrow moves again:
Deck Gear
⦁ Gooseneck Pin (2)
⦁ Traveler cars – Harken Big Boat
⦁ Turning blocks – new backing plates all around? New Core material? ⦁ 3rd Reef Outer Block lashing
⦁ Jib Halyard
Deck Leaks
⦁ Coachroof cracks
⦁ Dodger leaks
⦁ Hatch leaks
⦁ Chainplate leaks
⦁ Deck track leaks
⦁ Keel joint?
⦁ Upper Rudder Bearing (squeal and leak)
⦁ Jib Battens and repairs
⦁ Mainsail batten cars
⦁ Code 0 (tough)
⦁ A2? Top furler? Sock?
⦁ NKE GPS Antenna
⦁ NKE WiFi Box
⦁ Echomax XS antenna?
⦁ New clocks
⦁ Battery Monitor
⦁ Solar Controller programming
⦁ Main Alternator Regulator programming
⦁ Watt& Sea Blades
Masthead tricolor
Better provisions
⦁ Watermaker – fresh water salinity
⦁ Galley wall

Cape Horn!


An emotional morning after not much sleep last night. Sparrow finally rounded Cape Horn! Delayed due to a period of no wind and mainsail traveler car issues last night. I’m grateful for the delay and the good weather this morning as it allowed me to see the surrounding area. Snow on the Andes! It’s really spectacular country down here.

Chilean Coast Guard checked in with me for which I am also grateful.

Special shout-out to Brian Boschma for the Chardonnay! I little early, but so very welcome! Another special shout-out to Jamie Cantu for the Capilene insistency. The long underwear has made a cold trip tolerable.

So nice to have a few hours of relatively calm seas here in the lee of South America. Somehow seeing Cape Horn this way has made this whole effort feel worthwhile. Stage 2 complete.

Now for a little lunch, and some sleep.

Cape Horn Rounding

Christmas Day, 2020

It looks like I will round Cape Horn around 6am EST tomorrow the 26th. With luck I will be able to see the fabled rock in the dawn’s early light. This rounding marks the trip being 1/3rd complete. Didn’t quite realize how far it is to get here. While it deserves it’s fearsome reputation I must have paid my penance to Poseidon during the last week. Here is a screenshot from Expedition showing a suggested routing around the Cape and up through the Straits de Maire. I’m so grateful it’s looking so benign, and it should be interesting going through the Straits. I am so ready for lighter breezes and calmer seas.

Here also is a shot of the sunset yesterday. First and likely only sunset I’ve experienced down here.

On this day I’m reflecting on home life. Amidst the sadness of missing everyone, there are also so many wonderful things I have to look forward to getting back to. Spending time with my kids, friends and co-workers first among them. But also working on my next project, whatever that ends up being. Life is such an extraordinary miracle. So I will be proceeding cautiously, not taking any undue risks the remainder of the trip. I hear the Indian Ocean typically has surprises in store.

But now is the time to get around the Cape. See you on the other side.

Merry Christmas from Cape Horn!

Merry Christmas to Everyone from Cape Horn!

To be honest it will be a stressful day today. Trying to get around the corner before the weather gets ugly. Won’t be much sleep tonight as I get headed just before I get there. In the meantime, I need to get everything locked down in preparation for the banging which looks like it won’t be that long. Will be such a relief to get around this rock.

There should also be a little joy onboard this morning as I get to open a care package. I also plan to play some music and gnaw on Rod’s chocolate! Here is some of the playlist, and thankfully Bing Crosby didn’t make it aboard:
– Nutcracker Suite – Tchaikovsky
– Handel’s Messiah
– Little Drummer Boy – Frank Sinatra
– Silent Night/6 O’clock News – Simon & Garfunkel

Take care of those around you. It’s all we have.

The Horn Approacheth

Christmas Eve, 2020
56 21′ S ; 80 W

Perhaps this makes it all worthwhile?

400 miles to the Horn, so I will pass by on the 26th. Weather looks decent, at the moment anyway.

It’s been a rough few days as a couple of low pressure cells went by, haven’t really been up to posting. Mostly breeze has been the garden variety gale for – 35-40 knots, but early morning on the 23rd we saw over 50 knots and suffered a mild knockdown. Nothing broken, cabin just a mess. Not sure how the 9 pound laptop missed my head, but I’m glad it sailed over my temple. I don’t really keep track of these things, but isn’t 959MB a pretty low pressure? The barograph curve was pretty dramatic. I’m getting what I came down here for.

Anyway, so yesterday started off with a bang and the system, while brief and fast moving left large 20-30 foot seas. Worse, they were quite chaotic making doing anything aboard dangerously burdensome. Even reading was a chore. The sky gets so dark the instrument night lighting comes on in the middle of the day sometimes. I should get to cleaning up the cabin this afternoon as things have calmed down.

I know I keep talking about it, but the cold is biting down here. In the 30’s at times, though mostly in the low 40’s along with the seawater temp. Sleet and hail is a daily occurrence. The condensation in the cabin drives a dampness that cannot be escaped, though is better in the mostly dry sleeping bag. It’s only kept sort of dry with a gore-tex shell around it, but it still sticks to your clammy skin. Coffee and tea help but only a little. Hot food helps a lot more.

Rod, I dug into your chocolate yesterday! Thank you! Funny it’s so hard due to the temperature, but it’s a welcome small respite from the cold.

More things failing, some significant but I’m tired of talking about them so I’ll just say there are no show-stoppers as I approach Cape Horn. The weather looks good for the rounding so I am not stressed about it. Hoping for a little more warmth and calmer seas at least for a few days in the lee of South America.

My thoughts today and tomorrow are focused on friends, family, and co-workers. Very hard to be away for so long, especially this time of year. Daily I think about people and just start crying because I miss them so. Tonight and tomorrow will be sad hours aboard. Hopefully softened by finally getting around this bit of land in front of me.

Really enjoying the books I’m going through as they are rounding out my education. Schroedinger’s Cat being one small part; now you can go look it up.

Much love and Merry Christmas to all from the Southern Ocean.

52 South Gales

Made good time yesterday under 3 reefs and staysail. Sun popped out for a few hours and it was actually pretty amazing going for a while. Surfing up to 18 knots.

Barometer falling and wind around 35. Staysail came down this morning and we are now using Brad van Lieuw’s storm jib. Underpowered for the moment, but at times we see 40+ knots. We may end up running with this combo all the way to the Horn. Weather looks lousy.

It’s in the 40’s down here, so lots of layers. Condensation forms pretty quickly for that special damp feeling everywhere below. Periodic rain topside.

Hoping I’ve solved the leak over the nav station electronics. Epoxy, caulk, tape, everything tried to no avail. Deck flexing against a stiff tube is a puzzle. Anyway, we are now using some plumber’s putty and some tough crack filling goop that should flex a bit.

No news yet on the rudder bearing problem. I’m thinking the hull is flexing around the bearing and rudder shaft. Maybe end up lubricating, sailing conservatively, less runner tension and limping around a bit when seas are up. As the are continuously down here.