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.

18 thoughts on “Puerto Williams, Chile

  1. We loved the Porto Williams hospitality several years ago. I’m glad you are there. You’ll find some beautiful hikes in the area.


  2. Glad you have found safe harbor and help. The Argentine indifference to your plight was reminiscent of Neah Bay (reservation in Washington state) this past summer. When they refused allowing me to tie up at town dock after exhausting solo passage from Kauai, using COVID ruse as an excuse.
    Sometimes I am bewildered my mans insanity.


  3. Whitall: Amazing! my whole family (including my sailing father) is following your every post! We are so happy that you are safe and well. Please tell me that you are going to write a book after this. You should send this story to the NY Times & New Yorker Magazine to share with the world for sure. Let us know if you want us to help you do that. Happy new year to you. Wishing you more good fortune, Shannon


  4. Dude, so good to finally get an update. Been checking the blog twice a day since seeing you in PW. Didn’t want to bother you as figured you were tired and very busy as turns out to be the case. Sounds like you are in good hands now. Nancy wants to know how to send care package? Can’t wait to hear how repairs go. In times like these I try to remember the immortal words of Bob Bitchen, “The difference between an ordeal and adventure is Atitude.” Take care!


  5. Sounds like unexpected but very worthy adventure, seriously, it reads like a passage from Vito Dumas’ book! Happy New Year!


  6. I am tearing up at the kindness you’ve experienced. It restored my faith in humanity for today. I don’t know you but was friends with Julie in high school and signed up to follow you and Sparrow after seeing the send off post on her Facebook page. Happy New Year! May the winds and weather be kind to you and Sparrow.


  7. Whitall, so glad to get an update. We have been checking this blog twice a day since you had to abandon solo attempt. I was holding back in contacting you figuring you were tired and or very busy which seems to have been the case. Glad you are safe and secure on a mooring now and have new friends. Nancy wants to know how to send a care package? In times like these I always try to remember the immortal words of Bob Bitchen, “The difference between an ordeal and adventure is Attitude!”. Take care.


    1. Hi Larry, please tell Nancy it’s a very long process to ship things down to Puerto Williams (weeks) no matter how you do it. It’s just not practical. I am having a friend consolidate boat parts for shipment in a few weeks.


  8. I over wintered in Puerto Williams and also had my Perkins 130 hp taken out in pieces as it was the only way and put onto a small fishing boat where it was taken to a dock and transported in the snow over to the mechanics shed. He did a fantastic job replacing the oil pressure pump and a whole lot of other stuff and so cheap. Best mechanic I have ever met. Went with him for a test run and returned with buckets of snow crabs. Only good memories of Puerto Williams.


  9. Whitall, any chance you could turn on the tracker for a couple of pings so we can see where you are moored now on the tracker map?


      1. Sort of. I’m rafted to the Gondwana a steel boat half the size and twice the weight. Sparrow goes where the Gandwana tells her to. The wind can pick up and we bump around a bit. Would be better if we were facing the same direction, but I’m not complaining.


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