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.