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(Editor's Note: Warning - the following entry is not for the very young or the faint at heart. Read at your own risk.)

Running Aground!

October 18, 2005

Near 46'09S and 73'31W

It just goes to show ya...

...that even when the sun is shining and the seas are flat, SHIT happens!

For instance: we were motoring on a beautiful sunny day with little wind and flat seas, crossing a pretty well marked area when we hit a shoal, HARD. The sound of hitting rock at 6+ knots is possibly the worst a captain can hear or feel. Jim tried to motor Onora off the shoal but we were "hard and dry' and just as high tide was dropping. UGH. From out of nowhere, a small fishing boat appeared with three very salty piscadores aboard. Naturally they spoke no English, so communication was a problem, but they knew what we needed.

But try as hard as they did with their 40+ engine, we were still very high and dry. The head fisherman (who kinda looked like a weathered John Belushi) and Jim had an interesting conversation and then they all took off in the fishermen's boat to find the nearest "salmonera" where, hopefully, there would be a bigger boat that could help pull us off. I, meanwhile, am left on Onora, who is listing seriously to starboard and I am a nervous wreck. I checked under all the floorboards to see if we were taking on any water and we weren't, whew! But there was a strong smell of diesel fuel and when I checked the auxiliary tank in the aft cabin, it was leaking. Slowly, but it was still leaking. Bugger. Out with the soapy water and start cleaning up as much as possible when Jim arrives back with the fishermen and another boat from the salmonera.

After minutes of scouting around and looking at the rudder and the keel, it was decided that when high tide came in we would float off. Unfortunately high tide was about six hours away and Onora was sitting directly on her rudder. (What containere did I put those Valium in??) My biggest fear was that the winds would pick up and the resulting waves would pound the rudder until she gave way. Jim assured me it wouldn't happen that way because the boat was built so that the lower part of the rudder could snap off and we would still be able to steer. This is NOT a conversation I want to be having!

So the fishermen left (with a bottle of Jameson whiskey, a huge chocolate bar and some outboard gas that Jim gave them) and promised that they would be back at midnight to help pull us off (I was doubtful,esp. after the Jameson) The guys from the salmonera told us, once we were off to come to their place and tie up for the night. Meanwhile, back on acutely askew Onora, we are cleaning up diesel wherever we can and that's everywhere. It permeates everything so all the equipment, food, wine, pipes, etc. that are under the floorboards needed to be taken out, cleaned and returned. This is truly grunt work at its worst.

The endless hours slowly pass and Onora moans, creaks, groans and whines with each wave that slams into her but she comes upright. As predicted, with the high tide she floated off those greedy rocks. I can't really describe the sense of relief that I felt ... I owe God HUGE favors that I promised during the worst part. We slowly motored over to where the salmonera was and tied up to their dock for the night. The guys came out and told us that the authorities would be here in the morning to check out the boat and make sure she was in condition to sail. Authorities?? Our boat smelled like a diesel station gone foul. How do wwe explain that to the Authorities?? We continued our clean-up duty until about 3am and then crashed into mindless sleep.

Eight AM - a knocking on our hull. It's the Chilean Armada - about six uniformed young men, very polite and friendly but VERY serious about their job. They sent a diver down to check the rudder and hull and look for any signs of damage. He did a pretty good observation and reported that, besides some scratching and paint scraped off the hull, there was no structural damage. WHEW! The rudder was chewed a bit at its tip where it had been on the rocks but no cracks or splitting. Good news, said the Armada. Now you must follow us to Puerto Aguiere to see the Port Captain and show him your zarpe (offical permission slip they give you to sail in their waters). Oh Boy... El Capitan was also very polite but rather stern and very insistent that we use our VHF radio 2 times a day to call in and report our location. This is required procedure but boaters are pretty laid back when they are moving around and sometimes they call in and sometimes not. He also checked all our gear onboard, life raft, safety gear, everything needed and we passed that exam. When Jim showed him the location of our grounding he merely said that some passes are safer than others and we were in a pass that only the locals know how to get through.

We anchored in a secure bay just around the corner from the Armada dock and have been here since. Yesterday we spent the entire day cleaning and washing everything down. That damn diesel gets into everything! Today the weather is lousy and Jim is working on the refrigeration system that has suddenly sprung a leak. Yes, life onboard is never dull, sometimes maddening, nerve-shattering and painful ... but never dull!




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