We have been following Mary and Scott Flanders aboard their Nordhavn 46 on their journey from Gibraltar to New Zealand by way of Cape Horn. We featured the beginning of their voyage in our August 2007 issue and we will continue to follow their journey in upcoming articles. Here, we get the feminine perspective of their trip so far, as Mary Flanders shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of wintering in the deep south.—Editor's Note
Wintering In The Fin Del Mundo (The End Of The World)
The Feminine Perspective
By Mary Flanders
Let me be frank here. I am not a born mariner. Prior to meeting Scott I had no experience on the water. I was born and raised in the Midwest town of Superior, Wisconsin, and never handled more than a rowboat. My parents were not boaters; I didn't even see the ocean until my family moved to Florida when I was in high school. Honestly, I have never taken a sea class. What I have learned thus far is through "the captain" and being "out there."
That is not to say taking classes, obtaining certificates, etc., aren't important; however, the cruising life for me sort of "metamorphed" over time and well, here I am. Having confessed that, I have slowly learned a great deal from Scott and also learned to be a valuable member of the crew. There can only be one captain, there is no question about that. I trust Scott and this fantastic little "ship" to get us where we want to go in comfort and safety. He also needs me as well, so we have become closer since we've started cruising than in almost 39 years of marriage!
HANGING OUT IN USHUAIA
As I write this, there is a partly cloudy sky, the outside temperature is 48°F, and it is blowing! I'm not sure exactly how much, as the anemometer is not working, but from previous experience I can say the wind is gusting close to 40–50 knots, conservatively. We are at anchor in Ushuaia harbor, capital of the Argentine state of Tierra del Fuego. The small inflatable (our transport) is swinging astern. The wind is out of the west, so the waves are only choppy. When we go to town we will "suit up." It is not so bad! Scott and I are now used to putting on plenty of clothes to not only keep warm, but also dry, as the weather changes so often here. We often carry a backpack with extra gloves, hats, etc., and it comes in handy when we want to shed layers of clothing.
We have a good heavy anchor and lots of chain. Egret's anchor, TK, has been well set for a while so there is no concern about dragging. We are just very careful about getting in/out of the dinghy and taking our time when we run to the dinghy dock. We are not boat bound. We enjoy walking into town (about one-half mile around the harbor) and up and down the streets as it is good exercise.
The locals are friendly; we always run into other cruisers at the Internet cafes and, of course, often stop at our favorite French bakery for hot chocolate and a treat! We have also hiked pretty trails that lead out of the city into the forest and into the mountains. The view is breathtaking. Ushuaia itself has plenty of restaurants, a few small museums, and a cinema, so there is entertainment. There is a small ski area right on the edge of town and a larger one about 45 minutes by car. Many cruisers get a winter ski pass and go to the larger ski resort by catching a bus that comes several times a day right to the AFASyN yacht club.
Ushuaia is not fancy—it is not Aspen! I have never been to Alaska, but from the description of people who have, Ushuaia is similar: a frontier town, a little rough around the edges. You don't dress up around here to go to dinner, you just dress warm. We wear boots all the time, because with intermittent snow, rain, or sleet, the streets and sidewalks are often muddy. But Ushuaia doesn't need to be fancy, it is just plain cool!
I can't see anyone not enjoying cruising the Chilean canals! The scenery is spectacular and the canals are, for the most part, protected waters. It can be very windy, but wave action is rarely over 3 feet at the worst because there is little fetch. I'm speaking about the main channel, the Beagle. There are plenty of fjords and anchorages to tuck into to get out of the wind if you find yourself in that position. We, however, rarely find ourselves in that position as we have access to weather information, and I refuse to budge if the weather is not to my liking! I like calm water, with little wind. We do not need to rush anywhere to meet a schedule!
Often when we are anchored, we have lines ashore as well as TK. We are tucked in very close to shore. I am apprehensive about placing and removing lines in a small area in high winds (with Scott in the dinghy being blown about) if I don't have to! So we sit and wait, read a book, hike, or otherwise occupy ourselves until it calms down.
Along the Beagle we are in communication by radio with the various coast guard stations, and sometimes while at anchor in a cove. Often, however, the mountains block radio communication and in that case we email our location each day to the Chilean station at Puerto Williams. I feel good about this, as if heaven forbid an emergency should arise, the word would get out. We also have a satellite phone to use if necessary.
When we cruised the Glacier Loop this winter (watch for a full article in an upcoming issue of PMM), Scott and I did not see another boat. After about 6 weeks, I was happy to return to civilization in Ushuaia, as it was just the two of us all that time and by then we were both ready for socializing. Of course there are many more cruisers in the summer here, but we have gotten to know others who winter here, and along with the locals, it can be a social whirl if you are inclined.
CRUISING LIFE THUS FAR
I am traveling on the original highway. I'm not a tourist. I'm learning new things everyday—keeping my brain cells alive and forming new neuronal connections! For me, this is the ultimate way to really see the world and I am so fortunate to have such a boat and mate to share it with. I enjoy being at sea, but I also enjoy coastal cruising and when we can, inland trips by car. It's a great combination; changing our routine keeps everything fresh. I enjoy meeting new people and despite differences in culture and language, people are people and we somehow communicate and get to know one another. In more isolated areas, cruisers tend to be especially close and locals are most interested in who you are and what you are about. In fact, I found that once Scott and I got away from all the hustle and bustle of daily needs and desires in civilization, plus the constant bad news about the state of the world, I've become more of an optimist about humanity.
That being said, there are trade-offs of course. I miss our families! However, we live in good times and modern communication allows us to keep in touch on a daily basis even. We also include a trip or two "home" in our budget and promise a welcoming berth to friends or family who wish to join us along the way.
Do I feel lonely? Sometimes, especially at holidays, but if you can't be with the ones you love, then love the ones you're with. (Isn't that in a song?) We get together with other cruisers, after all, we are all in the same "boat" so to speak.
Have I ever been scared (weather, pirates, boat problems)? Not for my life, certainly. I've never been in a situation like that. But I've been frightened by certain situations. Now you who have been following the captain's log (http://www.nordhavn.com/egret/captains_log_aug07.php4) know we have crossed the Atlantic twice, come down the notorious coast of Argentina, and have rounded Cape Horn. We have weathered storms and once a tremendous squall, but I will honestly confess that my most frightening experience thus far has been while entering the Cape Cod Canal with wind against tide and our little ship sideways to the waves! That, ladies, when for a few moments we took the boat off of autopilot and steered clear of the shore and went on our merry way, was my nightmare.
I have been anxious many times, it is in my nature. Scott teases me about it often. I'm always anxious when we are going to or from a dock with my fenders and line responsibilities (getting much better though); going through a narrow pass in rough conditions (who isn't?); and I would have to admit, anytime we are getting ready to go to a new location! Once we start moving I'm fine. It is the unknown, really, but I keep trying to be adventurous in my own small way and have had a richness added to my life that I would otherwise never have had.
About The Author
Scott and Mary Flanders departed Ft. Lauderdale aboard Egret, their 46-foot Nordhavn, on a personal voyage of discovery from the Mediterranean to Cape Horn and beyond. Their itinerary has taken them across oceans and to amazing ports of call including Gibraltar, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands; Salvador, Brazil; Mar del Plata, Argentina; and Ushuaia, Argentina. You can read their Cape Horn story in the July/August 2007 issue of PMM and watch for upcoming features on their latest adventures. You can also follow their journey on their web pages on http://www.nordhavn.com/egret/index.php4.