August 11, 2015

dismasted - auckland to puerto williams: part two

Story/Photos by Somira Sao

Below is another excerpt from my story about Anasazi Girl getting dismasted in March 2014. A shorter version is featured in the September 2015 issue of Yachting World (UK).  Part One of the original story can be read HERE.


Amazingly, we were in motion again.

I got up slowly, stabilizing my body against the starboard ballast tank and the navigation seat.  Before I did anything – walk through the cabin, use the toilet, or put a pitcher on the stove to heat water – I sat down next to James to see where we were and what kind of conditions we were sailing. Sea state determines what we can and can’t do underway. In this case, we had stable NW breeze, were making good Easting, and seas were moderate. We were just over a thousand miles out of New Zealand.  The forecast showed that we would get a SW wind shift in 4-6 hours. Right now, it was safe to be active and get some things done inside the cabin.  

We commented on the temperature drop and discussed turning on the Eberspächer heater for the first time.  It would instantly take off the edge until the sun warmed the boat, but we decided to wait. The kids were asleep, warm inside the cocoon of a giant down sleeping bag.  In the meantime, hot drinks and staying layered in technical clothing would do the trick for the two of us.

We left port with 53 gallons of diesel and were guarding our fuel, which we needed to run the heater and the engine-driven alternator that charged our house batteries. Using minimal fuel was critical for keeping all our electronics running.  Careful conservation of all our resources on board while simultaneously not carrying too little or too much of anything was a key factor for successfully making all our long distance passages.

Sailing offshore often pulls forgotten memories to the surface for me.  Seeing our breaths as we spoke and our cups of tea steaming, I was brought far away from Anasazi Girl and back in time to our lives three years prior.

In March 2011, we were living in South America in a Peugeot Boxer cargo van (fitted out with a living interior) with our two oldest kids Tormentina and Raivo (ages 2 ½ and 6 months at the time).

Van Life / River Rats / Land Yacht
Puenta Bandera, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (January 2011)

At that time, we had just fulfilled a dream project of making an unsupported descent of Argentina’s Rio Santa Cruz with the kids. The seeds for this dream were planted with a Google Earth map and a few trips over the river on the Charles Fuhr Bridge (Ruta 40) while were cycle touring this region.  

Seeds for dreams often begin here...
Google Earth view of the Rio Santa Cruz, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA

The river was an other-worldly blue, fed by the glacial melt of the Patagonian Ice cap and ran 400 kms from Lago Argentino to the Atlantic. The float was in a 15 foot hard shell canoe and lasted nine days. Alone in the wilderness, with very remote road access, we drank pure unfiltered water and passed landscapes of wind-blown pampas, abandoned estancias, basalt rock formations, saw guanaco & condor, and found Tehuelche artifacts.

Lago Argentino, a glacier-fed lake just outside of El Calafate - ARGENTINA
Tormentina (age 2) with the pampas, wind-blown sand dunes, and guanaco tracks.
Rio Santa Cruz, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (January 2011)
Tormentina (2) and Raivo (3 months) and our simple living"scene" for 9 days on the river.
Rio Santa Cruz, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (January 2011)
Our days of "basic" training for sailing long distance...
Everything we needed to survive unsupported for 400 kms are inside this 15' hard shell canoe.
Rio Santa Cruz, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (January 2011)

After floating the Santa Cruz, we lived between southern Argentina and Chile so I could work shooting images. We spent time at the crag with an international tribe of climbers. That season, we met and re-connected with world-class athletes – like Rolando Garibotti, Sean Villanueva-O’Driscoll, Nico Favresse, Joel Kauffman, Daniel Jung, Sylvia Vidal, Tommy Caldwell, and the Huber Brothers.

Fidel Martinez Guirado highling above the Rio de Las Vueltas
El Chalten, Parque Nacional los Glaciares, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (February 2011)
Sylvia Vidal  / sport climbing at La Platea
Parque Nacional los Glaciares, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (February 2011)
L to R:  Daniel Jung, James & Raivo (age 4 months), Paulita Jones Volonte, & Nico Favresse
Parque Nacional los Glaciares, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENITNA (February 2011)
Daniel Jung (on the wall) & Thomas Englbach / sport climbing at Commission
El Calafate, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (February 2011)
We took road trips along desolate dirt roads, James always with one eye searching for undeveloped climbing areas and hidden crags of granite among thousands of sheep and the lone gauchos.

Joel Kauffman taking in the clean air on an idyllic run along the lake.
Lago San Martin, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (February 2011)
Rocks, pampas and moody clouds.
Lago San Martin, Provincia de Santa Cruz - ARGENTINA (February 2011)
Jose in the kitchen of Senora Andretti.  Before leaving the "scene" in El Chalten for life on an estancia,
Jose carried loads for Kurt Albert on the first ascent of Royal Flush (44-pitch 5.12c, A2 Royal Flush, on the east pillar of FitzRoy).  We met him in celebration mode after he had fnished a project shearing 15,000 sheep.
Estancia Puesto Chacabucu, Lago San Martin - ARGENTINA (February 2011)
We eventually made our way south to the “end of the road” of Tierra de Fuego, to the port of Ushuaia, Argentina. The season was winding down and James found day work on foreign flagged expedition boats chartering Cape Horn & Antarctica.

We lived in the van at the yacht club, urban camping, paying for the use of the club’s facilities.

Then the first freezing cold nights arrived.

We slept layered in all our technical gear, surrounded in the morning by a cave of frost, breaths visible in the cold air. By the second morning like this, we knew it was time to head north.

This moment was a major turning point for us. As a family, life together was not about an existence of just living & working in a place. Neither was it just about being a tourist having a look around. What drove us to live was to go somewhere to DO something, to make friendships and deep human connections.

Always we strove to keep a healthy balance between working enough to live a simple life, while doing it in such a way that allowed us to be together as a family, to raise & teach our kids ourselves.

At this point, the river poject was over, our tribe had left Patagonia with the seasonal shift, and we were burned out on being on the road. It was hard for us to be around the expedition boats without the freedom to be on the water ourselves.

It was time to start a new life program.

We headed north & returned to El Chalten to store our canoe & river gear at Alejandro Capparo's house (the head park ranger at Parque Nacional Los Glaciares).

A couple weeks later we were in the big city of Santiago, camped out at the Herrara-Bravo house, trying to sell the van.  Once we found a buyer, we then moved into a small room at the Hotel Paris, located in the old cobble-stoned Iglesia San Francisco district of Santiago. We then sold everything else we owned (climbing & camping gear) to the young Chilean climbers.

We booked tickets to Panama and spent a week there looking for work.

Two weeks after that, we were in Maine, preparing to re-launch Anasazi Girl. By the middle of July 2011 we made our first offshore passage with the family, crossing the Atlantic in 21 days from Maine to France. Three years and three children later, we had made over 20,000 ocean miles together, crossed the North & South Atlantic, the equator, and made East-bound voyages through the Southern Ocean to the point where we were today.

Tormentina (2 1/2 years) and Raivo (9 months) on a Transatlantic voyage from Maine to France. (June 2011)
I felt a little choked up with the realization of how far we had come as a family since planning & provisioning for our small trip on the river. It had been a good exercise in risk management and expedition planning that helped shape the voyages we were to late rmake.

I thought about how those frosty mornings in the van had become such a pivotal moment in the course of our lives, and here we were again, about to cross that region where the idea to go sailing with the family had started.

We did turn the heat on that day, and the days that followed fell into a steady routine.  These were not the sunny, warm days of sitting in the cockpit with the kids, making sail changes together, and watching for dolphins, birds, and whales like in the Atlantic. The Southern Ocean was a completely different game altogether. This type of sailing was an intensive risk management program where being smart was vital for everyone’s safety and even the smallest actions of everyone aboard were carefully calculated.

(To be continued.)

1 comment:

  1. Our friends think we are adventurous because we took our kids camping and backpacking every chance we got (not often enough, it often feltl/feels). You demonstrate that kids really thrive when you not only think, but live outside the box. I don't know that I'd want the ocean voyages, and probably would chicken out of many of your adventures, but I still feel a little regret we didn't do similar, and definitely a bit of envy! Keep it up!