Monday, March 30, 2015

Home to Switzerland

We had a more-than 24 hour journey, from Curaçao to Miami to London to Zürich by plane, and then to Lucerne by train.  It seems as though this kind of trek only gets harder as we get older.  The ever-shrinking seats on the planes don't help, that's for sure.  But everything went very smoothly, each and every flight arrived a bit early.

We definitely have suffered some climate shock.  Curaçao was 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) everyday, but we have yet to see temperatures above 10 C (50 F) here.  We even "enjoyed" some sleet one morning (with more predicted later in the week).

But the scenery outside our balcony is still out of this world.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Laying Up

We are currently in Curaçao, in a slip at the marina, working through our chores list for putting Callisto away for the summer.  We make a to-do list each year, using the prior year's list as a starting point and modifying as appropriate.

We divide the chores into two groups:  Those that can or must be done while we are in the water, and those that must be done after we haul out and move off the boat.  Some chores are necessary to maintain the boat's systems in good order while we are gone, for instance putting preservative in our watermaker.  Some are just routine maintenance, and we use this time each year to perform them.  And finally, many chores are simply getting everything clean and (more or less) tidy for our return. 

We don't overdo the latter.  The boat is always pretty cluttered while we are gone, since so many things that normally  live outside are brought inside for storage (e.g. sails).  Plus, boatyards are dusty places, and that dust will accumulate inside and out while we are gone.

This year we had 46 items on the to-do list, 33 of which are pre-haul, and the rest post-haul.  This isn't quite complete, since we always remember important things to do that never made it onto the list.  We have allotted five days in the water, and two days in the yard to complete all this.  We will move off the boat as soon as we haul, so that means two nights in a hotel.

Our cruising friends think this is packing way too much into a too limited time.  We certainly don't have any time for sightseeing, etc., while we're working.  But we prefer to get it over with.  The transition between boat life and land life is pretty disruptive, and we are eager to get it behind us.

Anyway, here's our list for 2015:

Clean & Stow Dinghy 17-Mar
Fill Diesel 17-Mar
Add Additive to Diesel 17-Mar
Check water in starter battery 17-Mar
Stow MOM-8 and Lifesling 18-Mar
Stow flags 18-Mar
Reset Solar Charge Controller 18-Mar
Pull Solar Panel fuse 18-Mar
Tie off D400 18-Mar
Oil Screen Hinges 19-Mar
Clean Bilge 19-Mar
Final Rinse of Wetsuits & BCs 19-Mar
Launder towels & Rugs 19-Mar
Final Polish Stainless 19-Mar
Unbend Sails 19-Mar
Meet with yard manager 19-Mar
Fog outboard, drain gas lines & carb 20-Mar
Store Running Rigging 20-Mar
Copies of Boat Papers 20-Mar
Papers, Credit Card Info to Office 20-Mar
Flush heads with fresh water 20-Mar
Remove Davis lift on outboard 20-Mar
Pickle Watermakers 20-Mar
Stow Liferaft 21-Mar
Install Hatch Covers 21-Mar
Remove & clean BBQ grid 21-Mar
Vacuum Lockers 22-Mar
Replace roach tablets 22-Mar
Clean Heads 22-Mar
Change oil in Honda 22-Mar
Drain Honda gas lines & carb, oil cylinder 22-Mar
Food Storage 22-Mar
Pack Suitcases 22-Mar

Close LPG valve 23-Mar
Oil cockpit table and stow 23-Mar
Drain seawater inlets & strainers 23-Mar
Clean shower strainers 23-Mar
Disconnect starter battery 23-Mar
Remove Canvas 23-Mar
Keys to office 24-Mar
Clean Galley 24-Mar
Vacuum 24-Mar
Stow clothing 24-Mar
Lower Dining Table 24-Mar
Empty water tanks 24-Mar
Stand up cushions 24-Mar

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chile, Part 2

This is the second of two blog posts describing our visit to Chile.  This post will cover our time fly fishing in Patagonia.

We first heard about the Patagonian Basecamp from our old friend, John Landis, in the summer of 2013.  John is an avid fly fisherman, and has fished in many remote places around the world.  When he heard that David had given Gretchen a fly rod for her birthday, he told us about the Basecamp, and  suggested that we join him for the trip he had already scheduled in early 2015.

We found the Basecamp website at, and were enthralled by the pictures and descriptions of the program.  This is a very pricey vacation for our retirement budget, but we were approaching our 30th wedding anniversary, and decided to give the trip to each other as part of the celebration.  The Basecamp is run by Marcel Sijnsesael, who is passionate about trout, fishing, and keeping his guests happy.

That was all very good, but neither of us knew how to fly-fish, and David had no equipment at all.  To the rescue came Jon Toft, a British man who at the time ran a small business in Switzerland, “Have-a-go-Flyfishing,” which specialized in fishing lessons.  During 2014, we spent two full days with Jon,  and found him to be an excellent instructor.

We left Santiago, flying south toward Patagonia.  Our first leg was to the town of Puerto Montt.  This small city (about 350,000 inhabitants) is at the center of the main agricultural region of Chile, and supports a very large and growing fish farming industry.  From Puerto Montt we traveled by taxi to the tourist resort Puerto Varas, where we spent two nights.

We liked Puerto Varas a lot.  It is on a large lake, Lago Llanquihue. On a clear day, you can see the peak of the volcano Mont Osarno across the water. 

The town is almost exclusively dependent on tourism, and treats its visitors very well.  The tourist office gave us a map that showed a walking tour that highlighted the oldest 10 or 12 buildings (mostly homes) in the city.  We had a good time walking through some of the less-commercial neighborhoods, and seeing the old buildings.  They were constructed mostly from 1890 to 1910.  Each house had a placard that explained the original owners, and the kinds of wood that were used.

This region had many immigrants from Germany, starting around 1850, and their influence is easily seen in the architecture.  Almost all buildings are made from wood, and the style very reminiscent of German villages.  A couple of times, when our Spanish was too poor to get by, we were able to communicate using German.

From Puerto Varas, we took a charter flight to the village of Chaitén, which is the doorway to Chilean Patagonia.  Chaitén had been the provincial capital, but the town was almost completely destroyed in a volcanic eruption in 2008.  It is being reconstructed, but is much smaller now.

From Chaitén, we rode in pickup trucks about two hours to the Basecamp.  At the moment, the main road is mostly gravel, but there is a big project to pave it, supposedly to be completed this year.  That will make the trip to the Basecamp much quicker and easier on the guests.

Each day, we traveled to a different fishing spot.  There were always two guests and one professional guide.  Usually we had a boat to fish from, as well.  Here is a brief description of the places we visited.

Lago Rosselot
Our first fishing day, the lodge wanted us to focus on improving our casting, so we fished on a large lake where we didn’t have to worry about catching our lines in trees.  The scenery was exquisite.  We could see trout approaching our flies, but they always refused them.  We fished hard all day, in many different parts of the lake and using many different flies, but never did land a fish.  Our guide that day was also named David.

Rio Rosselot
The second day, we drifted down the river that exist Lago Rosselot.  Our guide was Craig.  This is a spectacular stretch of river, and we were thrilled to catch our first fish of the week.  Gretchen caught a nice rainbow trout first, and David followed up with a (very) small rainbow a few minutes later.  We both caught several additional fish through the day.  This river features some serious rapids, and we were impressed with Craig’s skill at maneuvering through them.  We were a bit surprised to find that we had to don life preservers and helmets before we went through the white water.

Rio Claro Solar
The lodge uses this name for the stretch of river after the Claro Solar joins the Rio Quinto.    Our guide was Zack.  We each caught several rainbows and a couple of brown trout.  Again, quite a bit of whitewater.  The river level was lower than it had been earlier in the season, and it was interesting to see Zack mentally picturing a way through the rocks before we attempted the pass.  Another truly beautiful stretch of water, and we had it all to ourselves.

Rio Quinto
We had asked for a bit of a break from the “all fishing, all the time” routine, and this was the compromise that Marcel offered.  We would fish, but instead of driving and boating to the site, we would hike.  Our guide was the very young but very enthusiastic Donovan. We walked along the edge of the river for about two hours, and then came to some very good fishing spots, where we each caught a couple of rainbows.  A quick lunch, a few more minutes of fishing, and then 2 hours hiking back.  A very nice change of pace.

Upper Figueroa
The Basecamp offers a couple of much-more-rustic secondary camps, and we were fortunate to be able to spend a night at their Temple camp.  We drove quite a distance to the camp, dropped off our gear, and drove a bit further with a boat to the river entrance.  That left plenty of time for a drift down the river, fishing as we went.  Zack was our guide again.  The river here flows through an amazing rocky canyon, not too high but very rugged and extremely beautiful.  Again, we had significant rapids to traverse, and had to get out the helmets again.  Several fish found their way onto our lines in the spaces between the rapids.  Again, we were impressed with Zack’s technical expertise and physical skill in managing the whitewater.

Rio Pico
We spent the night in Temple Camp, which is about as luxurious a camping experience as you will ever find.  The guides call it “Glamping,” glamour camping. Each tent had a propane heater, hot-water shower, and a flush toilet.

The final fishing day of our trip was on the Rio Pico with Donovan.  We decided to put on our waders and walk the river, fishing whenever we got to a suitable spot.  We had to cross the river twice, and found the first crossing very difficult, trying to keep our balance on big rolling boulders in a fairly strong current.  Donovan scouted out an easier spot to cross back, fortunately.  We had a great day.  On the last cast of the last day, David caught this:

Home Again, Home Again
On Friday, we drove by truck and Subaru back to Chaitén, caught the charter flight to Puerto Montt, and flew back to Santiago.  By the time we arrived, it was after 9:00 pm.  We had booked a night in the airport hotel, which allowed us a good rest before flying back through Bogota and Curaçao.

We are really glad we took this trip, it was definitely something to check off on the bucket list.

Monday, March 2, 2015


This is the first of two blog posts describing our visit to Chile.  This post will cover our preparations and the time we spent in Santiago.  An upcoming post will describe our fly fishing experience.

The trip was scheduled to last a bit more than two weeks.  In Bonaire, it is not permitted to leave a boat unattended on a mooring, so we arranged to move Callisto into Harbor Village Marina.  This is quite a pleasant marina, and very reasonably priced.  We don’t have all that much experience bringing Callisto into marina slips, but we accomplished it without drama (and a little help from the marina staff).  The  marina manager gave us a letter that said they would be responsible for Callisto while we were gone.  We had to give this to Customs as part of leaving Bonaire.

We took a short commuter flight to Curaçao, and then started south.  Our first leg was on Avianca, the Columbian national airline, to Bogota.  We were very impressed with the sparkling clean Airbus 320 and with the very modern Bogota Airport.  The shopping area, including duty free, was amazing.  David was taken with the scantily clad young ladies who stood outside each shop and encouraged customers to come in.

It was a long over-night flight from Bogota to Santiago, but we got to experience Avianca’s brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Extremely quiet and comfortable, with a very up-to-date entertainment system.

In Santiago, we were met at the airport by an English-speaking driver who gave us some tips on the city while we were riding to the hotel.  We were relieved that our room was available even at 8:30 in the morning, and took advantage to catch a nap.

We really liked Santiago.  It was simply a very comfortable place to wander around.  Lots of people on the streets, nobody in too much of a hurry.  Despite some practice, our Spanish is still not too good, but the people we met were patient, and many knew some English.

Santiago is roughly the same distance from the equator as Charleston, SC.  February is high summer there, and we experienced daily high temperatures around 30C, or 85F.  It got much cooler over night, with lows below 10C (50F).  The altitude is just about the same as our home in Meggen, 520 meters above sea level.

There are two big hills in the center that have been made into city parks.  We visited Cerro Santa Lucia on one day, and Cerro San Cristobal a couple of days later.  San Cristobal has a funicular railway to the top (felt like being in Switzerland).  We chose to walk up and take the train back down.  The views from both hills were excellent, and we met lots of locals enjoying the parks with their families.
Reflection of Cerro Santa Lucia in a modern building

We visited a couple of museums, one specializing in pre-Columbian art and the other in paintings by Chilean artists.  Both were very good, with interesting objects well presented.

One of our favorite places was the fish market.  Fish is a very important cuisine in Santiago, and the market supplies fish to all the restaurants.  We saw lots of fish laid out for examination by potential buyers.  The building also houses numerous restaurants, and is a favorite place for Santiago residents to get lunch.  We had a really good meal in one of them.

One day we took a bus tour to the cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso.  Valparaiso was once the jewel of Chile, since it was the first really good harbor that ships came to after rounding Cape Horn.  The harbor was greatly affected by the opening of the Panama Canal, and the city has been in a long decline, with a population only half of its peak.  There is a tradition in the city of asking art students at the university to paint murals on houses and buildings, and many of these were quite spectacular.

We had a brief boat tour of Valparaiso Harbor, which still seems plenty busy to me.


Viña del Mar is a thriving resort city very near to Valparaiso.  Many Chileans come there for holidays.
After only a few busy days in Santiago, it was time to head south.