Drowned Rats


We’re still voyaging south. Indeed, at Lista Light’s (our old sailing boat) current pace we will be for several years more. Fishing boats, dolphins, sea lions, imperial cormorants, you name it; leave us flailing in their fishy wake. The ‘run-up to the run’ is not progressing quite at the desired rate. What we need are strong north winds. What we have are wonderfully warm, but incessantly southerly winds.

This has led us to an impromptu stop at Cisnes. ‘Cisnes’ means ‘swans’ in Spanish and the pretty little town nestling in the skirts of forested Andean mountains is a fitting home to its feathered namesake. Unfortunately, there was nothing swan like about David and my encounter with the place.

We had to grab some extra provisions and report our position to the local Chilean Armada. Our kayak has effectively become our car/bicycle and so we paddled ashore with various chattels and returned with considerably more.

While Dave was unloading the first load, I was chatting to the gas man on the floating pontoon. A brisk wind had sprung up and was whipping waves into the exposed harbour. The pontoon was sagging and wheezing. I was shouting above the howl about how we were used to carrying huge loads aboard our kayak. That in Isla Pascua (Easter Island) we had surfed waves in the pitch black with about 80 litres of water strapped to us and how in Puerto Montt we had paddled a 100kg cast iron wood burner back to the boat.

‘Pride comes before a fall’, smugly mutters the smiling bystander. And so it was.

Dave returned to collect me and the gas bottle. I inched aboard and clenched the bottle between my thighs. The kayak cover snapped free of the front hold. Steadily waves sloshed in. This had happened before; we had survived. We weren’t worried. We trusted the kayak. But the waves and wind were building. We were feeling heavy, but Lista Light was growing closer and we would soon be aboard.

Suddenly we were upside down.

I wasn’t even aware that it was happening. Within seconds icy water was lapping around our ears. Incredibly the gas bottle was still floating, but the bag full of all the ship’s documents that we fished from the soup was not faring so well. Dave hooked the kayak into a nearby police boat and within minutes the same friendly Armada faces we had reported to on land were hauling me into the boat.

How embarrassing. If only we could have limped home without their noticing. They appeared fairly chuffed by the rescue opportunity, however. I doubt there had been one for a while. Cameras flashed at the drowned foolish rats and they hooted a hearty retreat content in their superman duties.

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