Posted by: powellpjc | November 23, 2009

The Homestretch. Lima, Peru-Iquique, Chile

Lima to Iquique


The Desert, the Damn Current and a lot of seals.

After paying off all officials in sight in Lima (actually the port of Lima, called Callao) I let go for the last leg (part one) of my voyage–Lima, Peru to Iquique, Chile. Ten days would be a good passage. It took me 14 days.

Always the wind on the nose. Always the current on the nose. However, this time I was alone again and could care less about dates, deadlines and speed. I wanted to get to Iquique for the paragliding competition at the end of October but it was not really important. I always hit the ditch prematurely at least 2 days in each of the 4 days of competition so I am no threat to anyone (except myself).

The days were not as cold as the ‘equatorial’ waters but the Humboldt Current was ever-present. The winds came from the direction I wanted to go. A couple of rough days off of the town of Pisco, Peru where the winds drove me towards Easter Island and then it was the relentless and adverse wind. I sailed, motored, motor-sailed and generally slugged it out.

Bird life was startling in numbers and variety. Sea life, likewise. The ocean seals are plentiful along this coast and almost always there were a dozen or so seals in sight, feeding or checking me out. Boats in these parts are usually fishermen so the seals have learned to follow closely, waiting for handouts. The gulls follow the seals as the seals are sloppy eaters. They leave a lot of juicy bits for the birds to eat. Adaptation in nature. Charlie Darwin came this way on his voyage in the Beagle and he made considerably more important observations.

The hated, shitting comorant on the hunt.

The shoreline of Peru in these parts is hostile and forbidding.

This is what I mean by forbidding.

The coast of Peru. There is a town here, but no meant for me.

I would sail offshore at night so I could sleep and then tack in the morning and gradually sneak closer (15 miles) to shore during the day. There were no fishing boats. I guess the anchovie season had not opened.

The king of low and slow flight, the pelican. In formation.

I planned to go to Arica to refuel but I had one good day of sailing out of the 14 and my progress carried me well beyond easy reach of Arica so I set sights on Iquique. I could see the lights of Arica early one evening as was happy to give it a miss. One needs to anchor there and refuel with a taxi and jerry can arrangement. Not interested, thanks.

Another ugly car carrier heading back to Japan.

Just as it was getting properly dark I saw the navigation lights of a fast boat approaching. Thought it might be the coast guard but I was in Chilean waters and they use naval vessels for patrolling. I was hailed by the gunboat and told to come about and drop sails. When one stares down the gun barrel one complies. I was detained for 6 hours as there was a naval exercise going on in the waters I was approaching. Two nice young officers came aboard and kept me company while we watched the star shells illuminate the coastal sky and listened to bigger guns pound away in the distance.

My guardians from the Chilean Armada. Pleasant chaps with very good kit.

I was happy to hold my position. I was given a citation for not paying attention to their maneuvers and posted warning (not sure where it was posted) but no fine. Officialdom was improving. There was no wind by now anyway and when the gunboat roared off early in the morning I just let her drift and had a good sleep.

The coastline of Chile. Just as forbidding but somehow kindler and gentler.

The winds pretty much disappeared for the last 150 miles and I motored most of the way. When I realized I would make Iquique at an awkward hour I let her drift again for most of a day. I wanted to enter Iquique harbour at high tide because I knew from my previous investigations that the channel into the yacht club was barely adequate for my draft. High tide, according to my GPS tide tables was due at 6 p.m. I figured I would have enough water depth by 4 p.m. and I wanted to enter the tight little harbour channel during daylight so I called the harbourmaster and told him I was coming in. All went smoothly until I entered the final 200 metre channel to the yacht club where my depth sounder was reading 5 ½ feet. My keel is 6 feet deep. I was lightly plowing through the muck—but no harm done. Turns out I screwed up on the time. I was on Peru time and Chile was 2 hours ahead of that so I did enter at high tide and my mistake was a good one for a change. I could easily have grounded at 4 p.m.

The Port of Iquique, Chile.

The yacht club was expecting me thanks to a paraglider friend who has connections and I was helped to a choice location, with my bow anchored out and my stern tied to the floating dock. The club has washrooms, showers (cold water only), a tidy little restaurant, free electricity, water, excellent security and wifi. The rate is $600 per month for the long term docking privilege and am happy to pay.

Safe and sound after 6,000 miles.

Iquique was my first real goal. I love paragliding and I can fly everyday here. This is summertime, baby and the living is gracious. Weather is a choice 25C every day with lots of sun and ne’er a storm. The boat is safe from ocean issues and so am I.

The neighborhood in Iquique. Fisher folk and sunny days.

Rico, baby.

Life in the port of IQQ next.



  1. Well done, mate!
    All the best with 2010. We might do Chile on round 2. A bit more steel and maybe a heater too, before we push that far south. Lima next and then following the sun.

    Take care and keep posting.


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