Sunday, January 7, 2001

Beagle Channel, Argentina

Sometime in the night, the wind kicks up and my eyes open. Rain moves west through the Beagle Channel and comes down in cold, hard sheets. I wake again at dawn, and an orange beam like a spot light hit the mountains near town and the clouds’ low-slung bellies.

I roll over and sleep for two more hours, my last on land.

During the last few days, fear and anticipation have risen more or less in tandem, managing to cancel each other out, leaving me with a sort of emotional white noise. The disastrous state of my finances served as a distraction as well.

I spend an hour sorting clothes and gear on my hotel room bed. Dress shirts and khakis: out. Anything in polypro goes in. Much shuffling about. Take a very long, very hot shower. Another last. Grow waterlogged but not much more focused. I’m still waiting to liberate my last duffel, the one containing storm and camping gear, from the left luggage room that no one seems to posses a key to.

Finish my last ham and cheese omlette, my last cappuccino, and get ready to face the music. Or at least send some more email.

It took some time, but after a half hour walking in the cold rain, I finally track down my boat and her skipper. The Sarah W. Vorwerk is bright red, single masted and looks like a very, very small space to spend a month with seven complete strangers. Make that eight, since we seemed to have picked up at least one extra passenger and some woman who never introduces herself except to say coldly that no, she is NOT Henk’s wife. It takes some hours and an observed crotch grinding embrace that I start to get the picture.

It’s all a little overwhelming, one of those rare times in life when I simply have no idea of what is going to happen next.

What happens next is we sit. For several hours. With no clear reason or purpose. An emigrations officer finally saunters down the gangway and there’s quite a bit of conversation centering around missing stamps and lost papers. Then suddenly we’re off. Casting away lines and slowly chugging through the harbor. No fanfare, just a few waves from fellow yachties. Passing through glassy waters and heading down the Beagle Channel, slowly southwards.

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