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March 28, 2009

On the Navimag

Filed under: Chile 2009, Travel — anotherheader @ 3:14 am

The Patagonian Channels

The Patagonian Channels

Around six in the morning, rolling waves and the resulting repetitive sway of the boat let us know that the ferry entered the open waters of the Gulfo Corcovado.  Our ferry generally traveled inland channels and

On board the Navimage ferry

On board the Navimag ferry

thus was protected from the frequently violent seas and heavy weather of the open water of the South Pacific.  At a of couple points, however, geography dictates that the boat take a route that exposes it to the open sea.  Gulfo Corcovado is one of those sections.  The Navimag ferry is not a modern cruise ship.  It’s not particularly large, nor does it have modern stabilization systems that keep the motion of the ocean from translating to movement in the passenger’s stomachs.  Becky and I took no chances and took anti seasickness medicine immediately.  We are not sure we really needed it at this point, but it didn’t seem to be worth waiting to find out.

Before long, the boat pulled back into a sheltered channel and the waves smoothed out.  The pattern of the ferry ride was already set–sleep, eat, drink a pisco sour (we like these!), and repeat.  Every morning, we woke to find that there may be Starbucks in Chile, but there is only Nescafe on the Navimag ferry.  Somehow drinking Nescafe instead of real coffee makes you feel like a drug addict.  It is only seems to be there for the caffeine and not for the taste.  With a few more days on the boat, I’m sure we would have started to contemplate snorting the stuff, as it had to be a more palatable way to get the caffeine into our systems.

A volcano along the Patagonian channels

A volcano along the Patagonian channels

Our passage on the Navimag was booked in an AAA cabin, which was just slightly more expensive than the other cabin options.  With the AAA booking, we had just two people per cabin and were better oriented for the rocking of the boat.  We also took our meals with just the other AAA guests, which is isolating.  However, we were fortunate to share our meals with an entertaining Spanish couple, one of whom was from Bilbao, our next major travel destination.  We took notes.  As the boat began to rock heavily heading into the second full night, we compared our anti-seasickness technologies at dinner.  We were all hoping that our chosen remedy would work the best.  It looked to be a rough night.

Fishing boat on the Patagonian water ways

Fishing boat on the Patagonian water ways

During the second night and well into the next day, we passed first into Gulfo Penas and then into the open ocean for a brief spell.  The weather was heavy and the boat, as big as it was, bobbed around in the waves.  Fortunately, everyone’s seasickness treatments in AAA worked.

Each morning on our passage, we receive a briefing from a crewmember.  Still out in the open water with a sideways blowing gale and rolling waves, our briefer said, “Actually, the weather is good for us.  Because the weather is good, you will be able to see a glacier tomorrow.”

The briefer continued on with the upcoming activities, “Tonight we will play Bingo Patagonica.”

Navimag ferry in sunlight

Navimag ferry in sunlight

“Afterwards,” she continued, “we will have a dance in the evening.  You dance with your own women, not the women of the crew.”

I could have sworn the last part came out after the briefer carefully eyed the attending male passengers.

Very small steps lead into a very small lighthouse

Very small steps lead into a very small lighthouse

Not too long after the briefing, we returned to the Patagonian Channels and the ride smoothed out.  At this point, we were further south than we have ever been, having past the latitude of Milford Sound in New Zealand.  We would be going much further south, still.

Our trip had one possible shore visit along the way.  For a small sum, we were going to leave the boat and visit the small village of Puerto Eden.  The announcement rang through the intercom system to meet for the tour on the top deck.  The weather was still bad with side-ways rain and choppy waves.  Nonetheless, all those who signed up for the tour, dutifully donned their rain gear and headed out into the cold to wait for the boat ride to Puerto Eden.  When the boats from the village arrived, they let off six passengers, and then canceled the tour due to the weather and water conditions.  In the end, it felt like a muster for an emergency drill.  At least it allowed us to count the number of German tourists on board.  The tiny boat ride through rough seas and frigid waters would be a required activity for them.

Looking back on the waterways

Looking back on the waterways

“Bingo Patagonica” was not canceled, however.  The game pretty much played out like any other Bingo game, but, as it was explained by the host, “Bingo winners must dance.”  And, in fact, all of the winners did dance, each giving a You Tube worthy performance.  For some reason, we felt particularly lucky not to win.

More pictures can be found in this set:

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