Lessons From A Circumnavigation

Story & Photos By Scott Flanders
Published: October/November 2013

Big adventures start with baby steps, a yearning to get more out of everyday life, learning boating lessons the hard way, and a giant leap of faith.

A Precious Moment In Cruising Time

In 2007, Egret spent a year on the Beagle Channel separating Chile from Argentina in southern South America, about 80 miles north of Cape Horn. As foreigners, we're allowed 90 days in each country, so the routine for the handful of winter-over cruisers is to trade one country for another every three months. The Argentine harbor of Ushuaia is 28 miles west of the Chilean village of Puerto Williams, where there's a Chilean Armada (Navy) base with a few small businesses and local fishermen.

During a visit to Puerto Williams, we happened upon Chile's Independence Day, with parades of students, a school band, firemen, military colors, and young gauchos with their moms. A group of Argentine Prefectura (Navy) sailors arrived to challenge the Armada sailors to a friendly dinghy race around the buoys. At the start of one heat, a sailing dory overturned, dumping the crew overboard. A few days later, while checking out of Puerto Williams, we presented a photo CD of Chilean Independence Day to the duty officer. He slid it into his computer, and one of the first photos was that capsized dory. He was in that dory and was thrilled.

Months later, Egret returned and asked for a zarpe (cruising permit) to visit a corner of the island that was off limits to private boats. The request was presented to the duty officer, even though the young sailor presenting the request said there was no way we would get the zarpe. Guess who the duty officer was? Right! And what was the zarpe all about? Trout. Giant trout. During the 1920s, a U.S. group stocked some southern Argentine and Chilean inland lakes with trout that grew to gigantic proportions, the German brown trout up to 22 pounds. Egret anchored with two lines ashore in a secret freshwater stream fed by two connecting lakes. The anchorage was completely protected from screaming weather by the wind shadow of tall shoreline trees.

Photo of Mary Flanders with her famous catch in Chile
Mary Flanders with her famous catch in Chile.

After dinghying as far upstream as the rocks allowed, Mary and I took to foot, crossing small streams on top of beaver dams, and after an hour we reached the stream that connected the upper lake. We used light spinning tackle with bonefish wiggle jigs that ride up with the hook to avoid snags on the rocky bottom. Fat trout snapped on nearly every cast.

Mary climbed a tree hanging over the creek, cast, and hooked a giant trout. During the fight she lost her balance and fell below a small cliff to the side of the stream, landing on her backpack. She looked like an upside-down turtle trying to right herself, but never quit fighting that trout. I took photos of her holding her prize, and we cooked our catch on a flat rock atop hot coals while beer chilled on ice flows in the stream. This was a magic moment in our lives. It was life beyond our comfort zone and it felt great.

OK, you've now read about Egret's beginnings. You know where we started. You see some of the places we've been lucky to go. I promise, we're no smarter or braver than you. You can do something like this, too, if you choose. Your boat is your ticket. Your experience level is something that you'll ramp up every single day. Follow your imagination and see where it takes you, one small step at a time.End of story marker

Scott and Mary returned to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland this summer with Egret for their second season in the Maritimes, then headed across to Greenland. Egret will winter in northern Iceland. BoatUS Magazine will carry more of their stories in future issues.

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