Before leaving Punta Arenas we had to provide the local Chilean Navy commander with our sailing plan through the Patagonian channels. He explained that if we failed to report in for 10 days they would come looking for us. Certain areas were off limits. I didn’t ask why but a fisherman later told me no one pays any attention to that. I told him my chief mate was pregnant so they had better send an obstetrician. He barely batted an eyelid. He’d heard such stories before.
The chief mate was showing mutinous tendencies.
“Will you stop treating me like an invalid?” she said one day and stamped her foot. “I am not sick, I’m just pregnant. It’s perfectly normal. Understand?’
The outburst came because I told her she had to drink milk as the doctor ordered. She didn’t like milk. Never had. Milk gave her a rash. I suspected she was still sipping away at the whisky although I could find none on board. Of course I didn’t understand. I had never been pregnant and knew nothing about the female plumbing system but it was my baby too. What I was beginning to understand was Magellan’s wisdom in banning females aboard ship.
In Punta Arenas we met up with the German ketch Regina Maris that we had sailed with in the regatta from Buenos Aires. They were heading through the channels too. We dined out together and took sundowners in one anothers’ cockpits while telling s few tall stories. Jurgen, the skipper, also had a female chief mate, Karen, and in a quiet moment I asked him if he had any advice on my predicament.
“Ah, women,” he said and waved his hand in the air. “Have another drink.”
Our first couple of days in Magellan’s Strait were an anti-climax. The wind was a light easterly, almost unheard of, and we took the opportunity to photograph the landscape and the dolphins playing in the bow wave. It didn’t take long for the strait to live up to its reputation, however, and I worried about the chief mate struggling with flogging canvas on the foredeck. I required her to wear a safety harness at all times on deck, which drew forth more moans.