The chief mate was allergic to milk products and not getting her calcium. We had been told it was a serious issue at this stage of the pregnancy but useful advice was scarce. Valparaiso is a big city with full medical facilities so that became our next target, about 500 miles away. We needed to renew our visas anyway and would also need a safe mooring or wet berth for several months until our new deck boy joined us.
Pre-natal sailing (Part 2)
It was a beautiful sight as we arrived before dawn with strings of lights seeming to reach up into the sky. Daylight revealed hillsides covered with a checker-board of multicoloured houses in all shapes and sizes. I spent a couple of hours blundering around looking for somewhere to anchor or moor but the harbour was wide open to the sea. We found the yacht club at Punta Greusa but their little harbour was full. Then the engine suddenly stopped and refused to restart. I dropped the anchor and rowed the dinghy ashore. I found someone doing an anti-fouling job on a yacht in the hardstand. I explained my problem and saw a horrified look come over his face. Winds of 40 knots or more were expected and he suggested we had better get out.
Now we were so close I was reluctant to go back to sea with a pregnant chief mate. She was due for a check-up. The yard hand took me inside the club and introduced me to the manager, who turned into a dynamo when he heard our story. He got on the telephone and carried out a shouting conversation, waving his hands in the air for emphasis. Then he grabbed me by the sleeve and dragged me outside back to a jetty at the hardstand with a business-like yellow cruiser alongside.
“Salvavidas,” he said. “You wait.”
About half an hour later the crew arrived and fired up what sounded like a Caterpillar diesel with grunt. They might have been dragged away from their breakfast for all I know. They put me back aboard Wathara. I tossed them a line and heaved up the anchor and they towed us to a crowded little fishing harbour a couple of miles away. There I put out two anchors and tied off to a dubious-looking mooring buoy. As the lifeboat departed I gave them a wave and a heart-felt “gracias.”
“De nada,” they said.
The 40 knots arrived that evening and it was one of the wildest nights in my life. Several fishing boats broke adrift and piled up on the breakwater while storm water drains poured rivers into the harbour. Neither the chief mate nor I got any sleep that night.
“You do make it hard on a girl,” she said.
“Not complaining, mind. Our deck boy is a sailor already, starting young.”
PS This is a true story. The manager and lifeboat crew became good friends.