s/y Nine of Cups
Isla Grande de Chiloé
November 2008
Isla Grande de Chiloé is Chile's second largest island (3241 sq mi) and
South America's 5th largest island. It is 118 miles long and averages
about 35-40 miles wide. Divided by the gentle peaks of the Coastal
Range, Chiloé's eastern and western coasts are two worlds apart. To
the west is a wilderness of endless beaches, dune habitat and temperate
rain forests... much of it protected in one of Chile's most forgotten
national parks. To the east are the scattered islands of the Chiloé
archipelago, sheltered from Pacific storms, intensely cultivated, home to
a traditional culture of subsistence farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen.

A rich mythology - populated by strange trolls, sea monsters, and eerie
ghost ships - is yet another mark of Chiloé's singular history. Today,
Chiloé balances wild, unbridled nature with one of South America's most
remarkable traditional cultures. Renowned for its seafood, its woolen
handicrafts and the warmth of its people, Chiloé is still a largely unknown
destination for walking and biking, fishing, paddling and birding.

Evidence ranging from historical records, local agriculturalists, and DNA
analyses strongly supports the hypothesis that the most widely cultivated
variety of potato worldwide, Solanum tuberosum tuberosum, is
indigenous to Chiloe Island and has been cultivated by the local
indigenous people since before the arrival of the Spanish.

Our first exposure to Chiloé was coming through the Canal Chacao on
our way to Puerto Montt. Later, we took a bus ride there to belatedly
celebrate Marcie's birthday. We took the ferry across the Canal this
time and the long bus ride down Ruta 5 as far as Castro where we
walked around, had lunch and generally got the feel of the place. It was
pretty obvious to us that we'd need to do more exploring by boat in
order to really get to "see" Chiloé and experience its people and culture.
The area is absolutely beautiful and, as always, we could have spent
more time here.
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Coming through the Canal Chacao on the tide and coming across the Canal on a ferry boat are two very
distinctly different trips. When we first entered the Canal, we had anchored in Puerto Ingles to wait for the
beginning of the flood tide and then coasted through at nearly 12 knots. On the Cruz del Sur ferry, aboard a
bus full of passengers and cars, we could feel the tug of the current as we chugged across. One can only get
to Chiloé via boat/ferry...no bridges connect it to mainland Chile or the South American continent.
El trauco
We were amazed that the island had its own flood myth. Since the earliest times, the inhabitants of Chiloé recognised the primal forces of good and
bad. The cyclical interplay of these opposites is depicted as a fundamental battle between the ocean and the land personified by the mythical
reptiles Cai-cai  (the bad guy) and  Ten-ten.  The myth relates that for thousands of years all of Chiloé was part of the South American continent.  
Cai-cai, in the form of a snake, initiated the battle by causing the waters to rise rapidly which inundated lowlands, valleys and hills, burying the
inhabitants beneath the waves. As the waters threatened to cover everything, the protector Ten-ten appeared, launching an attack upon his enemy
and raising the land out of the sea to save its inhabitants and helping people to reach high ground. In the process, he gave some men the power of
flight and transformed others into birds. The rains stopped and the waters receded. This great fight was repeated through eons and eventually little
survived it. Animals were transformed to rocks; people that did not reach high ground became fish or seals. Valleys became channels or inlets
between the islands;  hills and mountains became islands forming an archipelago of incredible beauty.

There are several myths and legends beyond the flood myth. One prevalent mythical character is El Trauco, a troll with a penchant for virgins;
Caleuche, a variation on the Flying Dutchman theme and Voladura, a witch who can turn herself into a bird to become a sorcerer's messenger.
To learn more about
Chilote mythology, click here.
.The Jesuit's made this corner of the earth their special responsibility, erecting schools
and over two hundred elegant wooden churches, nine of which are protected as national
monuments. The church in Castro, San Francisco, is in dire need of some TLC, but is
very representative of the churches of Chiloé.
Notro / Chilean firetree (Embothrium coccineum)
is found in abundance here and adds its vibrant
color to the hillsides.
And now...a visit by boat
We left Puerto Montt on 12 February 2009 and headed to the archipelago of  Chiloé again...this time on Nine of Cups...a much better way
to travel in our opinion. We left on an afternoon high tide and motored about 12 miles to an anchorage off the tiny island of Huelmo.
As always, we're
interested in any new birds
to see and identify and
Chiloé didn't disappoint.
We saw cara caras and
lots of waterbirds like
cormorants and gulls, but
the two which delighted us
the most were the black
faced ibis and the black
necked swans.
Black faced ibis
Black necked swans on an estuary near Castro.
One of the local landmarks of
Chiloé is its "palafitos" or
houses on stilts which line the
coast in certain areas. Due to
the high tidal range (6+M),
these houses make a lot of
sense. In the 1960 earthquake
and resulting tsunami, many
were washed away, but here
they either survived or were
rebuilt and provide "eye candy"
for tourists and photographers.
Much of the land in Chiloé is dedicated to
farming and sheep raising, hence many of the
crafts are woolen products.
There's a large crafts market along the
costanera and sweaters, ponchos and
colorful balls of yarn catch your eye.
The woolen "patch dolls" above are a
signature craft from Chiloé.
A park along the costanera provided a chance
to sit and relax and take in the feel of the place.
The island's connection to the sea is evident
everywhere including fishing fleet which
comes here to sell and process its fish.
Chiloé is the largest island of this archipelago
and ferry traffic between the islands is usually
the only form of transportation availalble.
Another distinguishing feature of Chiloé is
the type of shingle used in siding many of
their homes. Many houses are very
colorful (oranges, blues, pinks and greens)
and most utilize these wooden shingles
which appear to be a unique design.
Some are scalloped, some are square, but
all seem just a bit distinct from each other.
According to Wikipedia, "Nearly all the
houses and buildings in colonial Chiloé
were built with wood, and roof shingles
were extensively employed. Roof shingles
of Fitzroya came to be used as money
and called "Real de Alerce". "
The tidal range at Caleta Huelmo was significant and
coupled with spring tides, we saw a 20' change
between high and low tides. The fishing boats ashore
were probably used to being high and dry at low tide.
We stayed for two days at Cta Huelmo,
relaxing and decompressing after the last
hectic days at Pto Montt. The salmoneras
here (like most places) encompassed a
good portion of the entrance.
Several starfish clung to the anchor chain
as we hauled anchor, but this guy had
plastered himself to the anchor and was
not planning to leave without prodding.
Caleta Huelmo - 41S39.39 / 073W03.46
Happy Valentine's Day
David spent a portion of the day making a new
necklace for me...a Valentine's Day gift... awwww!
Here's the Valentine's Day
necklace delivered
personally by Cupid himself!
Caleta Añihue  - 41S19.19 / 073W15.34
We left early on Valentine's Day at mid-tide. We motor-sailed taking advantage of the current and a 10 knot breeze and made the 50 miles in  
a quick 7 hours midst fog and rain. We were heading to Caleta Añihue, a tiny cove bordered by the islands of Mechuque and Añihue . The
wind and rain continued...and continued...and continued. For three days we waited and for three days, the wind and rain continued. By the
fourth day, rather disappointed, we opted to leave without having gone ashore.
The entrance to the anchorage at Mechuque
has a conspicuous graveyard with a large
white cross.
The little village in Mechuque is quite
picturesque. Rain and strong winds (32+
knots) prevented us from launching the
dinghy to explore much.
Weathered gray shingles and fishing boats reminded
us a lot of similar villages along the coast of  Downeast
Maine.Our anchorage was around the corner.
Estero Pindo - 42S37.05 / 073W29.60
30 miles and about 4-1/2 hours away was Estero Pindo, a bay surrounded by the island of Quehui and protected on all sides from the wind. We
arrived in the afternoon, having traveled through more wind and rain. However, a ray of hope as the sun peeked through the clouds very late in the
day. Perhaps, just perhaps, we would get a reprieve.
Our patience (or lack thereof) was finally
rewarded with a spectacularly sunny day. We
launched the dink and went ashore at the tiny
village of Los Angeles.
The focal point of every village and island in
Chiloe is its ancient wooden church, usually
painted in bright colors and dating back to its
Jesuit founders.
The church doors were locked, but a
local fellow went to get the keys while we
admired the outside of the church.
Our young guide, Nicolo, showed us the
church and all of its "antiquos" including
the tiny campana (bell) above.
A yellow house was marked "Cafe", but was also
locked. Not a problem...a few moments later, Ruth
appeared and along with her son, Ignacio, we were
served coffee (read that Nescafe), some "murta" (a
local liquere made from wild berries) and a torta
which resembled a doughnut.
While sitting in the restaurant, I checked out
the local crafts on display and was delighted
with the "patch doll" above. "Patch" knitted
dolls are a specialty of the Chilotes and
made from local wool.
The island has few cars and so the
inhabitants use horses as basic transportation.
Ruth's son, Pedro Ignacio, gave us a walking
tour of  Los Angeles and its surroundings.
In the calm afternoon, David took the
opportunity to dive on the prop and check the
zincs. All was okay, but brrrrrr!
Wildflowers were abundant here and I
took lots of photos. Click here to see the
Wildflowers of Quehui
Wow, this guy was a surprise in a
farmer's backyard!
After hiking/walking for several miles, we returned
to the boat for chores (see left!). Next morning
was quite cool and overcast, but we were so
enthusiastic about more walking, we thought we'd
risk the weather and head ashore again. This time
across the entrance inlet on the opposite side of
the island.
Marcie clicked while David picked...blackberries were in season and abundant. We had
Blackberry Crumble a la Odyssey three days in a row and froze a few more berries for a
rainy day. Our red-stained hands and mouths lasted for days...a lot longer than the
blackberries did. Recipe for Blackberry Crumble below.
The island of Chelin across the sound.
Blackberry crumble a la Odyssey...
According to Jeremy, “there are as many recipes as mums who know best. The one I
bastardise is this:
2 cups washed blackberries                                  2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or juice of 1 lemon      3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour                                      1/8 teaspoon salt
Put blackberries in a 1-quart baking dish with half of the sugar. Sprinkle with lemon
juice. Cream butter, remaining sugar, flour, and salt together; sprinkle over berries. Bake
blackberry crumble at 350° for 40 minutes. Serve warm or cold with cream, ice cream,
or dessert sauce.

Note from Jeremy: The ratios of butter to flour to sugar are too much even for me so I
add more flour. There is a danger of the crumble being too crumbly, but use discretion
and your dietary conscience. This recipe does not make a very big crumble and
everyone complained of too little crumble.
Black sheep, white sheep...have you any wool?
Another small wooden church of San Miguel.
Country graveyard beside the church.
From our pastoral overlook, a vista of the bay below with
Cups calmly at anchor sharing the bay with the salmonera.
Estero Pailad - 42S51.43/ 073W36.00
Magellanic penguin (we also saw
We motor-sailed about 30 miles in fog and mist to Estero Pailad. According to the cruising guide, this is one of the more beautiful anchorages in the
Chiloe archipelago. It is serene, beautiful and teeming with birdlife. Though misty throughout the day, the sight of black necked swans off the bow
provided all the incentive we needed to launch the dinghy and go exploring.
Our cruising guide for this area is Patagonia &
Tierra del Fuego Nautical Guide by
Mariolina Rolfo and Giorgio Ardrizzi, aka "The
Italian Guide.  In our estimation, this is the gold
standard for cruising guides.
A typical scene in Chiloe...an old wooden
church with animals calmly grazing.
It's apple season in Chile! Early one morning
we heard a knock on the hull and the local
ferryman, Hector, had brought us a large bag
of apples from the shore. Marcie peeled and
cored and voila...an apple crisp for dinner.
Chiloe widgeon
Black-necked swan
The best...an Hudsonian godwit. In fact, there
was a whole beach of them. They visit this area
in the austral summer, but fly all the way back
to the Arctic to mate and breed.
American Oystercatcher
Speckled teal
Chileano friends, Guillermo and Jorge, aboard
Blanca Casona, stopped by for a farewell visit.
Estero Ichuac - 42S36.90 / 073W43.73
Our intention was to leave Estero Pailad and sail directly to Castro. As so often happens on a boat, things do not go as planned. Motoring up the Canal
de Yal on mirror calm water,  the engine quick suddenly. David bled the lines and we tried to restart, and he bled the lines and we tried to restart,
and...well, you guessed it. The engine would not restart. We found an anchorage within a few miles away, put out the jib to take advantage of what little
wind there was and launched the dinghy. The initial diagnosis: the injector pump... it was only putting out fuel to two injectors.
It turned out to be a gorgeous day and in
spite of the problems, photo taking could
not be ignored especially when seal lions
barked at us on arrival.
We didn't go ashore although it did look appealing.
Instead, we spent the evening discussing
alternatives and possibilities.
Our little Yamaha 4HP engine
hip-towed us safely to the anchorage
where we could investigate the
Marina Quinched - Caleta Linlinao - 42S34.38 / 073W45.20
For more information
about Marina Quinched,
click the logo above.   
We had heard about a marina in the area from friends, but had no idea exactly where it was. An
addendum to the cruising guide provided its location (only 2.5 miles away across the bay) and contact
information. Owner William Bannister answered our email within an hour and we had a plan.
Just for grins, we tried to start the engine
again... no go. On a slack tide with no wind at
all, we hip-towed Cups across the bay with our
dinghy. As we neared the marina, William came
out to meet us and gave us a tow the rest of the
way to the dock.
We maneuvered "Cups" onto the end of a
T-dock without difficulty  and set about
investigating the problem further.
William's daughter-in-law, Trini,  runs a cute little
cafe at the marina which boasts naturally dyed
woven woolens and wonderful desserts. We
bought a woven reed figure of Condenada, the
mythical mother-in-law of Truco. We also
enjoyed the specialty of the house...hot chocolate.
A hummingbird...picaflora...sucks nectar from a
fuschia blossom.
An amazing story...William was able to contact a
mechanic who recommended a fuel injector pump
repair shop in Castro. In the meantime, however,
David disconnected the injector pipes from the
pump and discovered first that fuel was being
pumped to only two of the injectors. After further
investigation, he discovered an air bubble in the
cold start reservoir. He disconnected the overflow
line to the reservoir and ran the fuel pump until the
reservoir was full. The output of the injector pump
was now providing fuel to all four injectors. He
reassembled the works and the engine miraculously
started. Now the issue...why air in the system?
Further investigation required, but for now...
A black-crowned night heron waits
patiently for a snack.
The marina offered hot showers
(wonderful!), use of a free washer (very
wonderful), free wifi(the most wonderful),
and all the blackberries and apples we
could eat (beyond wonderful)! I did
laundry, updated the website and canned
fruit while David worked on the engine.
Dark bellied dippers were quite
abundant at the  marina (except his
belly doesn't look all that dark, does it?)
We bought big chunks of fresh cheese for
the upcoming passage.
Time to leave. We had hoped to meet
"Odyssey", our South African friends,  in
Castro for just one last farewell. We contacted
them on the VHF..."Marina Quinched is
wonderful", we said, "and wifi, free washing
machine, plenty of place for the kids to run and
roam." Didn't take much persuading... they
arrived within hours and tied to the dock
behind us. Well, so much for leaving...we
ended up staying at Marina Quinched for
another four days with Odyssey and crew.
William took us to Castro for a huge provisioning
at Supermercado Beckna and then again for a
visit to the Saturday "feria" (fresh market) above
and crafts market.
For dessert, blackberry shortcake with
cream a la Cups (photo Vanessa Astrop)
Laundry caught up and fresh provisions
aboard...time to part ways. We hugged
goodbye on the dock and William bid us
Odyssey cast off, heading south in
the canals and minutes later
Nine of Cups
was underway as well...heading to
Fernandez Islands and points west.
Always bittersweet to part with friends, but
always exciting to be underway and heading
towards a new adventure.
After dinner, Kila provided the dancing
And more smoked salmon, of course!
We enjoyed a BBQ (braai in Afrikaans) at the
quincho (BBQ hut) one evening. Getting the
charcoal started was a smoky affair, but once it
caught...what a feast!
Above, from left... Kila, Valeska & William,
Jeremy and Max, Marcie & David. Our BBQ
feast included chicken tikka a la Jeremy,
potato salad, green salad and grilled steak and
chicken.  (photo Vanessa Astrop)
At the fantastic "feria", Vanessa takes a look
at Chiloé potatoes...more varieties and
colors than imaginable.
Our most generous host, William Bannister,
helped us cast off our lines and waved
goodbye. He's also becoming a new SSCA
Cruising Station Host. Thanks, William!
Read the article we wrote for the SSCA
Bulletin about
Isla Grande de Chiloé.
More South America?