Ed. note: Scott and Mary Flanders landed in Brazil on October 19, 2006. The following article on the factors that motivated the Flanderses to undertake their adventure was written by Scott en route to Brazil from the Canary Islands.
Trip Planning and Research
No boater wakes up one morning, decides to embark on an extended voyage then leaves shortly after. Extended voyages take shape over a long period of time. They are seeds that mature by watering with planning and research. Very well documented voyage routes such as the Pacific North West to Alaska, Southern California to Mexico, South Florida to the Caribbean require simple, short-term research with stores full of cruising guides. This was true of Egret's Atlantic crossing and Mediterranean cruising these past few years. The Atlantic crossing is essentially just connecting the dots combined with simple cruising and a hugely rewarding visit to those Mediterranean rim countries we have all read about since children. The big difference is you arrive by boat as a traveler, not a visitor.
The initial portion of Egret's voyage to New Zealand is from Gibraltar to Brazil, south to Chile including Cape Horn, north through the Chilean canals, north again along the Peruvian coast to Ecuador. The locations Egret is currently voyaging toward are poorly documented relative to other areas with little support information readily available. This said, we long-distance powerboat owners are following hundreds of years of sail and - in relative recent years - by recreational sail as well. Very few sailboats, perhaps 10-12 each year, sail to Chile but numbers are growing as boats and equipment improve. Many of the traditional cruising areas have become infested with charter boats and local recreational boats. Let me say this, charter boats have their place. Not many during their busy lives can chuck it all and go long-distance cruising. Chartering fills that gap. We have chartered twice ourselves. BUT, the difference between a charter boat or weekend boater and a long-distance cruiser is the difference between a trip to the grocery store or a cross-country vacation. We long-distance cruisers selfishly enjoy our freedom and our space. High latitudes have become the last frontier these days whereas twenty years ago there were many more places around the world where you could step back in time. In the Chilean Canals there is a 600nm stretch without a single house!
Read all about it. In 1994 we subscribed to Cruising World Magazine soon followed by Ocean Navigator Magazine. This was not because we were or wanted to be sailors but they had great tales of far off places. The articles were written by regular folks who actually WENT somewhere. A few years later along came Passagemaker Magazine. After reading two issues picked up at a newsstand, we subscribed and later bought every back issue. The wheels were now turning and those thoughts of long-distance cruising turned into reality. I say this as I drive Egret currently 411nm due west of Guinea-Bissau (Africa) and 1767nm from our landfall of Bahia de Salvadore, Brazil.
We have EVERY ONE of those articles from each of the three magazines titles, 1994 on, aboard Egret. They are cut out and arranged in files geographically, then by subject: weather, medicine, technical and 'interesting'. The file Mary and I have read and reread time and time again (now Steve is reading) is labeled 'Chile’. This file contains every article from Gibraltar through Chile. Over time we’ve noticed a consensus amongst the different authors. Of particular interest are Beth Leonard's Aboard Hawk and John Harries Aboard Morgan's Cloud. In doing research you're not interested in 'how I cheated death' tales but the nuts and bolts of the voyage south along the Argentine coast and the intricate details of the Chilean canals. These two pieces - particularly Beth's - are priceless. Today, we only subscribe to Cruising World which we pick up once a year when we visit family and friends in Ft. Lauderdale. We enjoyed the other two magazines. They performed their duty of inspiration and knowledge. I recommend, at a minimum, to buy the past six years’ issues of Cruising World and do exactly what we did creating your own files.
These articles provided the spark for the fire. At first the fire smoldered then little flames appeared with more high latitude information coming faster and faster. The idea of taking Egret to Chile was beginning to shape but needed a catalyst. The catalyst came in the form of the most incredible cruising guide we have ever read. What is even more incredible is the minuscule audience it serves. Authors Giorgio and Mariolina Ardrizzi devoted eight years of their lives living in Patagonia aboard their Amel sailboat, researching and writing Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Nautical guide. www.capehorn-pilot.com This is a large hardbound book complete with every possible bit of information a cruiser could need. In addition, there are pictures and an extensive history of the area. In December 2004 we sent them an e-mail looking for information. What we got back was three pages of information complete with answers – specific to our questions – that gushed with enthusiasm. As we weave through the intricate Chilean canals, we will be referring to this guide extensively. We encourage every one of you to buy this book if for no other reason to support their tremendous effort. Best value for a hundred bucks you'll ever spend. Available from Bluewater Books and others.
We also belong to Seven Seas Cruising Association. SSCA has a monthly publication for its members written by its members. In every issue there are little cruising jewels here and there. SSCA has a single CD of the previous 5 years’ worth of articles arranged geographically. There is a lot of valuable information available. Spend $30 for a membership, $30 for a burgee and $30 for the CD. Money well spent.
Map your course. Egret uses C-Map charts with Max Sea charting software. C-Map utilizes the best charts of whatever geographic location and incorporates them into their folio of charts. There are large areas of the Chilean canals that are white spots with very low resolution detail. Simply, no one goes there. WE want to go there. Other private boats have gone there. The Beagle Chanel, Straits of Magellan and so forth are very accurately charted along with the commercial routes further north in the Canals. The Egret crew has never claimed to be great navigators. We simply are not great navigators. We rely on electronic charts (with lots and lots of backup…Yes we have large scale paper charts and yes we can get there if we have too.) So what's next? Two things: First, in the Ardrizzi guide there are hand drawn charts of the entire Chilean Canal route showing locations and descriptions of nearly every anchorage. Along the sides are lat-long numbers. This is not good enough for accurate navigation but a great start. We took every drawing and blew it up to 9x11 using clear plastic tape to piece it all together. From there we went to an architectural printing company and had the 'trip tik' enlarged to chart size. So now we had a giant cheat sheet. Second, from Servicio Hidrografico Y Oceanografico Le La Armada De Chile (Chilean NOAA) you can buy a Chilean chart directory that includes virtually every Chilean chart in a book of charts reduced to 10" x 12". The Chileans will begrudgingly allow you into the canals with just this book. To read the book we bought a 3 1/2"w x 2 1/2" h clear dome magnifier along with a teak ring to raise it over the chart giving more resolution. A magnifying glass would work as well but the dome is much easier. The Chilean chart directory and clear dome are also available from Bluewater Books. I don't want this to sound like a commercial for Bluewater Books but we are from Ft. Lauderdale where years ago Milt and Judy Baker started Bluewater. (They are now off cruising aboard Nordhavn 4732 aptly named Bluewater). Bluewater simply has the stuff. Egret's purchases there over the years are considerable.
The rest of the necessary research tools. The balance of cruising guide information is easy. Every cruiser's route bible is Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes. (Cornell's guide is so familiar and necessary to long distance cruising we almost forgot to include it) Also, Cornell's free website noonsite.com is invaluable as well. We have a Brazilian guide, and several Imray guides for the South Atlantic. There is no guide for Peru we found but Peru is not a destination for Egret. Charts are all we require. (We do have a Lonley Planet for all the countries.) From Ecuador west to New Zealand it is simple. Charlie’s Charts guidebooks and a few other guides, some large scale charts, flags and you have it all.
This research is enjoyable and interesting. It is also as much a part of cruising as putting in simple coastal miles and slowly expanding your comfort zones before the BIG step: your first ocean.