Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Navimag

We knew it was not going to be luxury.  If anything it was going to be an adventure….

The Navimag is ferry boat that carries cargo between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt in (Chile) Patagonia.  Several years back they discovered they could put passengers on the boat who were looking for an affordable way to travel between the two cities.  They have A, B, and C cabin classes.  We were in C-class.  In C-class you have 42 open bunks and shared bathrooms.  Yep, this thing is an adventure!
Navimag cargo
The good news was that we traveling at the very beginning of the season and there not many people on the boat.  In the peak season the thing carries over 300 passengers.  We were among only 72, so it was actually quite comfortable.  

It didn’t take too long to find our way around the Navimag.  There were three decks for passengers.  We were at the bottom - in what I, and others, like to call steerage!  One deck above us was the cafeteria level, and it was about as cafeteria looking as it can get.  There was white walls, white floors, white tables, blue kitchen chairs.  And a high school style cafeteria line for feeding times.  Above the cafeteria was the “Pub Deck.” It’s nice on the pub deck, many leather lounge chairs, 6 tables - the kind that are good for playing cards, and a nice looking bar.  You can walk around outside on the Pub Deck too.  The stern end has some benches and the bow end just has a nice view.  

It didn’t take long to settle down on Pub-deck.  With cold and cloudy weather outside, it didn’t long before we were playing Uno, 500, P’s&A’s, last man standing, casino and Euker.

Day two on the Navimag I tried to get up early for sunrise, but it was cloudy and rainy so I went back for bed until breakfast.  I think the best part of the day was when a few of us found our way to the bridge and the captain let us in.  We are on one VERY OLD boat.  The navigation instruments are very old fashioned.  And they actually us the map to track out where they are and where they want to go. There’s no obvious use of any sort of GPS system at all. It was very cool to be able to wander around in there.

Today was the day we were supposed to sail in to the open ocean and things were going to get rough. Not long after lunch it was suggested that people take their “sea-sickness tablets” as we were to be headed into the open ocean around 6 and 9-12ft waves were expected.  Everyone started taking Dramamine.  Felcity  and Sam took ginger. And I decided to take nothing.  I’ve been sea sick once in my life, and it was a time on rover in 15-foot swells.  Besides, I have no idea what Dramamine would do to me.

We sailed in to the open water right around the time they predicted, somewhere between 5 and 6pm.  The ride did begin to get noticeably more rocky, but I kind of liked it.  It was vary relaxing.  I was on the computer, Michelle and Brandon and Rick and Rob all fell asleep in chairs and Mark, Felicity, Sam and Rebecca all played some more cards.  

Occasionally we would all wander outside finding it to be SUPER windy at the bow. It was pretty cool.  By standing over the bride long enough you could watch the bow fall onto giant waves and make huge wave splashes.  It was pretty fun, but it was pretty cold, too

When we got in the dining room the movement of the boat was way more dramatic.  Standing in line and attempting to get your dinner back to the table without falling was a great challenge.  Then while sitting at dinner people began to question their ability to keep their meals down for the entire night. I felt great, and the spaghetti was good, so I ate it.  Some of  the others, on the other hand… not so much.  Reb ate bread with her eyes closed,  I don’t think Rick ate anything, Padrick was looking questionable and Brandon wasn’t feeling the greatest.  At dinner everyone started taking round two of the Dramamine.  I was still trying to stand my ground.

After dinner and an attempt at some whale watching, many went to bed. Rebecca took a nap in a chair - then perked up about 15 minutes later. I took one of Felicity’s ginger pills because I was questioning my stomach, slightly.  Michelle, Felicity, Sam, Mark, Rob and myself continued to play cards.  Then, pretty much out of nowhere, I got sick, very sick.  Put my cards down and darted for the bathroom, arriving there just in time to empty the contents of my stomach - my entire dinner.  Gross!  I win! Goodnight!

By day three on the nNvimag we were pretty much in a routine now.  Breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, yada, yada, yada.  This morning the scenery began to get better however, and we went past a shipwreck, , Cotopaxi.  Ironically, it was a year ago today Michelle and I climbed Cotopaxi, I think. So that was cool.

The catch today was that we got to get off the boat at a town called Puerto Eden.  There are no roads here, it’s accessed only by boat. The catch was the lovely orange lifejackets we had to wear all around town because we had to take little boats to actually get to land.  

Cotopaxi  shipwreck

Navimag emergency disembark

Not too much to say about the afternoon, really.  Just cards, wine, beer, dinner, and then more cards, wine and beer.  Later in the evening  they put on a few games of BINGO.  Rebecca won the first round, then through out the course of the game I won a round and Felicity won a round.  I determined that we were the group that was likely really annoying to everyone else on the boat.
Happy group of card playing friends

Day four I tried one more tome to see if there was a sunrise to see this morning.  Once again, no luck… just a lot of clouds.  Standard breakfast. Eggs, yogurt and cereal, ham and cheese, bread. 

 After breakfast we went outside for some pretty incredible scenery.  Snowcap mountains in every direction.  At one point we sailed through a channel described as requiring 80 maneuvers to get transit! 

As we approached Puerto Natales, the wind picked up out of nowhere. Jay said that sometimes when there is a lot of wind it makes it very difficult to dock.  About tem minutes later they announced that we were going to have to stay anchored until the wind calmed down so they could dock safely.  A few card games and seven hours later they finally docked the Navimag!

It was quite the experience. I’d do it again, but not with 300 passengers to share the space with, and probably not anytime soon.  

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