Visiting Easter Island (Boat-Based)

An Unexpected Visitor

I shouted below, "Holy Sh*t! It's a submarine!!"


Monday, May 24, 2004 (Day 12 at Easter Island)

I slept well last night despite the bumpy anchorage. With the wind blowing offshore and forecast to continue, there were no real worries and I could relax. In the morning, it was partly cloudy with lots of blue sky but it was still windy (10 to 20 knots and gusty). I took a shower and put on clean clothes and it felt good to be clean again.

We had been informed yesterday that a Chilean naval vessel would be at the anchorage today, and this morning we heard a lot of radio chatter on the VHF. When I went topsides and looked with binoculars, I could see some kind of ship just coming over the horizon. Later, I went topsides to hang my towel on the lifeline and I was boggled—I shouted below, "Holy Sh*t! It's a submarine!!". Marcie and David came topsides and we all gawked at the totally improbable sight of a Chilean submarine lying broadside to us, just a short distance away. It looked to be a smallish diesel-powered sub, since we could see the tall snorkel tube extending up from the sail and we could see occasional clouds of spray near the waterline aft where the engine exhaust exited the boat. We could see several people standing on the observation platform built into the top of the sail, and a Chilean flag snapped smartly from a halyard in the brisk wind. Who woulda thunk? Actually, the funny thing is, when we heard that a naval vessel was expected, we joked yesterday that, oh yeah, it'll probably be an aircraft carrier or a submarine, and here it was in the flesh (so to speak), an actual submarine, anchored quite close to us.

A rugged-looking inflatable dinghy appeared from somewhere and cruised around the area, bringing some people to the sub. A little while later, the dinghy came closer to our stern, and I guessed they were trying to read our name off the transom so they could hail us on the radio. Sure enough, we got a call on the radio, "Nine of Cups, this is Chilean submarine". Marcie handled the call, and they informed us that this was the only location in the harbor where they could anchor, and they apologized for being so close. In retrospect, they were probably asking us to move, but long-established rules of etiquette say that a newcomer to an anchorage can not ask an already anchored boat to move. We said that we would keep an eye on them, and we assumed they had a lookout, too.

We though nothing else of the matter, and for the time being went below. A short time later I poked my head up the companionway and saw to my surprise that the sub was now really close to our stern, just a few boat lengths away. Apparently, they had not been in their final position earlier. I mentioned to David that they were quite close, and we all agreed it would be a good idea to move and reanchor somewhere else. Marcie called the submarine and told them of our intentions. They were apologetic but Marcie was gracious and thanked them for allowing us to stay in their anchorage. Without any difficulty, we upped anchor and moved away from the sub. With the anchor up we were able to inspect our new snubber and saw that it was working just fine, with no chafe.


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