Isla Damas Anchorage

Irksome: Puerto Huasco and Dreamy: Isla Damas

We beat the sunrise again today.  The water was glass out, so Matt decided to pull the anchor as I continued to ready the “house” for our journey.  There is nothing like glassy seas and no wind at dawn.  As the chain was coming up, we got a little surprise.  We had a hitchhiker…now this was neither irksome or dreamy, but be patient and I will get to both.

Sunrise departure with a hitchiker

Sunrise departure with a hitchiker

He eventually fell off, so it was still just Matt and I on the boat.  It was another uneventful motor.  Although the winds did pick up, they were still on our nose.

Matt hooked up one of our large monitors and we watched “She’s out of my league.”  Kind of a silly movie, but it helped to pass the time.

It is lovely in the sun, but you have to hide from the frosty wind.  Being on a sail boat makes it hard to hide from the wind.  I’ve been hanging out in the salon a lot.

It was blowing 15-18 knots of wind when we arrived.  We had not seen that kind of wind in a while.  We were worried it would make this a rolly stop, but lucky for us it died down late in the evening.


Puerto Huasco is a busy little town. It was very surprising to see how big the beach and the town were once we pulled into the bay.  We did not have a zarpe to come to this anchorage, but we decided to stop anyway.  Technically we were not supposed to stop, but we were hoping to “get away with it” as it was late and we would be leaving early.

As we were not planning on getting off the boat.  We arrived at 7p and we were planning on leaving by 6a.  However, once we anchored, we were hailed, by name, on the radio by the local armada.  Luckily, they just wanted to know how long we were staying, how many people on board, and why we stopped (unplanned).  They spoke English and seemed appeased by our answers.  Sweet!

Matt hit the sack while I finished up yet another insurance quote application.  It was close to 915p and we heard the Chilean Navy or Armada hail us on the radio. With both of us in our PJs we had to welcome them aboard.  They reviewed our paperwork and told us we had to pay 8000 pesos ($4) in person tomorrow.  DRAT!  We were planning on leaving at O-dark thirty to make our next destination.  We tried to explain, but they were given orders to bring us in….

Language Barrier, Changing Rules & Regulations

The next morning, we headed to shore.  They did not have a dinghy dock, but they did have a fisherman drop off platform.  The platform and stairs were super wet and slick.  But with help from the locals we made it without incident. One of the guys from the Armada (who came aboard last night) met us at the dock.  He is nice enough and spoke English.  We were irked and perturbed because we had wanted to depart 2 hours earlier.  It was 815a when we arrived at the Capitaneria. We waited, and waited, and waited.  At 915a I got up and tried to hurry things along.

Another 15 minutes later, they explained that the armada in Antofagasta made a mistake and failed to charge us enough money.  In addition, the armada in Caldera and Antofagasta both failed to charge us an entry fee into the country of $110!  We were expected to pay the entrance fee into the country $110 on top of their $69 entrance fee into Huasco. Keep in mind, we had not intended on stepping on shore.  We arrived at 1900 and were planning on leaving at 0600.  So, we ended up having to pay $179 for an 11-hour nap.

Fortunately for us, we did not have that much cash on us and they did not take credit cards.  So, they had to let us leave with the bills in hard.  They asked us to pay when we arrived at our next stop in Coquimbo.

Who Really Made the Error?

What we did not understand was the fact that we paid 8,000 pesos in Antofagasta.  The Armada person who checked us in said this would allow us to go to any port in Chile and this is all we have to pay.  Is it that the other two ports made a mistake or is Puerto Huasco making the mistake?  What an irksome discovery!

Armada in Puerto Huasco

Armada in Puerto Huasco

We were both miffed as we walked back to the dock.  The locals kindness in helping us board our dinghy softened the blow temporarily.  We got back Sugar Shack, pulled up anchor and were leaving the bay at 0945.  As we were motoring out, we were hailed on the VHF again.  The armada told us we had to wait for our zarpe.  WTF!  Gesh…another 25 minutes later, they arrived, handed us our zarpe and we were on our way – only 3.5 hours late.

It doesn’t seem like that big of deal when you consider we are not technically on a timeline.  However, we can only do 5-6 knots with little wind while motoring and heading into the waves.  In order for us to reach our next anchorage in the daylight we should have left at 0600 or 0700 at the latest.  We have been averaging 11-12 hours for a 55-60nm trip.  Shesh what a pain!

Change of Plans:

Because we had left late, we decided to try to stop at one of two closer anchorages.  Yes, we were supposed to head straight for Coquimbo, but our hopes were to find a quiet bay to crash for the night.

The first stop CTA Chanaral ended up being too deep to anchor.  We moved on to the next possible location which was CTA Apolillado.  However, as we came into the bay there were too many rocks sticking up in random places near shore.


Our last option was a small island called Isla Damas located in Bahia Choros.  It is technically a National Park, but there was an anchor on one of our charts.  To our great joy, it was only about 9 meters deep, was somewhat protected from incoming waves and had a beautiful beach view.

Isla Damas dreamy anchorage

Isla Damas dreamy anchorage

After we left Isla Damas we found out that there is a section of this island that is home to many Chilean penguins.  Darn it, we missed them!  It is actually the “Humboldt Penguin National Reserve.”  If only we had internet before we stopped there we could have explored some more.

Miles traveled from Puerto Huasco to Isla Damas 53.5 which took us about 9.5 hours at an average speed of 5.6kts. and max speed at 8.2kts

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