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Cruising fees frustrate Chilean voyagers

Jan 1, 2003
From Ocean Navigator #127
January/February 2003
Sailors who are planning a visit to the coast of Chile, particularly the islands in the vicinity of Puerto Montt in the southern third of the country, should consider recent controversy regarding fees that may be levied by the government. Specifically, several voyagers have been told that they may not cruise the southern Chilean coast without certain insurance that would cover potential rescue services in the event of a disabling emergency.

Jonathan Selby, owner of the yacht Anahera, contributed the following dispatch, via email from Puerto Montt, prior to his departing the area for Argentina: "The situation is extremely fluid right now. The 1985 regulation states that all vessels, including private yachts less than 200 tons, transiting the Patagonian Channels and the Straits of Magellan may exempt themselves from the need to carry a pilot by having insurance to cover all expenses the Chilean Navy may incur in a search, rescue and recovery of vessel and crew.

"Although this regulation has been on the books, port captains have been very lenient with the enforcement of this rule. Occasionally someone tries to enforce it and the tourist office or some lobby group hushes the whole thing up. The last incident was about four years ago to my knowledge.

"This regulation started to be enforced six months ago at Marina Del Sur, Puerto Montt, Chile. There were no other incidents reported, and it seems that it was caused by a personal rift between one particular yachtsman and the port captain. This has now spread to all marinas and yacht clubs under the jurisdiction of Puerto Montt, and most yachts have been stopped from leaving this week (late October 2002).

"The port captain Lt. Cmdr. José Luis Sepúlveda has been very helpful in contacting his friends in the insurance industry; however, there does not seem to be a category of insurance that quite meets the bill. The closest that can be found is comprehensive hull insurance with a salvage clause. The quote we got was for 2.1 percent of the insured value for 59-day coverage; i.e., it was $1,500 U.S. on a hull value of $60,000, so the annual premium is about 12 percent."

Selby committed himself to gaining exemption from this ruling, especially because he had difficulty providing suitable hull coverage, as his vessel has a ferro-cement hull. Selby's boat is a 40-foot Donavan Amri sloop built by FerroCement Works in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1985. "Ferro insurance is almost impossible to buy due to the past history of some home-built craft," Selby said.

While Selby was ultimately given clearance, in early November, to sail the inside route without the insurance policy, he is uncertain whether his efforts will result in the law being changed. A campaign to resolve the issue is being led by a Chilean based in Anihue, the coordinator of the Patagonia cruiser's net, who prefers to be known simply as J.C. The net is broadcast at 0900 local time on 8164 MHz. (J.C. also coordinates the Chile Seamail system in Santiago, a free email gateway for South American voyagers.) According to J.C., the situation will work out in favor of all parties in the coming months; an update on this issue will appear in the next Chartroom Chatter. Contact J.C. with questions at chile@seamail.org. (Be sure to type ANX1 in the subject line.)

"It looks like the flurry of diplomatic activity finally paid off. Everything is extremely cordial with all the authorities, and we get to sail the route we planned. I would like to think that we have made things a little easier for our peers when they come this way," Selby said.