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Tying to trees in Patagonia

Jul 25, 2007

To the editor: I have looked often at the beautiful cover of the March/April 2007 issue, and many memories of our time there on our Hans Christian Christina 40, Que Sera Sera, come flooding back to mind.

It is a heaven-made natural place with many cozy anchorages, as depicted in the picture. Yet if they are to continue to be pristine and full of life, which struggles to survive, the practice of tying to live trees must be avoided. Note that there are not many big trees near the shore to tie to shown in the picture.

The tree shown in the picture is at least two hundred years old - perhaps twice that age. Consider then the chafing action that the rope would create on the outer layers of bark. You can imagine what will happen when the winds that they are preparing for start the boat bobbing up and down in 50- to 60-knot winds. It won't take too many such tie-ups to end the life of the tree.

There are usually plenty of rocks and boulders in these anchorages, but then one would require a steel cable of several feel in length to wrap around them. It takes a little planning ahead of time to make up the wire, but it is a tree saver.
Don and Lois Babson live in Huron, Ohio, and sail a cutter-rigged Hans Christian Christina 40, Que Sera Sera. They recently completed a Jimmy Cornell rally, the Millennium Odyssey. The event started in London, and the Babsons sailed with six other participants around South America by way of the Beagle Channel through Tierra Del Fuego and the Western Straits of Magellan.

Ruth Gerritse responds: Like Mr. Babson we, too, believe that Patagonia is one of the most special places in the world. As human beings in general we all have the duty to make sure places like this stay as untouched as possible and limit the damage we cause to an absolute minimum. As voyagers - spending virtually all our time enjoying those magical places - I strongly believe that duty weighs even heavier than for others. We always try to make a huge effort to visit places without leaving traces.

In the case of Patagonia, however, we did tie our lines to the trees on numerous occasions. Without trying to turn that into "the right thing to do," I would like to emphasize that we did put a lot of thought into how to do that. We usually made an extra loop in the line to minimize the chafing, we made sure to keep an even tension on the lines, we used at least three, but more often four lines to spread the load, we looked for good and solid trees, and we took care not to damage branches or other trees on our way to the selected ones. Also, whenever possible, we did use rocks and pieces of chain, as suggested by Mr. Babson. Or, another variety that we practiced on several occasions, we used one or more anchors that we hooked behind rocks.

Patagonia is an awesome but harsh environment. Whatever manages to survive there is capable of dealing with extreme conditions. The trees we used stood there already when Charles Darwin visited the Beagle Channel. I do agree strongly with Mr. Babson that we should do whatever we can to minimize (or prevent) possible damage. Mooring the way we did I think we practiced exactly that.