Aboard the ms Veendam: Chacabuco

Aboard the ms Veendam-“Hi, how are ya? Where ya from?”

Paul Dion and Meg – unofficial greeters of cruise ships

I thought the accent was unmistakably Bostonian or “Back Bay.” I heard it while walking up the wild-flower covered hill and into the tiny village of Puerto Chacabuco.

The welcoming stranger turned out to be one Paul Dion of Falmouth, Mass., the only English speaker resident in a town of about 2000 residents. He recently celebrated his 70th birthday.

“I don’t speak much Spanish,” said Paul, going on to explain that he gets enjoyment from chatting with those who wander into his domain from cruise ships that pause briefly at the port. A retired fishing consultant, he and his equally friendly border collie “Meg” have been living rent free there for the past eight years.

The tender waits passengers to return to the Veendam from Puerto Chacabuco

Paul says it costs him about $150 month to live in his unusual circumstances. He’s been saving up his pension and Social Security and figures it will be yet another two years before he and Meg will move in with his son in Connecticut.

I chatted with Paul for about a half hour before returning to the ship. He says he gets good TV reception and keeps up with the world just fine. I promised to send him my picture of him via e-mail.

Those who took shore excursions reported an excellent scenic experience at Aiken del Sur Private Park and other nearby areas offering soothing views of mountains, lakes and waterfalls. Some said they spotted the shy wapiti or red deer along the way.

But I was happy just to shoot the breeze with Paul and play with Meg in their green and buttercup world before catching the tender and returning to the ship.

Photos by Robert W. Bone

November 10, 2012

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