Southbound in the Chilean channels
07 November 2002 | Canal Sarmiento, Chile
Hello Everyone - We have been having a wonderful trip south down the channels. After the horrible weather that kept us in Puerto Montt for five days after we had cleared out because the port was closed, we managed to slip out on the one day the port was open and then snugged up in a good harbor for another week of bad weather. Since then, the weather has been most unusually benign with high pressure systems setting up as far south as 55 degrees and bringing us light winds, bright sunshine, unlimited visibility and fine downwind sailing. We wake every morning to the continuing blue sky and can hardly believe it after last year's unremitting rain and total lack of visibility. Just to be able to see the awe inspiring scenery makes this trip completely different from last year's - snow-capped mountains, rugged ridges and low headlands receding in green and blue waves on every side. And it goes on and on, day after day, for hundreds and hundreds of miles.
Two days ago we tried to reach the Peel glacier, where Tilman took Mischief to make his crossing of the Patagonian ice cap. We encountered small bergy bits five miles from the entrance to the first fjord that accesses the glacier, and when we were within two miles of it we were threading our way through growlers and small bergs. We got to within a mile of the entrance to the fjord, still some seven miles from the glacier face, and we could see that the whole entrance was choked with ice and it was coming out at a rate of two or three knots on the ebb tide. While Tilman was climbing, ice damaged Mischief's propeller as her crew tried to find a safe harbor and got themselves almost embayed, and he ended up having to sail out 50 miles or so through the channels before he could head offshore. We took a lesson from his book and turned back, despite the tantalizing lime green of the water and the beauty of all those little ice bergs. But we were able to see the glacier rising over the rugged, gray mountains in front of it for most of the day, and that was well worth the effort even if we didn't manage to get to the face itself. We'll have lots more glaciers to visit in the Beagle, when the summer is more advanced and the ice a bit more manageable.
We can hardly believe what a contrast it is to go south instead of north. We have sailed most of the 800 or so miles since we left Puerto Montt, and when we haven't been able to sail it has been for lack of wind rather than for too much or too far forward. It is such a pleasure to have the wind aft of close-hauled, and Hawk has been sailing beautifully, often managing 5 and 6 knots in fewer knots than that of apparent wind. We also have current with us much of the time, so instead of struggling to motorsail at 5 knots, we're often doing 9 or 10 knots and reaching our planned anchorage hours earlier than we anticipated. Of course, the weather has been unusually mild, but while we can't speak from direct experience to the difficulty of the trip from Panama to Chile, we can say we would strongly recommend taking the channels from north to south instead of the other way around.
We're not a bit more than halfway down the coast and still planning on Puerto Williams for Christmas. We hope this finds everyone happy and healthy and enjoying life as much as we are.
Best wishes, Beth and Evans