Monday afternoon, the 12th of December we sat in the bar at Hosteria de Castro having a cervesa each and enjoying the wifi connection. After we had satisfied our internet craving, we walked back down the hill and along to the dinghy to head back out to Sequitur to prepare her for departure in the morning.
On our way along the waterfront we watched as a small ferry took-on fuel from a tank-truck on the wharf. Fueling boats is very different in South America. So far we have pumped from a barrel on a pier, hauled jerry cans from a gas station, filled from a truck while hauled-out, filled in a travel-lift well, pumped from jugs in a water taxi and snaked a hose from shore while Med-moored. I'm sure there is more variety to come.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon and on into the evening reeving a new piece of thick elastic cord into the hem of the dinghy cover in our continuing attempt to modify the cover to fit the davits, and to make it easier to use. The previous week, Edi had made and reinforced holes through it to accept the tackle falls. Finally, just before sunset, we put the cover in place and hoisted the dinghy. Although it still needs a final adjustment with the dinghy hauled-out on a beach, it was ready for sea.
We were up early to bright sunshine on Tuesday morning, with a gentle breeze from the southeast. Edi prepared breakfast by melting slices of asiago on ham in the sauté pan, then topping with eggs and covering the pan with a lid to baste. This she served on toasted split baguettes and garnished with sliced tomato and fresh basil leaves.
At 1022 we weighed and proceeded under power back down the inlet from Castro. It was nearly calm as we passed the many fish farms that line the shores and often extend well out into the channel. At one of these, a transport ship was pumping aboard a load of salmon to haul away for processing.
With all the shellfish we have seen here, both canned, smoked and fresh, we assumed we would be seeing shellfish farms. We passed many of these operations, which consist of suspending seeded lines beneath floats and waiting for the shellfish to mature clinging to the lines. It certainly makes for an easy harvest.
In the more remote areas, where commuting to and from the fish farm might be a bother, it appears that some prefer to live on the farm. On many of the fish farms there are rather comfortable-looking homes, but instead of picket fence and lawnmowers, there are mooring cleats and life raft launchers.
As we moved out of the channels, the winds picked-up and became more stabilized in their direction, so we rolled-out the staysail and half of the main and beat into the 15 to 18 knot southerly winds. As we tended southwest, we had wonderful views across Golfo de Corcovado to the mountains on the mainland, particularly the impressive Volcan Corcovado.
We headed up a narrow blind inlet that doglegs its way through wonderful pastoral settings, with black-necked swans paddling in the quiets, sheep grazing on the slopes and cattle in the rich grass along the banks. We continue to see settings that are so reminiscent of the Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound and other wonderful places back in British Columbia.
In the early evening we came to 35 metres on the Rocna on a mud bottom in 10.1 metres of water in front of a few houses and a church at the beginning of the shoaling about two miles up the inlet. The tide was just turning to ebb, and we would lose 5 metres of depth to the low.
Wednesday morning brought another clear day. While Edi prepared breakfast, I puttered in the cockpit doing a few chores, like drilling and bolting a sickle onto a long cane of bamboo to use as a kelp cutter. To make the scene even more idyllic, a couple of horses and a colt came down and grazed in the beachside meadow in front of the church.
Shortly after 1000 we weighed and headed back down the inlet on the tail-end of the ebb. We were about to pass around the stern of an anchored boat so as not to compromise his anchor line in the narrow channel, when a person onboard began frantically motioning for us to pass ahead. We came within ten metres of a floating air hose before we noticed it. The boat had a diver down on a hooka, but flew no flag or signal to indicate the fact. We barely missed our first opportunity to test our new propellor line cutter.
We rolled-out the staysail and half the main and motor-sailed thirty degrees either side of the wind as we wound our way through the zig-zag-zig of Canal Tranqui against the beginning of the flood tide. Sequitur seems to attract wind on the nose.
The skies remained totally clear and we enjoyed another warm late spring day. The navigation was easy, but it was necessary to maintain a close lookout for shellfish farm buoys, which have a habit of appearing in the middle of the most convenient route through a passage or around a point. Nonetheless, we were able to relax and enjoy the wonderful countryside we were passing through. It certainly reminded us of the British Columbia coast.
The fish farms continued, and as they became more remote, their accommodations became more complex. We saw one with a floating four-story building, which we assumed contained not only workshops and offices, but also quarters and mess for the work crew.
Volcan Corcovado tended to hog the horizon to the east as we headed toward the southern end of Isla Chiloe. At one point, as we skirted a group of large orange buoys of a shellfish farm, Edi spotted a thick yellow line along Sequitur's side. It was a good 3cm in diameter and was attached to the two buoys we had just passed. I quickly shifted to neutral and we watched as we drifted past the 30 metres or so of floating hawser. It looked as if the mooring line for the buoys had recently parted, and for the second time of the day, we narrowly missed testing our new line cutter.
As we motor-sailed into the wind, we ran two loads of laundry through the washer and dryer, and we made three hours of water. At 1655 we came to 50 metres of chain on the Rocna in the middle of the fishing fleet off Puerto Quellon. We spotted a Copec and a Petrobras filling station on the waterfront street, one on either side of the fishing wharf.
After we had secured, I used the transfer pump to move fuel from the auxiliary tank to the main, and then poured the 80 litres from the four diesel jerry cans into the auxiliary tank, bringing it back near full. While the main tank is the most convenient to fill when we are moored stern-to on a float, the deck fill of the auxiliary tank is the easier to use the rest of the time. Our intention was to refill the jerry cans at a gas station ashore and top-up the auxiliary tank then refill the used cans, so that we are as close to our 920 litre capacity when we leave here, our last stop on Chiloe and our last opportunity for fuel without the usurious 50% to 75% surcharge reported down the coast.
All of this concentration on refueling brought me to thinking of our own replenishment. For dinner I sautéed some filete de blanquillo with oyster mushrooms, shallots and garlic and served them with basmati rice, sliced tomato with shredded basil and a side of asparagus spears with mayonnaise. It all went splendidly with the 2011 Carmen Chardonnay.
For Thursday's breakfast Edi prepared a small platter of sliced avocados, tomatoes and basil leaves, and we enjoyed toasted split whole wheat baguettes slathered with cream cheese and topped from the platter. We were enjoying our fresh produce while it lasted, and we were counting on finding a bit more during our jaunt ashore for diesel.
In the late morning we launched Non Sequitur and motored in to the commercial wharf, where we were able to find a slot being vacated by another inflatable. While Edi sat and protected our property on the milling and crowded wharf end, I walked up to the Petrobras station, filled two jugs, lugged them back to the dinghy, took the two remaining empties back in the wharf, filled them and paid the 54,080 Pesos for the 80 litres.
The scene at the ends of the commercial and fishing wharves was very active and chaotic, with large and small vessels steadily coming and going and being variously loaded and unloaded. Back onboard, I added about 12 litres to top-off the auxiliary tank. Having no great desire to lug a jug ashore to top it up with an additional 12 litres, I stowed the remaining three full jugs and the part-used one. Sequitur now has a little over 900 litres of diesel in her various tanks.
After lunch we took Non Sequitur back to the wharf, intending to secure it with chain and heavy padlock. The wharf end was submerged by the high tide, and the remaining stub was overflowing with boats. We continued along to a beach and I drove the dinghy up onto the sand, delighted with the wheels. There was no secure point on which to chain it, so we left it to fate and walked into the town looking for a grocery store to buy some fresh produce.
Puerto Quellon is officially the end of Ruta 5, the Pan-American Highway. If we were to leave our loft in Vancouver, head six blocks east, turn left onto the beginning of Oak Street and follow the road south, we would end-up in Puerto Quellon. Simple directions, really, but we chose a more complex route. We were truly at the end of the road, and this was our last opportunity to find selection and reasonable prices.
We found a rather smaller Bigger, and in it we selected fresh mushrooms, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Fuji apples and a huge bouquet of fresh basil among other things. We took our booty wandering as we searched for a wifi connection. Back down on the waterfront we finally saw a wifi sign in the window of the bar/lounge of Hotel Tierra del Fuego. We went in, sat down and opened our computers to find a five-bar signal. We ordered a couple of cervesas and got the code. We couldn't connect. I told the barkeep, and he rebooted the system, then phoned the service provider. The internet was down on the entire island of Chiloe, but even without it, the 1000 Pesos each for the beer was a bargain.
We were delighted to find our dinghy and motor where we had left them, at the foot of a ramp down the seawall. The tide had reached its maximum flood, leaving us with a very simple relaunch. We headed back out to Sequitur to stow our purchases and prepare to depart early on Friday morning to cross Boca del Guafo to the Archipelago de las Guaitecas.
The Pilots, Sailing Directions and Navigator Guides all speak rather scarily of the dangers of crossing the Boca del Guafo and the Golfo Corcovado, with phrases such as: "pretty hard, if not dangerous", and "sea conditions very hazardous". They all emphasize correct timing for the crossing. We decided to follow the recommended procedure and leave Quellon on the high tide, which was at 0610 on Friday. We were awakened by the light of the sunrise coming through the cabin hatches, and at 0623 we weighed and headed out under power in calm seas and clear blue skies.
As we motored down the winding channels between the islands, and down to the bottom of Chiloe, Edi brought breakfast up into the cockpit in her customized serving basket, which she designed to clip onto the central handholds on the cockpit table. We now have a very convenient way to keep things secure and in place for cockpit dining at sea. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast panini with sliced Tuscan ham, local cheese, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. The Yacht Club Peruano cups and saucers reminded us of our La Punta friends Frano and Gonzalo, and we toasted them.
There was a light breeze from the southeast, just sufficient to fill a stabilizing main and staysail as we motor-sailed across the dreaded gulf. We ran two loads of laundry through the machine and ran the watermaker for four hours, netting about 200 litres of fresh water. Shortly after 1400 we entered the Archipelago de las Guaitecas and half an hour later passed the village of Melinka.
At 1529 we came to 45 metres on the Rocna in 11 metres of water on a mud bottom in Caleta Momia. The tide was very near low, and was due to rise about 2.5 metres to its high. The area reminded us very much of the Broken Group in Barclay Sound, off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The charts; however, quickly brought us back to Chilean reality with their gross errors with the horizontal datum, the near complete lack of soundings, and the misplaced islands, coves and points. Our chartplotter showed us securely anchored nearly two cables inland.
We arose early again on Saturday to take advantage of the tide. It was just coming to high as we weighed at 0700 and headed out through the narrow uncharted passage to the southwest of our anchorage. The Guide says the narrows have a minimum depth of 5 metres, so we motored slowly through to find the patch of bottom with less than our 2.2 metre draft. We came to an abrupt halt. We picked ourselves up and allowed the following current to swing our stern around about 90 degrees to port, and then backed off into deeper water and continued on out. Shortly we were in the charted channel and relaxing with pain perdu au jambon and fresh-ground Starbucks.
The scenery continued to remind us of the British Columbia coast, as did the tidal currents and the weather. To make it even more convincing, we were passed by a small coastal freight barge named COHO, a familiar BC name.
Our intended destination for the day was a rather new marina tucked in a cove near the end of a winding and forked inlet on Isla Jechia. To get there we would follow Canal Perez Norte southward. This rather straightforward passage is between four and eight cables wide, and it is bounded by a collection of large and small islands, islets and rocks, with no marked hazards in the channel. However, it is the unmarked ones that concerned us. There were some small freighters and fishing boats using it, so we gained confidence.
A bit disconcerting was the drying rock chart symbol on a 100-metre sounding line near mid-channel off Punta Garrao. I decided to give the charting anomaly more than a cable's berth on the way by, thinking it made no sense to go aground on a charted feature. Then we arrived at the entrance to Estero Chulle, which is labelled Area Sin Sondaje, which translates as Area Without Soundings. Our destination was up the uncharted inlet.
I figured that if someone took the bother to build a marina, they would also ensure that the waters leading to it were safe to navigate. We headed in through generally 40 to 50 metre depths, with only two under-10-metre surprises on the sounder. As we slowly motored past the end of the float, we spoke with two staff who had come down to assist us. We indicated we would anchor, and they said we could moor on the float. We asked how much, and to the $30 fee, we said we still preferred to anchor.
At 1257 we came to 32 metres on the Rocna in 8 metres of water just beyond the marina floats. It had begun to rain lightly, and the wind began to gust in cycles, from calm to over 25 knots for a few minutes and then back to calm. We delayed our excursion ashore to check-out the marina facilities as we monitored the effects of the light williwaws on Sequitur's anchorage. We were so comfortable and content onboard that it was late afternoon before we thought again of visiting the marina, and we quickly dismissed the idea. The place had an eerie feel about it, something we both sensed, but couldn't explain. In the late evening I created three pizzas, one and a half for dinner and the remainder for a couple of underway lunches.
We slept soundly until the brightness of a sunny morning came through the hatches and awoke us at 0620. It was glassy calm as I went forward to remove the snubber and prepare to weigh anchor.
The anchor came up clean, with no kelp to cut away for the first time since we left Puerto Montt. We slowly motored past the vacant marina with its clubhouse, restaurant, bar, three six-person guest cabins, separate accommodations and facilities for crew, and wondered if anyone has ever used it. We postulated that it was an up-market wilderness destination for city folk, and possibly an itinerary stop for high-end motor-yacht tours from the mainland. Whatever, it held no attraction for us.
We retraced our inbound route on the chartplotter, knowing that if we hadn't found bottom on the way in, then we were not likely to on the way out. At 0751 we again arrived in soundings and turned to follow Canal Chipana out into Canal Moraleda. By midmorning the sky was completely overcast, and as we turned south in Moroleda, the 10 to 12 knot northerly wind had generated some rather large waves that were being steepened by the opposing tidal current.
I rolled-out the sails and we ran downwind bucking the ebbing current and slopping around in the steepened following waves. There was not enough wind for the intended course, so we used the engine to help us move against the current. We followed the western margin of the navigable channel, which is punctuated by marked and unmarked rocks, reefs and islets. We correctly guessed the name of the white rock islet; there is one such named on every section of every coast we've been on.
Shortly after 1600 we began slowly nudging our way in Puerto Americano. The Italian Guide says: "shoals outside the entrance... Depth in the channel is 3 to 4 metres; approach with care favouring the W side". The Chilean Guide says: "Lots of shallow spots, follow recommended route in the sketch with someone on bow to spot rocks".
As is my preference, we were entering on a rising tide, which is convenient should we unexpectedly find bottom. We must have properly followed the directions, because our anchor was the first to find bottom as we came to 33 metres in 9.9 metres of water in behind a grassy point in an anchorage basin aptly named Fondadero la Darsena, which translates as Anchorage Basin. It was 1625, and we had made 50.3 miles in about 9.5 hours.
We have logged half a mile shy of 300 miles since leaving Puerto Montt, six days traveling and three replenishing and relaxing. The next three legs of our voyage are around 45 to 50 miles each, taking us outside to the Pacific coast to Bahia Anna Pink and along to Caleta Cliff. Our intention is to wait there for appropriate weather to make the overnight crossing of Golfo de Penas, a leg of a little over 100 miles.
The barometer had been falling from 1020 at Sunday noon to 1017.2 when we anchored to 1014.5 when we went to bed. Monday morning was so glum that dawn's light didn't awaken us, and it was 0740 before I woke-up. The barometer was down to 1010.1 and the sky was an unpleasant mix of nimbostratus and stratus fractus. It was rather calm in the anchorage, and the scud was hanging on the ridge-tops, indicating little if any wind aloft and outside. Our route for the day was mostly through narrow channels, so having no wind was not a problem.
At 0832 we weighed and slowly picked our way back out through the shallow narrows, successfully clearing them at 0850 and setting a southerly course as the rain began. Once we were clear of the lee of Isla Tangbac, we were again in sloppy following seas. The northerly wind was just 2 or 3 knots faster than our motoring progress, so sails would have done little but chafe.
However; the following wind did blow the increasingly persistent rain into the after end of the cockpit, so I inserted the quarter panels and rolled down the three rear panels and zipped-up the entire cockpit. We are delighted with the superbly crafted canvas work we had done in Vancouver by La Fabrica. It makes Sequitur comfortable in even the bleakest weather.
While I was buttoning-up the cockpit, Edi had gone below to the galley, and not long after I had finished, she brought breakfast up into the cockpit. While the toaster worked on split baguettes, we started into the fried sausage rounds with basted eggs and Béchamel sauce, sliced tomatoes with chopped basil and steaming cups of fresh-ground Starbuck's coffee.
It continued to rain, and as the wind dropped, the clouds settled and visibility lowered to about two miles. We remained snug and warm in the cockpit.
In the early afternoon, Edi reheated some of the extra pizza from Saturday night. We have found that though leftover pizza is delicious, the crust tends to soften while stored in the fridge. Reheating it in the microwave does nothing to address this, but a frying pan works wonderfully by crisping the crust bottom for a while, then putting the lid on to warm the top and retain the moisture. Wonderful!
At 1645 we came to 30 metres on the Rocna in 8.3 metres of water in Caleta Jacqueline, a beautiful little cove about a cable by a cable and a half in size. Our radar overlay confirmed the accuracy of the chart as we slowly motored into the area without soundings. The sketch in the Italian Guide has a line of soundings through the entrance, and we proved them accurate. The barometer had continued slowly falling, it was sitting at 1006.8 and the rain came more heavily.
A couple of hours later, the sun broke through and I watched as the cloud formation moved away to the east. The sunny patch proved to be quite small; over the ridge to the west came another band of glum, and it was soon raining more heavily than before. We were thankful that the sun's appearance hadn't seduced us ashore to explore the little cove.
Tuesday was another glum morning, with no appreciable light through the hatches to awaken us. We got up to a heavy rain at 0740, and began looking at options for the day. The barometer was at 1006.5, very slightly down. The clouds were scurrying past the tree tops around the anchorage, indicating high winds outside. Our intention had been to head to Caleta Canaveral in Bahia Anna Pink, about 46 miles away on the open Pacific coast. We decided to have breakfast.
The rain was coming through in regular bands, with heavy downpour and high winds, then a lull, followed by more heavy rain and a lull. We could sit and wait-out the storm, or move closer to the coast. Caleta Saudade sounded like an ideal destination: "a really tiny cove that affords hurricane-proof protection", according to the Italian Guide. It is about 20 miles short of Caleta Canaveral. If conditions improved along the way, we could carry on; if they deteriorated, there were alternates, or we could tuck our tails between our legs and cower back to Jacqueline.
We took advantage of the first lull after breakfast to weigh and head out of Jacqueline. The weather was benign as I removed the snubber, shortened-in and then weighed. But as we left the anchorage, the blue patch was quickly receding to the east, and being replaced by a nimbostratus.
Not long after we had motored out into Canal Chacabuco and turned west, the next band of rain hit. The winds blew down the inlet from the west-northwest at 20 to 25 knots, but we remained snug and dry.
During one of the lulls, we were overtaken by a robust-looking workboat, the type that services the salmoneras that fill the area. On the port bow was painted PTO RED II, and we wondered whether the other bow was named STBD GREEN I.
As we were passing north of Islas Canquennes, we watched the approach of an ominously dark mass of cloud filling the entire western horizon and extending from sea level on up. Soon we were hit by a violent squall with sustained winds over 40 knots and gusts to 50. The radar image showed it to be less than a mile through, so we knew it would soon be over. We remained dry and comfortable.
The winds continued extremely variable, cycling regularly from a few minutes at 5 knots to a few at 35 knots and then back down. We entered Canal Pulluche shortly after the turn to ebb, and were nicely assisted along, making at best 8.4 knots with turns for 6. We had earlier been slowed by headwinds and the tail end of the flood tide to 3.2 knots with the same engine speed.
As we emerged from Pulluche there was more blue than cloud for the first time in a couple of days, but the wind continued to cycle up to 30 knots or so and back down. The weather looked too unsettled to continue on into Bahia Anna Pink, so we headed for Caleta Saudade.
At 1455 we came to 25 metres on the Rocna in 8.3 metres of water on a sand and shingle bottom. We launched Non Sequitur and I attached the lines from the two stern reels and rowed ashore. The tide was still sufficiently high for me to loop the lines around trees while standing in the dinghy. I reeled-off enough spare line to double the distance, and while Edi secured the lines on the reels, I pulled the dinghy back out to Sequitur.
We used the sheet winches to haul taut the lines, then I went forward and set a short snubber. Finally, I cranked-in the winches to nestle Sequitur nicely balanced in the northwest corner of the tiny cove about a boat's length from the trees. The wind whistled through the tree tops and spun our anemometer, but it was calm on deck.
To satisfy my curiosity, I climbed the mast to see at what level the wind began, and found it starting to blow as I reached the second spreaders. I had an opportunity while I was aloft to examine the anchorage. It appears to be about 60 metres wide and 100 metres deep, with a fringe of kelp extending some 20 metres or so out from the eastern side and one of about 10 metres on the west. The trees grow right to, and slightly overhang the steep rock shore, and there is no beach.
The barometer remained rather stable in a shallow low, and it rained in waves through the remainder of the day. While we enjoyed the very calm and comfortable anchorage, the wind howled and built whitecaps in the sound less than half a cable ahead of Sequitur's bow.
We looked at options for our onward route. Around the point from Caleta Saudade is the spout of a funnel directing the winds, swell and tides in from the open Pacific. Heading out through this leads into Bahia Anna Pink, which has the ocean on its north and west. Caleta Canaveral is a well-protected inlet about halfway along the south side of the bay. Around Peninsula Skyring is Seno Pico-Paico, reputed to offer protection from all winds. Southwestward, on Peninsula de Taitap, Caleta Cliff and Caleta Suarez also offer all-round protection. Tucked around on the Golfo de Penas side of Peninsula de Taitap is Puerto Barroso, a good haven. Sixty miles across Golfo de Penas, at the entrance to Canal Messier is Caleta Ideal. In stable weather, none of this presents any problem; however, the weather was being anything but stable.
Wednesday the 21st of December, the first day of summer didn't awaken us until nearly an hour and a half after sunrise. The barometer had remained near steady overnight; it was up 0.3 to 1007.8. When I poked my head out into the cockpit at 0730, there was a sunny patch overhead, so while Edi put on the coffee, I drained the dinghy from the rains and secured it in its davits. By the time I had completed this it was raining again. We quickly scrubbed plans for a post-departure breakfast in the cockpit, and enjoyed a leisurely one below to the sounds of downpour on the decks.
Finally, at 0930 the weather cleared and we quickly hauled-in the starboard stern line and heaped it in the cockpit wing. It slid very easily off the tree. I started the port line, then left its retrieval with Edi and went forward to remove the snubber and shortened-in. When Sequitur was properly aligned, we weighed and Edi drove us out of the tiny hole. The mountains had fresh snow on them down to below the 400 metre line. Welcome to summer.
Our intention was to poke our nose out into Bahia Anna Pink and see what conditions were like. I figured that with the rather steady barometer, there shouldn't be any serious winds. As we motored directly into the 12 to 15 knot winds, we were in and out of rain showers as clumps of nimbostratus passed over.
By 1130 we had passed the last of the islands protecting us from the Pacific swell, and we took the occasional spray over the foredecks, but our full enclosure kept us dry.
Shortly before noon we were hit by a squall with winds of 45 knots and gusts well into the 50s. With it came torrential downpour. Within fifteen minutes it had passed and the sun broke through the tatters behind it.
Half an hour later we were engulfed in a severe hail storm that had hailstones bouncing into the cockpit through the line leads and other gaps that falling rain can't find. There was a quick chilling of the air in the minutes leading to the storm. Edi continued knitting, comfortable in her layers of fleece.
We decided to head into Caleta Canaveral and call it a day. We were less than 5 miles from its entrance. With the WNW wind, it was on a lee shore with a 2 to 3 metre swell compounded by wind and storm cell waves. Approaching it was easy; the low rock in the centre of the entrance was well-marked by breakers and easy to spot.
Immediately we passed through the narrows, the water calmed. It was difficult to believe the placidity of our surroundings compared to those through which we had just travelled. We motored the mile to the head of the inlet and at 1402 we came to 32 metres on the Rocna in 10.2 metres of water at near high tide. We had made about 150 litres of water enroute, and the tanks were nearly full, the batteries were at 100% and the barometer was slowly rising at 1010.1.
As we relaxed, we continued to be hit by a succession of severe stormlets of five to ten minutes duration with high winds and heavy rain. Within minutes of their passing it was clear and calm, with only the wetness of the decks and the canvas as evidence. The barometer continued to slowly climb; it was 1012.0 at midnight when we went to bed, and it was up to 1013.1 when I got up to a steady light rain at 0715.
It continued to rain after breakfast, so I sat and played some Daily Sudoku games on my iPad as a diversion from decision-making. As I worked through to the Diabolical level the barometer rose. At 1050 it was at 1016 and the rain had stopped. At 1100 we weighed and headed back up the inlet to the narrows.
It was nearly completely overcast, with some flashes of blue to the north and to the west and there was very little wind. As we motored through the gap and out into Bahia Anna Pink, the sea surface was barely rippled and there was a gentle, two-metre swell.
The hills along the coast appeared to be covered with smoldering fires; the evaporation from the previous days' rains was filling the sky with rapidly rising clouds. The few remaining patches of blue were soon obscured.
As we watched a large raft-up of gaviotas pass close down our starboard side, the rains began from an intense cell. We were soon hit with 45-knot winds, a torrential downpour and then hail. It looks like the birds had taken to the surface to sit-out the short storm. Sequitur carried-on through it with the staysail and a third of the main and some hand steering to keep her close-hauled.
Again, hailstones found a way to bounce into the cockpit
After the cell's passage, the sky cleared overhead and we enjoyed the warmth of the summer sun. I started the watermaker and Edi put a load in the washer/dryer and we bounced around in the confusion of the post-squall seas meeting the swell, which was meeting the continental shelf. Edi carried-on with her knitting, while I played Captain.
We were hit by a second squall as we rounded Peninsula Skyring, this one equally intense, but without the hail. After it had passed on to the north, and we were again under blue skies, we watched a huge and growing cumulonimbus upwind. It was tracking north; we were heading south. If the pattern held, there were more building behind it.
We decided to call it a day and divert into Seño Pico-Paico, an uncharted sound that corkscrews into the peninsula. I sheeted close-hauled on a port tack and with the swell on the starboard bow and our course slightly diverging from the coast to allow the storm to track up to the east of us. When the cell was passing our line, we tacked and surfed toward the mouth of the sound.
We were fascinated with the patterns of foliage on the trees clinging to the windswept south-facing slopes of the sound. There is a wonderful interplay of greens that in some ways looks like an organized botanical display.
We reached the protection of the south arm of the sound before the next in the series of storm cells arrived. It appeared to be half an hour away, so I figured we should be anchored before its arrival.
The approximate shape of the sound is on the chart, but there are no depth soundings, nor any other details. Its charted position is about 6 cables west-northwest of reality. Both the Italian and the Chilean Guides say it is deep, with no hazards. We used our eyeballs and radar to steer a mid-channel course.
At 1659 we came to 45 metres on the Rocna in 14.5 metres of water in a beautifully calm cove. The chart-plotter and iPad had taken an overland route, offering a great example of why these marvelous devices are to be used as guidance and sources of information, but not necessarily accurate information.
The eye is the most important navigational device. Trust it, and use input from the compass, depth-sounder and radar to add to what you see. Filter this information through the pilots, sailing directions and guides and interpret the charts with the resulting amalgam. After all of this, trust the eye, remembering that it is on the actual rocks and shoals that boats that run aground, not on the paper or electronic representations of them.
The barometer had continued to rise: 1017.5 at noon, 1020.5 when we anchored and 1025.2 when we went to bed at midnight. It was 1028.3 at 0750 when I got up to send our 0800 position report to the Armada. Edi got up and put on the coffee while I shortened-in, and we weighed at 0832. I used Sequitur as a 15-metre-long cursor to retrace the track on the chart-plotter as Edi plied me with hot Starbuck's and toasted baguettes slathered with cream cheese and black currant jam.
We were just finishing breakfast as we had our first look outside the inlet and began to feel the effects of the Pacific swell. Overhead a slow parade of low cumulus puffs was being pushed along by the southwest 10 to 12 knot surface winds and the water was beginning to chop. We cleared the sound at 0935, and set a course to pass between Punta James and Rocas Hellyer, and make Punta Pringle. We had decided to head for Caleta Suarez, with Caleta Cliff as a shorter alternate if conditions deteriorated.
As has been our experience thus far, the wind, swell and tide were on our nose. I hauled-out the staysail and half the main and we motor-sailed at 1750 rpm about 20 degrees off the wind, paralleling the coast. Tide, seas and current conspired to keep our speed in the 4 knot range until early afternoon, when the tide turned to ebb and we moved above 6 knots. The cumulus had moved off or dissipated, and we relaxed in the sunny cockpit. Edi continued her knitting.
We had been heading for a waypoint from the Italian Guide I had placed on the chart-plotter indicating a safe approach to Estero Cono. As we approached, I switched the radar to transmit and saw the chart was skewed about 1.2 miles to the southeast. A chart-plotter course to clear Punta Pringle to the west by a mile would have made for a very hard landing.
The Italian waypoint proved very accurate, and we continued on in with cautious confidence. The inlet we were looking for, Estero Cono is immediately to the south of an imposing conical peak. As we came around Punta Pringle, Monte Cono quickly identified itself.
I pointed Sequitur toward the gap and watched as the ship's head cursor settled on the radar image of the passage between Isla Cono and Monte Cono, while the chart showed the overland route. We decided to ignore the chart image and followed our eyes. Once we had lost the wind in the lee of the island, I rolled in the sails and we motored into the calm of the inlet.
We confidently headed up Estero Cono with the radar showing us centered between the steep walls about two cables on either side, and the sounder confirming the chart soundings. We were reminded again to take care by a sunken wreck symbol off a small point about two miles in, as the inlet narrows. Half a mile further along we passed a narrow gravel peninsula and swung around its end and headed in through a gap less than a cable wide to Caleta Suarez.
In the Rolfo-Ardrizzi Patagonia & Tierra del Furgo Nautical Guide (the Italian Guide), there is a clear chartlet and a detailed sketch of Estero Cono and the tiny Caleta Suarez near its head. These and the written descriptions allowed us to confidently enter the rather tight slot with sloping gravel shores. At 1920 we came to 20 metres on the Rocna in 8.8 metres of water.
We launched the dinghy and I rowed ashore trailing the line from the port stern reel. I looped it around a steel pin, which had been hammered into the top of an inverted tree trunk, which was deeply implanted into the gravel beach and strategically located in the center of the head of the cove. Fishermen routinely use this anchorage as a refuge from storms, and their lines and moorage arrangements line the shore. I hauled through a doubling of line, and after Edi had secured the one end on a cleat, I pulled the dinghy and the other end of the line back out to Sequitur.
We warped our stern line tight with a sheet winch as I veered another 10 metres of anchor cable. By 1935 we were secured. The anchorage is described in the Italian Guide as: "...one of the safest and most beautiful coves in Patagonia. ...strategically located to ease the long bluewater passage between Bahia Anna Pink and the channels S of Golfo de Penas".
The Guide goes on to say: "Estero Cono is bordered by wide beaches, which makes it one of the few places in the Chilean channels where it is possible to enjoy a nice stroll on the sand". The sun and moon set within three minutes of each other, according to our data, very close to eclipse, but they were out of sight blocked by Monte Cono. We celebrated the new moon with blanquillo sautéed with oyster mushrooms, shallots and garlic slivers, accompanied by basmati rice and Peruvian asparagus spears with mayonnaise, and toasted it with Carmen Chardonnay.
Saturday the 24th of December dawned bright and calm, the barometer had remained stable overnight, slightly above 1029.5 and there were wisps of cirrus overhead. It was so calm in the anchorage that, were it not for the gaviota flying upside-down in the lower right corner of this inverted photo, it would be difficult to tell reflection from reality. After I had sent our 0800 position report to the Armada, I rejoined Edi in bed.
After our first sleep-in in nearly two weeks, we finally arose midmorning to find our world right-side-up again. It was glassy-calm as we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the cockpit.
After breakfast we dug the baskets out of the port bilge compartment in the forward cabin. In the baskets were our bulk stores of such things as salamis, cheeses, yogurt, olives, carrots, potatoes, onions, shallots, ginger and garlic. Edi washed the cheeses and I sorted the vegetables looking for bad ones. There was a bad carrot that had affected a few others, but otherwise, things were keeping well.
The previous evening Edi had started some loaves of Sequitur bread, and she bashed them down, gave them a quick knead and set them to rise again, before starting some baguettes. We decided to head ashore for a walk, so we left the vegetables airing, the cheese drying and the bread rising in the heat of the cockpit enclosure.
We rowed over to the eastern shore, where the fishermen had built a fire pit with what looks like a piece from an old boiler as its central theme. Around it they had erected a crude shelter of plastic sheeting strung-up in the trees. In front of this is a swing suspended from an overhanging tree, and I couldn't resist taking a ride.
We walked out to the point and around it to head back out toward the ocean, looking for the sandy beaches described in the Italian Guide. While there are beaches, which are rare in this region, we think the translator got a bit fine with his word for gravel.
We did find many plants in bloom, reminding us that although it is Christmas Eve, it is summer here. Not having a field guide to the flora, we had to content ourselves by calling them pretty little white flowers with pointed petals, and other such names.
There was one with oval white petals in threes, which looked to me a bit like an apple blossom
We did see a delicate pink flower like a downward pointing trumpet, which Edi later identified as the copihue, the Chilean national flower.
Edi recognized another as possibly a wild fuchsia.
Then in the middle of a small daisy patch, I spotted some Dutch tulips, but when they started walking, I realized they were only Edi's sea boots. She had painted them with tulip designs to make them easier to find, and less likely someone would take them in error.
Suddenly beside us was a splashing. In the shallow tidal pool a large salmon had apparently been waiting for the tide to rise when we disturbed it. It was well over half a metre long, and was most likely an escapee from a local salmonera. As I was thinking of wading in to pickup some fish for dinner, it thrashed itself out of the shallows and swam away.
We walked around the head of the caleta to a fresh water stream with a substantial flow coming down off Monte Cono. This is mentioned as a good source of drinking water in Mantellero's Navigator Guide to the Chilean Patagonia (the Chilean Guide).
Back onboard from our jaunt ashore, we baked the two loaves of raisin bread, the 'officer bread' of my years in the Navy. We then did the two fat baguettes, which during my canal boating years in France, were referred to as batards. The barometer began a slow decline, settling to 1026 when we went to bed at 2300.
On Christmas morning, when I arose to send the Armada our 0800 position report, the barometer was at 1025. There was an SMS on the sat phone from Amy, Bram and Annelies, exchanging Christmas greetings in reply to those we had sent before going to bed. I crawled back into bed to give Edi some assistance in sleeping-in, content that even in some of the most remote regions of the planet, modern technology makes it possible to maintain contact.
We eventually did get up. Long gone are the days of excitedly rising at the crack of dawn to see what Santa had put in the stockings. My stockings were empty, but they were there, a wonderful pair that Edi had just finished knitting from some fine linen yarn she had bought in Vancouver's China Town. My gift to Edi was my ongoing fulfillment of a promise to take her sailing in comfort around the world.
For breakfast we enjoyed toasted fresh officer bread and split batard with cream cheese and black currant jam. This is our third Christmas of the voyage. The first was in the idyllic setting of Isla Espiritu Santo in the Mexican Sea of Cortez and the second was arriving in Iquique, Chile after our passage from Peru.
Our water tanks were down to below a quarter, and the house bank was at 67%. The water in the caleta was clean, and the weather was so calm that there was no sediment, so I started the watermaker and flashed-up the generator. This is only the second time we have run the Fischer-Panda since leaving Puerto Montt, and it started immediately and ran flawlessly. We ran the watermaker for five hours, then set it to auto-flush, netting about 320 litres of fresh water. During this time, the generator brought the bank up to 95%.
We still have seven avocados remaining, and they are in remarkably fine condition. Our on-the-vine tomatoes have also held well, so Edi prepared a guacamole for lunch, which we enjoyed it with nacho chips and rooibos tea. It was not a traditional Christmas lunch, but by now we have learned that we are in many ways far from traditional.
However, from time to time we do follow tradition. For dinner I prepared turkey with a pecan and mushroom dressing and steamed potatoes all lapped with a thick pan gravy and accented with boat-made Chilean cranberry sauce and accompanied by a side of Peruvian asparagus with mayonnaise. With it we enjoyed a bottle of Picasso Tempranillo from Sequitur's cellar. We fondly remembered buying the wine on our visit with Rafael in Ica, Peru and we thought of our friend Gonzalo who made that magical visit possible. With our after-dinner chocolate we opened our last bottle of Señorial, and toasted our Peruvian friends.
I awoke at 0630 on Monday, and seeing the barometer had risen slightly overnight to 1024, we decided to head out early and cross the Golfo de Penas. I raised and secured the dinghy while Edi secured for sea below. Then as I removed the snubber and shortened-in, Edi hauled in the stern line. The anchor came up foul with a piece of 3cm hawser that seemed attached to the bottom. With a boathook it was soon cleared, and the anchor was home and lashed by 0650.
It was glassy calm as we motored out into Estero Cono and headed back to the open Pacific. Edi went below and in a few minutes appeared with a thermos of fresh-ground Starbuck's, the toaster and slices of Sequitur bread.
As I navigated and piloted, Edi toasted and spread, and we enjoyed breakfast on the run. I used a waypoint from the Italian guide to confirm my visual observations and the radar image, and we easily and confidently motored out among the islands in the mouth of the inlet.
It was completely overcast with low stratus, which sank as we went, and soon became fog. Visibility was generally 2 to 3 miles, and since our radar and AIS showed no contacts, I decided there was no need for the foghorn.
There was a light southwest breeze of about 6 knots, so I hauled-out the staysail and half the main and we motor-sailed close-hauled on the starboard tack in the gentle 2 metre ocean swell. As we went, we watched the gaviotas and albatross and saw a few whale spouts, but none close-by.
At 0800 we were still out of radio range with the closest manned lighthouse, so I sent our position report to Directemar by SMS on the sat phone. At 1045 as we approached Cabo Raper, I raised the lighthouse on VHF and gave a position and movements report. By this time, the tide had turned, and we were making 6.5 to 7 knots, the engine still being assisted by a light southeast breeze, which was now broader on the bow as we bent our course around the headland.
Shortly after noon Edi brought a basket of lunch up into the cockpit.
I bit into a spring-roll, and was surprised and delighted to find it stuffed with turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce. It was a bit of a twist on my family's traditional Boxing Day lunch of Christmas turkey-dinner-leftover sandwiches. I commented that we were missing the traditional Boxing Day sales, but Edi reminded me we were on a Boxing Day sail, and that ours was much less crowded.
We saw no ships; we hadn't seen any in many days. As we crossed the near-glassy-calm Golfo de Penas, I ran the watermaker for four hours and brought the tanks back up to full.
Several times on the crossing we spotted the spouting of passing whales, but always they were too far away for us to catch a decent photo. As we approached Isla San Pedro a pod swam across our bows, and from the prominent shark-like fin and the breathing pattern, we easily identified them as fin whales, or common rorquals.
At 2000 I raised Faro San Pedro on the VHF and gave the Armada watchman our 2000 position report. Forty minutes later we entered Bahia San Pedro and at 2052 we hauled in the sails and motored between the shoals and rocks into our anchorage in Puerto Escondido. At 2125 we came to 32 metres on the Rocna in 11 metres of water in a tight, calm cranny.
During our approach I had been up and down from cockpit to galley preparing some pizzas for dinner and heating the oven. The oven was hot when we secured the anchor, and the first two pizzas went in shortly thereafter. While extra pizzas for later lunches cooked, we started into a pair of salami, black olive, sun-dried tomato, red and green pepper, oyster mushroom, Spanish onion, slivered garlic, fresh basil, two cheese pizzas with some 2007 Picasso Tempranillo. We were delighted with our Golfo de Penas crossing; it had been a very comfortable 90.6-mile daylight passage. All the scary paragraphs in the guides were for us unfulfilled.
I was up at 0735 to check the barometer and the sky. The pressure had remained stable overnight at 1024 and the sky was a glum, detail-less gray of low stratus. There was no wind and the sea was calm. I gave our 0800 report by VHF to the duty watch-keeper at Faro San Pedro, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast waiting for the tide in Canal Messier. At 0949 we weighed and slowly retraced our entry track back out of the anchorage, and once clear of Roca Plana, shaped a southeast course for the entrance to Messier.
Across the bay, two or three miles away was an ongoing series of whale spouts in groups of six, eight and ten at a time, then randomly across ninety degrees of the horizon. The spouts were like those from a steam calliope churning-out a rousing march. Only missing was the sound. My camera refused to focus on the whales, choosing instead to grab the gaviotas dotting the waters in the foreground.
We motored through a flock a mile or so deep, and watched as the birds struggled to get airborne, running frantically across the water for dozens of metres before finally succeeding.
We entered Canal Messier and motor-sailed southward, directly downwind as the flooding tide began to push us along. This was the first time in many, many months, we were going with the wind and the current. We met one ship, the first vessel we had seen in over a week.
The low overcast persisted until early afternoon, when the stratus began separating and allowing some blue to show.
The wind picked-up into the low-to mid 20-knot range and conspired with the flooding tide to move Sequitur along at 8.5 to 9.5 knots, with the occasional surf over 10 knots. We were moving along so nicely that we had decided to continue past our intended anchorage and head to one of two alternates. The first was 13 miles further along, the second, 22.
The first one, Caleta Connor is described in the Italian Guide as: "...may become uncomfortable with strong winds from the N/NW. ...With winds from this direction, Caleta Morgane is a better choice." With our winds from the north above 20 and the barometer falling, we opted for Morgane at 22 miles. We are finding the large-scale nautical charts to be very accurate through this area, though the small-scale ones appear yet to have been re-jigged to GPS. At low zooms, our positions, waypoints and track are displaced about two miles east, but in the higher zooms they are accurate.
The wind was up into the mid-30s when we rounded the point in search of the entrance to Caleta Morgane. I did a dance at the entrance, remembering the wise advice during my naval officer training: "When in doubt, stop the ship".
After a reassessment and confirmation, we continued on into the uncharted cranny barely three times Sequitur's length in size. There were wind eddies from the storm outside as we maneuvered the bow into an appropriate position to let-go the anchor. Finally after a few backs and forths, we let go the Rocna and veered 15 metres of chain into 8 metres of water, just enough to hold us off the rocks while we launched the dinghy and got the first stern-line to a tree ashore. After the second stern line was attached, I veered another 5 metres and we settled in about 5 metres off the steep rocks of the shore astern. At 1951 we were well secured, and prepared for a spell of bad weather; the barometer had fallen 5 points since noon, from 1024 to 1019.
I donned my chef's toque and prepared tarragon chicken with a sauté of oyster and white mushrooms, shallots and slivered garlic and accompanied it with basmati rice and the last of our asparagus, and garnished by our second last tomato with shredded fresh basil. We enjoyed it with a bottle of 2007 J Lohr Los Osos Merlot from our cellar.
I awoke with the first light of the sun coming through the cabin hatches shortly before 0600. The barometer had risen appreciably overnight, and was back up to 1023. Outside was clear and calm, with insufficient clouds to accent a photo. I prepared our SMS to the Armada and went back to bed for a while.
At a much more reasonable hour, we enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit with toasted split baguettes, cream cheese, capers, smoked salmon, fresh basil and cups of fresh-ground Starbuck's.
The barometer had continued rising; it was 1025.3 at 0800 when I sent Directemar our morning position report. After breakfast I took a slow row around the tiny caleta and then hoisted and secured the dinghy while Edi squared-away below and prepared again for sea.
Some bands of cumulus were moving in from the southwest, along with a light 6 to 7 knot breeze when we weighed at 1000. At 1020 we crossed the line into a flow of pale green glacial till coming from the tidewater glacier at the head of Seno Iceberg. The weather was cooperating superbly, so we had decided to take the 30 mile round-trip detour to the foot of the glacier.
At 1250 we reached the terminus of both the glacier and the sound. In front of us was a wall of ice nearly 2 kilometres wide being fed by an icefield that extends more than 300 kilometres north-south along the spine of South America. The vast Hielo Continental Sur is over 25 kilometres wide here, near its northern end.
I moved Sequitur through ice floes and bergy-bits to within a cable or so of the face, which appears to stand close to 100 metres above the water. We heard the frequent grumble and crack of seracs collapsing in the icefall above the terminus, and watched a few new bergy-bits being calved.
Accompanying us up the last few miles of the sound were many dozens of playful blackchin dolphins, and they continued to play with Sequitur as we dawdled in the ice-filled waters beneath the glacier snout.
Finally after half an hour of basking in the grandeur of the place and watching the dolphins frolic, we put Sequitur's stern toward the glacier and slowly picked our way back out through the scattering of ice. We had been blessed with superb weather for our diversion.
The chart on our Navionics card for the Raymarine chartplotter shows Seno Iceberg only crudely, with approximate landforms and no soundings. According to it, we had run Sequitur well aground at the head of the sound.
The Navionics card for the iPad is one year newer, and includes a new chart of Seno Iceberg, with many soundings, good bottom contour detail and a much more accurate shoreline detail. It is precisely keyed to the GPS. We are seeing much new charting in the Chilean waters, particularly those which are more frequently navigated, and even some, like Seno Iceberg, which have virtually no traffic, but deserve so much more.
As the glacier retreated behind us, Edi reheated some of the leftover pizza and we enjoyed a delicious lunch. Meanwhile, the day's second load of laundry was in the washer-dryer.
We saw no traffic, in fact we had seen only one ship in the previous ten days. Then, as we reentered Canal Messier and turned southward, we spotted a ship across the channel. It was not displaying its AIS, and as we came closer, I realized it was the wreck of th