We had arrived in Puerto Eden mid-afternoon on Thursday the 29th of December, and anchored off the downtown waterfront of the village of 176 people. After we had reported our arrival to the Armada, we chatted for a bit with the person on the radio. We asked about a weather report, and he said he could bring us one later in the afternoon, after it had arrived from Punta Arenas. The barometer was continuing to fall, and an official forecast would be good to have.
After a quick snack we launched Non Sequitur and motored the short cable to the pier in front of the office of the Carabineros de Chile. We figured it was a safe place to leave the dinghy. Besides, with a population of only 176, everyone knows everyone else, and there's nowhere to hide.
There is a boardwalk which follows the coastline and connects the houses and workshops lining the waterfront. We decided to follow it first to the right, around the north side of the tiny bay and out to the point. Along the water's edge were many boats dried-out, some possibly for their last time. From the looks of Rambo, it may have fought its last round.
A bit further along, we came to a major rebuild. Tornado was receiving a new stem, a new keel, and from all the cut pieces lying around, probably some new ribs and a re-planking. We have seen these major projects underway in crude conditions on beaches from Puerto Montt southward. Is Rambo staging for a comeback?
We arrived at the point and examined the new boat terminal, which is used by the weekly Navimag ferry between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales. On its north side, the sunny and windy one, was an array of masts supporting solar panels and wind generators. The terminal was completed in the autumn of 2010 as an infrastructure enhancement project by the Chilean government.
We continued around the point and out into the suburbs following the winding boardwalk. We were back to our standard routine of heading directly into the wind, which continued to howl from the north.
In many ways the scene was how I remembered Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island, back in the 1960s, before it became touristed. With the remoteness of this area, I think it will be a long time before Puerto Eden spoils itself with a prettying-up for visitors.
All along the shoreline are boats dried-out or hauled-out. Some appear very-well cared-for, while others seem to have long since lost all love. We were intrigued with the vivid colours, which even on the neglected boats was still rather bright, and would offer good visibility at sea.
We passed several piles of crab traps. We had learned that king crab is valued harvest, commonly caught in this area. We were eager to see if we could find some. There were few people about, and we wondered whether this was due to it being Christmas week, or simply because the tiny village has so few people.
Beside the boardwalk in front of the church was a manger scene made-up with two-dimensional pasteboard cut-outs propped-up in an A-frame of fern fronds and evergreen boughs. The cast of characters was simple: a cow, a shepherd with lamb, a wiseman, a carpenter, a virgin and a baby; one of each.
I had brought our portable VHF with me, and as we were on our way back from the north end of the strung-out village, I received a call from the Armada. It was the person to whom we had reported on our approach and arrival at anchor. He had come to Sequitur, and seeing our dinghy ashore, called. We coordinated a rendezvous, and shortly we met the Capitan de Puerto, Victor Flores Saavedra.
We told him we had read of a woman who bakes bread to order, and we were looking for her. Her husband is the village woodworker. His eyes lit-up, and he scooted us around a point to the north and up to a rickety wooden jetty. We walked up to the doors of a woodworking shed and sawmill. We were met there by a burly man, obviously a woodworker. I asked about bread. He asked: "How many?" I replied: "Four". He asked: "Kilos?" I replied: "Loaves". He said: "Buns". I said: "Twenty-four". He said: "Mañana". I said: "Gracias". I love these simple Spanish conversations; a great economy of words.
As we headed back toward the Armada inflatable, I asked Victor about getting some centolla, the famous local king crab. He stopped and pointed back to where we had been. We walked back into the property and hailed the woodworker, and he hailed his wife. We negotiated for two kilos of shelled leg meat for the mañana., and confirmed with her the two dozen bread rolls.
We went back to the Armada inflatable, and Victor drove us around the point, into the bay and back to our dinghy on the Carabineros pier. We asked him about an internet connection, and he invited us over to the Capitania the next day to use the wifi there. We thanked Victor for his kind assistance, and then we walked along to the left of the pier to Supermercado Eden. The stock in the meat department was a bit sparse, but the liquor department was a bit better, with a selection of four white wines and three reds, all in tetra-packs, plus one brand of beer and one of Pisco.
In the fresh produce section were a few onions, potatoes, apples and oranges, all of them in lesser condition than those aboard Sequitur. We did spot some eggs on the floor in a corner, and asked for 20. As the husband meticulously counted and re-counted the eggs, his wife calculated the price, eventually coming-up with 4000 Pesos, more than double what we have been seeing in more populated parts of Chile. However; even at $4.80 a dozen, Puerto Eden's farm-fresh brown eggs compare well with Vancouver's prices.
The wind howled through the anchorage the remainder of Thursday, but with less than a cable's fetch, there were no waves. The barometer continued to drop; it was at 1011.5 at midnight, and down to 1006.9 when we dinghied ashore shortly after noon on Friday. We were met on the pier by the locals, who eagerly sniffed our garbage bag. The previous day we had spotted the convenient large tip on the pier, and we deposited our sixteen-day collection.
The friendly pack of eight to a dozen motley mutts, with various additions and drop-offs along the way, eagerly came with us on a walk. We checked-out the progress on the reincarnation of Tornado, and admired the craftsmanship that continues to give new lives to vessels that in other parts of the world would have long since been abandoned.
We arrived at the almacen and la señora eagerly unlocked the store and welcomed us in. She pulled-out a colander of twenty-four rolls, and carefully counted them again into a bag. This almacen (small grocery store) is much better stocked and appears much more sanitary than the supermercado we had visited downtown the previous day. We asked about eggs, and she showed us some jumbo browns.
We asked for 30 of them, and she carefully loaded our Lock & Lock egg containers. One of the eggs was so large that I crushed its top when I clipped the lid into place. As we were counting eggs, a young lad came into the store with the king crab we had ordered. We gave the lady 21,000 for our purchases and she passed 9,000 on to the lad.
Our escort of dogs was waiting politely outside the store, and led us back around the point and into the centre of the village. In the bay with Sequitur was the French sloop Ilena; she had arrived six hours after us, using the high-water slack through the narrows. We had spoken briefly with Patricia and Philippe during our walk ashore in Mechuque on our second day out from Puerto Montt.
After a quick lunch, we re-boarded the dinghy and motored around the point to our south and across the next bay to the Armada station. Victor greeted us and showed us around the offices and gave us a desk to set-up our computers. The station is staffed by three Armada personnel, who stand 24-hour watches, one-in-three, and Victor was off watch. He generously allowed us to use the wifi to catch-up on over two weeks of emails and enable me to post an addition to the blog.
Saturday morning was again glum and rainy. The barometer was stable at 1011.2 when I got up at 0855. I started the Fischer-Panda and ran the watermaker for three hours, netting 190 litres of water and bringing the battery up to 86%. Edi started three varieties of biscotti; an almond, a hazelnut cranberry, and a chocolate pecan.
While Edi was slicing the loaves after their first of three bakings, there was a knock on the hull. Philippe had rowed over from Ilena to invite us over at the end of the afternoon. We finished the baking and relaxed onboard while it drizzled, rained and poured outside.
In a lull in the rain we motored Non Sequitur across to Ilena, and spent a delightful two-and-a-half hours with Patricia and Philippe. They opened a bottle of Champagne Laurent Perrier and we toasted fair winds and following seas for the coming year. We shared tales of the routes and anchorages we had taken in getting here. They had started in La Rochelle and had sailed to Greenland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and then spent last Christmas and New Years in Annapolis. From there they went across to Senegal and Gambia, then back across to Martinique, through the Caribbean and Panama and around to La Punta, Peru. They had thought of stopping in Paita, but had read my report about it on Noonsite, and gave it a miss. From La Punta, they looped out into the Pacific and back in at Valdivia, where they stopped at Alwoplast for some work.
Toward 2000, the wind came around to the southeast and increased. Both Ilena and Sequitur had anchored into a northerly wind, protected by the head of the bay. Now, with the wind blowing into the bay, there was a mile's fetch for the wind to generate some waves. Ilena was bouncing around in the chop, and with 60 metres of chain out in 12 metres of water, she had swung very close to the shore of the tiny bay. Edi and I put on our foulies and prepared to head back to Sequitur while Philippe and Patricia scrambled to adjust their anchor.
As we were climbing down into our dinghy in a driving downpour, the Carabineros Captain came out into the anchorage in a large inflatable and asked us if we wished to raft alongside their boat on the pier. We declined, but Ilena accepted. We drove Non Sequitur directly into the 25-knot wind, heavy rain and steep chop back to Sequitur. The weather god was getting-in his last before our toast for "fair winds and following seas for the coming year" kicks-in.
Shortly after we had changed out of our wet clothes and into some dry, the winds began abating. By 2100 they were below 15 knots and the barometer was rising. We were rather full from all the nibblies aboard Ilena, so instead of dinner, around 2300 I heated some of the king crab we had bought at the almacen, melted some butter and Edi sliced some home-made baguette. We opened a bottle of Undurraga Brut Royale and slowly and decadently we made our way toward the New Year. We still had a bit of bubbly remaining in our glasses for a midnight toast to the accompaniment of two firecrackers ashore, one boat's red flare and Sequitur's fog horn.
The barometer had climbed to 1020 when I got up at 0830, and the sky had changed from low stratus to scattered cumulus. It was a bit after 1100 by the time we had finished breakfast and puttering about and made it ashore for a walk along the boardwalk. It was warm enough that we needed only two layers on the bottom and three on top. It was hard to believe that this is summer on the 49th parallel.
We came around a corner and saw a boat at anchor, and were reminded of our Peruvian friend, Gonzalo. We know he has two boats in La Punta, but were unaware of his Chilean fleet.
We walked to the end of the village, the end of the boardwalk, and then retraced our steps back along, watching as we went the arrival of the Navimag ferry on its weekly trip south. From the rise on the end of the point we watched it come to anchor, and we sat there on the steps fascinated with the buzz of activity around its stern.
A swarm of small boats jockeyed for position on the lowered tail ramp. New passengers were dropped off aboard, a few dozen tourists were lightered ashore, and serious offloading of boxes, crates and drums to the small boats began.
We wanted fresh tomatoes, and we were gambling that our best bet was with the slab-sided boat heading north. We walked along the boardwalk, paralleling it, and watched it take-up its mooring where we had seen it on our way north, and where we had seen the skiff from the almacen pier moored as we were on our way back.
We watched as cartons and crates were transferred to the skiff, and as the skiff motored through the shallows of the low tide to the almacen pier. Our tomatoes were looking better, that is if there were any in the load.
We watched as a half dozen men transferred the new stock of groceries up onto the pier,
and as the missing link in the cart tracks was put into place across the boardwalk.
The cart was checked by a rope as it was rolled down the tracks to the pier. There it was loaded with the new stock and an old Briggs & Stratton was fired-up to run unclutched through two sets of reduction gearing to a makeshift rope gipsy. A young fellow tailed the line as the windlass hauled the heavily laden cart up the slope to the front the almacen.
We had our first look at the produce through the spaces between the slats of the crates, and were disappointed to see nothing but melons; boxes and boxes of melons. As boxes and crates were offloaded into the store, we finally spotted what appeared to be tomatoes. We followed the box into the store and stood by it waiting for it to be opened.
Everyone seemed focused on the melons and the cherries, so we finally took the initiative and opened the single crate of tomatoes. We picked-out a fine assortment of nicely firm ones ranging from red through dark orange to yellow in colour. La señora weighed them and asked for 3500 Pesos for the 3.5 kilos. This we learned is how one buys fresh tomatoes in Puerto Eden. A short while later there would be nothing but culls.
In the evening we hosted Patricia and Philippe aboard for dinner. We sipped Montes Leyda Vineyard 2010 Sauvignon Blanc with cashews and almonds as I prepared a stir-fry of pork with ginger, garlic, Spanish onion, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, red and green peppers, oyster mushrooms and tomato tossed with rotini and toasted sesame seeds. This we enjoyed with Hacienda Araucano 2008 Valle de Lolol Pinot Noir.
We had a delightful evening, chatting and discussing a broad range of topics, most of them twice. Patricia speaks no English and Edi no French, so I translated the French for Edi and Philippe the English for Patricia. We told them our intention to continue south in the morning, but Patricia and Philippe told us they were remaining in Puerto Eden for another day or two, to take-on some diesel and to restock their fresh produce. Being a more traditional offshore design, Ilena has much less storage capacity than does Sequitur.
I got up on Tuesday morning at 0800 to a low overcast and light drizzle. The barometer had remained rather stable overnight, down just half a point to 1022.5. After breakfast, while Edi prepared Sequitur's interior for sea, I changed the pre-filters on the watermaker, then we both hoisted the engine off the dinghy and the dinghy onto its davits. At 0955 we weighed and headed out through Paso Sur and continued southward along Canal Messier.
The wind was from the north at 8 or 9 knots, so it was near useless to us on our route. The clouds varied through the day from low stratus, to low stratocumulus to low stratus with stratus-fractus, and the precipitation ranged from misty drizzle through to light sleet. According to the guides, we were travelling through spectacular country, but except for a fleeting glimpse of an icefall up an inlet, we saw little but low clouds and water and the thin stripe of land that separated them.
Edi went out at one point and towelled the sleet off the cockpit windows. It is hard to believe we are at the same distance from the equator as Vancouver, but in summer. The winter day in Vancouver was likely nicer than ours in Patagonia.
I ran the watermaker for 6.5 hours and filled the tanks, while Edi ran a load of laundry through the washer-drier. At 1415 we reached the end of Canal Messier and turned into Canal Wide, which we followed for three hours, before turning up Estero Gage, a narrow inlet on its western side, heading for the night's anchorage. About 2 miles up it we saw a shack and a shed along the water's edge, most likely a fishing camp. It is in a lovely setting, but very remote.
Just beyond the fish camp are some islets to thread, and then the inlet narrows. The further up the inlet we went, the less accurate was the chart. The chartplotter wanted to take us on an overland route, the paints on our radar gave an additional number of options. Thankfully, our mariners' eyes found the correct passage.
After the narrows the chart shows a rather square-shaped bay; however both the Italian Guide and our radar showed it to be one half the size with more pointed corners. Our eyes saw this version also, so we went with reality and came to 33 metres on the Rocna in 11 metres of water in a peaceful little bay about a quarter cable from the trees. Our anchor was positioned so that we could swing, but if the winds came up, we could run stern-lines to the north and east sides and warp Sequitur back into a tight, protected cranny.
We love the detailed sketches in Rolfo & Ardrizzi - Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Nautical Guide (the Italian Guide). These appear to have been rendered from satellite images, likely GoogleEarth. With their excellent descriptions, the plans make anchoring in wonderful little places like Caleta Shinda much more easy.
In the evening I prepared centolla Shinda for dinner. I sautéed diced shallots and garlic in butter, added some small button mushrooms, some sauce Alfredo and then some Puerto Eden king crab to gently heat. I served this on a bed of basmati rice and garnished the plates with sliced Navimag tomatoes and Puerto Montt basil leaves in olive oil.
The barometer remained stable overnight; it was at 1017.8 when I got up to send our 0800 position report by sat phone SMS to Directemar. It was still completely overcast and was drizzling as I took a walk around the deck to catch a good satellite signal.
We dawdled over breakfast, and then at 1005 we weighed and headed down the inlet in a light drizzle. I had been waiting for the tide to turn to ebb to assist us on the passage, and for the faint possibility that it might stop raining. The tide did turn, but the rain persisted. Looking back up Estero Gage as we passed through the narrows, we could see potential for spectacular views, but the low clouds filled most of the scene.
Once we were through the narrows I moved the engine up in speed and the beginning of the ebb assisted in moving us along the calm inlet. Again we see the charting errors, but since leaving the wonderful works of the Canadian Hydrographic Services, we have accepted this as the norm.
Our intention for the day was to continue down Canal Wide to Canal Concepcion and then into Canal Inocentes to an anchorage an hour short of Angostura Guia, a narrows dependant on slack water for easy passage. I have found the Navionics app on the iPad a wonderful tool in planning passages. With the iPad's built-in GPS, it offers at a glance a handy range of information, including a course-made-good cursor, speed over the ground and dynamic distance measurement, to name a few. I have been using the route planning function to plot from destination back to origin, and using this as an ongoing glimpse of distance to go. As each waypoint is reached, I remove it and move the distance pin to the next one. In this screen shot, our distance to anchorage is 57.2 miles and we're making 7.3 knots.
The clouds lowered and it continued to rain. Visibility was down to under three miles and our views were water and cloud with misty bits of land here and there. The wind strengthened to around 25 knots from the northeast and we jibed down the channel assisted by the ebb, making better than 8 knots, with surfs on the wind waves taking us frequently above 10.
We remained dry and comfortable in the cockpit, enjoying the Patagonian summer in our multiple layers of fleece, heavy jackets and toques. Edi had put on her knee-high neoprene kayaking boots to help keep her feet warm. She continued to knit socks.
We were benefiting nicely from the ebbing tide, which was scheduled to continue until mid-afternoon, and then turn to flood. The interactive tidal tables in the Navionics program are a marvellous tool, offering at a fingertip a graph of what is happening.
Edi went below and created a marvellous lunch of shrimp and water chestnut spring rolls, served with spicy peanut sauce and hot rooibos tea. We find that a broad variety of food, pleasingly presented adds so much pleasure to our days. We are definitely not the can-and-spoon-over-the-sink types.
We rode the last of the ebb down Canal Concepcion, and as we turned into Canal Inocentes, we were pushed along by the beginning of the flood. The clouds lowered to very near the surface, and visibility was at times reduced to under a mile in drizzle or mist or fog, sometimes all three. It is interesting to note that with the Chilean charting; where surveying and sounding are considered incomplete, the area is tinted blue, regardless of the depth. I have the plotter and iPad set to pale blue for 20 metres and less and dark blue for 5 metres and less. The Chilean chip and app default the incomplete areas as 5 metres and less.
The wind was up over 35 knots from the northwest, directly in our stern as we sailed up Inocentes. We found the lee we were looking for under Islotes Long, and rolled in the sails a mile short of the entrance to Caleta Paroquet, and motored in a flukey 10 to 15 knot wind into its head. At 1910 we came to 20 metres on the Rocna in 10 metres of water, and by 1930 we had set two stern-lines ashore.
The water is very clear, and the steep shore is readily visible down several metres, so we confidently brought Sequitur within a few metres of the trees. There was almost no wind at the water's surface, so Sequitur sat patiently at her anchor waiting for me to set the lines around trees ashore. What should be an easy chore is complicated by the slimy rocks on the foreshore and the slippery wet coating of moss and fungus on everything beyond the water's edge. This is a very wet temperate rain forest.
I prepared a quiche for dinner, based primarily around some small choritos, like tender baby mussels, and we enjoyed it with a bottle of Undurraga Brut. This was partly because we felt like it and partly to celebrate having reached the Furious Fifties.
The barometer continued its slow and steady decline. It was at 1014.6 on Wednesday morning when I sent our position report to the Armada. The sky was full of low nimbostratus with a few tatters of stratus fractus and it was raining lightly.
We had a leisurely breakfast, I having calculated we needed to leave the anchorage at 0945 to make Angostura Guia at slack water. The stern lines came off easily and we weighed at 0947 and headed out in a steady drizzle.
One hour later we passed through the tightest bit of the narrows with the beginning of the flood, and were making 7.7 knots with turns for 7. As we were half an hour from the narrows, we heard a Securite on the VHF. A northbound ship, the Colca was giving its mandatory report of its ETA at the narrows. I responded and gave our position and ETA. Northbound has priority and Colca requested a standard port-to-port passing.
A short while later, on a bend in the narrows we met Colca, only the second ship we have met in two weeks. With all the half-mile and mile-wide straight channels we have been in, it is amazing that chance happened to have us cross paths in some of the more restricted waters of the area. The Guia is only 1.5 cables wide, and the bend where we met Colca is 3 cables wide.
In the early afternoon Edi heated the leftover quiche. Once more we were reminded that we should always eat our quiche as leftovers; it seems to taste so much better the next day.
The wind blew strongly from the north-northwest and northwest through the afternoon, generally in the 25 to 30 knot area, with gusts above 35. The skies remained overcast, though with some occasional definition to the bottoms of the clouds.
At 1600 we were less than a mile from our intended anchorage in Caleta Damien and the winds had piped-up to above 35, and with the long fetch there were large waves with whitecaps and some blowing spume. We made the turn across wind and waves very close to the lee shore rocks of Isla Vancouver to get around the kelp-marked reef off the southeast point of Isla Whitby, and finally found lee from the howling northerly.
There were wind eddies as we slowly motored into the narrow passage between Whitby and Vancouver Islands and positioned Sequitur at the mouth of a dimple in the shoreline, recommended in the Italian Guide as protection from all winds. At 1614 we dropped the anchor in 12 metres of water, veered 30 metres of chain and launched the dinghy to began setting stern lines. It continued to rain heavily.
By the time the dinghy was launched, the wind had blown Sequitur close to the rocks on the starboard quarter, so I took the port line ashore first, looped it around a tree and back to a sheet winch. We warped the boat away from the rocks off the starboard quarter, then I took the starboard line ashore. By the time I had rowed ashore, the wind had veered all the way around and was blowing Sequitur's port quarter near the rocks. With Edi on the engine and helm following my hollered instructions, we kept her off the rocks as I struggled to set the starboard line. Finally, at 1844, exactly two and a half hours after dropping the anchor, we had warped Sequitur into a three-point-balance and shut-down the engine. The wind came variously from northeast through northwest.
In the evening as my sauce Bolognese simmered, I ran the transfer pump to move about 250 litres of diesel from the auxiliary tank to the main. The barometer continued falling, reading 1007.0 when we anchored and 1006.3 when we went to bed at midnight. The rain persisted, varying from steady drizzle to heavy rain and back as waves of nimbo-whatevers passed over.
I was up at 0650 to the sounds of a wind shift. The winds were now out of the south, and I winched-in the port stern line to haul us away from the rocks. The barometer was at 1009.0. At 0800 when I sent our position report, it was up to 1009.7 and at 1000, after a delicious breakfast of smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese on toasted split baguettes with fresh-ground Starbuck's, it was at 1011.6.
The timing of the tides, and therefore the currents along our route meant there was no sense leaving until they had turned. We released the stern lines and weighed at 1055, and were lead out of the caleta by a pair of playful dolphins.
There was some definition to the cloud bottoms as we reentered Canal Sarmiento, and a few slivers of blue began appearing as we sailed south-southeast into a south-southwest wind of 10 to 12 knots.
As we continued down Canal Sarmiento, variously sailing and motor-sailing as the winds came and went, the barometer continued to rise; 1016.7 at noon, 1018.1 at 1400, 1019.7 at 1600 and 1021.2 at 1800. This rapid change caused us to pass under a cloud atlas of skies.
I ran the water-maker for five hours and netted 310 litres after the back-flush. Edi used some of this, running two loads through the washer-dryer, but at the end of the run, our tanks were full.
We have seen many sources of fresh water in streams in the anchorages, but we prefer to push buttons rather than doing the jug and dinghy routine.
In the early afternoon we enjoyed a simple lunch of rice crackers with salami, black olives and a variety of cheeses. Our Lock & Lock containers have kept the crackers amazingly crisp and fresh. Last year the many dozens of packages were perfect after nine months.
As we nibbled, we were entertained by three very playful sea lion pups, which spent a good fifteen minutes jumping clear of the water as they paralleled our track. Eventually, they must have either tired from the exertion, or tired of waiting for Sequitur to join them in their frolic.
At 1650 we came to the end of Canal Sarmiento and turned east into Paso Farquhar. As we rounded Punta San Bartolame, the south tip of Isla Carrington, the mountains of Cordillera Sormiento came into view. They are not high compared to those with which we are accustomed in British Columbia. The highest in this range is only 2011 metres, more than 200 metres below the highest peak on Vancouver island, and over 2000 metres short of Mount Waddington in BC's Coast Range.
The peaks are spectacular, like many back home, and as we looked at them, we thought that many sailors coming this way who have not been blessed with sailing and climbing along the coast of British Columbia, would most likely be much more impressed than we were.
We headed down Canal Union to the east of Isla Hunter to Paso Victoria and through it to the entrance to Caleta Victoria. There, we were met by an escort of dolphins, which led us in.
We picked our way in past tiny islets and visible rocks, and past patches of kelp marking unseen rocks. The sketch in Italian Guide shows the minimum depth through the entry passage is 5 metres and in the basin the depth is generally 4 metres with one 3 metre sounding. At 1954 we came to 12 metres on the Rocna in 3.6 metres of water and set a single stern line ashore around a tree at the top of a low cliff. Our Hunter was at anchor on Isla Hunter in the most beautiful anchorage we had thus far seen in Patagonia. The dolphins came over to welcome us.
Our latitude was just a few seconds south of 52 South, and sunset is not until 2215, so after we had secured Sequitur, I took Non Sequitur ashore for a short walkabout.
As I walked, I saw a rather freshly cut tree stump, and not far away I came upon the site of an impromptu lumber mill. It appears a visiting fisherman had used a chainsaw with a lumber jig to cut some planks, and left behind the slab-wood. The trees in this region are sparse and stunted, but even so, I supposed that they are a ready supply of boat building and repair material.
While I was ashore, Edi had decided to catch-up on her backlog of ironing. We have a wonderful assortment of tablecloths and serviettes aboard, which add so much to the enjoyment of our meals. She was still at it when I returned aboard to begin cooking dinner.
I sautéed filete de blanquillo in butter and served it with basmati rice and a butter-sweat of julienned carrots, onions and garlic, garnished by sliced tomatoes with basil leaves in olive oil. Sequitur's boat white, the 2011 Carmen Chardonnay continues to amaze us with its quality for only $3.75.
The barometer remained quite stable overnight, and it was at 1021.0 when I got up at 0720. There was a small fishing boat next to us in the anchorage. It appears to have set a stern anchor and put a bow line ashore. The NAT on its bows indicated it was from Puerto Natales, a town with a population of 18,000, about 65 miles eastward of us along a series of canals. The town is a few kilometres along a highway from the Argentine border, and is now heavily inundated with tour groups on whirlwind gawks at peaks and glaciers in the nearby national parks. We had decided to forego the three-day side-trip, and give the place a miss.
For breakfast Edi prepared basted eggs and served them lapped with an Alfredo sauce on split scones topped with basil leaves and garnished by sliced fresh tomatoes with a grind of sea salt. We enjoyed this with steaming cups of Starbuck's coffee.
As we waited for the tides for our day's passage, we decided to take the dinghy ashore and go exploring. We were about to push off from Sequitur when we spotted a family of cauquen cabeza colorada, ruddy-headed geese, a male, a female and four chicks. Not wanting to disturb them, we waited as they made their way from the grass, across the gravel strand and into the water.
Everywhere we looked there were marvellous photos; the setting invited us to continue shooting. Among the hundred or more photos we shot were many of our Hunter at anchor at Hunter Island.
Our planned passage for the day was 48 miles long, through Canal Smyth to an anchorage within 4 miles of the Straits of Magellan. Along the way were two major bottlenecks of rocks, shoals and shallows. The first of these, Paso Summer is a doglegged narrows through an area of many shoals. The second, Paso Shoal is marked by rocks, islets and wrecks. The entire passage is very well charted and it is marked with lights, buoys and beacons. The tide floods in from the ocean and flows southward in the northern portion, and it comes in from the Straits of Magellan and flows northward in the southern portion. The two tides meet in the middle, so we planned to head south with the flood and catch the change to ebb in the middle and ride it out toward the Straits.
We weighed at 0914 and headed out of Caleta Victoria in still airs and calm seas with a thin cirrostratus overcast. As we headed south, the high clouds were replaced with fluffy fair-weather cumulus. Monte Burney a 1512-metre volcano dominated the skyline to the south, then east and then north for the major portion of our passage as we motored along through glassy waters.
Monte Burney looks like a 3000-metre mountain of British Columbia. In fact, all the hills and mountains in this region make me think that we are moving along at the 1500-metre level; the tree lines and glaciation are that far displaced.
Our timing with the tides was impeccable. We enjoyed a small push to Paso Summer, transited it during the tail end of the flood and headed into Paso Shoal with the beginning of the ebb down the other side.
As we approached the turn at the most narrow portion of Paso Shoal, we were overtaken by the Armada supply ship, Aquiles on her way south.
We had earlier communicated on VHF and had given our intentions through the narrows. She advised that she would pass down our port side, and we advised her we would remain to the starboard side of the navigable channel. Aquiles arrived at the turn of the narrows three minutes before Sequitur, and turned across our bows, posing wonderfully in front of the wreck of US-flagged Santa Leonor, which decades before hadn't been as diligent with her navigation.
I have not researched the circumstances surrounding the wreck of the Santa Leonor, but whatever they are, her hulk serves as a good reminder to navigators to be constantly aware of their position, their surroundings and their movements relative to those surroundings.
As we motored southward along the continuation of Canal Smyth, we passed under a few more pages of the cloud catalogue.
As we went, I ran the watermaker for three hours, netting 220 litres after the back-flush, and Edi ran a load of laundry through the washer-dryer.
The barometer had been steadily falling since my midnight reading of 1022.5. It was 1020.0 when we weighed, and 1012.9 at 1650 as we reached the entrance to Caleta Profundo, our anchorage for the night.
According to the guides, Puerto Profundo provides a selection of anchorages. I picked one recommended in the Italian Guide, but when we had entered, found that it was only a few metres wider than Sequitur's length. With the winds fickle and gusty, we decided not to bet Sequitur would remain mid-caleta as we got our lines ashore. The slot was so narrow that it took me several back-and-forths to turn around.
We headed northward and threaded between some rocks and tiny islets, finding soundings of 10 metres and deeper in the 10 metre wide passes. The rocks and shorelines are very steep-to. Because kelp generally marks any unseen rocks and reefs, the pilotage is rather easy. Nonetheless, we move dead slow through areas like this, remembering the caution of one of my navigational instructors in the Navy: "Never approach land faster than the speed at which you are willing to hit it".
At 1805 we shut-down the engine, having securely balanced Sequitur between 30 metres of snubbed chain and a single line around a stout tree ashore about 10 metres off our stern at the head of a tiny semicircular bay.
After dinner, while I was up top checking the stern-line and anchor, I paused to drink-in the colours in late-evening sky. It was past 2200 and sunset was still a quarter-hour away, followed by the long high-latitude twilight. The water was glassy in the anchorage, but there was a wind ripple out at the mouth of the bay.
Our stern-tie was well-placed and Sequitur was protected from the north-westerly winds I was expecting.
Saturday morning there was a low overcast hanging over the anchorage and there was a light breeze. Outside in the main part of the caleta we could see a light chop, indicating some wind, but the hanging clouds meant there was not much. At 0932 we undid our stern lines, weighed and headed out into Canal Smyth. I called Faro Fairway on the VHF to report our movements and intentions. The lighthouse is manned by the Armada.
I hauled out the staysail and a third of the main and we sailed on a beam reach in a growing northwest wind as we headed out toward the Straits of Magellan. As we cleared the protection of Punta Henry, the winds increased to 20 knots and we were met by the swell coming in off the Pacific.
The winds built to 30 knots, and I would have loved to put both them and the swell in our stern; however, we first needed to round Isla Tamar. For nearly an hour I closely monitored the autopilot and slowly adjusted course to maintain a balance between safety and comfort.
I slowly worked around to a broad reach, putting the swell a little on our quarter. Our speed varied between 6 and 12 knots, depending on whether we climbing the back of a swell, or were surfing down its front. Slowly Tamar fell abaft our beam and we were able to put more of the wind and swell behind us.
Out in the Straits the conditions were rather more comfortable with both wind and swell in our stern. The winds moved above 30 and the barometer continued its downward trend, passing through 1007.0 at noon. At 1330, the 3-metre swell combining with the building wind waves persuaded us to seek shelter.
We turned east and headed for lee around Isla Providencia. First we needed to clear Banco Providencia, a patch of crud extending 1.4 miles out from the island. Finally, at 1416 we found some lee and rolled-in the sails a mile from the entrance to Caleta Providencia.
At 1526 we shut-down the engine, having secured Sequitur nicely balanced between 30 metres of chain in 18 metres of water and a line off each quarter around trees on the steep shore. Our stern was 5 metres off the rocks, and the after depth sounder indicated we had 3.8 metres beneath our rudder.
As we have been doing these stern-ties, we have gradually refined our routine and our set-up. The largest improvement was following Edi's suggestion to move the line reels from the stern rails to around on the quarters. This makes them more convenient to the stern cleats, the sheet winches and provides a comfortable seat from which to reel-in the line on departure.
When I went outside for a look around on Sunday morning, the 8th of January, the water was a mirror. The sky was completely overcast with altostratus above patches of nimbostratus. The barometer had sunk to 999.5, down from midnight's 1004.2.
We decided to head out after breakfast and to go as long as it was relatively comfortable. We enjoyed toasted split baguettes with cream cheese and black currant jam and cups of fresh-ground Starbuck's, and at 0840 we weighed and motored out through glassy-calm waters.
Our intention was to continue along the Straits for as long as the conditions allowed good progress, and then to seek the next available shelter. At 1000 our log recorded: Sky 10/10 altostratus and stratus, Wind 0-2, Swell ½ metre, Barometer 995.4 falling. We were very comfortably motoring at just over 6 knots. At 1100 the wind was on our nose at southeast 8-10, and the barometer was down slightly to 994.8. At noon the only change was the barometer falling to 993.5. At 1235 it began raining and 1320 the wind was up to over 20 knots directly on our nose, the barometer was at 991.3 and our speed was slowed to under 5 knots. We decided to duck into Caleta Playa Parda.
After I had established the chart error, we picked our way past the shoals outside the entrance and threaded through the 20-metre-wide channel into the basin. The caleta is well charted, except for the datum skew of about 0.8 cables north.
We easily located the lines hanging from the rocks on the south side of the basin, as mentioned in the Italian Guide. We motored in closely along the cliff face in 8 to 10 metres of water and examined the condition of the lines as best we could through the wind-driven rain, and then determined the most suitable spot to set the anchor.
At 1426 we came to 25 metres on the Rocna in 9.8 metres of water and then launched the dinghy. I took the port stern-line and rowed across the 20-knot northerly wind to the cliff face, and then along it to the most southerly of the lines. The line was rather fresh, and it appeared well set, so I threaded our stern-line through its eye and pulled through sufficient to double the distance to Sequitur.
I then had Edi secure her end of the line around the winch and using it I pulled the dinghy and line back to Sequitur. The wind came in gusts up to the mid-20s and then completely died, but the rain continued heavily. I was completely soaked by the time I had secured the end of the line around the stern cleat.
I repeated the process with the starboard line and then winched-in to balance Sequitur between the two lines and the anchor. At 1512, 46 minutes after we had set the anchor, we were securely moored, and I shut-down the engine. We are getting better at this, even in awful conditions.
We had settled-in with our stern about 3 metres off in a small indentation in the cliff face. Our stern sounder indicated 7.8 metres beneath the rudder, and the bow sounder showed 8.4 beneath the front of the keel. The barometer was at 989.2 and falling, it was raining heavily and the wind gusted in unpredictable cycles from calm to 30 knots. We were warm and cozy below.
I had tucked our stern in against the cliffs protecting us from the southerly winds that would signal the moving on of the low pressure system. The system instead continued to slowly deepen; the barometer was 985.6 when I checked the lines and went to bed at midnight.
I was up at 0625 with the light pouring in the hatches in our cabin. I poked my head out into the cockpit to check the stern-lines, and was invited on up by the absolute stillness of the morning. There was not a breath of wind, the water was glassy-calm, the barometer was stable at 985.5.
I grabbed my iPad and the Italian Guide and headed back to bed for a conference with the Admiral. My supposition was that we were nearing the middle of a very large low pressure system, and that we should enjoy a rather calm period until the barometer begins to rise. We decided to get up and leave immediately to take advantage of the calm, and to breakfast enroute.
I hoisted and secured the dinghy while Edi put the coffee on and secured below. We let-go the stern-lines and weighed at 0710 and motored out through mirror-like waters.
As I picked our way between the rocks and shoals, Edi reeled-in the stern-lines.
By 0730 we had cleared the kelp-marked shoals and rocks and were out in the main channel of the Straits of Magellan. The Straits are 2 miles wide at this point, they were glassy-calm and we were motoring along with a slight boost of the flooding tide making 7 knots with turns for 6.5.
At 1040 we entered Paso Tortuoso and began to feel the influence of the tides coming in from the southeast, and we were slowed to below 5 knots at the narrows. Then in the early afternoon we began to benefit from the ebb down the other side and moved back above 6 knots.
We had begun seeing whales spouting when we entered the shallower and narrower waters of Paso Tortuoso and Paso Ingles.
A few of them kept Sequitur company for a while, and from their fin and breathing characteristics, I identified them as fin whales.
Later, while Edi was below preparing lunch, I heard a very large splash off our port quarter, and turned to see an area of greatly disturbed water. A whale had breached a dozen metres away. I quickly grabbed the camera and pointed it in the direction of my best guess of where next it might appear. I was rewarded a while later by a spectacular tail-stand with the mountains as a backdrop.
I called Edi up from the galley, and we both watched and waited for the next breach. She finally needed to get back down to the lunch she was cooking, and shortly after she went, I watched a marvellous arching leap.
My rewards continued as Edi brought up the lunch basket with hot quesadillas with blue cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, chicken and a Chilean version of Gouda. We watched the whales all around Sequitur, but we saw no more leaps.
In the early afternoon the wind had picked-up to 3 or 4 knots from the southeast, but at 1400 it was glassy calm again.
The barometer continued its slow decline; 983.8 at 1100, 982.2 at noon, 981.3 at 1500. The sky remained totally overcast and the winds refused to blow. I had placed some symbols on the iPad to indicate locations of possible anchorages. In the calm conditions we had already passed the first of these, Puerto Rosario, and we had decided to press on to Caleta Hidden as long as conditions allowed.
At 1700 there were chips of blue in the western horizon and the barometer was down to 979.8. I figured the centre of the low was approaching us and we were seeing its eye. The chips grew to a narrow band with heaps of clouds beyond it, and this gave more credence to my thoughts on the eye of the depression. It appeared we were in for a short period of calm, followed by a shift to southwest winds.
As the afternoon progressed, the sun tried to burn through the altostratus, bit it didn't succeed. The barometer continued its downward trend, passing through 978.8 at 1800.
We easily found the entrance to Caleta Hidden, and threaded through the shallow narrows, with barely below-water rocks well-marked by kelp beds on our starbord side.
Close at hand on our port side was a mid-channel rock with a reef extending to the shore on the far side and rocks awash and kelp-marked submerged rocks on the near side. The navigable channel is about 10 metres wide and we found the least depth of 5 metres that was mentioned in the Italian Guide.
At 1857 we came to 30 metres of chain on the Rocna in 14 metres of water and launched the dinghy. I took two stern-lines ashore, looped them around stout trees and pulled them back aboard. I added a snubber to the anchor chain and veered another 5 metres while Edi hauled-in on the stern lines. At 1918 we were nicely balanced between three points, and I shut-down the engine. We are getting better at this; only 21 minutes this time, but there were no contrary winds, nor was it raining. Within half an hour we were hit by torrential rain and swirling winds as a squall passed over, but we were well-secured, snug and dry; the furnace was on and the aromas of dinner were beginning to tease.
The barometer had bottomed-out after dinner on Monday at 977.3 and was up to 982.3 when we went to bed at midnight. Tuesday morning at 0745 it was up to 987 as Edi prepared breakfast. Caleta Hidden was calm when we weighed at 0828 and picked our way back out through the narrows and into the Straits of Magellan.
To get from the Straits of Magellan to the Beagle Channel there are three routes, from West to east they are: Canal Barbara, Canal Acwalisnan and Canal Magdalena. According to the Italian Guide: "The Chilean Armada enforces rules very strictly in waters of the extreme south: only Canal Magdalena is an approved route, while navigation in the other two is prohibited." In the Chilean Guide, we find: "the only one authorized is Magdalena and the other two are prohibited". Both guides then go on to describe the prohibited routes.
I again read our zarpe, which gives an overview of the routing we are to take: "... Canal Smyth - Estrecho de Magallanes - Canal Brecknock ...". We were not told how to make passage south from the Straits of Magellan, so we chose the most direct route, Canal Acwalisnan, saving two days.
Likely the reason the Armada prohibits passage through Acwalisnan and has left it incompletely charted, is Paso O'Ryan in its middle. Here there is a least depth of 4 metres in the narrows constricted by rocks awash and hidden, and there are no aids to navigation. The flood tide can attain 8 knots, making it necessary to do the transit at slack water. Both Guides reported the tides were Bahia Woods plus 1 hour. Accordingly, our departure from Caleta Hidden was timed so that we would reach O'Ryan an hour after the turn of the tide.
The tides were ideal for our passage, with an ebb to a rather high low at 1033 at Bahia Woods, 1133 at Paso O'Ryan, followed by a gentle flood to a rather low high. This meant we should experience minimal currents.
At 1100 we were 3.6 miles from the pass, making 6.6 knots and on schedule to be in the middle of the narrows within seconds of predicted slack water.
It was calm as crossed the summit of the pass and watched the sounder run rapidly up from over 30 metres depth to 20, 10, 6, 5 and then settle-in on 4 for a while, before racing back down to 20 and deeper. Paso O'Ryan was behind us.
Ahead of us was our first view of Tierra del Fuego. Ahead of also was the open Pacific, and we had to head into the wind, waves and swell down Canal Cockburn and expose ourselves to the open ocean to get around the western end of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.
Edi brought up a basket of lunch and because of the seas and the rather frequent squalls, we clipped it onto the table. We enjoyed Italian salami, the beginning of our second huge wedge of asiago and some of the Puerto Montt cheese we had aged in our port forward hold, our root cellar. The cheese had taken-on a marvellous character, akin to a fine aged Gouda.
The barometer was slowly climbing; it was 991.8 at 1400 and 992.1 at 1500. The winds had come around from the northwest to the southwest, indicating the backside of the depression. They were blowing 25 to 30 knots, ripping crests off the whitecaps. The seas were 1 to 2 metres with 2 to 3 metre swells, so the conditions were rather benign for the area. At 1540 we put Punta Chasco abaft out beam.
At 1640 we entered Canal Ocasion and found lee from the seas and the winds. The squalls; however, continued to roar through with almost predictable regularity, seeming to come when we were in the tightest navigational places, nearing shoals, rocks or narrows. Fortunately, they were visible in advance both to the eye and the radar.
As we motored up the channel, I sensed overwhelmingly we were entering a flooded mountain cirque at 1500 metres in elevation, the tree-line and snow-line was that far displaced. At 1958 we secured to two bow-lines and two stern-lines ashore in Caleta Brecknock.
Shortly after we had secured we dug three of the jerry cans of diesel out of the locker and I poured them through the deck fill into the auxiliary tank, which still had a bit in it. While I prepared dinner, I ran the transfer pump to move the contents of the auxiliary to the main, bringing it up to a needle's width above the quarter mark. This indicates about 180 litres remaining.
For dinner I sautéed some filete de blanquillo and served it with basmati rice with tarragon, a butter-sweat of julienned carrots, onions, green peppers and garlic and a garnish of sliced tomatoes with basil leaves in olive oil. To celebrate our arrival in Tierra del Fuego, we opened a bottle of Undurraga Brut. The skies opened-up to welcome us with a torrential downpour.
On Wednesday morning the barometer was up to 1005.2 from its midnight reading of 1000.1. After breakfast we took Non Sequitur ashore and went walking.
We are amazed at how deceptive the distances are here. A ridge that appears fifteen minutes away is topped in three or four. The next summit is made in a quarter of the estimate. Everything appears on a grand scale, but is in reality in miniature. From Sequitur's decks it appeared we were surrounded by soaring mountain walls. From the tops of those low rock bluffs, Sequitur looked large.
Walking is pleasant on the ridge tops, but in the hollows and gullies there are many soft, squishy areas of wet-foot makers. We quickly learned to step on the tufts of grasses. After a pleasant circuit, we were quickly back down to Sequitur.
The wind was gusting to over 20 knots from all directions as I retrieved the anchor. Up with it came a large collection of kelp, which was easily cut away with the sickle-on-a-bamboo we had cobbled together. Three minutes later we released the stern lines and hauled them in. We let-go the port bow line and hauled it in, and as I slowly backed out of the nook, Edi released and recovered the other bow line.
The sky was a little over half filled with cumulus as we motored out of Caleta Brecknock and into Canal Ocasion. The barometer was very slowly climbing and the winds were fickle, coming from every direction and in all forces from 0 through 7. Edi prepared a breakfast of pain perdu with thinly-sliced salami and basil leaves, and we enjoyed it in the cockpit with fresh-ground Starbuck's coffee
The charts are badly skewed in this area, with a variable datum shift, mostly between half and three-quarters of a mile. The land-forms depicted do not always reflect reality, and we have seen one substantial island missing from the chart. The squalls continued, and we were hit by one with 45-knot winds a