It appears the last post was again too large for the Sailblogs site, so here is the continuation:
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 and an accompanying downpour as we entered Canal Brecknock.
The mountains appear large and of substantial height, in the 1800 to 2000 metre range, until the chart shows them to be only 500 metres or so high. Again we sensed we were sailing along at the 1500-metre level.
I found the radar very useful in relating the features we were seeing with the chart, as inaccurate as it is. Fortunately, the area is rather well marked with lights, beacons, and buoys, and these aided us in identifying our route as we picked our way among the islets and rocks.
In a lull between squalls, and once we were settled onto a longish leg, I went forward to bag the bow-lines and stow them back down in the sail locker. The laid rope of these lines is less easy to handle than is the braided rope we have on the stern-line reels. It twists and kinks, but thankfully because it is so slippery, it rarely snarls.
We were enjoying the southern summer weather; Edi was dressed in long underwear and fleece pants on the bottom and three layers of fleece plus her Gill offshore foul-weather jacket on top. Knee-high neoprene kayaking boots, hand-knitted woollen socks, woollen gloves and toque completed her outfit. We were so pleased that we have a fully enclosed cockpit, and need only these clothes to keep warm.
We threaded our way for 56.8 miles through Canal Brecknock and Canal Ballenero to an anchorage in Caleton Silva. Along the way we were hit by seven squalls during the 10.5 hours of the passage and saw the skew in the chart datum vary from half a mile to well over a mile.
At 1940 we came to 35 metres on the Rocna in 8.8 metres of water toward the northern side of the small bay for more protection from the northerly winds. The datum was offset 1.2 miles northeast. This was our first anchorage in a long while without lines ashore; we were protected from the winds, the fetch and had room to swing. The barometer had peaked mid-morning at 1005.5, and had then steadily declined, reading 999.6 when we anchored.
On Thursday morning the barometer was on its way up again, having climbed overnight to 1005.3 when we sat down for a breakfast of toasted split baguettes with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers and basil leaves in olive oil.
The windlass appeared to have mangled itself internally. It is one of the Lewmar models with both gipsy and line drum, and both manual and electrical operation. The windlass motor ran, but the gipsy and drum did not turn. I made sure the clutch was tightened and tried again. The burrr of the motor running was all that happened; it was all noise and no action. The hand crank refused to turn the gipsy and drum. I bent a chain hook onto the end of our starboard stern line, hooked the chain and ran the line back around the jib sheet winches and up to the power winch at the forward end of the cockpit.
A 14-metre pull, a snubber set at the bow, a reset of the chain hook, another 14-metre pull, another snubber set and the anchor was aweigh, but trailing. Fortunately the wind was blowing us out of the caleta and into clear water past the reefs at its northerly point allowing us the time to do this exercise.
The winds were variable 10 to 35 knots from the west and northwest and there were a few chinks of blue showing in an otherwise darkly overcast sky of billowing nimbostratus. Squalls were frequent. By 1000 the barometer was on its way down again, passing through 1003.
Ahead lay the Beagle Channel, and over it were clear blue skies, offering distant glimpses of the snow-clad peaks along its shores. The mountains appeared to be 3000 to 4000 metres high, rather than the 1500 to 2500 metres they actually are.
The charting is absurdly inaccurate for such a well-travelled route. We were met by two outbound coastal freighters as we made our way past Isla Darwin and into Brazo Nordeste del Canal Beagle.
The distant sky remained enticingly blue as we continued east, but our cover of clouds seemed to be moving in pace with us, along with the occasional squalls and rain showers. The barometer maintained its slow downward trend, passing through 1001.7 at noon.
Shortly after noon we were passed by the small cruise ship, Via Australis, one of a number which offer access for armchair travellers to this remote area, allowing them a passing view of the scenery from the comfort of their lounges. While their scenery is the same as ours, we get to feel its fabric.
The winds built through the early afternoon and the barometer continued its decline, 997.8 at 1500, 994.7 at 1600. The steep pressure drop brought northwest winds above 30 knots at 1600 and then at 1720 they passed 40 knots.
The mountains along the Beagle channel look so much like the scenes in which I played during my climbing days of the 60s, 70s and 80s. I saw vistas reminiscent of the Tiedeman and Tellot Glaciers in the Mount Waddington area, The North Baird Glacier up which I went three times chasing unclimbed peaks in the Stikine Icecap, the Hindu Kush of northeast Afghanistan, where I chased other unclimbed summits, the Aiguilles above Chamonix , where I joyously played many times.
The only difference was that the mountains along the Beagle are truncated, cut-off at the knees, missing their bottom 1500 to 3000 metres. Either that or they are confused between feet and metres.
We poked Sequitur's nose in toward the foot of a tidewater glacier, but because of the reef on the lee shore and the winds in the mid-40s, we didn't go too close in.
At 1810 we came to 65 metres on the Rocna in 15 metres of water and backed in toward the lee of a thin line of trees on the western side of Caleta Olla. There were two boats already at anchor and stern tied. Two men dinghied over from Antipode and offered to take our stern-lines ashore and tie them to trees. This made our mooring for the night so much easier, particularly with the offshore wind filtering through the trees.
Again, the one-year-newer Navionics chart in the iPad showed a newly published chart of Caleta Olla. It is much more closely gridded to GPS than is the ealier version in the chart-plotter, which had us out in the middle of the Beagle Channel.
We were 55 miles, a day away from Puerto Williams, and had logged 1255.6 miles since leaving Puerto Montt five weeks previously. Being only a day away from Puerto Williams, this anchorage is popular for the small charter operators on their view-the-glacier tours along the Beagle Channel. An hour or so after we had settled-in, a third charter boat arrived, anchored and stern-tied next to us. This is the first anchorage we have shared since Puerto Eden, and only the second in the month since leaving Castro.
When I got up on Friday the 13th the barometer was up to 997.4 from its midnight reading of 994.6. I have always considered Friday the 13th as a lucky day. I was born on the 13th, and turned 13 on a Friday the 13th. After breakfast I organized chain hooks and shackles on the foredeck in preparation for winching-in the Rocna. We then launched the dinghy and I went ashore in the light rain to release the stern-lines. There was little wind at water level, but our mast-top anemometer showed it was blowing northwest 20 with gusts to 25. At 1100 I let-go the stern-lines and pulled the dinghy back out to Sequitur.
While Edi reeled-in the port stern-line, I took the starboard one forward to rig it for shortening-in the 65 metres of chain we had out. At 1123 we began winching-in the chain in 12-metre hauls, then snubbing it, re-setting the winch line and hauling again. By 1145 we had done four of these pulls and brought the chain to up-and-down, and the 25-knot westerly wind pulled the anchor clear of the bottom as we drifted into deeper water.
Sequitur was facing north, so I put the engine astern and turned the helm to port to back out past Punta Micalvi through the area of 20 metre and deeper soundings. We made no sternway; the wind continued blowing us, still facing north, straight east. I ran forward and veered the Rocna's chain to 22 metres as our keel touched bottom at 1154. The Rocna held the bow pointing north, while our keel nestled alongside an apparently soft shoal.
The chart showed us on the 10-metre contour, close to a 1-metre patch, the iPad showed us on the deeper side of the 10-metre contour, the chart-plotter showed us in the middle of the Beagle Channel and the depth sounder showed us in 2.0 metres of water. We decided to believe the depth sounder.
The wind pushed against Sequitur's port side and we took-on a 12º list to starboard. The Rocna held our bows pointing north. Had we a working windlass, I could have pulled Sequitur off, but with the wind building through 30 knots, I decided not to risk shortening scope while exposing our stern, and therefore, our rudder to the shoal. I finally realized why we could make no sternway; the Lewmar transmission linkage had failed again. I had replaced it in La Punta in November 2010, after it had failed during our departure from Paita, Peru. This made our sticky situation even more sticky.
We were about mid-tide, on an ebb at 1154 when we ran aground. Based on the predictions for Ushuaia 30 miles away, the level was 0.89 metres and it was predicted to drop to 0.30 metres at 1440. We had another 60 centimetres to fall. The next high was 1.57 metres at 2057. The predictions for Puerto Williams 25 miles further along were parallel and only 6 minutes later. I figured from this that Caleta Olla was likely 6 or 7 minutes earlier than Ushuaia.
I reported our situation to Alcamar Yamana, the Armada radio station for the area. I told them we were safe and in no immediate danger, and that we would most likely float free in the early evening. We were told the winds were forecast to abate in the evening. The skipper of Polar Wind, one of the three commercial sailboats in the anchorage, contacted us and discussed the situation. His English was rather good, and he translated more precise details of our situation to the watch-keeper at Alcamar Yamana.
Meanwhile, the wind continued to strengthen into the 40s with gusts above 50 knots. It was directly on our beam, and added a few degrees to our list, which never went beyond 15º. The shoal is apparently steep-sided; as the tide fell, Sequitur's keel seemed to simply slide down its face. The tide bottomed at 1430. The barometer was up a bit to 998.8. I watched wind gusts of 48, 51 and 54 on the gauge; there were stronger gusts when I wasn't watching.
We floated free at 1830, and I went forward and by hand shortened-in the chain by 3 metres to pull us into slightly deeper water. The winds were gradually abating as predicted, and were in the 20s, though there were still gusts into the upper 30s. At 2000 I began discussing plans for our extrication with the skipper of Polar Wind.
A quarter hour later four men came aboard from Polar Wind and Antipode and helped me organize the lines and to prepare the Rocna and its 100 metres of chain for jettisoning. We took the two polypropylene bow lines, joined them to make a 160-metre tow line. We tied a mooring line and a fender to the snubber on the anchor chain and undid its bitter end. When we saw Lille d'Elle leave her anchorage and head toward us, we fed the chain out of its locker and overboard. We passed the tow line to Lille d'Elle by dinghy, and once it was secured and we began moving forward, we undid the anchor snubber and jettisoned the remaining chain with its attached snubber, mooring line and float.
At 2043 we had two stern-lines tied to trees, the towline was detached from Lille d'Elle, and the skipper and his mate from Antipode took our 20-kilogram Delta out 80 metres and dropped it. Finally, at 2058, we had balanced Sequitur between the Delta and the stern-lines, back a few metres from where we had started in the morning. We reported to Alcamar Yamana our safe arrival back in the protected side of Caleta Olla.
We reflected on the events of the day and concluded that Friday the 13th was very lucky for us. The shoal had been soft and steep-sided, the Rocna had held us beam-on to the shoal, the wind was on the beam, we were with the first boats with which we had shared an anchorage in nearly two weeks, only the second in over a month, the skippers were professional. Had our engine transmission linkage and windlass conspired to fail together almost anywhere else during the previous month, things would have been very much worse.
We looked at our situation. We were safe, Sequitur was safe, we were uninjured and undamaged. We needed to repair the windlass and the transmission linkage. We needed to recover the Rocna and its 100 metres of chain. The wind was predicted to be 25 to 30 through the day on Saturday, then strengthen overnight to the mid-40s. Puerto Williams was 55 miles downwind, 30 miles past Ushuaia, Argentina. Our zarpe was to Puerto Williams. There are strange politics, outstanding border disputes and there is much border posturing between Chile and Argentina.
I asked the watch-keeper at Alcamar Yamana if we could proceed directly to Ushuaia, and received a very definite no. We must first go to Puerto Williams to clear-out through Immigration and the Armada.
I opened-up the access panels into the back of the engine and the transmission and then flashed-up the engine. With Edi watching over the stern, I went below and shifted the lever on the transmission upwards. The shaft turned, the boat moved slowly forward. I marked in the deck log: "UP - FORWARD, DOWN - ASTERN". We had workable, if somewhat awkward power.
I was up at 0715 to see the barometer down overnight to 999.8, the sky full of low nimbostratus and the sprinkling of a light rain. We had breakfast and then prepared for the task ahead. I organized the assorted chain hooks, shackles, strops, lines and the spinnaker halyard. I flashed-up the engine and instructed Edi on the operation of the transmission lever, and tested it. We launched the dinghy and I rowed ashore and untied the stern-lines, then Edi pulled me back out with one of them. We clipped the dinghy to the davit falls and hoisted it a few centimetres off the water.
We then began shortening-in the rode on the Delta using the spinnaker halyard, hauling-in about 16 metres per set. At 0941, toward the end of our fourth set, the wind blew the anchor free and we drifted into deeper water trailing the Delta on 15 metres of chain. I had Edi shift the transmission into forward, and we slowly motored toward our fender marking the Rocna. A few minutes later I swung Sequitur around hard to port and had Edi shift to neutral and allowed our way and the wind to slowly carry us toward the fender. As we drifted, I went forward and waited to see the anchor chain indicate the Delta was skipping along the bottom. At what I deemed the appropriate moment, I veered sufficient rode to allow the anchor to bite, veered a bit more and snubbed it and watched the anchor set at 0948. The bow was in 7.5 metres of water, the stern in 4.8, and the marker above the snubber shackle was about 20 metres off our stern. I estimated we were directly over the Rocna.
We lowered the dinghy and I rowed it over to the marker with a stern-line from the reel, tied the stern-line to the mooring line on the fender and had Edi pull me back to Sequitur. At 0952 I was back onboard with the marker fender. Then up on the foredeck I hauled in as much of the mooring line as I could by hand before it came to the weight of the chain. With a prussic knot around the line, we used the spinnaker halyard to hoist the snubber and then a bight of the chain onto the deck. I shackled the end of another snubber to the chain and took turns on a cleat. We reset the spinnaker halyard, took-up the strain, removed the snubber and with Edi on the power winch button, we hoisted a 15-metre bight of chain.
On the next reset and hoist we had the Rocna aboard; we had been very close over it. We still had 80 metres of chain to recover, so we continued the slow and deliberate process, until at 1215 we finally shipped the bitter end.
I next took the starboard stern-line to a prussic knot on the Delta rode and we prepared to weigh with the power winch. We were lightly stuck in the soft bottom through a combination of falling tide and a slowly dragging Delta in the sustained 25-knot winds. Edi went below and shifted the transmission ahead and I tried to power Sequitur out of the muck. With Edi on the power winch button and me on the throttle, we finally managed to pop the keel out and we burst ahead and trailed the Delta into deeper water. Sequitur's track on the iPad offered some interesting doodles of our time in Caleta Olla.
Once we had cleared the caleta and set course eastward along the Beagle, I went forward and began to sort-out the jumble of anchors, chain, lines and hardware. We attacked the trailing Delta first by looping a line around its chain and working the loop aft and up to a side cleat. Then the spinnaker halyard was put to use again to hoist the chain and the Delta aboard. We were motoring directly downwind, and with our 7 knots speed, the 25 knot winds were much more comfortable.
There was still much to do on the foredeck, but we were very weary from our exertions and rather hungry. I came back to the cockpit to get out of the wind and to relax for a bit, while Edi went below and prepared some pesto, shrimp, sun-dried tomato, black olive and cheese panini for lunch.
I had reported our anchor recovery and departure from Caleta Olla to Alcamar Yamana after we had settled-in on a safe course along the Beagle Channel. The watch-keeper told us that it had been arranged that we could stop at Puerto Navarino and do our out-clearance from there. He asked for an ETA, and I told him I was rather busy at the moment and that I would need to find Puerto Navarino on the charts and in the pilots, and that I would get back to him in 30 minutes.
After I found Puerto Navarino, directly across the channel from Ushuaia, I gave an ETA of 1800. I went back onto the foredeck and fed the Rocna's chain out around the bow roller and back down into its locker, then we used the spinnaker halyard to hoist the 40 kilo anchor around and into its place on the bow roller. Next I stowed the Delta and tidied-up the deck. All the while the following wind remained above 25 knots. Finally with clear decks, we hauled-out sails and we ran at 8 knots and more.
At 1731 we came to 40 metres on the Delta in 13 metres of water in front of the Alcamar house in Puerto Navarino. Like the other Alcamar posts, Navarino is manned by one Armada member who lives there with his family for a year. The Alcamar house in Navarino was built in 1928 as the administration centre for the region. It remained as such until the founding of Puerto Williams in 1951.
When we had settled-in on the anchor, we launched the dinghy, mounted its motor and headed ashore to meet the station watch-keeper. As we were motoring ashore in the dinghy, Edi was looking back at Sequitur, and saw the Rocna drop from its bow roller into the water. I had removed the securing line from it to launch the Delta, and I had forgotten to re-secure it. We turned around and I hurried onto the foredeck to see if I could stop all the chain from running out. I was too late; the locker was empty.
I got back into the dinghy and we carried-on ashore. The population of Puerto Navarino is seven. The Armada watch-keeper, Alamiro Villarroel, his wife Valeska and their son Vicente had just arrived in the post in December to begin their year. They plied us with coffee and cupcakes and we enjoyed a very pleasant visit. I left our zarpe, passports and visas with Alamiro, and we returned to Sequitur to begin recovering the Rocna for the second time.
I didn't want to risk undoing the shackle from the bitt, so we needed a few short hauls with the spinnaker halyard to get enough chain on deck before we could hoist a full run up the mast. Each pull takes as much chain off the deck as it does from the water. The wind began building from the southwest as we worked, and after nearly two hours it was blowing above 30 knots. We were in to just shy of 25 metres on the Rocna and the Delta had slowly dragged so that the Rocna was taking strain in the yaws to starboard. I decided to snub the chain to a midships cleat on the port side. The rocks to leeward were too close to think of veering more scope.
I was up every couple of hours through the night to ease the Delta's rode a few centimetres to freshen the chafe spot. The wind was well up into the 40s. At 0710 on Sunday morning the barometer was up steeply to 1004.5, and the winds continued to howl through the bay. The forecast was for decreasing winds in the evening. At 1400 they were still blowing in the 40s with the occasional gust above 50, and the barometer had risen to 1008. The Rocna held us; the rode on the Delta was slack except at the end of the yaws.
The winds began abating in the late afternoon, and at 1800 they were down to 10 to 12 knots and the barometer was up to 1009.8. Alamiro, the Armada watch-keeper called us on VHF and asked me to come to the office. He had the previous day asked for a written report of our grounding in Caleta Olla, and I had compiled a three-page report and put it onto a USB stick. I took with me a bag of things that Edi had assembled from the pantry that we had not yet found use for, and could not see any.
Alamiro and I did our business, and he told me that the zarpe would be ready on Tuesday afternoon. The weather forecast for Monday was for calm, with 5 to 10 knot winds in the late day and increasing slightly into Tuesday. Alamiro and Valeska invited me upstairs to their home for coffee. Before I left, Valeska had finished baking some bread and packaged-up three loaves and Alamiro added a bottle of wine. I went back out to Sequitur, and Edi and I enjoyed a delightfully casual dinner of fresh, hot bread and cheeses with 2009 Terra Andina Reserva Merlot-Syrah.
It was calm overnight, and on Monday morning the sea was a mirror.
Sequitur had swung around and she was pointing toward the reef and rocks to the east, toward which her stern had been blown in the 40 and 50 knot winds of the previous day and a half. She was laying quietly to the Rocna. The Delta's rode was limp.
To our north, across the Beagle Channel was Ushuaia, Argentina. Closer, I estimated a little under 100 metres away, was an Armada mooring buoy.
There was a lot of kelp around the Delta's rode and the Rocna's chain and snubber line. After breakfast I took our sickle-on-a-bamboo and began clearing the kelp.
As I was organizing lines in preparation for attaching Sequitur to the buoy to make it safer to begin the long process of weighing, the Armada patrol vessel, Alacalufe entered the bay and headed toward the buoy.
Fortunately, Alacalufe was on a patrol and just passing through, so I continued with the preparations. I attached the end of the port stern-line to the dinghy and motored it over to the buoy, looped the line through the eye of the buoy's strop and headed back toward Sequitur. About 15 metres was all I could loop through, so with a figure-of-eight knot and a bowline-on-a-bight, I secured the loop.
Back onboard Sequitur, I warped our stern toward the buoy to bring the bow more closely over the Rocna. Then we began the multi-step process of weighing the Rocna using the spinnaker halyard: clip in, take-up the strain, undo the snubber, winch up 5 metres, cut away the kelp, winch up 5 metres, cut away the kelp, winch up 5 metres, set the snubber, ease the bight of chain down to deck, cut away the kelp. Repeat. Shortly after 1300 the shank of the Rocna appeared through the kelp, and the task of kelp clearing became more serious.
Shortly before 1400 we had the Rocna on deck.
We took a breather for a quick lunch; the wind was coming up, and we didn't want to delay too long our move to the buoy.
After our quick lunch, I rigged the starboard-stern-line to a prussic knot on the Delta's rode and ran it to the power winch in the cockpit. I started the engine and sent Edi below to hang down into the space beneath the port aft wet locker to have quick access the transmission shift lever, incase we needed to use the engine.
Up-top, I shortened-in the Delta, snubbed the rode with a prussic, re-set the stern-line, undid the snubber, shortened-in further, snubbed the rode with a prussic, re-set the stern-line, undid the snubber and hauled the Delta to the surface in a great tangle of kelp. I then undid the starboard stern-line from the winch, turned-up the port stern-line, which was attached to the buoy and began warping Sequitur's stern across to the buoy. The wind was about 12 knots on our beam and blowing directly toward the rocks and reef. We were slowly making our way across to the buoy, slowed by the tangle of kelp. I twice had Edi shift the engine astern for a short while to quicken the pace.
Finally, at 1535 Sequitur's stern was within 20 metres of the buoy, and her bow had room to swing clear of the kelp-marked reef. I shut-down the engine and relieved Edi from her transmission lever duties. We then set to work at clearing the tangle of kelp on the Delta, Edi on the sickle-on-a-bamboo and me on the weed-hook-on-a-curtain-rod.
With the kelp tangle cleared, I used the dinghy to run mooring lines from our side and bow cleats, and in a couple of steps, had the buoy's strop around our starboard bow cleat with a safety line through the strop's eye and across to the port bow cleat. It was a few minutes past 1600.
I took a short break and then went forward to sort-out the tangle of chain, lines, strops, snubbers and anchors on the foredeck. I was able to hand-in the Delta and settle it in its bow roller, and after I had re-stowed its rode in proper order for use, I attacked the Rocna's chain. Finally, at 1822, with the aid of the spinnaker halyard and Edi on the power winch button, I set the Rocna into its bow roller and lashed it in place.
I mixed a measure of oil into one of the jerry cans of gasoline on the foredeck, and refilled the dinghy's fuel tank. It was our first refilling since buying the dinghy and outboard in La Punta in December 2010. Alamiro had asked us to come back in with our ship's papers; he had omitted asking us for our Customs documents. I took my iPad ashore with me and confirmed my visual fix that had showed the chart skewed about 0.3 cables southwest.
While we were ashore we walked over to the plaque outlining the historical significance of the place. I gave our Customs document to Alamiro, and Valeska invited Edi and me upstairs for coffee and what looked exactly like an Italian panettone.
We were back onboard by 2100, an hour before sunset, and watched the slow progression of high-latitude twilight. The skies leafed through a few more pages of the cloud catalogue for us, including lenticular, cirrostratus and a marvellous example of cirrocumulus mackerel.
Tuesday morning was again calm, and the water was near glassy. The barometer had dropped slightly overnight to 1006.4. I ran the generator and water-maker to bring the levels up and I ran the Epar furnace to heat the boat and make hot water, and we waited for a call from Alamiro that he had received our zarpe and was coming out to deliver it to us.
Alamiro called us on VHF at 1530 and said there was a problem with our papers, and asked me to come ashore to discuss options. I took Non Sequitur to the float and walked up to the Armada office. I was told there that Sequitur's Declaracion de Admision Temporal had expired, and that we had to go to Puerto Williams to renew it before a zarpe could be issued for us to leave Chile.
Frustrated and confused, I rushed back out to Sequitur and explained to Edi what I knew of the situation as we hoisted the motor off the dinghy and hoisted and secured the dinghy. I flashed-up the engine and sent Edi back down into the hole to shift the transmission, and at 1550 we slipped from the buoy and headed out of Puerto Navarino, bound for Puerto Williams.