T-shirt skiing and a chungungo
13 September 2010 | Estero Coloane, Beagle Channel, Chile
Saturday 11th September - saw us sail from Caleta Istmo on the north shore of Isla Hoste to Bahia Fleuriais on the south shore of Isla Gordon. We had spied some good looking snow on the slopes above the bay. We sailed a very indirect route taking a detour down the western arm of Estero Penhoat; which was stunningly beautiful but offered no good skiing possibilities. Although opposite, a mountain on Isla Gordon had good snow down to the coast but didn't offer an anchorage for the boat.
Today was really good for wildlife as along the route we saw all the usual suspects that inhabit this part of the world, sea lions, common or rock cormorants, bigua cormorants, steamer ducks, grey ducks, various gulls, and some ibis. A couple of condors gave us a close fly-by before landing on the shore nearby and spreading their wings to catch the morning sun.
The best sighting of all came just after we had finished mooring in Bahia Fleuriais as we sat on deck and admired the view we spotted an otter on the rocks just 15m from the stern of the boat. It was totally ignoring us and intent on spotting a fish for its dinner; it dived in causing hardly a ripple on the water and emerged about 20 seconds later with a good sized fish. I think that the otter was a 'Chungungo' (souther sea otter) (Lontra feline) rather than the larger 'Hullin' (large river otter) (lontra provocax) but never having had such a good look at one before I can't be sure.
Sunday 12th September - We had an early(ish) start and climbed a 600m slope just north of the anchorage. The climbing was much easier than the 'introductory' mountain that we had chosen for Julie the other day! The day was very warm and we all found the climb warm work, in fact we were all stripped to t-shirts. We had lunch on the top whilst taking in the fantastic view east along the beagle channel. The ski down was simple and fun although a little grassy at the bottom.
We got back to the boat early in the afternoon so decided to move to Estero Fouque. Fouque is a long fiord that penetrates the north shore of Isla Hoste for about 10 miles. As it was Sunday, and as we had sweated our way up and down a couple of mountains, we decided that it was shower day and all took advantage of the hot water produced by the engine head exchanger to take hot showers. There are several good mooring opportunities in Fouque and we chose Caleta Nutria at the extreme southern tip of the fiord. On the way into the fiord we stopped to admire the snout of the Fouque glacier which calves into the fiord. It was cold, and calm, enough to allow the bay to freeze overnight. Unfortunately Fouque offered up no skiing opportunities this time around.
Monday 13th September - We motored out of Estero Fouque with the intention of investigating some anchorages further to the west, along the south western arm of the Beagle Channel, on the southern shore of Isla Gordon underneath some promising skiing opportunities. Today saw a little bit of a bread baking competition between Steve and Julie. Steve made some standard white loaves that look really good, but we have to wait until breakfast tomorrow before sampling his offering. Julie made focaccia bread which we enjoyed fresh with a really good soup for lunch. I'm not sure what the soup should be called but it was creamy, tomato, rice and chorizo sausage affair.
Although we entered several very nice little caletas we were eventually lured by the stunning scenery of Estero Coloane, leaving the slopes of Isla Gordon for another day. Estero Coloane is an amazing place; once you are inside the bay you are surrounded by high cliffs some with hanging glaciers frosting the top. I think that you can see three separate glaciers from the boat. In summer there are several large waterfalls, but at this time of year just a few are flowing. The cove that we are moored in is tucked behind a little islet, we have tall trees protecting the boat from winds coming from the south through west to the north east. The remainder of the afternoon was occupied by crevasse rescue training and drills. Dinner this evening was veal curry. As I write this I can hear rain on the deck, perhaps our lucky run of great weather is ending?