Not What I Expected
21 January 2016 | Caleta Murray
The cold front appeared to have passed--the strong NW gale had shifted to SW and died down considerably. The rain had mostly stopped, some blue sky was visible. It was late afternoon.
If we left our wonderfully protected anchorage in Caleta Gallant, we had just
enough time (there is enough light until about 10 at night to navigate) to get to Caleta Murray in Canal Pedro. This would take us out of the Strait of Magellan, to a channel leading us to the Pacific Ocean, and then to the Beagle Channel further south.
While it was late in the day, the advantage of leaving was that we would be able to go through a narrows early the next day (the narrows can only be passed at certain stages of tide), and have the rest of the day to get to a good anchorage from where we would be ready to enter the Pacific Ocean the following day if the favorable weather forecast held. This is an area of the world where, when you have good weather, you take advantage of it and move, so you can be snugly anchored when the wind really starts to blow (which it does frequently!).
We raised anchor, motored out of the anchorage and set sail in 20-35 knots of wind (wind varies a lot as it passes the mountains) in the Strait of Magellan. We sailed for a few hours, then turned south into mile-wide Canal Pedro, where we motored slowly --against the strong wind and waves--south.
The cruising guide said that Caleta Murray was protected from all winds, but there could be violent gusts when there were strong NW winds. SW winds and seas would clearly blow up Canal Pedro (and they were). Looking at Caleta Murray, it was quite exposed to the wind and waves coming up Canal Pedro--the waves had six miles to build before they arrived at the entrance to Caleta Murray. There were no curves in Caleta Murray to slow down the wind that came in the entrance. It didn't look like a safe anchorage in the strong SW winds we were in.
Was that a typo in the cruising guide (they are not always correct) and they really meant to say violent gusts in SW winds?
Other options (one must always think of other options in case the desired destination is unreachable), if Caleta Murray was not suitable pretty much came down to spending the night sailing back and forth in the Strait of Magellan, effectively holding position until dawn, when we expected the wind to go NW.
While there were a few other places that looked like possible anchorages in SW winds, they would be difficult to enter safely in darkness, and it would be dark soon. Note how few depths are shown on the chart, which is the most detailed chart available.
The cloudy sky darkened with the onset of night, and showers of hail and snow reduced the visibility more, as we approached the entrance to Caleta Murray. I really wasn't looking forward to sailing all night back and forth in the Strait of Magellan if Caleta Murray wasn't going to be a safe anchorage. Would we be able to tell from the entrance, or would we have to go a mile up Caleta Murray to find out and then fight our way back against the wind and seas?
Surprisingly, the wind and waves at the entrance to Caleta Murray were entirely different from the rest of Canal Pedro. The SW wind and waves, coming up Canal Pedro (with six miles of fetch to build the waves) were flattened by a stronger SW wind coming out of the mountain pass near the entrance to Caleta Murray!
Minimal waves! We turned, and entered Caleta Murray, where, after getting away from the mountain pass and its strong wind, we had light SW winds and no waves.
We happliy anchored in mud at the head of the inlet, didn't even need shore lines, and had a peaceful night of sleep.
While the mountain pass is on the chart, it is far enough away that I never expected different winds to come out of the pass and disrupt the SW winds coming up Canal Pedro. I also had a Google Earth chart (a chart made from a Google Earth image--often used for navigation here because latitude and longitude are correctly referenced on them, and they show land details that other charts don't) of the area, but it was of a smaller scale than the chart, so I didn't see the possibility of the pass' effect on the wind on that chart either.
Not what I expected, but I was very happy to see that the anchorage really was protected from SW winds.