16 December 2019
We have arrived in Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world and our turning around point. The town is mostly an Armada outpost with a few shops. We are moored at the Club Yates Micalvi, which consists of a retired Chilean Navy vessel, the Micalvi, which was scuttled in a small estuary and turned into a place for passing cruising boats to gather. While, until recently, there was a bar, laundry and showers, the local administration has pretty much lost interest in the place and it is now just a place to tie up. Boats simply tie alongside the Micalvi and, since space is limited, raft together up to 8 or 9 deep in 3 rows with lines running to the opposite shore to keep the whole mess from shifting in the wind that blows down the estuary.
Having not seen another sailboat since leaving Valdivia over 2 months ago it is a bit of a change for us. There are about 22 boats here with some arriving and some leaving every day. This is the season for trips to Antarctica and it seems like most of the crews we have met are planning on heading down there in the next couple weeks. That trip is beyond our pay grade, though, as ice makes us nervous and we are already as cold as we want to be. The boats here run the gamut from 25' budget cruisers to 65' luxury charters. There are a lot of Chilean boats and Europeans, mostly German and French, but we were surprised to find the majority were American. We ran into some friends from Valdivia and even one who we met in Thailand years ago. Talking with the crews it always amazes us how often we know the same people, often from the other side of the world, a reminder of what a small world the cruising community is.
Yesterday we hiked to the top of a hill, 2000' above the Canal Beagle, with views up and down the channel and of the mountains of Tierra del Fuego and Isla Navarino. It was hard to believe that just over the ridge was Cape Horn, and beyond that, Antarctica, but then the sun would go behind a cloud and a gust of wind would hit and suddenly it was easy. As we approach the summer solstice the weather hasn't gotten any better, but the long days are a bit of compensation. We don't know what time sunrise and sunset are as we haven't seen either for a couple of months, but there is still a little light at midnight and first light is around 3:00 am.
Southern Patagonia pictures have been added to the Gallery. To find them go to the top of the home page on the blue bar highlight Gallery.
05 December 2019
Yes we are in another really cool little hidy hole, with glaciers, snow capped mountains and waterfalls but it's not always paradise. Right now we are riding out 45 knot williwaws, strong enough to kick up clouds of spray from the bay around us and to vaporize the smaller waterfalls tumbling down the granite walls, leaving them momentarily dry until the wind dies and they fill in again. Rum Doxy meanwhile bucking and straining on the reins that bind her safely to the trees, while hail beats on the cabin top like shattering safety glass.
But, in between the extreme weather, we go on an expedition. We put on all our warm cloths and then our âdry suitsâ, launch the kayak, peddle across the bay in a freezing rain and climb to the top of a moss soaked ridge. From the top of the ridge we can see across the channel to the peaks and glaciers on Isla Gordon. Then turning to the right we see the glacier that lies directly in front of Rum Doxy where we live, a huge expanse of thick blue ice from which waterfalls slide down the granite face. Continuing around we see another, larger cascading glacier stepping it's way down to a gravelly moraine which is surrounded by low lying granite domes covered with orange and green moss. Then to our immediate right is a third, impossibly steep, free falling glacier, ending in its own lake. We suddenly hear a deep rumble and watch as an avalanche of ice falls to the lake below. From the lake a river runs to the salt water bay, but not before the beavers dam it up causing the marshy death of the forest that was there before the beavers were introduced. Architecturally crafted wood stick dams creating black water ponds, each with a mounded mud hut off to the side. A Watership Down.
Seno Pia, Canal Beagle, Tierra del Fuego
29 November 2019
I'm sitting in my bean bag chair, looking forward through our picture windows, gazing up on a frozen river cascading down from the bellies of majestic spires covered in ice. Mike is sitting in his bean bag watching the Lord of the rings as if he were actually in Middle Earth, and I wonder how to describe what it's like to live on a sailboat anchored in front of a glacier, here in the Beagle Canal, Chile. The magnitude of this raw, pristine wilderness is all consuming and a reminder of the powers of nature and our place in it. We are here to observe and experience with all our senses at all times. It is exactly the things that make being here hard that make this place so irresistible and rewarding. A harsh climate, isolation and natural wonders beyond imagination. Living a dream and left completely to you own devices. Photos cannot relay the energy that is so heightened while sailing on the Avenue of Glaciers.
(The weather sucks, but it's really pretty. Mike)
Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.
24 November 2019
We have just spent 3 days tied up in Caleta Brecknock on the far Western tip of Tierra del Fuego. This is a small bay surrounded by 2000 foot granite domes that have been scoured smooth by ice and wind, and dotted with lakes, tarns and waterfalls. There are stunted trees growing in the crevices but wherever a leaf or twig pokes up from the protection of the rock it is sheared off by the wind. There are a few that try to make a go of it in the open, but they are blown along the ground so that a tree may be 12 feet long but never gain a height of over 6 inches, and ending in a tuft of tiny leaves.
We did have a little excitement when a storm passed close by, bringing gusts of over 30 knots into our anchorage. This is normally no concern, but when your stern is only feet from the rocks it adds interest. In addition to our anchor we had half a dozen lines tied to the shore so we did not budge, but we were happy enough when the wind switched and we could get back to napping. On the bright side, the wind brought dry weather and we were able to air out a bit and trim some of the mold growing in the cabin.
19 November 2019
We are anchored here in Caleta Gallant, in the Straights of Magellan, 28 miles from the most southern point of the continental Americaâs. But, looking around, surrounded by alpine peaks covered in snow, we could easily be anchored in Lake Geneva. As we sail down this infamous straight, whether to port or to starboard, whenever there is a break in the clouds you can see ice fields and glaciers.
Since we left Valdivia 6 weeks ago our passage down has been fast and (relatively) easy. The reasons being we've had the wind and current behind us, like a magic carpet, the whole way down. The prevailing winds and current come from the North and West, and since we are traveling Southeast, we've been enjoying this free ride, but emotionally and strategically we are preparing ourselves for the dreaded slog back up against all these obstacles.
You canât help thinking about the first circumnavigators and imagining how in the heck they even made it through here? For one reason every island, canal and mountain is named after these explorers and their surviving crew. Also, to think a little less than 500 hundred years ago when they began their first attempts at navigating through here, they didn't have charts, gps, motors, weather reports, warm clothing, food, radio, heaters.....sailors chose a life at sea because conditions were worse at home. How they must have suffered!
Which, again, makes me a princess. Not only do I have the luxury of all the things mentioned above, but every night I sit at the best table in the restaurant, with a spectacular view that rotates for my pleasure, eating fresh and delicious food, then crawl under my heated (hot water bottles are awesome!) flannel sheets and down comforter and sleep like a rock!
16 November 2019
Once again we are tucked away, waiting out the weather. We are paying special attention this time around as we are getting ready to head into the Straights of Magellan, which, due to its size and NW orientation, can focus the wind and become particularly snotty. We are fortunate in that there is a lighthouse nearby that broadcasts the conditions twice daily and will relay the forecast if asked. It has been raining steadily for the past day, but in the brief moments between chubascos we can catch glimpses of the ice fields and mountains across the sound. We are backed into a slot in a small island with mooring lines ashore. The rock walls are no more than 30 feet away on either side with what look like giant bonsai sprouting from their tops and sides, reminding us of the temple gardens we saw in Japan. While the wind indicator at the top of the mast reads 25 knots, it is calm at deck level and we are perfectly snug in our little caleta, waiting for a series of fronts to pass so we can sneak down the Straights. We were planning on exploring in the kayak today, but, between the wind and the rain and the cold, it is looking like a better day to brew a batch of our Patagonia IPA instead.
Speaking of cold, when we arrive in a new anchorage we are usually visited by a small hawk called the chimango. These guys are very curious and will spend hours walking around the boat, checking things out, before crapping on the deck and flying off. The other day, one discovered that there was warm air coming out of the smokestack for our heater and settled in. Sweet! It wasn't long, though, before he jumped up and started picking up his feet, one after the other, and looking at them with indignation, wondering why they were so hot while the rest of him was enjoying the draft. He would do this dance for a while, then jump off to continue his inspection of the boat, only to return a few minutes later to repeat the process. Down here, with no TV, no internet and out of contact with the rest of the world, we take our entertainment where we can find it.