Let it rain
14 February 2020
We were on our way to Puerto Natales but decided, because of the great weather we were having at the moment to make a detour up the Estero de las Montana's, a 30 mile fiord full of glaciers spilling down from frosty peaks into a turquoise channel. Despite being so close to Puerto Natales very few cruising boats come up this way mainly because it's notorious for strong head winds and rough seas that funnel down the steep narrow walls of the fiord. So we couldn't resist when the opportunity arose to give it a go. The thrill and awe of being amongst glaciers seems only to intensify, each one being unique and more impressive then the last one or so it seems.....
Good thing weather conditions returned to normal, rain, down pour, rain. I was beginning to fear a water shortage. Since we arrived into Chile we don't use our watermaker and rely on our water collection system instead. After almost 2 weeks of glorious weather our water tanks were running dry, showers were no longer allowed and laundry was piling up. But as soon as the weather comes in we are replenished in one afternoon, two 60 gallon tanks, two laundry buckets, and a shower. Now I feel silly for even thinking we would run out of water, Bring back the sun!!!
A Promise is a Promise
09 February 2020
As we sailed down the canals on our way South with the wind and current at our backs we couldn't help but wonder what the trip back up would be like. We were particularly concerned about the Straights of Magellan as they are notorious for nearly constant winds blowing south down their length with seas and current to match. Our guidebook says of the region; "This area lies in the so called Polar Front, the area where powerful migratory depressions are continuously created. The Western Straights are characterized by distressingly constant bad weather. The NW frontal winds prevail and blow at an average speed of 25-30 knots, increasing to 40-50 knots during the passage of a deep depression. The conditions are worsened by the steep coast and deep valleys which divert and funnel the wind, creating violent gusts and williwaws. Winds up to 70 knots should be expected in squalls."
The U. S. Sailing Directions are no more cheerful, saying; "The prevailing wind is from the North and sometimes blows with great fury, but the principal feature of the weather here is the almost perpetual rain. As far as the rain is concerned, one season is as bad as another. Day after day there is this steady downfall, unless the vessel is so fortunate to arrive in one of those rare breaks of fine weather which sometimes occur. Then it will seem as if this is one of the most interesting of navigable waters, with smooth sea, well-sheltered anchorages, and surrounded by the most glorious scenery." This last turned out to be somewhat prophetic.
As I mentioned, we were not looking forward to the bash back up the Straights. Annette, in particular, was so concerned that it was hard for her to enjoy our time down here. Being a sensitive and attentive partner I felt her distress and promised her that our trip back up the Straights would be under sunny skies with a following wind and current. Since I was already committed I added that we would likely be flying the spinnaker as we went. As it turned out, we blundered into the Mother of all Weather Windows as we turned into the Straights. The rains stopped, the sun came out, the wind and current turned and we were able to sail downwind most of the way up the Straights, much of the time while flying our big, orange spinnaker. After all, a promise is a promise.
Cruising the Straits of Magellan
07 February 2020
Oh sunny day! We were prepared for a battle north but so far our trip up has been glorious. 5 days of perfect weather. Clear skies and spectacular views of ice fields and snow capped ridges as far as the eye can see. No head wind, current with us, whales, penguins, sea lions all around us. We feel so lucky and are soaking up this precious moment before the party ends.
Another sunny day in Patagonia.
04 February 2020
We may have been a little misleading about the weather down here, with all our talk of wind and relentless rain. The reality is that it is sunny and calm pretty much every day. I offer as proof the above photo taken with our friends Gary and Karina of Sea Rover II, which is pretty representative of a typical day. Sure, we may get moments of damp and breeze, but mostly we are sweltering in the sun. In fact, we are just about out of sunscreen so are compelled to start the long, 1,300 mile trip back up the canals to Valdivia, where we will leave the boat for the winter while we return home to Ventura to work.
19 January 2020
The town of Ushuaia prides itself on being "El Fin del Mundo" or "The End of the World", and, like the rest of the country, is adamant that the Maldives (Falkland Islands) belong to Argentina, with posters and monuments everywhere so you don't forget!
We've been here for over a week now preparing the boat for the long return back up the Channels to Valdivia. Mostly that consists of filling every inch of the pantry and freezer with food to last 3 months, including 150 greased eggs, boat repairs and maintenance, deep laundry, and of course brewing another batch of IPA. We did got out of town once for a beautiful hike and hope to have another day in nature tomorrow when we plan on renting a car and doing a little sight seeing, weather permitting....
The pier where we are docked is located right in the middle of town which is conveniently located for everything we need, but timing is everything. First because of siesta which closes all retail shops from 12-5pm and second there is the crazy weather. You can wake up in the morning and it's raining and blowing 30+ knots outside(not very conducive to getting things done around town on foot) and you can be fairly certain that by siesta it will clear. Another thing that has taken some getting used to is the total absence of stop signs in this city of 100,000. throughout Latin america stop signs are viewed as more of of a suggestion than an imperative, as in "we suggest you stop if it is convenient". In Ushuaia, on the other hand, they have given up on them entirely and you are on you own at every intersection. On the bright side the 360* view from the boat is both unique and dramatic with snow capped pinnacles right behind the city, and outlining the shores of the Beagle Canal from East to West.
As I write this I see 40* knots on the anemometer, rain is pelting down and a lone tourist is bracing himself on the dock so as not to get blown off his feet. Looking across the channel the sun is illuminating a spot of fresh snow on the hills while bulky white and black clouds race over the tops, covering it all up in an instant.
In essence our journey north has begun like a heard of startled turtles. We begin by waiting for weather to sail back over to Puerto Williams, Chile in order to check in, and from then on it's "hurry up and wait!" ticking off the miles as we slowly sail back north to where we began in October.
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.