18 October 2019 | Puerto Aguirre
13 October 2019 | Puerto Raul Marin Balmaceda
11 October 2019 | Puerto Quellon
02 October 2019 | Valdivia, Chile
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.
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!