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.
Oh Sunny Day!
10 November 2019
Yesterday we woke up to a cloudless sky and ice on the decks. It was a day to brighten our spirits, warm our bones and dry our clothes. As the result of captain Mike carefully monitoring the forecasts and strategically planning our stops, we were anchored just around the corner from the glacier, Pio XI, for this beautiful day.
We struggled into our matching red dry suits, filled our back packs with a camera, binoculars, the drone, snacks and water and piled into our dingy. The 4 miles we motored over to the face of the glacier were glorious. We got to behold and enjoy the unobstructed view above and beyond the massive blue ice field flowing out of the mountains, which are normally shrouded in low lying clouds and fog, but today was clear as far as the eye could see. And not another soul in sight. Our hearts were singing praises for this reward, after the relentless clouds and rain.
Pio XI is no longer the tidal glacier it, until very recently, was. There are wide mud flats and gravel mounds built up in front of almost the entire glacier face. We were careful not to get to close to the ice face but did pull the dingy up on a mud flat in order to get off and explore around. We didn't get far before Mike sank knee deep in quicksand. He was lucky to pull out with both boots still attached to his feet, thanks to lessons he learned from watching westerns on TV.
After that it was decided we would explore with the drone instead. Mysteriously the drone malfunctioned in midair then crashed landed into the mud. Surprisingly after a hard impact and a few tumbles it landed upright and made its way back home to us on autopilot, but the gimballed camera was trashed. After countless crashes and close calls, sadly the damage this time is beyond repair.
Since the tide was coming up quickly and our attempts to go exploring were foiled we gathered up some margarita ice and made our way back to the anchorage. With plenty of daylight and blazing sunshine we raised anchor and carried on back down the canal, taking in the many glaciers and pinnacles that were hidden from us previously by clouds and fog on our way up. By the time we arrived to our next anchorage, 4 hours later, it was overcast and rainy once again, but we had had that rarest of things in Patagonia, a sunny day, and we were able to toast it with margaritas made with glacier ice.