Lindisfarne – Forgus 37 – 7,5t (more than 9t equipped)
Antarctica and Patagonia to Puerto Montt
28 December 2006 – 19 June 2007
28 December 2006 – 20 January 2007 Antarctica
Antarctica, when and how did we get that idea?
Already when we arrived in Brazil June 2006 we decided to celebrate Annika’s 50th birthday in the Amazons. We also thought about some more trips without the yacht, the waterfalls at Iguazo were high on the list, but on top was a trip with a cruise ship to Antarctica. The question to be solved was, could we afford that? The answer was, after some research on the Internet, NO, if not a cheap last minute-ticket was available in Ushuaia. Going there with Lindisfarne, we never even thought of. The question was, as you can understand, postponed for a later decision.
In Mar del Plata we met the first charter yacht going to Antarctica. They argued that for a yachtsman it’s completely wrong to go with a cruise ship. Sailors are used to take their time to get close to nature, and not be forced to rush back to a ship after a short stipulated time, among other reasons.
Some days later another Swedish yacht, Yaghan, came to Mar del Plata and they had Antarctica on their itinerary.
We thought of joining as part of a crew on a yacht, but if Yaghan with two people as a crew can do it in a fibreglass yacht, we would also be able to do it!
We took part of their planning, sea charts, apply for allowance to the Swedish Polar Institute and more. Now we had to take some actions. E-mail to the Polar Institute and to our insurance company. You have to have an insurance to get allowance. All this was boiling while we sailed down to the Falkland Islands, and when we from there made Internet contact, everything was accepted and OK. The insurance company wanted €500 and a double deductible, nothing to argue against, because it also covered one of the most dangerous waters in the world, Drake Passage.
After Christmas we cleared out of Argentina in Ushuaia and sailed to Puerto Williams in Chile (28nm). There we checked in and got our sailing permit (zarpe) for Antarctica including Cabo de Hornos. Now we really had all the papers for Antarctica, and if the weather still was ok next morning we will leave. We have been relaying on grib-files, which we get, using our SSB, as an attachment to an e-mail. The grib gives us the wind speed, the direction and the air pressure for some days ahead. The grib looked ok, so we took of for Melchior Island some 500 nm to the south across Drake Passage.
On this very exposed passage we have added some more weather information. Friends back home studies the weather for us and e-mail suggested actions due to the developing of the weather. We have also our radio friend Bob on the Falklands from whom we get a weather report every morning on the SSB. So we were pretty convinced when all these three sources had almost the same information. Despite a pretty rough start with head wind and heavy sea state, the following three days was quite acceptable.
Thanks to the northerly wind conditions the last days, we didn’t meet any ice before arriving at Melchior Islands, our first anchorage in Antarctica.
The yacht Yaghan with Helen and Arne, who left Puerto Williams before Christmas, was waiting for us with dinner ready. New Year evening hade passed during our passage, so we hade of course to start with some Champagne before the dinner. This was the perfect way, after four days of sailing, to enter a continent completely free of restaurants! The next day was a day of rest, with a lot of talk around Yaghans experience from their cruise in the ice. Then Yaghan left for South America and we where alone in this wonderfully quiet world. Talking about silence!
The silence was interrupted now and then by the thunder from the surrounding Glaciers when ice cracked and a lot ice and snow came falling down. There was of course also some familiar sound from gulls and skuas, but those sounds almost increased awareness of the silence in between thanks to the calm wind condition. The sky was completely clear and blue and the sun was shining 22 hours a day.
We spend three days in Melchior (1), exploring the area by foot and by dingy, before we felt prepared to continue into the Antarctic Archipelago. We hade a fantastic sailing tour with a clear sky and with perfect wind conditions all the way across Gerlache Canal to the Antarctic Peninsula. We anchored close to the Penguin colony on Cuverville Island (2). Hundreds of Gentoo Penguins are nesting, and of course a lot of skuas, which we always find where there is food. The food consists of gentoo eggs and chickens! The parents protect their nests, but skuas flew all the time very low above the colony and took advantage of every unprotected opportunity.
Skip Nowak with his yacht Pelacic Australis anchored in the bay late in the evening. We had two lines ashore and wondered whether this should work in respect of the drifting ice. We had some big ice blocks around us, but we thought we where somewhat out of the current so we should be clear. Especially since such an experienced guy had anchored, as we thought much more exposed. In the morning everything looked all right for both of us.
We went ashore and had a close look at the gentoo colony before we left for Port Lockroy (4). Again, across the Gerlache Canal over to the Neumayer Canal (3). In Neumayer the wind died, lucky for us because the canal was full of ice and we had to go very slowly to find a way through the ice. We had spent one winter living in the yacht in Gothenburg, so we were familiar with the loud sound from the ice touching the hull, in spite there was not a scratch, not even in the paint. We are not convinced that we had dared to continue along the canal without that experience that’s how loud the sound from the ice sounded!.
Port Lockroy (4), where we anchored over night, was the British Base A during the years 1948 to 1962, investigating the effect from the sun on radio signals trying to find frequencies without disturbance from the sun. The base was reopened as a museum 1996.
The area around the houses are crowded with nesting gentoo penguins who seems to accept the tourists climbing around among the nests on their way to the ”Historic Site and Monument”, which makes it protected according to the Antarctica Treatment . The museum is the southern most Post office, and the season 2003-04, 40-thousand postcard was bought and posted here. These post cards, together with the trade of expensive T-shirts is the economy platform for the museum, there are no governmental money involved, and nothing is subsidized.
The next morning there was a fresh northerly which took us in full speed south through a relatively ice free Peltier Canal to the famous Lemaire Canal (5) with it’s steep and narrow surrounding mountains. We had to reef the sails completely in the canal because of the katabatic winds in between the steep mountains and motor down the canal, where there were only a few icebergs at his time. A week earlier it was impossible to get through the canal
We turned right after Lemaire out in an area with a lot of small islands and hundreds of floating and stranded icebergs. A terrible area to navigate. We knew there where several good and protected anchorages in the area if we could find them as they were hidden behind icebergs. (6)
Finally we found a narrow canal leading to a protected bay where we anchored and put several lines ashore to windward. Due to the strong wind we decided to leave the dinghy in the water behind the stern, protected from the wind.
The next morning this turned out to be a very foolish decision. Two out of three air sections had collapsed. What had happened? We examined the dingy and found nine holes from teeth. We know now that the Leopard seals are known to “eat” inflatable dinghies. The climate was not quite right for the repair work, but with a heat gun, some fresh water and acetone for cleaning and a repair box for bicycles, we manage to keep the air in the tubes, although we didn’t dare to use the dingy without bringing the pump with us. Due to this accident we spent another night in the anchorage. The second day the wind changed to southerly and the ice came into the bay. The depth around us was limited, so the size of possible ice bits was thanks to that also very limited. But we were a little afraid that the narrow canal could get blocked by ice. The next morning we had some trouble retreving all our lines free from the surrounding ice, but then the channel was luckily easy to get through. Once again we navigated through the graveyard of icebergs to Hovgaard (6), a famous anchorage where we spent two days walking around on the surrounding islands. The anchorage is famous because several yachts have wintered here over the years.
We could almost not find any trace from human activities, a result of going out of the route of the charter yachts and the cruise ships. On the other hand you have to be self sufficient and take care of every failure (partly eaten dinghies as an example) It’s a fantastic feeling to have the whole nature to yourself and trust that you can take care of everything without any support.
We left this marvellous area and went north. This time we didn’t use the Lemaire Canal. We had been informed that it should be possible to navigate west of Booth Island (7), through the “graveyard” of icebergs. Our thought was that if we go relatively close to a big iceberg there must be water enough for us. That strategy together with our forward looking echo sounder took us safely through and once again we were on Gerlache Canal heading for Paradise Bay (8).
On the way we saw an iceberg turning upside down 180 degrees. It was really a scary experience as the new size above water was in our direction much greater than seconds before… After that experience we have more than doubled our security distance to these giants!
We spent the night on anchor in a nice bay behind a not opened Argentinean base (8). We where surprised to wake up at the sound of a helicopter almost at the top of our mast six o’clock the next morning. The Argentineans had obviously decided to open the base just this Sunday morning and were now shuttling material by air to the base from a big Navy ship.
We left the bay and motored north along the glaciers. Here in Paradise Bay (8) all the cruise ships just have to pay a visit, but they monitor there approaches very carefully and coordinate over VHF with their cruising colleagues. Probably because the passenger should be able to feel something of the empty continent. When we saw the passengers from Marco Polo (300p) moving around in the penguin colony at the Chilean base, we felt very happy to be allowed to slowly move around in this fantastic virgin world, only the two of us in our own yacht. During our two weeks in the Antarctic we saw only cruise ships on three days, the rest of the time we where on our own. The feeling of an empty continent was close.
Our plan was to continue north to the South Shetlands, but a possible weather opening for the Drake Passage was coming up, so we changed the plan and sailed to anchorage at Melchior Island to be ready to go to sea if the conditions proved to be right. We have too little space in the yacht to carry more than 500 l diesel, and we didn’t want to wait another week for the next weather window – not being able to heat the yacht.
We saw some humpbacks whales in Gerlache on our way to Melchior, but whales have been rare on our trip, only three times have we spotted whales.
Back to Cape Horn
We had to wait two days in Melchior for the passage of a low which gave us a lot of snow. But early on the 16th we left to match with the decreasing winds along the route to Cape Horn. The first 12 hours was very uncomfortable, no wind and high sea from different directions, but finally we got the wind from southwest that was predicted. The sea was still rough, but only from the same direction as the wind, so the rest of the trip was quite good in spite the sea was high and sometimes very steep. Only once we heeled much more than comfortable, but we never felt insecure. The last night we saw a giant comet south in the sky. Later we found out its name is McNaught and it’s on its way to go round the sun. Shortly after that the wind almost disappeared and we had to motorsail to the Horn. There where quite a surge around the horn so we didn’t dare to anchor, but Annika went ashore in our now famous dinghy.
When we were preparing to go ashore we were called on the VHF from another yacht. Who new where we were? It was Kicki and Ties on Wanderer III, and they had been waiting eleven days in a caleta for the weather to change to be able to go to Antarctica. They can only receive on their SSB radio, so they wanted us to give them the latest weather forecast for the passage and to tell friends that they will now leave and not as planed more than a week ago! We promised them to send a new report late at night and then in the morning inform Bob on the Falklands about their new situation. Bob read weather reports for them over the SSB.
Annika came back after all her duties at the Horn, leaving our club flag, stamps in the passports, signing the Golden Book and of course took a lot of photos. The buildings had been renewed, only the old chapel was left from the old. Of course the lighthouse was the same, but it had been built in together with the new house.
We motored in the not existing wind some miles to a very sheltered anchorage, Puerto Maxwell, nr 10.82 in the very good Italian Pilot covering Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
It’s a pilot you can’t live without if you are navigating this part of the world.
We got a mild rain during the whole night, but in the morning we had clear sky and an excellent 80 nm sailing to Puerto Williams. There we once again met our friends in Yaghan, who now where ready to start heading west after refilling everything in Ushuaia. We had a long evening comparing our experience from the silent white continent. It was like a debriefing and made us have a good night sleep in spite of all strong impressions during the last four weeks.
This became a perfect ending of our Antarctic adventure that had, except for the leopard seal, been totally without any problems.
The next morning we left for refuelling in Ushuaia and Yaghan left for the Chilean Canals and the Pacific.
We are already thinking about how we shall be able to have storage for a month in Antarctica and when we will be back down there!
29 January to 14 March Ushuaia to Puerto Natales
There aren’t many people living in this remote part of Patagonia, from Ushuaia to Puerto Natales. In fact, the only three houses we have seen belong to the Armada and are for the people serving the lighthouses, and this on a route of 600nm!
We can sometimes sense the history when we pass places which story’s we have been reading. Most places, islands, peninsulas, sounds and so on, is often named after famous discoverers who found their way through the Magellan strait and later around Cape Horn, places in Europe, ships name…
The history of the “modern” Chile starts with the Spanish invasion in early 1600 century. The invasion went south through Venezuela, Colombia and Peru in their search for gold and other noble metal. They reached as far as south of Santiago. The inhabitants of the southern part of South America -Patagonia- , various Indian tribes, were never incorporated in the culture of the Incas or the Spanish invasion. They were still, in the beginning of the 2000 century, living in their “old way”.
The first passage south of South America was made 29 o January 1616 with two ships, Unity and Hoorn, in a Dutch expedition. Whether Cape Horn got its name from the ship or the home port of captain Schouten, Hoorn in Holland, is not quite clear.
Magellan strait got its name 100 years earlier after the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan. He was sailing in these waters for Spain in 1519. James Cook and his ship Beagle can also be found here and there on the charts in the south, but that’s more than 250 years later than Magellan.
There are not many traces of the Indians today. The dominate tribes was the Yáman (or Yaghan), Ona and Alacaluf. They are all gone today, either killed or dead because of the deceases and culture the white man brought to the area.
The name Tierra del Fuego has nothing to do with Volcanoes, it was the fire and smoke from the Indians fireplaces that the discoverers saw, and then named it “the land of fire”.
The Andes Mountains dominate the southwest of Patagonia and goes all the way south onto Tierra del Fuego where mount Darwin 2430m is the highest. Most of the highest mountains are covered with glaciers, some of which goes all the way down to the sea.
Magellan strait north of Tierra del Fuego separates the South American mainland from the islands in the south. Further north there are numerous of fjords, straits, islands, glaciers and high mountains all the way up to Puerto Montt, more than 1000nm, probably the largest archipelago in the world.
But there is always a but! The weather, it is raining more than 5m a year… The nice thing is that everything is green and not dry. The downside we don’t mention…
It’s also very windy, mostly from the north, and going north as we were doing is not very easy.
The signs of wildlife are not very many. We have seen various birds, seals, dolphins and of course humpback whales.
Before taking off we had to stock up for a period of two months at least. This is best done in Ushuaia. In Puerto Natales 600nm to the north and 6 weeks later, we were able to get fuel and some fresh food.
We had to start our route by sailing 30nm east to Puerto Williams, the only port of entry in this part of Chile. It’s quite a job to get a zarpe, the sailing permission, from the Armada. Every waterway from Puerto Williams to Puerto Montt that we wanted to use had to be approved on that paper! We solved the problem with a little help from our PC. We wrote all “thinkable” waterways in a file and put it on a memory stick. The Armada has of course computers, so it was easy to get allowance when they didn’t had to write it down, just download from our memory stick and print!
We had been reading about the extreme weather, difficulties when anchoring, lack of sea charts, kelp and several other dangers.
Anchoring; there are many very good and well protected Caletas and they are very seldom more than 10-25nm apart. Thanks to the “Italian Pilot” we slept well all nights, in spite our previous fears.
The extreme weather; yes the wind is very strong, but it’s the variation in strength from one minute to the other that makes it so tricky and dangerous, not the strength it self. We solved it by sailing with relatively small sails, corresponding to the gusts, not to the average wind. This together with tacking towards a sometimes very choppy sea is the reason for not getting many miles per day.
Lack of sea charts or lack of surveying; normally it’s very deep, and when not, the kelp that was said to be a problem is really an aid, because they grow where it’s shallower than 10m. Our forward looking echo sounder has also been very good, especially when going towards a glacier, when there is no sight at all through the water.
Kelp (seaweed); it’s said to be something of a nightmare to bring up your anchor together with “tons” of kelp. So far the kelp has been more as an aid in our navigation than problem in connection with anchoring. A long “kelp knife” helps a lot to solve the problem associated with kelp and anchoring.
The route from Puerto Williams to Puerto Montt is as the crow flies is 850nm, but we have to follow the waterways through the canals and that makes it close to 1600nm. By Puerto Montt the archipelago has come to an end, but the Chilean coast continues for another 1400nm to Peru.
In this log we will handle the route to Puerto Natales, 600 of the total 1600nm.
Getting things ready, stocking up, clearing out of Argentina, sailing to Puerto Williams, checking in to Chile together with sailing permission was finally done 10 of February and we could start on our north westbound route. Of course before leaving Puerto Williams, we first had to visit the World southernmost bar and Yacht club. Together with a lot of cards, flags, pennants and photos on the walls in the pub is now a photo from Antarctica with Lindisfarne tacking in front of a glacier.
Sailing west in the Beagle Canal, named after James Cooks ship HMS Beagle, we reached Caleta Eugenio, a well protected anchorage where we spent two nights waiting for the wind to get favourable. Together with the tide, the wind makes the sea very steep and choppy, nothing to tack against. So the choices are between waiting or motoring. The latter is sometimes not very comfortable, depending on the height of the waves, not to mention the consumption of diesel supposed to last all the way to Puerto Montt, or at least to Puerto Natales.
On the 14th we sailed west on Brazo Sudoeste, made a small detour on Estero Fouque to see a glacier, and reached Estero Coloane with it’s glacier before it become dark. To our surprise our planned anchoring was occupied, but we found an even better place in the same Estero. This was the first and so far (9 weeks later) the only time this happened. It’s not a crowded area!
The next day we sailed north on Canal Barros Merino and back east on Brazo Noroeste to Seno Pia with its glaciers and the nice Caleta Beaulieu. Unfortunately the weather now had started to be really greyish with lots of rain, so, in spite that we waited one extra day, we couldn’t see more than the lower part of the glacier.
Out in the rain, motoring west along Brazo Noroeste, Paso Darwin and Canal O’Brian to Caletón Silva wasn’t a very exciting trip. Not much to see in the rain and fog. But we knew about the beautiful mountains up in the clouds! The only interruptions in the monotone trip were the calls on VHF from the Armada. They keep a sharp outlook (assisted by radar) and call every vessel in their vicinity. We don’t answer in Spanish, even if our pour Spanish is enough to answer, because we don’t understand the “stream” of Spanish coming from the other end! Every call have first been made in Spanish and then followed up in English. Two things happen when we answer in English. We understand everything they say, and they don’t ask as much as in Spanish…
The weather cleared up during the afternoon, so we managed to climb up on the hillside to get some exercise and a nice view to the west along Canal Ballenero.
We stayed only one night because the wind was favourable the next day. We had good wind, sometimes a little to strong, and we made more than 60nm to Caleta Brecknock over Canal Ballenero and through Canal Brecknock. This is a very spectacular anchorage, completely protected from the sea, but being very close to the Pacific it’s exposed to rachas, or williwaws, or katabatic wind – extremely strong gusts coming down the mountains. This is one reason for using at least two ropes to the shore in the direction of the rachas and to tie as close to the shore as possible to get some shelter from the wind of the surrounding trees. The other reason for the ropes is the often very steep leaning bottom. If swinging on anchor on such bottom and in a wind change, your anchor will most certainly lose its grip and you will drift away. The same technique is used in the Mediterranean with its strong night winds coming down the mountains and the rapidly deepening bottoms, but here we very often use three or four lines when it is very windy.
Caleta Brecknock is the last caleta before Canal Cockburn, which open to the Pacific in south west and runs north east to Canal Magdalena and further away to Strait of Magellan. So because of the exposed location we had to wait in the rain and strong wind for four days in Caleta Brecknock.
On Thursday the 22nd we finally got the weather we were waiting for, no rain and not to strong wind from Southwest. We had a very nice sailing with tailwind all the way along Canal Cockburn to Caleta Cluedo. Only a short part of the passage, just when we were turning to Northeast, we were exposed to the heavy sea from the Pacific. Caleta Cluedo was a complete change in surroundings compared to Caleta Brecknock, in spite it was only 30nm in between. Trees and green grass with a lot of birds, even a brownish hummingbird. We spend two days here, walking around on the hills which for the first time was not only bare rock.
From Canal Cockburn there are three Canals to Magellan, but unfortunately only one is allowed by the Armada. (Most sailors use the shortest one, Canal Acwalisnan, in spite it’s not allowed) As we where aiming for some “extra” glaciers in Seno Keats and Seno Agostini, a detour of 100nm, the rules gave no extra miles for us. We would automatically end up in Canal Magdalena, the allowed Canal to Magellan.
We got favourable wind and “flew” over Canal Cockburn eastbound to Canal Magdalena and anchored in Puerto King. This is not a “Port”. It’s a very good Caleta used by the local fishermen during heavy weather. Not very easy to walk in the surroundings, in fact almost impossible, so we were stuck in the boat, not so very unpleasant with the oil furnace burning (a Danish Refleks), and a good book.
After two nights in Puerto King we sailed “around the corner” to Seno Chico and straight south into Fjord Alacaluf with two glaciers, one is told to be the most beautiful of Tierra del Fuego. We anchored at the head, in front of the glaciers, one to the left reached the sea and the other two hundred meters ashore. Compared with a photo in the Pilot, about 6 years old, both glaciers reached the sea. This is what we see on most glacier, global warming?
We took the dinghy ashore and walked up to the glacier front to get some close up photos. Coming back to the boat we discovered that one of the williwaws had pushed the boat hard and the anchor chain was completely out of the windlass! Only the tiny rope that secures the chain was in the windlass. Although this is how it should work, it was still very scary. We normally use a hook to secure the chain in front of the windlass, but this time we “shall only be gone a little while”. Now we have learned that lesson, luckily without any damages, never ever leave the boat on anchor hanging only on the windlass!!!
After that little chock, we motored back to Seno Chico and Caleta Lago where we due to heavy rain spend two nights.
Wednesday the 28 came with no rain, some sun and a light breeze from behind so we took the opportunity to have a very lazy sail into the next fjords, Seno Keats and then Seno Agostini to Bahia Angelito where we anchored for the night. Close to the anchorage we saw three Condors high up around the nearest mountain. This was a beautiful anchorage with high mountains in the background, but a little bit windy.
The weather was still on our side next morning so we continued our detour southeast with tailwind along Seno Agostini and to the glaciers in Seno Hyatt. We reached the front after some “ice tacking”, quite similar to what we experienced in Antarctica, and got some photos of Lindisfarne in the ice close to the glacier.
We then sailed back all the way to Seno Keats and Bahia Queta, a very well protected anchorage, almost on the “normal” route to Magellan. Our detour took three days and almost 100nm.
Our grib files predicted south west for the next three-four days, perfect wind condition for Magellan. So we rushed north in Canal Magdalena to Caleta Beubassie, to be in position if the forecast was correct.
We where actually one day ahead of the predicted westerly wind, and that proved to be right. We did a short trip against the wind, only 22nm to Caleta Hidden. Sailing with the tide and wind against is not very efficient, almost impossible to tack and very uncomfortable in the short choppy sea. So we motored slowly to the Caleta.
Next morning, 5th of March, the weather had changed. Blizzard! When we woke up, but only for 15 minutes, then clear blue sky till the next squall with snow. It was very cold. The snow stayed on the wet deck and made it very slippery. But between the gusts, the weather was very nice with wind from southwest. So no time to hesitate.
We got a lovely and fast sailing with tailwind and sunshine, although interrupted now and then with heavy snowfall and strong wind, luckily from behind. The anchorage we had chosen was Bahia Tilly on Isla Carlos III in the middle of Paso Inglés, a part of Magellan Strait. Paso Inglés is famous for its current, which attract whales. Already far away from Isla Carlos we saw the blow from several whales. Coming closer there where a lot of humpbacks diving in the turbulent water. We got some good photos, but we missed the best opportunity because that whale was to close! And then of course, most of the whales are under water so it isn’t that easy to get really good photos.
After this exiting experience it was almost difficult to calm down and just anchor! But we succeeded, and had a nice quiet night waiting for another predicted sunny day with good wind.
Yes, it was sunny!
And what more, just as we got the anchor secured on deck, two humpbacks came into our anchorage! We moved slowly, almost with no revs, towards them. They are really big, getting this close. 15m and 25ton, a lot bigger and heavier than our boat! It was very silent with almost no wind so the blow was really loud compared. Quite scary when they came up without us seeing them, and there was the blow behind us! Once they came up on our windward side, their breath is really smelly! We definitely prefer to have them to leeward.
Half an hour and some 100 photos later they dived out into the Paso Inglésa and we could “at last” start our trip northwest to the final part of Magellan.
Unfortunately there was no wind at all. But compared to the normal conditions in Magellan, strong westerly and tide, we prefer no wind! The last two hours before reaching Caleta Uriarte on south side of the west entrance to Magellan, we got really good wind and almost summer temperature.
The really good weather lasted even the next day.
Wednesday the 7 of March, we sailed north across Magellan to Canal Smyth after passing Isla Tamar, one of the most dangerous parts together with Gulfo des Penan on the whole route from Puerto Williams to Puerto Montt. But today with 20knots south-westerly and sun from a clear blue sky it couldn’t be better!
We were called from the lighthouse Faro Islote Fairway at the entrance of Canal Smyth. This was actually first time since we left the southern part close to Argentina, where we were called every day. The weather was so delightful so we just couldn’t stop at the light house. We sailed 70nm before we, just before sunset, anchored in Bahia Mallet, an anchorage that didn’t need any lines ashore. The latter is very difficult in the dark.
The surroundings in Mallet were unusually and the weather continued with no rain, so we made a long hike around the bay. We stayed two nights, we thought we had earned that after passing Magellan.
Now the weather forecast was back to normal, so before the strong northerly and rain started we made a short trip to Caleta Victoria at Paso Victoria. This caleta was told to be favourable to the previous when strong wind from the north was expected. We stayed here for four nights, due to the weather and because we got company after two nights. The Swedish sailing boat Satumaa with Lasse and Pauli stayed two nights before they continued north and we went south east for Puerto Natales. We wanted to do laundry, get fresh food and diesel. This is a detour of 60nm one way from the straight route to the north.
Puerto Natales lies east of a big inland water, connected to the sea with two narrow passages, and of course when all this water shall up and down 2m with the tide, a strong current develops in these straights. We were lucky to reach the passage when the current was only 2knots against, continued out into the great inland water “Golfo Almirante Montt and anchored in Bahia Easter just at sun set.
Now we got the high pressure again, with high temperature (15 C), no wind and clear blue sky. After a short motoring to Puerto Natales, we soon walked among other people for the first time in five weeks (except for our friends in Satumaa)!
Puerto Natales don’t have a good anchorage or harbour. Thanks to the high pressure we could moor on the outside of a big fishing vessel and get diesel directly from a truck at the dock.
We were assisted by Jorge, a Chilean who had lived in Poland and spoke excellent English. He was now tired of the stress in Europe, and had moved back to Chile and bought a fishing boat. Thanks to him everything was done within 24 hours. We moored 11 o’clock and left the mooring at lunchtime the next day. We got everything we wanted including 15kg laundry and 350l diesel.
We have now passed Tierra del Fuego with its fjords and islands and Magellan Straight with all its dangers and seen a lot of glaciers on a route that hasn’t always pointed north. On the contrary, it has been pointing in all directions in spite we have been heading north as the main direction all the time. The prevailing northerly wind and the short, steep choppy sea makes the progress very slow. Going south in this archipelago is quite another thing! Wintertime is said to be less strong northerly and dryer. We have had some nice sunny days, but in total it has been raining heavily almost 50% of the time, one time for more than 48 hours without interruption! (It rains 5m/year) Of course it is easy to understand that we don’t enjoy the heavy rain, but after the rain comes the sun – at least sometimes, and then the scenery pays back.
We have now made 600 nm and there are only 1000nm left to Puerto Montt!
15 March – 20 May Puerto Natales to Marina Quinched, Chiloé
This is yet another long log, describing our not very straight route day by day in Patagonia.
There are many names to remember for the joy of the chart people and those who actually intend to sail down here. We hope that the rest of you can have some pleasure from the text in spite all the names. We have often thought about to whom we are writing, and the answer is to our self, this is actually our only notes to remember. Of course it’s nice to share our experiences and wonderful views with people around the world.
It’s a long trip we have done in the Chilean Canals, yes sometimes it have been more like a transportation than a sailing journey. Now when we have come this far and our minds once again get used to the normal surroundings, we look back and realise that most of the rainy days are forgotten, almost…
After noon 15th of March we left Puerto Natales with all our lockers completely filled up. With our now 500 litre diesel in total we felt that we could run on diesel the whole way to Puerto Montt. (How wrong didn’t that turn out to be.)
The route took us straight south west to reach the north/south going main route through the Archipelago on water as smooth as a mirror. Under a clear sky and with absolutely no wind we motored towards Angostura Kirke, one of two narrow passages connecting the wide inland water around Puerto Natales to the Canals and the open sea. The huge amount of water passing this two narrow straits due to the tide creates a strong current, over 10 knots during spring conditions. We managed to get there when the tide was going west at 4 knots, and it was tricky enough to handle the boat in that current! In the west part of the narrow we anchored in Caleta Desaparecidos, a pleasant and well protected bay 25nm from Puerto Natales, where we had sea lions “singing” the whole evening.
The next day our highly appreciated high pressure was disappearing, but still no rain and no wind. Just as we were turning north into the normal route to the north, the wind came together with a rough, steep sea. We had two choices, either turn around and go with the wind a few miles to an anchorage or continue against the wind and the ruff sea for 7 miles doing only 2-3knots under high power, using the double amount of diesel/nm, not mention more than two hours highly uncomfortable boat motion. We choose the first alternative and where at anchor only half an hour later in Caleta Jaime, only 11 miles from Caleta Desaparecidos.
We got caught there for four days, waiting for the heavy northerly wind to decrease. We soon got company from three fishing boats. One tried to get out after three days but came back two hours later. We were, after that attempt, even more convinced that it was a right decision to wait. The first day before the rain started we got some good exercise climbing up the mountain on the island, almost 600m high, but the following days we only got some air waking on deck in between the rain.
The fifth day, Friday the 20th of March, we lost our patience and forced the boat against the wind, which had decreased a little, the 10nm to Puerto Fontaine. Some Caletas are called Puerto, although they are not a harbour. We anchored without land lines and stayed for two nights. A nice bay without the williwaws we experienced in the previous bay.
On the 22nd we sailed 18nm north on Estrecho Collingwood to Caleta Columbine and had an early start next morning to reach protected water before the northerly wind increased again. Half way to Canal Harrier and the protected water we got a strong headwind with 40 knots in gusts. The Navimag ferry “Puerto Eden” overhauled us in the heavy wind and rain. They called us on the VHF and asked about name, flag and destination. Then they asked if everything was OK, probably it looked a little bit rough. We answered that everything was ok and they wished us good luck. We thanked them and said that we could need that, not thinking about that it could be misunderstood. But either their English was not good enough to understand the underlining or they actually understood what we meant. Luck for us meant having better weather!
10nm later, reaching Canal Harriet, we got protection from the rough sea and got less wind, and one hour later we where at anchor in a small, very protected creek. Caleta Thélème, named after a French boat which “discovered” the creek, we stayed two nights waiting for a predicted southerly wind.
The wind came and we sailed more than 50 nm over Canal Sarmiento to Bahia Bueno, where we got the northerly wind and rain again. We stayed three nights, waiting for the next weather window.
We pulled the anchor on the 28th and motored in mist and no wind over Estero Peel to Canal Pitt where a fresh wind from the north made it possible to tack to Caleta Rachel 30nm from Bahia Bueno. After three attempts we got a good grip with the anchor, but the chain on the stony bottom made a lot of noise when the boat was moving sidewise in the wind. We left the next day due to the noise and lack of rest, in spite the weather wasn’t that good.
After 15nm of struggle we could anchor in Caleta Pico. This small cove seemed to be well protected from northerly winds, but the shape of the surrounding mountains made the wind divert during the night and with great force reach the boat from southwest. Luckily the fetch was not long enough to build up big waves, and our anchor was well set. But as soon as the morning light was bright enough to manoeuvre we got out in the now very strong northerly wind and surfed with only a small piece of the Genoa in 7 knots back south 5nm to Caleta Otter Pole, a miraculous well protected cove, reached after a Z- turn in behind some headlands.
It was almost not possible to understand, coming from the 40knot wind, that we actually had no wind at all in this cove. The only problem, easy to live with, was that we didn’t know when to leave because you got no visual information about the wind out in the straight. We stayed two nights, mostly due to lack of sleep during the previous two nights.
The first of April we left our shelter and started north again. It seems to be either no wind or fresh to strong northerly in these canals! This day there where almost no wind at all, but due to lack of progress the past week we felt that we had to get rid of Canal Pitt, especially after our bad anchoring in Caleta Pico, a caleta that should be deleted from the pilot for two reasons, the strong williwaws in dangerous direction and the nearby and totally protected Caleta Otter Pole. Without local knowledge it’s not easy to choose the right one out of three. We came to choose the two that wasn’t really good, and only because the nasty williwaws we came to anchor in one of the best protected caletas we ever used.
Motoring in the Canal Andrés we met a Canadian boat, “Mia” on their way to the south. We turned around and in the nonexistent wind we drifted together chatting about nothing and everything concerning the canals. You meet so few boats in this region so when you do, it’s almost impossible not to get in contact and great fun to talk to other people after weeks in isolation. After some fifteen minutes we waved goodbye and turned north again. What a difference to be sailing south!
But they have the same rain!
Still without wind we motored north of Isla Canning over Seno Tres Cerros and diagonal northwest over Canal Conceptión to Isla Topar and anchored in Caleta Neruda, having made 43nm since Caleta Otter Pole.
The next morning there where still no wind, but having information about how nasty Canal Wide can be, we started motoring the 40nm up the strait to Caleta Nassibal. Having made half the distance, a fresh wind came from the north, and we had a nice day tacking in moderate sea the following 20nm to the anchorage.
Again early start, not to be caught in the “Wide”. A fresh, 15-20 knots, wind from the north and moderate sea state, made it possible to tack the whole way to Caleta Apalá in Paso Piloto Pardo.
We made 34 tacks and 33nm. The distance “as the crow flies” was only 16nm!
But almost no rain and actually some sun. Some bergy bits of ice were floating in the east side of the canal so we had to keep a sharp lookout tacking east.
Caleta Apalá on Isla Saumarez was a nice experience. A perfect bay for anchoring without shorelines.
The weather, although northerly wind, was still acceptable so we stayed only one night. The 4th of April we tacked north. Reaching Canal Escape, just north of Isla Saumarez, where Canal Grappler connect, we suddenly decided to take advantage of the weather prediction and visit Glacier PioXI in the head of Seno Eyre, south of Canal Grappler. So after a morning tacking against a fresh wind, we turned south into Canal Grappler and run down to Caleta Lucrecia in the south part of Canal Grappler where we anchored, still on Isla Saumarez but on the east side, 23 nm from Caleta Apalá.
The next morning we motored 25nm to Caleta Sally at the head of Seno Eyre where we spent three nights with daily tours the three miles to the huge glacier. The weather didn’t clear up quite as predicted, but clear enough to justify this 70nm detour.
On the 8th we left the picturesque and protected Caleta Sally early enough to reach Canal Grappler before ebb. We had calculated the tide correctly and had 1,5-2 knots increased sailing speed thanks to the current, but we had to give way for bergy bits ofice all the way along Seno Eyre. We were back in Canal Grappler three hours later and made an early anchorage in Caleta Lucrecia to do some maintenance, change filter and oil in the engine and fill up our 150 l diesel, stored in jerry cans, into the main tank.
An almost nonexistent northerly wind saw us next day motoring 15nm up Canal Grappler crossing Paso del Indio to Caleta Maris Stella, where we anchored for the night. Next morning we did the last 16nm to Puerto Edén, and for once Puerto means “Port”.
Puerto Edén is a small village in the middle of nowhere. 200 people lives here, mainly fishermen, an Armada station, Carbieneros, Postoffice and a new school building. The latter with free Internet distributed by satellite. It was quite odd to get into the so called civilisation in this really remote part of Chile.
There where even two small “restaurants”, actually home kitchen with somewhat enlarged eating table. We tried both with good result! We even found several very small “supermercado” and were lucky to be there just as “The Navimag” ferry came with supplies from Puerto Montt. We managed to get quite a lot of vegetables and fruit!
This was really a surprise, although the pilot wrote about the possibility, it also told us that supplies run out almost instantly after the ferry have left The ferry comes once a week but only with supplies every two times. So we felt very lucky! Perhaps this was the luck Navimag whished us some days earlier when they hailed us over the VHF!
We even got a visit from the Armada arriving in an inflatable. They where very polite and friendly and did all the paperwork sitting in our cockpit.
We where the only boat the first night, but then came four other sailing boats, quite a crowd out here in the remote wilderness, especially for us who had spent two month almost on our own.
One of the boats was Shanty with the German single handler Peter as skipper. He had the leader of Patagonian Cruisers net, Wolfgang, as a guest. We knew this because although we hadn’t checked in to the net jet, we try to listen every morning.
This was a good opportunity to make physical contact, not only by HF. We had a long and nice chat, not only because we needed some help to get in contact with Oxxean marina in Puerto Montt where our air tickets should have been delivered. Thanks to Wolfgang we got in contact with Manni, a Finnish guy living in his boat in Oxxean. Two days later we got a recite telling us that the tickets where in the office of the Marina Oxxean.
The 14th of April, after four nights in this waste metropolis, we headed north again in Angostura Inglesa, a narrow strait with high speed tidal current. In the northern part of the strait it happened what we carefully had tried to avoid during navigating in the Canals. We got a powerful piece of kelp in the propeller! And it was not the normal kelp, which we have come to think about merely as a help during navigation showing us the shallows. It was something that was more like an octopus with 20-30, up to three meter long strong arms/fingers, impossible to pull off. The engine stopped and was almost not able to turn and when we put the gear in reverse we couldn’t shift back to neutral and had to shut down the engine.
Now we really were in a hurry! In the middle of the fairway against the wind and current, and on top of that we had heard a cargo ship on the VHF announcing their passage from the north through Angostura Inglesa. The sails came up quicker than ever and after a few tacks we could anchor behind some small islands just as the cargo ship came. Shanty and La Flaneuse, two of the boats we met in Puerto Edén arrived in the fairway at the same time as the cargo ship passed and asked if we needed any support. We decided that they could continue and that we should have radio contact that evening confirming that everything was ok.
Now we had a complicated work in front of us. Normally we just dive down to the propeller with a knife, but in this cold water and with that amount of kelp it was not an attractive alternative. The solution was; Annika in the dingy equipped with a diving hood and mask, and our special prepared kelp knife on a 2.5m stick. The kelp knife was prepared to get rid of kelp from the chain when anchoring, and we had almost never used it. It definitely came in handy now.
After half an hour Annika had succeeded to cut away all kelp and we could continue our interrupted passage out on Canal Messier. Only to chose to turn back after one hour in the increasing northerly wind and building sea. We sailed back to just north of our “kelp island” and anchored in Caleta Salauda, where Contessa, another boat from Puerto Edén, already was on anchor.
Next morning Contessa was already gone when we looked out into the rain. In spite of the rain we pulled the anchor and set of into the rain. After an hour we got a fresh south wind and could sail the 33nm to Point Lay, almost half way north of Canal Messiner. Here where we anchored for two nights, waiting for the rain to stop and the heavy northerly wind, which started just as we anchored, to decrease.
On the 17th we motor sailed 35nm and almost the rest of Canal Messiner to Caleta Hale to be in position for the Golfo de Penas. The next day it was not possible to go north so we had to spend another night in Caleta Hale.
Golfo de Penas is 50nm wide and not protected from the Pacific at all, and the route continues west of Peninsula Tres Montes making the unprotected part of the route almost 150nm. The current and weather system makes these waters a pain even under normal conditions. During the past few days it had been blowing over 50knots from the north, even the Navimag ferry had been on anchor for two nights waiting for the wind to decrease.
We got a reasonable good weather prediction for the 19th so we left our anchorage in Caleta Hale and sailed north into the Golfo de Penas.
As usually the wind was not quite as predicted. The direction of the westerly wind was 20 degrees to much to the north for us to be able to sail around Peninsula Tres Montes without tacking. Tacking in this current and confused sea was for us not an option so we sailed east of the Peninsula and anchored in Puerto Barrosa – in total darkness.
We continued the next day around Cabo Ráper and anchored again in darkness in the very well protected Caleta Suárez. Thanks to the radar this is possible and we often use the radar to check the charts. Sometimes the shoreline is one nm or more in wrong position. Not a very trustworthy help in the darkness. After a completely silent night we made the last 50 nm of the passage and finally anchored in Caleta Canaveral in the southern part of Bahía Anna Pink, and guess what, once again in darkness. This is one disadvantage with sailing in the fall, the days gets shorter day by day.
The next morning, listening to the Patagonian Cruising Net, we heard about an earthquake in the vicinity of Seno Aysén with 6-8m high waves and several people missing. We had planned to go to Chacabucu and take the bus to Argentina to renew our visas. Knowing about the earthquake and the eventually closing of the Seno, we where not very keen on that, mildly speaking.
After some calculations we decided that it was possible to reach Castro on Isla de Chiloé before our visa expired. Diesel was another item in Chacabucu, but that we thought to be solved in Puerto Aguirre. On top of this we have not to forget the three month temporary permission for the boat from the customs. It will be thrilling to solve this in a Spanish spoken country with our almost nonexistent knowledge in Spanish language.
After these morning thoughts we weigh anchor and hoist the sails and sailed east over Bahía Anna Pink and Boca Wickham into Canal Pulluche. Now we really were back in the archipelago, and it felt like coming home again. We hade been in these relatively protected waters since we came back from Antarctica the 20th of January, more than three months ago.
We had promised the authors of the Italian Pilot to check some information about a “new” Caleta in Canal Pulluche, Caleta Managrachi, so the anchorage for the night was decided long ago. It turned out to be one of the best caletas so far. A lot of space to anchor free, actually there was room for up to ten boats on anchor and still it was very well protected. The bottom was even from four to six meters with good holding. On top of that the surroundings where beautiful.
Next morning, the 23rd, we where a little bit slow starting up. After our three night anchoring together with early morning starts, we thought we had earned a slow start. Later out in Pulluche we met two big Fin whales and looking at them took some time. They never show their fluke, so what gets on a photo is just a big dark body, a dorsal fin and of course the blow with gigantic spray up to 6m in height.
After that the wind increased and we where unusually heading southeast and could run downwind with only a reefed main in 5-6 knot. We had calculated the tide accurate and could add another knot over ground to that speed, not to mention the difference in sea state with the wind and current in the same direction compared to the opposite.
Reaching Canal Chacabucu we could see two sails 10nm ahead of us. Peter on Shanty answered a VHF call and we decided to anchor together with them in Rio Humos in Canal Errázuriz another 10nm further away. The gusts where now not so strong and we poled out the genoa to minimise the distains to Shanty and La Flaneuse. We did only gain one knot in top speed, but kept the speed between the gusts, so the average speed was quite increased. We made over 8 knots in the surfs (+ 1 thanks to the current). So far this was the fastest run calculated over 20nm in this archipelago sailing.
Having three miles left to the anchorage, we heard Shanty and La Flaneuse talking over VHF while anchoring. The wind gave them obviously some problems and we could see some “mini cyclones” ahead of us. We furled the genoa and the main rapidly and a few minutes later we had over 35knots in the gusts. It was a local front passing. The barometer fell rapidly but where back to normal again during the evening. When we paddled back from Shanty after a nice evening it was completely calm and the stars were numerous.
We forgot to tell you that we had only a few showers during the day, the rest was sunny and clear!
The next morning there where no wind but some mist. We pulled the anchor and motored north towards Canal Moraleda well before the other two boats. We were quite short on diesel, so when a light breeze started we hoisted our sails and shut down the engine. Quite a difference compared to yesterday, now tacking in 3-4 knots speed in mist!
Anchoring in Estero Atracadero we were only half an hour later than Shanty and La Flaneuse in spite they had motored the whole way. We spent the evening in La Flaneuse together with Monicue, Michelle and Peter. Annika did a lot of work with their computer while we were eating, drinking and chatting. OK Annika got also some wine and cheese…
Now our diesel situation was growing to a real problem. We had an almost dry bow tank, supporting the Refleks stove, and only some 30l in the main tank. According to our original plan we should now had been in Chacabucu for diesel and visa. The nearest place told to have diesel according to the pilot was Puerto Aguirre 15nm to the east so we left the other two who continued north and we motored in the calm to Puerto Aguirre. There we moored at the wharf and took our paper to the Armada to check in. They wanted to write a new Zarpe in spite our valid Zarpe covered the whole way up to Puerto Montt. But why argue when there were no costs involved and we could keep our “old” Zarpe. It will be interesting to see the reaction in next port if we show them two valid zarpes!
This was a minor problem compared to the fact that there where no diesel on the island!
The pump on the wharf where labelled “Kerosene”. With the weather a very stabile high pressure and 150nm to the next possible diesel pump, our mood was not on top! We moved the boat to a close bay and took the dingy with two jerry cans back to the jetty to ask around if someone could sell us some litres. Quite exciting in view of our lack of Spanish language. We got some vegetables and some fruit but no diesel…
After strolling around in the village we finally came to a new wharf, obviously build for supplying the fish farms. There where a supply ship moored and we asked them about the possibility to buy some diesel, and to our great relief they where extremely willing to help.
From a big tank on the deck the captain filled our two jerry cans, and we put them in the dingy. No way said the captain (at least that what we thought) and the jerry cans was back on the deck and put into a “speedboat” and transported to Lindisfarne on the other side of the island. We really don’t know how, but Annika succeeded when paying the captain to get allowance for another diesel tour. So back in the boat Björn brought some other empty jerry cans back to the supply ship, and the procedure was repeated. We got in total 120l, and that to a very reasonable price, almost the same as the price later in Chiloé. We felt very wealthy and the mood was several degrees higher, not to mention that we now could not only run the engine, we could also let the furnace keep the boat comfortable warm. Sometimes when things look very black you end up in bright sunshine! Now we can motor the whole way to Puerto Montt if we have to.
We stayed on the anchorage another night to do the village in not so stressed circumstances. On a small nearby island they had their cemetery with the coffins in bright coloured small houses. The traditions are not quite the same as back home!
Back in Aguirre we found some really well stocked small supermercados and we got eggs, wine, tomatoes, salad, white cabbage, apples, bananas and pears.
Back in the boat we pulled the anchor and motored slowly only 10nm along Canal Ferronave to Caleta Olea, a very nice and well protected caleta where we spend a completely silent night.
Early next morning we started motoring northwest across Canal Moraleda towards Canal Préz Sur. After only one hour we got sunshine and a light breeze from northeast and thanks to the smooth sea state we made over four knots sailing the 20nm across to Canal Préz Sur. The scene and mood differed totally from the previous days motoring in mist with almost no diesel left.
Just before sunset we arrived into Pozo Delfin, a completely landlocked cove. The only access was via a narrow channel, about 8m wide. Unfortunately the bottom was very rocky and with poor holding. We had to repeat anchoring three times until we got an acceptable holding.
We are used not to meet almost any other boats a day, but in the northern part of Canal Moraleda we started to meet a few every day and the number increasing on our way to the north.
From Pozo Delfin it’s only 35nm to the passage across Boca Guafo to Chiloé, the second largest island in South America (the largest is Tierra del Fuego). The high pressure was still active and we motored in sunlight and calm sea 28nm to Caleta Momia, three miles south of Puerto Melinka, the northern point of the archipelago south of Golfo de Corcovado and Chiloé which complete the protected waters of Chile.
After some calculations of the tide in Boca Guafo we decided to have a really early start next morning. The tide around Chiloé is 5-8m and the waters east of Chiloé are quite large creating a strong current and turbulent sea. Along Chiloe’s east coast the current run either north or south depending on where and the state of the tide. If we leave just before slack water in Melinka we would have the current against us for the first five miles, but then gain one to two knots, even partially three, the whole 50nm to Quellón. Easily understood, a wrong timing should give us a significant longer journey, not to mention an uncomfortable trip against a steep current effected sea.
Early bed and an even earlier morning. At two in the morning we pulled the anchor and assisted by radar and a bright full moon we entered our last longer trip in the Canals of Chile. The radar was almost not necessary in the moonlight, but the strong current passing Melinka gave us 30 degrees wrong course, not easy adjusted even in moonlight without radar.
We got a fantastic trip with a breathtaking sunrise over Volcano Corcovado and the mountains east of Golfo de Corcovado. There where practically no waves outside the really current waters along Chiloé and the only, acceptable, downside was that we had to use the motor the whole way. We reached Quellón a few hours before the current turned to south, saving almost 50% time and of course diesel during a very comfortable open sea passage. Quite a difference compared to our previous passage over Gulfo de Penas.
In Quellón we got diesel from a hose directly into our tanks, what a luxury. Up to now we had consumed just over 800 litre diesel, including the 200 litre for heating during 1500nm. Of course we have been sailing when it was possible, but still it is a quite scary figure especially when the surroundings are remote like in the canals.
Of course it had been possible to wait even longer in the caletas for preferable wind conditions, but we have spent three month and waited sometimes four days in caletas, and don’t forget the diesel consumption for heating will increase while waiting.
We thought of carry on the next morning, but to our surprise we discovered a strong Wi-Fi signal while at anchor 200m offshore in the harbour! This together with the disappearing high pressure, followed by two days of rain, made us stay on anchor for three days. Now we really were back in the civilised world. Quellón is a fishing town with more than 12 000 inhabitants, numerous of fishing boats and supply ships for the fish farms. A big supermarket and some restaurants completed the picture of a living small town. We are really getting out of nowhere. Only thing missing was a pontoon to moor the dinghy. In the 5m tide it was a little bit messy to get ashore, especially since the rain now was back together with a low.
After three nights waiting for the high pressure we left on the 3:rd of May to be in Castro before our visa expires. The surroundings were now not the barren wild mountains and steep fjords any more, it looked more like some farming landscape with sheep, cows and horses, pretty similar to the sloops of Ireland. We anchored in a pastoral surrounding in Estero Pailad close to an old wooden church where we spend two nights in absolute silent environment, trying to get our brains accepting the difference from what we had been used to down south.
Meeting more than 20 boats in one day, when we where used to meet two in a week! was only one example. After those two days with nice walks along a little gravel road we felt somewhat acclimated to the “normal” world.
We pulled the anchor around nine to match the tide and motored 30 nm to Marina Quinched, just south of the Seno to Castro and just north of Chonchi. On the way we met Shanty and La Flaneuse whom we met in Puerto Edén and Esteró Atracadero. They where also heading for Marina Quinched so we really had a get together there with barbecue in the nice lodge prepared for the crews convenience. The next day we went together to explore Castro and Chonchi and the wooden churches among other things. Both boats had an early night and left for Valdivia the next morning.
We were now totally focused on our visa and the temporary permission to have the boat in Chile without paying VAT. We went in to Castro to buy bus tickets for Bariloche in Argentina, to go there on Tuesday the 8th of May. There where no bus until Thursday and that was the 10th, the last day of our visa. It seemed a little close, but within the 90 days thanks to 28 days in February.
With a lot of help from Mr Bannister, the owner of the Marina, we send an email to the customs about the boat, two days before the permission expired, hoping to get an answer when we where to be back from Argentina.
We used the days, waiting for the trip, to clean the boat and other maintenance work that hadn’t been done during three months under way, wrote lots of email and prepared the next update of our website. In the Marina there was now only one boat with people onboard except us. An Australian/South African couple with their daughter. They had arrived from the north a week before of us, and the daughter had already made contact with the local children and where attending everyday school in the nearby local school. Amazing how fast the youngsters learn to communicate in spite the foreign language!
They left on Wednesday by bus to Valdivia, their port of entry to Chile, to get extension of their visa, only to find out that the best solution was to continue over the border to Argentina to get a new 90 days visa. We left at 6 am with a taxi on the 10th to take the bus from Castro to the mainland. As a coincidence, Shanty and La Flaneuse where passing in Canal Chacao just as our ferry crossed the strait!
We arrived to the border five hours later and everybody from the bus had to form a cue to get their stamps out from Chile. Our passports were thoroughly examined and then the lady said that our visa was one day too old! We tried politely to explain that due to the 28 days in February, our 90 days included the 10th of May. She didn’t answer but went to a superior and they had a discussion we couldn’t follow. She came back and said something about 90 days and stamped our passport and gave them back. We didn’t argue as long as we got our stamps!
The Argentina border, 20 miles over the mountain pass where the actual border is, had almost the same procedure, but there we had no problem.
We decided when we arrived to Bariloche to go back to Puerto Montt on Sunday to visit the Aduana, Customs, and to pick up our air tickets to Sweden at Marina Oxxean on Monday before taking the bus back to Castro.
We got a cheap Hostel room in the centre and after a short walk we went to bed, exhausted after the long bus ride and the high altitude, but happy to have, in the last minute, solved our visa problem. The next day, after breakfast, we joined an excursion to Glacier Negro in the Tronador massive. Perfect weather, clear sky and no wind. Now we added another glacier to our “collection”. The excursion included three walks, one to the glacier and two to waterfalls (as if we haven’t seen enough water in the canals!) and returned to Bariloche well after dark, so even this evening we had no problem to sleep. On Saturday we did the town, shopping areas and cafés.
Then we took a local bus 12 miles along the lake to a fantastic Hotel/SPA/Golf club.
We had to wait at the gate, and after a while we where allowed to pass through.
There where three restaurants in the Hotel, one not to far above our budget, and we had a very pleasant lunch overlooking the magnificent view over a lake and the mountains.
Then the bus back for our last evening in Bariloche. We just had to have some lamb meat, and Argentina is famous for its meat, and unlike in Chile this meat includes lamb. So we spend the late evening, eating lamb for “the next three months”.
Sunday morning we started for Purto Montt arriving there in the afternoon, got a cheap Hotel and used the rest of the day to examine the possibilities of the town. We are eventually to leave the boat in one of the Marinas here for several months and one of the bases for decision is of course the nature and services of the town.
Next morning we went to Oxxean Marina and got our air tickets which had been delivered almost a month ago. The visit to the custom became very short, they red our mail requesting a new permission for the boat and answered that we had done it correct, addressed it to our port of entry Puerto Williams/Punta Arenas who will send answer to us in Marina in Quinched.
Back in the marina there where only 11 degrees in the boat, but our Refleks furnace together with the air heater (Webasto) got it comfortable warm very fast. Do we need to tell you that we slept well and long after these for us very intensive days.
There where no answer from Aduana in Punta Arenas so we emailed a request asking them to respond. Three days later we (Mr Bannister in the marina) called the Aduana in Puerto Arenas only to discover that the man we send email to where in Puerto Natales since two weeks. Immediately we send copies of all our emails to the man in charge and late on Friday he told us by phone that, although we were five days late (they seemed to ignore that we actually had emailed the office two days before the expire date) they will give us a new 90 days permit without any fine for the delay.
Next time we will email at least one week in advance and check the arrival by phone. Without Spanish spoken assistance this had really been a nightmare, and it seems that normally this is done by help from a marina, to where the new permission then is sent.
The whole trip to Bariloche didn’t cost us more money than the costs involved in an extension of our 90 days visa in Chile had done at the Customs and Immigration office. Not to mention all discussions and time consuming travelling and waiting at various officials. No wonder most people solve this problem just by going over the border, and you get new 90 days even if you left Chile only for an hour!
We will now continue our boat maintenance in the marina and explore the different possible marinas in the north, including Valparaiso and decide where to go before we leave this very charming place. The marina isn’t big, just over ten boats, but fills all possible requirements (and more) from visiting boats and crew. The cost is similar to the harbour fee in Chile official harbours 8US$, but her you get a lot of service including shower, laundry, water, electricity, Wi-Fi, access to the barbecue house and above all this, multilanguage assistance in all thinkable matters from the very nice and helpful couple that owns the marina.
We think this is a perfect place to rest and sum up the experience made in the canals (or the other way around, to get ready to get south into the canals), and we will stay here at least for another week to get our customs papers and all information about possible marinas to stay in until we leave Chile for Pacific in the beginning of 2008.
20 May – 19 June Marina Quinched, Chiloé to Puerto Montt
What a final we got on our Patagonian tour! But more about that later.
We stayed in Marina Quinched and at our nice hosts until we got our customs papers in order and the decision were taken for the wintering marina.
Our wintering harbour is now decided. Marina Oxxean in Puerto Montt turned out to be the best choice in comparison with the other marinas in PM and some marinas around Valdivia and Valparaiso. Oxxean charge 4 US$ per day without electricity. Our intension to sail some weeks around Chiloé in spring 2008 before we leave for the Pacific contributed to the decision.
The 5 of June (winter in the southern hemisphere) we left Quinched after more than four nice weeks in the marina and sailed east into the Chiloé archipelago. After a sunny day with almost perfect sailing conditions we anchored in a nice lagoon, Estéro Pellú, in the middle of Isla Apiao. The entrance is very narrow and partly shallow. Actually it is so shallow that the approach has to be done at high water. The tide reaches 5m at spring, so we really have to keep track of the tide when we are planning when to arrive and when to leave.
It was almost like starting a new trip, starting from Quinched after four weeks and it felt good to be out on the water again.
We had to wait a few days to let a low pass, but then we continued north to Isla Mechuque where we anchored in one of the many well protected caletas. A sunny day with favourable winds gave us a nice sailing the 30nm from Apiao to Mechugue. The anchorage, which we reached well before sundown, was overlooking Golfo de Ancud and the volcanoes on the mainland, not a bad view in the sunset.
The next day we motored west around a reef and then sailed east to the next island, Isla Buta-Chaques for two reasons. We had to shorten the passage to the mainland to be able to anchor in daylight and second, the wind was predicted to be strong north westerly and go around the reef in that condition was not very comfortable and very time-consuming. And of course this added another island to our archive.
We got a nice walk over the island before sunset and the next morning the wind was as predicted, perfect for the goal of the day, Estéro Comau. We had a fast and a little bit bumpy broad reach making sometimes over 7kn (+1kn current), so it didn’t last long before we saw the islands on the east side of Golfo de Ancud.
Unfortunately the wind didn’t decrease as predicted when we reached Estéro Comau, and it even followed us as we turned 90 degrees into Estéro Cahuelmo, where we planned to anchor in a not so protected spot along the north shore. We turned back to Comau only to experience that going back 10 nm to Isla Llancahué against the sea was not a good option, even if the anchorage itself is very safe and protected. Another option was to go down wind in Estéro Comau 12nm to a caleta, but it was doubtful if that was to give more protection than the one we left. On top of all this a thunderstorm began and it seems to have its centre somewhere down in Estero Comau. We were not interested to sail between these 1000m high sloops into a thunderstorm, so despite having left the anchorage in Estéro Cahuelmo once, it turned out to be the only reasonable option, considering everything.
One of the difficulties with this anchorage was the depth and the fact that to get any protection from the wind and sea we had to be close to shore. The solution was to tie a 40m rope to our 60m chain and then use a 100m rope ashore to be able to winch us ashore. This is how it was done, but we can tell you tying a rope to a chain hanging 40m free is not an easy job. In fact it is a quite scary operation, releasing the chain from the windlass to be able to put the rope at the end of the chain require some precautions and involves a chain hook, another rope and even the genoa winch. After an hour we were safely tied ashore with two ropes at the stern and one at the bow against the wind, and we thought that this together with the predicted 0-wind in the late night would be safe enough, although a bit uncomfortable.
As predicted the wind died around two o’clock after a crescendo with a hailstorm for some exiting minutes.
We woke up to a brilliant and calm but cold morning. The hail was still frozen on deck because we where in the shade on the north side of the Estéro, the other side looked warm and nice! Now we had to arrange everything for the bath…You don’t think that we were aiming for a swim around the boat!? Of course not, 10 degrees in the water and minus 2 in the air is not our coup of tea for a swim! No the whole idea with this somewhat dangerous trip/anchorage was to visit the thermal springs in Parque Pumalín at the head of Estéro Cahuelmo.
We put the outboard motor on the dinghy and run away over the very shallow water to the hot spring. In fact most of the trip requires high water even for the dinghy. We moored the dinghy close to the spring one hour before high water, having plenty of time to go back with enough water.
The thermal bath turned out to be a on the rocks where there were cut tubs and small canals for the hot water to reach the tubs from the hot spring. Small stones in the canals made it possible to adjust the temperature in the tubs, a perfect place with a wonderfully setting in front of the Estéro. We had the most fantastic view over the snowy mountains around the fjord. It was marvellous, especially since the last time we were into water was in Brazil!
Back in the boat, still frozen in the shaded areas, we had to hurry up to be able to reach the next anchorage before dark. The days are not very long in mid-winter Chile.
Untie the shore ropes and start the tricky procedure to get the anchor chain with its extra rope on deck. We will with not tire you with all details, but we are very grateful for our 12mm Wichard chain hook!
Finally we made our way out to the sunny side of the Estéro. In Canal Comau south of Isla Llancahué we saw three groups of, what we believe, was Fin whales with spectacular blows in the sun, quite a final to a splendid day.
We anchored just before sunset in Canal Zapatero, south east of Hornopirén, and this became to be our last night on anchor in Patagonia on this trip. After a quiet and calm night, but again cold, we started with an early breakfast so we could get full use of the predicted easterly wind towards Seno Reloncaví and Isla Guar where we aimed to anchor, 20nm south of Puerto Montt. We sailed north east just 2nm out from the mainland with the sun from a clear sky and perfect tailwind, adding one knots of current to our speed. Couldn’t be better this time of the year! We where supposed to sail over a shallow area, 3m minimum, adding 5 m high water it made sense in this calm sea state conditions. But some extra outlook and no autopilot was our “alert” to take care.
Björn was at the helm when suddenly the water became completely greenish ahead and just to the left of the bow!
But it moved!
Annika was down in the boat and were rapidly called on deck with the camera. We had a gigantic Blue whale just in front of us, and thanks to the extra outlook and no autopilot we managed to change course enough, avoid touching the whale in spite we where sailing downwind with the sails pooled out.
The normal size of a Blue whale is 25-27m and above 100 ton, the biggest known, seen in the Antarctic, was 33m and 190ton! Somewhat bigger than Lindisfarne… – 11m and 10ton.
They are huge, and like icebergs, most of it is below water and still what you see is quite impressive. We had a small hummingbird on the boat just before we spotted the biggest animal on earth, talk about different size.
Only one hour earlier, sailing in the sun under perfect conditions, we said to ourselves: “now is only a whale missing” talk about having your dreams fulfilled with extremely good measures!
After this, the passage of the shallow area was not exiting at all, in spite it was only five meters and we could see the wave pattern in the sand on the bottom.
After another two hours we reached Paso Nao and turned north into Seno Reloncavi. We had the current against us with tailwind through Paso Nao, but the waves became never too steep so the passage was quite comfortable despite the confused sea.
In Seno Reloncavi we soon realised another problem to solve. The wind, which was supposed to haul east and decrease, did increase and kept on from the south straight into our planned anchorage in Isla Guar. This was not a possible choice under these conditions, and the only alternative to this anchorage was to continue the extra 20nm to Puerto Montt. We believed that reaching PM in darkness shouldn’t present any major problems. PM is a harbour with lighthouses and lit beacons and an approach at night is very common. Another side of the coin was that this had so far been a perfect day, and to end the one year trip in South America with all this for your eyes seemed to be a good idea.
It even turned out better than expected, the tailwind increased, letting us sail out pooled in full speed the last 25nm, and the current gave us one extra knot in spite the water was going out of Seno Reloncavi.
Obviously local phenomena make the main flow run quite westerly in the Seno, creating a counter current where we were coming. Sometimes you don’t know how skilled you are… (pure luck!)
All this together made us reach Isla Tenglo just at sunset and we got a marvellous sunset on the snowy Volcano Calbuco just north east of Puerto Montt. This became the ultimate final picture to remember from the whole Patagonia trip.
The last mile between the mainland and Isla Tenglo to “our” pontoon at Marina Oxxean was easy between all the lit beacons and we moored just before the final evening light disappeared.
Need we tell you that we were really overwhelmed from all experiences the last two days. It is astonishing that your mind still can be so perceptive after all these months with strong impressions from Antarctica to the glaciers in the canals and close jumping humpbacks. Of course some pictures are still strong, but they don’t prevent us from fully appreciate new views. On the contrary it seems that our eyes have been trained to see even details in the sceneries, not only be amazed.
After a welcoming glass of wine in Mannis boat, the Finnish gay living and working here since several years, we stumbled in bed, needing a long night to recover from all that air and sun the last two days.
After a few days we were fully acclimatised, knowing where to by bread, having preserved the water maker, and dried out Lindisfarne at the pier to examine the underwater hull.
Now we have some web-work and boat maintenance before we leave by air to Easter Island for a week and then to Sweden via Santiago – Madrid – Gothenburg.
We will be back in South America for some inland travel in early November. Sailing in the Chiloé archipelago in January-February before leaving for Tuamotos and Gambier in late February.
Our overall plan includes New Zeeland in November 2008 before the cyclone season starts in Polynesia.
After that we don’t know where the grib will tell us to go…
Wednesday 14 of November, Sweden. Lindisfarne is still in Puerto Montt, Chile. The return of the crew to Chile from the trip to Sweden has been delayed. One of the items in Sweden was routine health inspection. Björns inspection found a tumour and now after a successful surgery the recovery will not delay the departure to Gambier in the South Pacific on our way to New Zeeland. We plan to be back in Puerto Montt in mid January.
Saturday 8 of December, Sweden. We are going back to the boat in Chile, January 16. Björns recovery after the surgery looks very good so the going home tickets are now booked.
Total for 2007:
3090 nm – 6,5 months
Year 1998-2007 = 34 870 nm
See – Album – some pictures from 2007
Annika & Björn