Having promised ourselves that we wouldn’t be late for Ken & Jan, we were very disappointed with the strong Southerlies preventing us getting from Valdivia to Puerto Montt before they arrived. In the end, having waited for some 3 weeks, we had to drive down to Puerto Montt Airport to collect them as (typically) the right weather box was due to arrive the day after they landed … So, after 3 flights and a 3 ½ hour car journey, Ken & Jan finally arrived in Valdivia!!!
We introduced them to the City of Valdivia the following day and then left the Yacht Club in the evening to head South to cruise Chiloe for a couple of weeks. As we hadn’t been able to get to Puerto Montt before they arrived, this was effectively our “shake down” cruise since our arrival from Easter Island in March. It started well with Jan, Vicki & Roger feeling very seasick on the first overnight passage – luckily, Ken & Monty held the fort with their cast iron stomachs. The weather was vile with very poor visibility and we think Jan wondered what on Earth she had let herself in for – she could have been sailing in the Sunshine in Greece instead of out in the cold with us !!! Not only that but she had a bad fall from her Bunk during the sail and had bashed up her ribs on the saloon table which was now listing rather heavily to Starboard and no longer attached to the floor…
After the first day, the weather picked up and we enjoyed pottering around Chiloe and the surrounding Islands getting a taste of the area. Unfortunately, our Engine was playing up a bit and the winds were quite light so we didn’t get as far South with Ken & Jan as we all would have liked but we did introduce them to some traditional Chilean fare including Chiloe’s National dish of Curanto (a hotchpotch stew of meat, chicken, sausage, seafood and potatoes which looked quite utterly revolting) and also, in Quemchi, we visited El Chejo’s Restaurant where local Centolla (King Crab) is the speciality and where Monty assisted with choosing the crabs in the Kitchen – no officious Kitchen Hygiene rules here! We stopped at ‘Caleta Los Banos’ on Isla Llancahue which is known for it’s hot springs and enjoyed the small Hotel’s Thermal Baths. This did seem a bit surreal sitting in swimsuits in an outdoor pool in the evening when we had been wearing hats, gloves, thermals and Oilies all day…
We also visited Castro which is Chile’s third oldest City although it was destroyed by earthquake in 1646, by fire in 1729, by earthquake again in 1739, by fire again in 1890, by fire once more in 1936 and most recently by earthquake and tidal wave in 1960 – luckily, the Earthquake earlier this year seemed to have missed it !!
As always on a shake down cruise, things invariably go wrong and/or break and this was no exception… It was great having Ken on board as, not only did he fix our saloon table, he helped Roger make up a temporary belt for the Engine’s water pump out of a bit of old bungee when the Alternator fell off, he acted as “Anchorman” pulling up the Anchor by hand (as no alternator) when Roger’s back gave out (rather convenient ??!!) and he fixed the toilet when it got blocked – not many people would offer to do that one….
All too soon, their two weeks were up and it was time to get Ken & Jan back to Puerto Montt. We arrived at Marina Oxxean and enjoyed being tourists for the day in the Market area of Anjelmo followed by a lovely meal out in the centre of Town - one of the best Steaks we have tasted. Sadly, Puerto Montt is less affluent than Valdivia (mainly due to the diminishing Fishing trade) and, much to our surprise, we were assailed by two young thugs as we made our way back to the Marina. Ken & Roger were not going to be made to look like ‘Gringos’ and the 2 thugs were swiftly sent packing without emptying our pockets but it was a shame to end their holiday on such a note.
It was now almost the end of October and we were due to meet Malcolm Eyles and Paul Kibble in Ushuaia in the Beagle Channel on the 31st December so we only had a short time to get ourselves ready and stowed for the 1,200 odd mile trip South. We arranged to get a Mechanic (Carlos) to look at our Engine and he took half the Engine apart to fix our Alternator issue. We stocked up on fresh food having already stowed sufficient tinned and dried food to feed an Army for at least 6 months whilst still in Valdivia and we were finally ready to set off on our big adventure down to Cape Horn…
Seals relaxing on a buoy... as one does
We left Puerto Montt on the 4th November - a little later than intended but with ample time to get to Ushuaia for Malc & PK and hopefully to Puerto Williams before Christmas. The first couple of weeks flew past as we headed down to the Golfo de Penas – otherwise known as the ‘Gulf of Pain’. The weather was wet and windy and we tried to move every day although we had agreed before we set off that if it was really cold, wet & miserable, we would declare an “Elephant Day” and stay holed up wherever we were. This seemed to work and kept us all happy.
On one such occasion, we found a very pretty anchorage in Estero Pailad in front of an old wooden church and decided to take a day out to fix the Wind Generator Fin.
All was going well until an old man (Hector) rowed up to the side of the boat and invited himself into our cockpit before we had a chance to stop him. He absolutely stank and obviously hadn’t had a bath in weeks if not months – even Monty looked appalled. He was after some Rum or, failing that, beer or wine. We explained that we didn’t drink alcohol (??!!)and eventually fobbed him off with an old can of Cola. A bit mean spirited of us we know but we were completely thrown by the dreadful smell he left behind…
It's not often you see a Cow and a Volcano (Volcan Corcovado)in the same picture !!!
For the next few days, the wind was much lighter and we happily drifted between 15 and 20 miles a day trying to sail as much as we could rather than motor.
Quite often it was too mucky to get ashore to walk Monty but we tried to land him as often as we could – often picking anchorages specifically because they mentioned a beach.
This also meant that we both continued to exercise regularly which was great after all our walking on the Farm over the Winter.
On the 19th we reached Bahia Anna Pink and anchored in Puerto Millabu to await the right conditions to cross the Golfo de Penas. This was to be our only “overnight sail” all the way South and we had been warned that the crossing could be very nasty.
The anchorage was lovely with a huge waterfall cascading down into a stream running alongside the beach – Monty loved it so it was no hardship sitting here waiting for the 50 knot winds to blow themselves out. We re-anchored a couple of times to position ourselves in a more protected spot as we still hadn’t got the courage to start tying our stern onto trees. On one occasion, we managed to pull up somebody’s staysail on our anchor – goodness knows how long it had been down there on the seabed !!
Kelp was a frequent hindrance to hauling the anchor !!
It was here that we experienced our first “Williwaw”. It is very hard to describe a Williwaw – basically they occur in waters lying under steep mountainsides when strong winds blow from the sea onto the land. These are followed by Whirlwind style gusts descending onto the surface of the water rushing at incredible speeds accompanied by curtains of rain and hail. They can last anything between 1 and 2 minutes and you think that everything is going to rattle itself off the boat whilst wondering if your anchor can hold in 60 knots – rather frightening for the first few times but we gradually got used to them over the next few months….
We were watching the weather forecasts avidly and were joined in the anchorage over the course of the next few days by 2 Fishing Boats and 2 yachts also heading South – “Enez” (a French chap called Noel with a lady friend) and “Lady of the Lowlands” (a Dutch couple Henk & Maria). We decided to brave the weather early on the 21st following a forecast of NW 20/25 knots but, after a short, sharp bashing in 40+ winds with big seas and only half a mile visibility we realised why the fishing boats were returning to the anchorage !!! It wasn’t a difficult decision to turn around and return although when we got back the Fishing boats had moved around and there was not a lot of room for us.
One of the fishing boats - “Jaismar” from Puerto Natales - radioed us over to tie alongside them for the night and they welcomed us aboard in our soaking wet oilies to enjoy a very welcome hot cup of Coffee and some warm bread rolls.
A bit more friendly than English (or even French) Fishermen !!! They left the following morning only to return again a couple of hours later….
Eventually, on the 24th we got away as did our ‘fishing friends’ Jaismar, Lady of the Lowlands and Enez. We had a very mucky journey down to Cabo Rapier with big swells left over from the big winds. We had a nice W/NW across the bay but, with lots of rain, there was poor visibility and we had to hove to under bare poles to slow down around midnight for 4 hours (about 11 miles off). As we approached Canal Messier 48 hours after leaving Puerto Millabu, the wind turned from a nice SW 7 knots to 25/30 knots bang on the nose. It was chucking it down with rain (as usual) and we just wanted to get to an anchorage and catch up on some sleep so the engine had to go on to get us the 15 miles further to Puerto Island. Unfortunately, we had some air in our fuel pipes so we ended up having to motor into headwinds of 30 knots with the engine fuel pipe going directly to one of our jerrycans which Roger was holding upright down below in the cabin while Vicki helmed in the driving rain – Oh, what fun !!!
The wreck of the Steamship "Capitan Leonidas" sunk on Shoal "Bajo Cotopaxi" in the Messier Canal
We were beginning to wonder if the sun ever shone in Patagonia – we had seen so much rain, hail and wind so we were delighted to wake up to a clear blue sky after our “Penas” experience and enjoyed a lovely 55 mile trip along Canal Messier heading towards Puerto Eden. This is a quaint little village with a couple of shops (where we managed to buy 3 frozen chickens), a police station, a school and very little else. This was the first inhabited settlement we had seen for some 500 miles. The village is supplied once a week with fresh food by the Navimag Ferry which stops en route from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. The locals were very friendly and delighted to see a yacht in their Harbour – not a common occurrence.
We managed to replenish our Diesel tanks which took quite a while ferrying jerrycans in the dinghy
After 3 hours of non-stop frenetic activity, we were ready to move on and head off to our next anchorage…
By now we had mastered the art of shorelines after a fashion but we still had “fun & games” trying to hold the Old Girl’s stern into 25 knots of wind while anchoring and simultaneously tying up to trees. It was usually a bit of a ‘Bugger’s muddle’ with Monty going mad while Roger rowed to shore as quickly as possible with Vicki feeding out anything up to 250 metres of line before it snagged and pulled the dinghy back towards her at a great speed… Needless to say, there was rather a lot of cursing on the odd occasion with Vicki getting very stressed on the boat trying to avoid hitting Rocks shouting “Just find a bloody tree NOW” (or something along those lines) and Roger trying to work out which tree he could actually reach… All part of the Patagonian experience.
On 7th December, we reached Caleta Teokita which was named after Ian & Maggy’s Yacht. They ‘discovered’ this very pretty little anchorage on their trip many years ago. They had kindly given us 3 bottles of Champagne before we left the Farm and we thought it appropriate to drink one here to celebrate our arrival.
We left Teokita earlyish and somewhere during the 15 mile journey to the Magellan Straits, the weather took a change and not for the better. We ended up being bashed around in horrible hailstone squalls with wind speeds of 40 knots gusting to 50 in the squalls, very low visibility and not much sea room to avoid the rocks near the Islotes Fairway Lighthouse – what fun !!
We had a long day finally dropping the hook at Caleta Playa Parda around 8.30pm. It was still a bit blowy but the water in the anchorage was lovely and flat. We dropped 70 metres of chain in 9 metres and slept like babies.
The next couple of days saw beautiful weather and we sailed slowly between the well sheltered anchorages in the Magellan straits stopping early enough each day to walk Monty along the beaches.
We had a fantastic sail across the Straits on the 11th December with 15/20 knots WSW and whizzed along the Canal Acwalisnan (through which navigation is prohibited by the Armada but which is a much better and quicker route than the approved Canal Magdalena). We shot out the other side of the narrows on the 6 knot current where the weather rapidly worsened with wind now Westerly 35/40 and gusting 45 with bad visibility. We crept into Caleta Cluedo which had no real protection and very limited room to manoeuvre. We more or less got blown straight out!! Having dropped our anchor to try and attach shorelines we dragged badly in 40 knots and decided to haul up and leave.
It was now about 9.30pm, it was beginning to get dark and we had to bash 5 miles into wind to get to the next anchorage which, typically, wasn’t easy to find. Vicki used all her navigational skills while Roger stayed put on the helm having to trust her instructions. We found the Caleta and managed to use our shorelines to pull us into a small dent in the shoreline to gain a little more protection and hoped that the weather would calm. The following day we added a 300metre bowline to the other shore to make us more secure and stayed put until the 14 waiting for the Storm to pass. Little did we know it at the time but this Storm was the worst to hit Patagonia for some years and, sadly, a Polish Yacht was sunk losing it’s Skipper and Crew when they dragged and hit some Rocks at an anchorage a little further South.