We had been planning to head south from West Point Island to New Island and maybe Beaver Island to take out departure to the Le Maire Straight, but suddenly on the 8th a weather window opened that looked just too good to let pass ( sorry Charlene we didn’t make it ). The tide was good for passing the Woolly Gut in the evening so we said goodbye to Thies and Kicki and set off.
The first few hours were a bit bumpy with a wind over tide situation but progress was OK. By about 9pm we were sailing with the Airies wind-vane doing the steering. Paula was seasick so I stuck a patch on her
and after that she at least stopped being sick. She was well enough by first light to take a watch even though not feeling very comfortable.
Over the 9th and the 10th the breeze stayed in the NW’ly quadrant and I was hopeful of making le Maire in less than 48 hours. The wind gods had other ideas though and with Statten Island (Isla de los Estados) in sight the breeze dropped and backed through 360 degrees, not just once but twice. The second revolution was accompanied by some rapid wind speed changes from zero to 30 knots so we were not able to carry more sail in the lulls. “Morgane” has no roller furling head sails so a change in head sails involves a complete sail change, new sail up onto the deck, old one un-hanked, and folded (bundled) and dragged below, new sail hanked on, sheets, tack and halyard attached then finally the new sail is hoisted and set. We discovered that the unused sail when dumped on the saloon floor makes quite a comfy, if damp, bed as it puts you right in the centre of motion. I think that the ‘funny’ weather was caused by some micro systems not shown at the resolution of the GRIB models that we get aboard and there was no inkling of the weather that we experienced in the forecast.
When the wind died I decided to motor on to try and catch the tide in the Le Maire but something kept blocking the fuel suction pipe between the tank and the filter. After clearing the blockage the engine would run fine for anything from a few minutes to several hours before the rising needle on the filter’s vacuum gauge signified an imminent fuel problem. I wanted all systems working for the up-current, up-wind, sail along the south coast of Tierra del Fuego’s Isla Grande so we decided to make an unscheduled stop in Puerto Hoppner on Statten Island to clean the fuel system. Due to the fickle wind we were not going to make Hoppner before dark so took the decision to sail slowly overnight and arrive at daybreak.
At daybreak on the 11th we slipped into Hoppner backed up into a sheltered corner, dropped the hook and ran a line ashore from the stern to keep us moored within the wind shadow of the trees, just on the edge of the kelp. The arrival a dawn was quite spectacular with a vivid sunrise behind the stark outline of the island. We crashed out for most of the day, had a good dinner then got a good night’s sleep, it was raining so we couldn’t really work on cleaning the fuel anyway. On the 12th we got up early and as it was still raining rigged up a tarp tent over the cockpit. We then pumped all the fuel out of the tank under the cockpit attempting to suck up any water/crap from the bottom of the tank at the same time. All of the fuel was then put back into the tank via our water separator/filter funnel. We captured a small amount of debris and a tiny amount of water in the filter but not as much as I expected; I suppose it doesn’t take much to block a 6mm pipe.
That evening the wind dropped again (as forecast); it had been quite strong outside the anchorage all day, and we slipped out to catch the tide in the Le Maire. Just we took our departure we heard some VHF traffic between a yacht leaving Puerto Parry and the Argentine navy station there. We got the tide about right for the straight but had to beat through against a light to moderate SW’ly breeze.
Daybreak saw us clear of the Le Maire and working against a strong easterly set. I moved the jib sheets inboard of the cap shrouds and sheeted the #3 yankee in tight and with the motor on we could just about make course to the west on port tack but only making 2 to 3 knots despite a boat speed of over 6. Starboard tack took us back east very quickly, therefore the two tacks that I had to put in to take us offshore were quite demoralising in terms of distance won towards the west. As we neared Cabo San Pio and the Beagle Channel islands the current eased and we made faster progress that allowed us to slip into Caletta Banner on Isla Picton in the gloaming of the day.
Caletta Banner is a lovely naturally sheltered harbour formed by a creek and a small island (Isla Gardiner); which is named after Alan Gardiner who used Caletta Banner as refuge and supplies cache whilst attempting to set up an ill-fated mission station. Gardiner and his party were welcomed with hostility by the Indians and decided to escape to Isla Grande, they were again attacked and escaped to Puerto Espanol making one return to Caletta Banner for supplies leaving a message in a bottle and the message “dig below – go to Spaniard harbour – March 1851” painted on the rocks. I think that this message was later found by Captain Smyely (sp?) of the Falklands who later discovered the bodies of the missionaries; whom God had not provided for! Later on the caletta was a coaling station for the steamers working the area and the “Yelcho” made a stop there on the way south to Rescue Shackleton’s party from Elephant Island.
We awoke the next morning to find strong winds in the Beagle and a Brazilian 60′ ketch entering the caletta for shelter. They were trying to make Ushuaia and it seems had been the yacht leaving Puerto Parry as we departed Banner. My frustration at our slow progress along the coast was lifted somewhat by this, knowing that we had been 9 hours faster than a 60-footer. The forecast was light overnight so I decided to make an overnight passage to Puerto Williams – in the Chilean channels you make progress towards the west whenever and however you can.
Sei whales and Dusky dolphins accompanied our departure from Isla Picton and after a gentle motor along a very calm channel had reached Paso McKinley by the time the pre-dawn light was appearing. We were overtaken in Paso McKinley by three cruise ships on their way to dock in Ushuaia in time for breakfast. We in turn had moored alongside a large Dutch charter yacht at the Club de Yates Micalvi in Puerto Williams by 6am. At 10am we reported to the Capitanea to complete entrance formalities and then the Aduana to clear customs. We were in Chile.