Weather bound in Caleta Mussel was what we was; until the 18th when we got under way again. Because of the tidal current in Paso Tortuoso which we were in as soon as we left the bay we had to wait until about one hour before high water before leaving. This meant that we couldn’t leave until about 14:30.
We got under way in light head winds and were motor sailing with just the main sheeted in tight giving us a bit of drive though the chop. Paso Tortuoso was busy on this day as in the first hour three big ships passed us on reciprocal courses and one overtook us; all of this in a passage not much wider than a quarter of a mile.
We got out of the pass making good progress and as the weather was light and forecast to remain so we decided that we would press on overnight as we were in a narrow channel with no dangers and good radar signature. Taking this decision means that we passed several good anchorages near the exit of the pass leaving quite a long stretch to the next good one.
Sometime after 18:00 we started encountering large rafts of kelp drifting in the straight. We didn’t really want to run into those at night as many contained solid lumps that could easily damage the prop, or the engine cooling intake could become blocked so we decided to make for Caleta Notch. Caleta Notch has quite a tricky approach so we had to get there with enough daylight and decided that if we could still see when we got there we would go in otherwise we’d continue. As it was we got there in the last gloaming of the day and could see just enough to get into a place to drop the anchor although the actual anchoring was done in pitch black darkness using the radar to check our position. The anchor was sitting on a smooth rock and not going to hold us in any breeze so Paula rowed a line ashore while I manoeuvred backwards. We had supper and slept a restless night due to the precarious anchorage although the weather was quiet.
On leaving Caleta Notch in the morning we exited into a windy, wet and quite boisterous strait. It was 50/50 whether we would continue or turn back. I was about to turn around when a last scan with the binos gave me an inkling that there would be smooth water near the south shore; I was also remembering the words of an old hand in these parts “You can often make progress upwind in the channels if you brush the kelp with the side of your boat”. So off we went, 3rd reef in the main motor-sailing and made good progress across the strait. There was indeed smooth(er) water on the other side and over the day, following the coast line and playing any wind shifts that came along, we covered some good mileage.
We decided to stop in Estero Cormorant in a caleta named Mostyn. This was inside about 2 miles of twisty and quite spectacular fiord. We found the anchorage and Paula had to use some ingenuity to get lines onto the trees that were unreachable from the water and with no way of climbing ashore on the smooth rock. A rescue quoit salvaged from an old life-raft (never throw anything away) did service as a heaving line and we were secure for the night. The water here was absolutely full of jellyfish (see the accompanying photo).
The 20th was going to a big day, both in terms of miles and a milestone, as we hoped to leave the Magellan Straight behind and enter Canal Smyth and would begin our journey north through Chile rather than mainly to the West.
We were up early, although we overslept slightly probably due to the sleepless night in Caleta Notch, and were quickly underway. Once in the Strait we found light southerly winds; behind us for a change! Off we went sails up – wind down, flappy useless sails down – wind up, sails up – and so it went on for the whole day. We had some good spells sailing along in a nice breeze at 8 knots and made good time to Isla Tamar marking the right turn into Canal Smyth. There the wind left us and the tide was against us so it was back to the old putt putt again.
We passed the lighthouse on Isla Fairway and spotted the keepers wife and child outside taking a photo, presumably they don’t often see a calm day! The lighthouses and Alcamar (Coastguard) stations are manned by NCOs from the navy who volunteer for the post. All of the posts are accompanied but they have to serve a whole year. The posts are apparently keenly sought-after as the pay and bonuses can be life changing for some people. One of the rules is that you are not allowed to get your wife pregnant as that will involve evacuation and finding a new keeper!
We decided to stop for the night almost within sight of the lighthouse and nosed around a recommended bay where there was supposed to be a navy buoy that you can tie up to, but there was no sign of it. We didn’t like the alternative anchorages in the bay as it was very deep and very rocky so decided to hunt for the entrance to a caleta called Teokita. We found the entrance OK, a fisherman had hung a buoy from a tree (I don’t think it was the one we had been looking for earlier) and crept inside; the narrowest part of the channel was 8 to 10 metres wide and about 5m deep. The narrow entrance opened into a cove not much more than about 60m wide, certainly not wide enough to swing at anchor in. we dropped the hook, a bit far from the trees as it turned out, and Paula had a hard row up to the trees with the stern line as I tried to back the boat up; we just made it and got tied in by 20:00.
Amazingly the weather was supposed to hold for the 21st too; that would be four days in a row of weather suitable for moving (actually thinking about it one wasn’t but we moved anyway). We were motoring out of the crack at 08:00 and began the day well enough making slow but steady progress against the wind, and a little current that wasn’t really supposed to be there. Seven hours later after some interesting navigation through some twisting channels, which are very well marked incidentally, we came up against a wall of wind and white water coming out of a fiord that was perfectly aligned with the NW’ly wind and funnelling it into a barrier that we decided not to try and pass. Unfortunately the best anchorage nearby was seven miles back the way we had come, so back we went very disheartened to have to loose hard-won miles.
Home for that night was to become Caleta Darde. We followed the directions in the pilot and still couldn’t see the entrance until we were right at it. Although not as narrow as the one into Teokita it was narrow and tricky with a few lumpy bits well marked by kelp. We tied well up into a snug corner as some dirty weather was coming and we expected to be there for a couple of days. As it was we woke this morning to find that some local effect was swirling the NW’ly wind outside around and it was coming at us from a bit east of north, very bad for the location that we were in.
We had to move in case the wind strength increased (as it was forecast to) and in case the anchor dragged or the port shoreline gave in under the strain. We had a rather rocky lee shore about 10m away so had to carefully plan and execute our escape. This we achieved by recovering one shore-line (that was laying slack in the water now anyway) and motoring slowly up towards the anchor whilst controlling the stern of the boat by easing out the shore line, and simultaneously hauling the anchor chain; and then at the last moment as the anchor came clear dumping the shore line and leaving the scene. After that little bit of excitement it was a simple job to find some swinging room (not much though) and drop the hook allowing the boat to swing to the weird swirly winds. We than rowed over to reclaim our best shoreline and stow it back aboard the boat on its spool.
We have spent the afternoon sitting quite quietly at anchor waiting for the wind to back to a direction that will give us more shelter. The wind forecast for tomorrow remains strong and westerly but that should be better than the strong and NW’ly of today, let’s see.
Oh and in my last entry I said that a Mink was a rodent; Paula says that it is not a rodent but a mustelid (because it has pointy teeth among other things) so apologies to all mink reading this and apologies to anybody mislead. I looked up mustelid in the Oxford Dictionary of English; and it says:
“noun, Zoology, a mammal of the weasel family (Mustelidae), distinguished by having a long body, short legs, and musky scent glands under the tail.”
so now you know.