Into the Magellan Straight

The bare naked mountains of Brecknock

The bare naked mountains of Brecknock

After a couple of days in Caleta Silva the shine had worn, or washed, off the place and it was time to get moving. The morning of the 7th dawned yet wet and still windy so after a peek outside I went back to bed. By about 8 o’clock the wind had gone off and we started getting the shore lines aboard determined to make the best of what the forecast said would be a quiet day and at 9 we were under way. “Celephais” was just ahead of us barely visible through the rain

and the fishing boat that had shared the caleta with us was also off on its hunt.

The rain would be the theme of the day as we motored along Canal Ballenero but we made good progress kept busy with navigation by radar and eyeball when the opportunity arose. The charts here do not usually agree with the GPS so you have to double check your position by old fashioned pilotage although the new version of C-Map that I use with MaxSea is pretty good and certainly the best of any of the electronic charts that I have seen.

The rain here seems to fall mainly down my neck and most foul weather clothing seems designed, with the high collars that also wrap around your face, to funnel water down inside the jacket. Of course wearing the hood helps but the hoods are only there because foul weather jackets have to have a hood and are universally terrible creations. Therefore you don’t wear the hood routinely and therefore you get wet. I changed the clothes on my top half a couple of times even when resorting to wearing the hood and wearing various things around my neck to act as dam against the ingress of H2O. The jacket wasn’t leaking by the way it was just the heavy rain finding it’s way in around my face and neck. I wasn’t even out in the rain for long periods of time, the longest would have been a hour when attempting to anchor, as “Morgane’s” new dodger is working well.

By about 5:30pm we had reached the eastern end of Canal Brecknock and poked around in a few anchorages that are mentioned in the various pilots (we have the “Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Nautical Guide” by Giorgio and Mariolina of “Saudade III” and also the RCC “Chile Cruising Guide, 2nd edition and downloaded updates” which is less comprehensive but easier to find your way around and in some ways more useful), but these anchorages didn’t look that great to us. The forecast was for a quiet night but in these parts you can never tell and we wanted to just drop the hook rather than tie in shore lines allowing a quick getaway in the morning. After dragging the anchor around Caleta Macias without it hooking into anything decided to move on and a couple of hours later got the hook into the bottom of Caleta Yaghan which has a reputation for woollies, and judging by it’s topography I can see why, but it was quiet on this night.

Dark o’clock in the morning saw us having breakfast and we were motoring out of the cove at first light. We had just turned to the NW into Canal Brecknock proper when we passed one of the ugliest cruise liners that I have seen, the big shopping trolley type are bad enough but this one had the whole stern chopped off at an angle not far off 45 degrees looking as if the architect had accidentally dog-eared his plan before putting it in the photocopier; it was called “Europa II”, if you want to look it up. Patrick hailed us on the vhf around this time to see what we were up to and let us know that he had anchored in Port Townsend for the night after also failing to get his hook into Macias’ bottom.

We slipped from Canal Brecknock into Canal Occasion and then out into the bigger Canal Cockburn which would take us back east and then north. Around this area the weather is so harsh that the mountains are almost devoid of vegetation and even soil, the photo accompanying this post shows a section of the Brecknock Peninsula, but I’m not sure how much detail you can see in the small images that I can post from the boat. Canal Cockburn was rocking and rolling as the Pacific swell forced its way into the narrowing passage but with the wind behind us, accompanied by numerous fur seals, we made good progress and after a couple of hours ducked into Seno Duntze west of Isla Seebrock to find Caleta Cluedo where we planned to spend the night. We moored in a pretty basin, watched by a family of ashy headed geese, at about 3 pm just as the first showers of the day started to fall.

The cove, although well protected from the sea, is not the most sheltered in the area and with strong winds forecast later in the week we decided that another early start was in order to reach a more protected spot nearer to the Magellan Straight. Because of the weather we decided to take the frowned upon short-cut of Canal Acwalisnan and on working out the tides found that a very early start was needed. Canal Acwatsitsname is a narrow channel running north to south that links the Cockburn with the Magellan and saves about 150 miles of passage via Canal Magdalena. Even by leaving the cove as soon as we could see to untie the knots we would miss slack water in Paso O’Ryan but that is what we decided to do. Paso O’Ryan was tricky but not difficult and by motoring hard we made it before the ebb was at full strength but even so it fairly bustled us through the narrowest pass full of whirlpools and eddies.

We, foolishly, passed on stopping at Caleta Felix; which looked very comfortable, and decided to carry on to Caleta Hidden on the southern shores of the Magellan Straight itself. As we neared the junction of the watsitsname and the Magellan we started to get a fresh breeze on the nose, it was raining, and we could barely pick out the other side of the channel through the grey curtains of the squalls characteristic of this area. With the still ebbing tide against the 25 mile fetch down the Straight it was pretty ugly in the straight and finding the entrance to the descriptively named hidden cove was, shall we say, interesting. Anyway all was well as we rocked and rolled our way into a narrow crack between a small headland and an islet the kelp reef killed the swell dead and we glided along a narrow channel into a little cove perfectly protected by a border of tall trees and with no high ground adjacent should be woolly free. It is shaped a bit like a bird’s footprint; we are now moored in the middle toe of that footprint.

There is a lot of wind in the forecasts for the next few days so we might be here a while waiting to pick a day to head west along the Magellan.

I have been reading some historic accounts of passages along this stretch of water from Darwin, Fitzroy, Slocum and Tillman. All up until the time of Tillman, who was disappointed not to be, were troubled by “Savages” and Slocum advises us to keep a clear field of fire of at least 80 yards around at all times, to keep a store of ammunition at hand, and to sprinkle the deck with carpet tacks at night as “A pretty good Christian will whistle when he steps on the ‘commercial end’ of a carpet-tack; a savage will howl and claw the air”. Even if that advice is no longer necessary in many parts his words “Nothing else could I see to indicate that civilized man had ever been there” still ring true.

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