Tacking, tacking

"Morgane" in Caleton Silva

"Morgane" in Caleton Silva

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day – goes the rhyme. The only two problems with the rain here are that it never goes away and it always comes again another day. We went for a walk in the rain at Caleta Hidden on Thursday to have a look at the channel to see if it was worth heading out and didn’t like what we saw.

We were stalked by couple of condors but they went hungry, we saw a lot of Sundew (carnivorous plants) but left them hungry too. The open ground was covered in some kind of large rodent poo, as yet unidentified but could have been Mink if not one of the locals.

Navigating westwards along the Magellan is never easy for sailing vessels, even ones with an engine, unless it’s a really big one that will let you donk-on against a solid head-wind. We sat in Caleta Hidden waiting for a quieter day and made a dash for it on Friday the 13th, silly I know but sometimes you just have to! We actually had quite a straight forward upwind sail, and motor sail, against 20 knots or so at the start with a few puffs to 30 and then dropping off to around 10 knots at the end. Of course it doesn’t just stop with the wind; the current has to be dealt with too. We had a fair view of Cabo Froward between the showers, it was over 10 miles away but the big cross on the top was clearly visible. For those reading this in the Falkland’s; Marcello who works at the FIC shipping agency used to take people trekking up there in his youth – I reckon he’d puff a bit now 🙂

Here there is, in some parts at least, a bi-directional component to the tidal currents (meaning that they reverse direction with the flood and ebb) but in some parts of the channel the set is always to the east and the only calculation (guess) becomes how much current there will be. The factors affecting how much current there will be, other than phase of the moon, are the wind direction both locally and out in the Pacific, barometric pressure in both the South Pacific and South Atlantic coasts, and other sorcerous factors; I wouldn’t be surprised if what the Evangelista’s lighthouse keeper had for breakfast had an effect.

We got it almost right the other day with just a couple of hours plugging against a strong current later on. I decided to head inshore and hug the kelp in the hope of finding slower current in shallower water and that seemed to work. We later spotted a couple of fishing boat behind us doing the same thing so if the locals are doing it then it must be right. Then like flicking a switch the current did a 180 and we were flying along, but unfortunately just for the last half an hour. We saw a lot of humpback whales as we got close to Isla Carlos III, some up close, and passed the old M/V “Forest” that used to be common sight around the Falkland’s and is now working in these parts; incidentally, the old “Saint Branden” was in Puerto Williams when we were there unloading supplies for the new fishing port that is under construction.

We decided to stop in Bahia Mussel, on Isla Carlos III. It’s quite a sheltered bay but with no really obvious bullet-proof spots. We nosed into several spots, rejecting most: too deep, too much kelp, no shelter, too far from the shore, etc.. before spotting a tall stand of trees at the side of one inlet with deep water right up to the bank. We dropped the hook and backed right up to the narrow kelp fringe and tied up to the biggest trees in the copse. The rational was that tall trees must grow in a sheltered spot. The tactic seemed to work as we had a good blow last night and only moderate gusts hit us, but the straight was howling.

Today started windy with a forecast for a quiet evening but to make our next hop we need to leave around midday to catch the tide correctly, anyway as I write this it is raining the proverbial’s so we are not going anywhere today. Paula has been making a crab pot out of shopping basket; which I reckon is too small but we’ll see : I have been working the tide tables and now have a list of tide times for a whole bunch of secondary ports that we are likely to encounter on the next couple of legs.

The Chilean Amarda has a host of radio stations in and around the channels and those in the Magellan Straight seem to produce an almost continuous stream of information as to what ship is where, its course and speed, weather faxes etc.. Today we heard a relayed call from some boat that has lost its propeller and the arrangements for somebody to come from Punta Arenas to help. The conversations can cover anything from the weather, to football scores, to a fishing boat asking the boss in Punta Arenas to send meat to Canal Ballenero (I presume that address is sufficient for a meat delivery in these parts).

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