Beating Progress

When I wrote the last entry we were sitting in Caleta Villarica waiting for better weather to get North in Canal Pitt. On the 10th we thought that the forecast was promising so got under way but after a few hours of trying to make progress against about two knots of current and 25 – 30 knots of headwind

we gave up and were back in Caleta Villarica for another night. The problem is that in these narrow channels there is not much room to tack so that if there is any current against you it is very difficult to make progress. If we had another 20HP of muscle in the engine we could punch through the chop, make some spray, burn some diesel and make progress, but we don’t. The currents are difficult to predict and despite having the Chilean tide tables and studying the sailing directions it is impossible to avoid punching into it in some areas. Many of the channels are not covered in the tables or directions and Canal Pitt seems to defy logic and always have a south-setting current that doesn’t seem to vary its rate with state of the tide.

The 11th dawned nicer; that is raining but not extremely wet, and with less wind. So off we went yet again. This time we made reasonable progress motor sailing but still having to tack. We were passed by a large cruise ship, the “Celebrity Infinity” with a power-crazed Chilean pilot aboard. Who called us to make extensive arrangements regarding which side he would pass etcetera etcetera. He didn’t seem to understand why we were tacking or that we had no intention of running ourselves under his bow; god help him if he ever travels outside of his little world and tries conning a ship up the Solent or anywhere that is a little busier! Anyway with them out of the way and disappearing around the corner we headed into a pretty little cove called “Poza de las Nutrias” (otter pool) and parked up for the night.

A damp hillside

A damp hillside

The next day was remarkably fine and we began the day by motoring along some un-surveyed channels west of Islas Abelino, Porfirio and Pimentel. The photo accompanying this entry was taken somewhere along there and is fairly typical of what we see in these parts: thick trees along the shore-line fading to scrub and moss then naked rock disappearing up into some form of nimbus clouds with numerous waterfalls cascading down the smooth and steep mountain sides. The mountains are all rounded and the rock all smoothed by the passage of giant glaciers from when this land was all under a giant ice-cap.

We exited the north end of Canal Pitt into Canal Andres where the NW’ly wind hit us with enough force to cause us to reconsider our plan of reaching one of the anchorages at the west end of Canal Andres and instead choosing to run into Seno Fuentes and stop for the night in Caleta Finte; which is mentioned in the RCC cruising guide but with sparse detail. Before running in for the night and as the wind and sea state was a different character of choppiness than we had experienced before we made a few tacks experimenting with different sail combinations to find a balance that gave us good drive but didn’t have us “over on our ear”.

Caleta Finte proved to be a pretty, long, narrow, flooded valley running west from Seno Funetes bounded initially on the south by an un-named island and the north by the mainland but then morphing into a cove in its own right. The guide simply said that the anchorage was at the head of creek but gave no other hints so we slowly made our way in through a passage that narrowed to 20 metres or so and shoaled to 4m. 4m of water might seem like plenty but when you are in 30m of water and suddenly see 4m on the sounder it does get your attention. The anchorage was calm, not the mirror calm advertised in the book but near enough. There were numerous large white jellyfish with a thick tail of tentacles hanging beneath them in the anchorage.

Before we could warm up and dry our foul-weather gear I had to set to and make a new hat for the Refleks cabin heater chimney. A momentarily unattended sheet had whipped the top off the chimney while we had been experimenting with the sail combinations; I saw it happening, the sheet catching the chimney whipping off and sending it one of those graceful, slow-motion, arcs into the deep grey sea. I came up with a rather fetching rotating cowl design that I made from a surplus pot from the galley (well it is surplus now as I cut the side out, drilled holes in it and riveted a wind vane to the bottom – errr top). It’s been in service for a few days now and seems to be working at least as well as the old one.

We had to face the beat westwards along Canal Andres at eventually so departed Finte the next morning despite a less than perfect forecast, this along with the fact that the weather was polar frontal and therefore squally, left us expecting a rough ride. We short tacked along the northern side of channel north of Islas Kentish in Paso Schroeders making about 3 knots to the good but with the boat speed consistently around 5 knots which wasn’t bad in the chop. We got nailed by a few, short sharp, squalls in the 40 knot range but it wasn’t bad and didn’t rain too much – The rain in the squalls was stinging though and I was wearing safety goggles so that I could see. Paula, apparently no longer getting easily seasick, cooked up some rice and left over stew from the night before to give us warmth and sustenance.

Quickly taking advantage of a drop in the wind just as we exited the narrow channel, we quickly dropped the jib and headed for the smooth water inshore where we were able to make some nice progress straight upwind. The wind increased again as we reached the end of the channel and the shelter among some islands. We had made good time and discussed the option of continuing into Canal Concepcion but decided not to push our luck and to stop in a caleta named Colibri and apparently first reported to the sailing guide by our friends Thies & Kicki of “Wanderer III”. It’s probably quite a nice place but we have been here for a couple of days while it has done nothing but blow at us and rain on us; last night was quite rough and I was out on a deck a few times making sure that we still attached to the anchor and shore-lines.

It’s not always easy here to tell the difference between a live, strong, tree and a dead, weak, tree. On the morning after we arrived here we found that our starboard bow shore-line that was tied to a tree about 45cm in diameter now lead down into the water where the tree had ‘capsized’ after “Morgane” had given it a little tug when a little woolly had hit. Tomorrow’s forecast is for calms so we’ll see where it leads us.

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