Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hello from Sunny Patagonia

We made the jump south from Chiloé Island, across the 20 miles of the open Boca del Guafo, and came to rest at the Caleta Momia.

"Patagonia" is something like "the Arctic" - a well-recognized region without a hard and fast boundary. Had we been in Patagonia all the weeks we'd been knocking around Chiloé? Perhaps, by some definitions. But over time we had come to the conclusion that this "wasn't quite it." The area we reached south of the Boca, though - the Islas Guaitecas and Chonos - that's it, definitely. We're there.

The mummies are long gone from Caleta Momia, as are the people who made them. We pushed south in classic conditions - driving mist interspersed with rain, wind strong behind us, visibility less than you'd want when pumping south at eight knots with wind and tide in your favor, traveling through somewhat intricate <<canales>> completely unknown to you.

We had the modern conveniences. The laptop downstairs displayed our choice from a selection of Chilean and US charts, which were generally in agreement about our position. The iPad in the cockpit plotted our position on Navionics - we bought their South American package to have triple charting redundancy with the plotter and the bound Atlas Hidráfico de Chile kindly given us by Phil and Julia on Illawong, and we're very glad we did - the Navionics package fills in some gaps in our electronic charting nicely. We had the radar warning us of traffic, of which there was some, as well as telling us where the land was in reality, rather than on the chart, and the AIS telling the bigger boats where we were, and us them, and an autopilot steering the boat while I monkeyed with the jib and staysail.

Such a different setup from what Bill Tilman and crew used on Mischief when they visited the canales in 1956. Lead line and a set of photos from an airplane survey and a hand on the tiller.

Any idiot could do it with all the help we have. I remind myself that our eyes will be our best tool for staying out of trouble. We have to engage with the environment, not with our screens.

I ordered a copy of "The Totorore Voyage" when I was last in the US - Gerry Clarke's hair-raising account of Southern Ocean sailing on a small boat. But it didn't reach me in time. So we don't have it on board. But a friend mentioned that the Totorore had explored a hidey-hole anchorage in Chaffers Island. That was enough to send us that way - the chart showed Estero Huanas running the length of the island, with a tiny channel communicating with Canal Alanta outside. None of our charts offered any information about the depths we might find.

In the event, the entrance proved too exciting for us - poor meteorological conditions, a rapidly shoaling bottom, and a tidal current pushing us into the entrance.

We carried on through narrow canales - all charted - and driving mist. The fjords were choked with black-browed albatrosses and Magellanic penguins - when did we get so accustomed to seeing albatross and penguins? And we came to ground at a caleta on the north side of Isla Rojas, un-named on the chart and beautiful, dropping the anchor in 10 meters of water near high tide at 44°21.39'S, 74°04.16'W. If you come this way yourself, consider it a recommendation.

That first day of travel in the canales was rich in lessons - the swirling of fjord-bound winds made sailing occasionally surprising, even though they were fair.

The larger lesson for us to learn, and this one seems much less tractable - how do we keep the boys content when they're boat-bound for days? Especially too-young-to-read-a-book Eric.

1 comment:

  1. That's a problem all us parents have with young kids. Puzzles and puzzles worked for us, you can get all different levels and size pieces. Pippi (now 4) will often get hers out while we are to busy to entertain her. Matching pairs is another sure fire solo game, Trouble is a great kids board game. The best thing with Trouble is the dice is captive in the plastic bubble and the pegs are held captive in the board. Pippi has been playing this for years...well sort off.
    Cheers Drew