At least the second time, we realized what was going on before we had pulled our final shore line.
Caleta Mousse is a wonderful natural harbor, small enough to easily span with shore lines in order to buy the security of a four-point tie. Its location is the height of nautical convenience, as it is directly next to Angostura White, a narrow pass on the way to Puerto Natales that sees ten-knot tidal currents. You can wait in Caleta Mousse for the right tide to go through Angostura White, or park in there after you've put that obstacle behind you.
Which is what we did on the way out of Natales just a few days ago. We caught the tide through Angostura White and got to Mousse in time for a family hike up the hill behind the anchorage.
The next day, the weather being good and ourselves feeling ready for movement after all the sitting around in Natales, we set off.
There was a bit of breeze, nothing more.
I went ashore and untied one line. Then I dropped Elias off on a little island that borders the Caleta to gather mussels to bait the crab pot and untied another line. Then the third line, and I rowed back to pick up Elias.
By now the breeze was building. I got Elias back on Galactic.
Can you see where this is going?
Galactic was hanging on the anchor and the final shore line. Once that line was untied we'd be swinging in the little Caleta, where there isn't room to swing at anchor. The wind had now built to the point I thought it best that Alisa row ashore to untie the last line while I stayed behind at the helm of Galactic.
That is where everything that followed differed from how it will play in the future. From now on, if the wind is building while we're untying, we'll just sit tight and see what happens.
But, you've got to learn these lessons for yourself, I suppose.
So Alisa got the last line untied and hustled back aboard and got the anchor up quickly. And just as we had it up, in this little Caleta no more than five boatlengths wide, the conditions spiraled into full-on williwaws.
The wind, lifting curtains of spray off the surface of the Caleta. Our 18-ton boat, leaning this way and that with each blast. Out in Canal Santa Maria, great sheets of spray flying above the summit of the 50-meter high hill blocking off the end of the caleta.
We decided to get the hook back down. But we ended up with no more than 3:1 scope and an anchor that had no chance to set. So now Galactic was the mousse, and the wind was the cat, chasing us all over the caleta.
Sometimes we were upwind of the anchor, in full reverse. Sometimes downwind, in full forward. And all too often we were side-on to the wind, and getting blasted down towards the kelp-fringed rocks that were never too far away.
After we were thoroughly tired of this routine I managed to get a line ashore. We had one last moment, after the line was safely around the tree but before Alisa could take in the slack and make it fast. The wind caught Galactic just next to the rocks and pushed her over, hard. I saw a lot of bottom paint and for the first time felt that whatever would happen, would happen. The situation was that out of control.
But Alisa gunned the engine and somehow kept Galactic from touching. I got back aboard and made the line fast and we were safe, no matter how hard it might blow.
I can report that at times like this, owning a steel boat gives you a little warm feeling, right down deep at the edge of your consciousness, that you are barely aware of but know is there, and is a tremendous comfort.
And the boys during all of this nonsense? They were down below, laughing uproariously at the way the boat was pitching back and forth around them.
So we tied the other three lines in and pulled the boat back deep in the caleta and went for a walk on the beach. It commenced to snow hard during the day, but we never saw anything like the half-hour (?) of williwaws that had bedeviled us just when we happened to be picking the hook.
We spent that day there, and the next and the next. The weather wasn't the sort of thing that would make you think of untying your shore lines. And our anchor was inconveniently close to the rocks, where we had dragged it, which would make getting out a little trickier.
And then, when we went to leave on the third morning after that? A replay. Not full-on williwaws this time, but sudden gusts. Building gusts, corrugating the surface of the caleta.
But we'd seen that movie before. And this time we were smart enough to call a break for lunch while we still had a line to windward.
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