Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ice With Everything

That's been our theme lately - ice with everything. Ice in the anchorages. Ice in our dinghy Fernando, an innocent puddle of rainwater in the bottom of the boat transforming into a solid lump overnight and locking the dinghy anchor out of our reach. Alisa, stellar crew that she is, shovels the slushy snow off the deck of Galactic after we get going in the morning, using one of the boys' beach toys from our alternate reality of tropical sailing, lest the wet snow has a chance to transmorgify into an armor of deck ice. Some lessons from our life in Kodiak transfer.

Other lessons are more specific to winter in a sailboat in Patagonia, and need to be learned on the fly. After the anchorage at spectacular Seno Pia proved to be frozen solid we headed towards our backup anchorage of Caleta Voilier, on the other side of the Northwest Arm of Beagle Channel, and safely away from the freezing influence of tidewater glaciers. The days are short, and entering a strange caleta in the dark isn't in the cards, so we have to keep a backup plan in hand and our eyes on the clock.

Somehow, though, we talked ourselves into trying an alternate backup plan - Caleta Julia - even though the Italian Guide warned of ice in the winter. The promise of better hiking was enough to make us lose our heads. The recommended anchoring spot in Julia was iced away, but there was an ice-free area in the center of the caleta where we figured we could park it for the night. And that's where we had our first lesson about shorelines and shore ice. May the twain never meet.

It took time and effort to get Fernando through the ice so that I could tie into trees. The ice was much thicker than the stuff we had dealt with in our only other frozen anchorage, way up north in Puerto Consuelo near Natales. And we learned what happens when a shoreline inadvertently gets pulled under ice that is too thick to break by pulling on the line. (Someone has to break a path through the ice with the rowboat to pick up the line, and then has to row hard enough through the ice to pull the line out from under the ice. I was sweating.)

But we ended up with a fine three-point tie, the only drawback being that in the case of unforseen williwaws we would be counting on the holding power of our anchor, rather than the preferred solution of a line to a windward.

The next day much of the ice was gone, and we easily rowed ashore for a great walk in the hills. Much snowball throwing, much delirious downhill running through the snow. A fishing boat came into the anchorage while we were up high, and whistled and blew their horn to try to get someone to let them into the inner caleta that was blocked by our lines. What had been an anchorage in the only bit of open water in the middle of the caleta had turned overnight into a more open caleta, bridged by our lines.

That night was date night for Alisa and myself, and we snuggled in front of a movie on the laptop after the boys had gone to sleep. Spooky weather distracted us - moaning williwaws for twenty minutes, followed by an hour of dead calm. We wondered what the night might bring, and thought of our anchor to windward, and decided not to embark on heroic preventative measures (likely a second anchor rowed out to weather).

By the morning it was snowing heavily and the fluid beginnings of sea ice were forming around our lines. We sailed through a snowstorm into the main part of the Beagle Channel, where we were greeted by breaching humpbacks. Which are an arresting sight even if you don't happen to see them in a snowstorm in the Beagle Channel.

We tied into the miraculous anchorage of Caleta Olla - wide and dead easy for maneuvering, with a beach and trails for walking the crew, and a fringe of tall trees that gave us perfect protection from the building weather. We dropped the hook and tied in close to the beach with two stern lines. Condors and vultures flew low over the anchorage and great plumes of snow blew down the mountain above. After dinner when the wind really built we listened to our mast, sticking up above the protection of the trees, moaning and screaming in the breeze.

This anchorage is a little different from most, since it's fairly open and we're sharing it with two other boats. In many of our anchorages recently, when we're tucked into a little nook in the snow-encased shoreline in the middle of nowhere, I have a great image of Galactic as a little cabin in the winter woods somewhere. We get ashore every chance we get, and have been traveling when weather allows, but when we take a lay day we spend the day as a family entirely in the saloon - a space, at a guess, about four meters wide by six meters long. The boys (Eric!) have been better at getting along through the day without fighting, and there is something that is quite ideal about these days with so much concentrated family time. These are the good old days.

When we left Julia in a snowstorm - after we'd gotten the shorelines back, and after I'd thawed my hands on the stack of the diesel stove, and after we'd hoisted Fernando with a halyard and tied her in on deck, and after we'd set off with the full panoply of aids for navigating in low visibility - radar, AIS, navigation lights - and while I was peering to windward through the snowflakes that were caking on my lashes - right then I said to Alisa, who was shoveling the deck - "This is so much fun!"

"I'm so glad you keep saying that," she replied.

We got no internet, no no.
We're as out of touch as we can be,
Yes, yes.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

No comments:

Post a Comment