Saturday, November 21, 2015

A New Ocean

In our last frantic days of getting ready to leave Puerto Williams I thought of how leaving port is just a little like dying.

I'm not talking about a metaphor here, but simply about the practicalities - namely, how many things will be left unfinished when we shuffle off this mortal coil.

When you leave port, you are faced with all the seemingly-important tasks, for boat and work and general life, that you were quite sure you'd have finished before leaving, but are actually all half-finished shambles.

I can't help but think that this is a preview of the grand disorder in which we'll bring our lives to conclusion.

(But, I must stress that I didn't find this at all a gloomy thought. Just something to think about when rowing jugs of diesel out to Galactic.)


We have been watching the weather closely ever since we got back from Cape Horn, waiting for a good chance to leave Chile via the eastern end of the Beagle Channel.

The forecasts changed quite a bit from day to day, and we told anyone who asked that we would make the final decision to leave only when we were 24 hours out from suitable weather.

So today was the day. Yesterday we said goodbye to some remarkable people we've gotten to know in Puerto Williams, and some remarkable yachtie friends as well. Most of these will join the list of remarkable friends who we'll never see again, that ghost army of great chance acquaintances who are the result of life in this loose tribe of nomads.

We left Puerto Williams at first light, which is 0400 this time of year.

After we got going we were surprised by two things. The wind was in the southeast, which was unpleasant in that it put us on starboard tack, which is vulnerable just now due to some damaged rigging. I had been hoping for a trip entirely on port tack given the prevailing westerlies. And we caught a ridiculously good current out of Beagle Channel, which swept us far beyond our planned anchorage in Puerto Español, Argentina, which was just as well, as the southeasterlies had made that untenable. We saw the chance to make it all the way through the Straits of Le Maire on the evening tide.

Those straits, between the eastern tip of Tierra del Fuego and Isla de los Estados, have as fierce a reputation as any body of water you'd care to name. I'm glad to be leaving Le Maire behind so easily.

We had thought of anchoring at Isla de los Estados as well. But we have as good a spell of weather ahead of us as we could hope for, so we've decided to press on.


With our Old World/New World view of history we think of the Atlantic as old - know to the ancients - and the Pacific as relatively new and recently discovered.

But the Pacific is in fact the older of the two. Which is why it's so much bigger. It's just had more time to spread. Consider as well the various taxa - your auks, your sculpins - that are so diverse in the Pacific and so depauperate in the Atlantic.

They simply evolved in the older ocean first, and then secondarily invaded the Atlantic via the Arctic and haven't had time to do much radiating in their new home.


The Atlantic is also new to us.

After eight years of knocking around the Pacific (sometimes literally!), we are, as I write this and the family sleeps, sailing into the Atlantic for the first time.

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