Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Great Unknown

A few weeks ago, on our way south to the glacier at Laguna San Rafael we had one of our typical days moving from one unknown anchorage to the next.  STRESSFULL.

Bear with me while I set the scene.

After 3 days of travelling south in strong winds from varying directions, fighting contrary currents that were predicted to be with us and trying to decipher the cryptic language nuances of the two cruising guide books we are using for this area we were starting to get a little tired.

Pouring over the chart book... with magnifying glass
Everyone who cruises has their own comfort level and the writers of guide books are no different.  When they use words like 'close quarters' or 'tight anchorage' is that because their boat was 60 ft long or 20 ft long?  When they talk about 'uncharted rocks' or 'difficult to navigate', is that a carry over from the 90's when Chile's charts were much less accurate or detailed or are there still hidden dangers lurking below the surface?  These are all questions we deal with every day and  I think we've said it before...  Uncertainty is a double edged sword.  Adventure is all about travelling out of your comfort level but being out of that zone can certainly wear you down.

Can't get there from here!
Now imagine how we felt when we were forced to add "Sailing in the White" to our daily routine for the first time this season.  This is a term that strikes fear into the most hardened crusty Cruiser as it means you are now sailing without a map to tell you what is below the surface of the water.  Chile's charts have improved dramatically over the past 10 years and their Atlas is a model that should be followed by every country in the world but there are still areas where the underlying depth information was determined by a guy in a row boat with a lead line in 1720.

In planning our next day we unfortunately determine that to get to our next desired anchorage in a timely manner (ie: before a big forecasted afternoon blow, the current switching and darkness), we simply cannot follow the path the guy in the rowboat took 200 years ago and must shortcut through a minefield of uncharted reefs, unnamed islets and narrow passes.  How could we possibly not run aground?

Even the birds questioned our decision...
The night before this short passage is spent plying over the charts, both electronic and paper, comparing them with our cached electronic google satellite images to check for any differences along our planned route.  We study the guide books for any hints of what to avoid and read all the long trip reports of those who have passed here before.  Our fear is conquered by what little knowledge we have gleaned and transformed into a healthy caution.  We are as ready as we can be and it's time to move on.

That morning we set off and the big blow is quickly upon us and the currents are as usual not from the direction we expected.  The depth sounder jumps dramatically from 200 m to 2 and back to 200.  We question what we know.  Are we really ready?  We reef to make the boat comfortable, the current isn't slowing forward progress to a stop and we learn to slightly ignore the erratic depth sounder.  We follow our planned pass and nothing goes bump.  Dolphins leap, and Albatross soar while Penguins bob around us.  We make it to Puerto Aguirre with no paint missing off the bottom.

The great unknown is yet again pushed further ahead of us and by taking that small step it will be easier next time.

1 comment:

  1. Gary and Karina, Congratulations! Pushing our limits is such a part of cruising. Just take baby steps and when you get too tired consider stopping to rest (Tough to do in a current, I know) You learn something every time and soon It is "Old Hat"