Whenever you see pictures of sailing in Tierra del Fuego, Caleta Brecknock is the anchorage that is most often shown. We knew it was going to be spectacular, but the pictures didn’t do it justice. Getting to Brecknock from the North is a bit of a challenge as one has to cross Canal Cockburn, which is wide open to the southern ocean. It is known for contrary winds and big seas, which can make the 9 mile crossing a challenge to say the least. We chose as good a weather window to cross this as we could ever hope for – NW winds 20-25 knots. The NW winds tend to go a bit more W at the Canal Cockburn/Brecknock entrance, so the more N in the wind the better.
We planned the passage as if we were going offshore, with seasick meds and barf buckets at the ready, and the ditch bag standing by. We expected a bumpy ride down Canal Cockburn with the wind at our back and a large swell hitting our bow. Miraculously we had a gentle swell and almost no wind until we reached the entrance of the canal. Then the wind picked up to 30 knots and the seas quadroupled in size!
|Dolphins leading the way!
Our guidebook mentions a shortcut through a rocky area that all the fish boats take. The route is explained very clearly in the book and the diagrams made it seem do-able. This short cut only shaves off 1-2 nm from the trip, but the conditions were such that we decided to give it a go. The first part of the route is straight-forward, but requires going through a narrow pass (30 feet wide) between two islands. Just as we were nearing the pass, a pod of leaping dolphins came through, turned around and literally escorted us through. While the dolphins cavorted and leaped around us, I kept a keen eye on the depth sounder and gave Gary directions. No problem. The dolphins then escorted us around the next few rocky areas (nicely marked by kelp) and into the hardest part of the shortcut – a very narrow, rocky pass. The pass is marked by navigational aids, but they are not in the best condition and somewhat difficult to see. The path through the islets was well marked by kelp however (another very useful navigational aid down here), and the guidebook directions made it pretty easy. Regardless, we breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the other side. At this point the dolphins handed us off to about 200 albatross. They made sure we made it the rest of the way into the calm waters of Seno Ocasion.
|Heading towards the anchorage
The scenery went from impressive to absolutely spectacular as we neared the famed Caleta Brecknock, our anchorage for the night. On our way into the anchorage we experienced an unexpected williwaw coming off the cliffs (or ‘racha’ as they are called in Spanish). I had untied the dinghy so that I could get our dock lines out of the back lazarette as we were going to be rafting to Zephyros for the night. I was standing on the port rail getting the fendors ready when all of a sudden the wind picked up the dinghy (80 lbs) and hurled it sideways into me. Luckily I got an arm out before it 1) hit me in the face, and 2) it went overboard, taking me with it! Gary didn’t hear my scream (which was lost in the wind) and was going to give me a hard time for ‘messing about with the dinghy’ before he realized I was holding my shoulder funny and trying not to cry. Needless to say we tied the dinghy down again before it could try another escape, even though we only had 0.5 nm to go. I had a bruise on my arm, but was otherwise OK.
|Sea Rover, Zephyros and Kiwi Dreams in Brecknock
We anchored and rafted to Zephyros and another boat called Kiwi Dreams, got our lines tied off, and then went for a hike. The photos speak for themselves. What a wonderful area. We would have loved to stay in Caleta Brecknock for longer, but there was a good weather window for heading east the next day across the next open ocean area. We will look forward to spending more time there next year on our way back north.