|Parasitic Darwin's fungus on a beech tree|
After making the decision not to sail to Puerto Montt this
year, we slowly started preparing Sea Rover for a short trip in the waterways
of Tierra del Fuego. We were pleasantly
surprised that most of the boat systems seemed to be operating as
expected. We ran into an issue with our
solar controller, but switching to new controllers solved the issue. Even the watermaker seems to have come back
to life. We filled up with diesel, water,
propane and food, and departed for a two week trip on December 23rd
. It took 10 people and two dinghies to extricate Sea Rover
from her spot deep in the boat raft at the Micalvi. Unfortunately we don’t have any photos or
video of the event as we were busy driving or fending our way out, but it was surprisingly undramatic. It was a calm morning and so we expected to
have a nice motor up the Beagle Channel.
Alas, as soon as we got out of the harbour the wind cranked up to 20
knots on the nose. And so began our slow
Our first stop was 35 nm to the west of Puerto Williams at a
pretty anchorage called Caleta Liwaia, more commonly known in the sailing
community as ‘Eugenio’, named for the sole resident of the large island called
Isla Hosta where the anchorage is located.
Eugenio’s Estancia (ranch) is located a few miles to the west of the
anchorage and we saw his cows and sheep grazing the lands around the anchorage
daily. We even had a sighting of Eugenio
himself on horseback surveying his territory one afternoon. The cove is beautiful. It has a nice, protected spot to anchor and
secure the boat (2 lines to shore), and has easy hiking. We enjoyed poking around the ancient forests
and looking for beaver dams, which were not difficult to find. The beaver was introduced to this area in the
1946 as a source for the fur trade and they have wreaked havoc ever since.
We saw evidence of them everywhere, although the
only two we actually saw were being separated from their pelts on the deck of a
neighbouring sailboat. It is legal (and
encouraged) to hunt beaver in southern Chile and one of the locals is an
expert. He offered us some meat, but we
said no. I’m not sure we, as Canadians,
are allowed to eat our national animal… What surprised us the most was the size
of the trees the beavers were working on.
Some of the holes they were had made were the size of Gary’s head!
After spending Christmas enjoying the solitude of the
anchorage, we started looking for a weather window to move to the next
anchorage 25 miles west. On what we
thought was a suitable day, we got up at 4am, untied the lines, pulled up the
anchor and hacked off the kelp in calm winds and seas, and motored out of the cove. Within five minutes we were beating into 15
knots on the nose. Then it was 20
knots. Then it was 25 knots. Then the seas started to build and our speed
dropped to 2 knots while motor sailing. After
making it 5 miles in 2 hours we decided to turn around and go back to the
anchorage. It was still calm in the
caleta when we arrived, but no sooner had we dropped the hook than the wind
started to gust to 30 knots – and continued to do so for the next 30 hours without stop. We did a few more boat jobs, including
rigging the staysail as we realized that we were going to need a different sail
plan this year compared to previously.
The wind finally died down at about 4pm the next day so we
decided to make a run for the next anchorage.
What a difference a day can make!
The channel was smooth and we had a nice evening motor, arriving in Caleta
Olla just before dusk. Not surprisingly, we were greeted by a beaver while
dropping the hook (2 lines to shore). We spent the next 5 days in Olla waiting
for the next break in the weather systems which would allow us to continue
west. Despite being fairly open, the
cove is surprisingly protected in strong (30+ knot) west winds. There is a thin band of trees just off the
beach that give an amazing amount of protection to the boats anchored just off
the shore. You can hear the wind in the
rigging and you can see it hit the water in front of the boat, but no wind seems
to hit the deck. It was lovely.
|Guanaco on the beach at Caleta Olla|
While we were there we took the dinghy over
to the far shore of the bay and hiked up the hills for a view of the Hollanda
glacier and lake. It’s mostly open marshy
field and pretty muddy going, but we saw a guanaco (llama-like thing), had a
close encounter with a Caracara (hawk-like thing), and watched three Condors
soar in the thermals. It was a lovely
|Hiking to the Hollanda Glacier|
As it was calm on deck, we decided to set up our sea kayaks
in the hopes that we’d have a few opportunities to use them at some of the
glaciers. Our last day in Olla started
off sunny and warm (in our cockpit enclosure) so we decided to take the boats
for a spin. It took us half an hour to
find all our gear (gortex paddling jackets, wetsuit pieces, kayaking boots, paddles
etc) and get organized. In our
preoccupation with getting on the water, we didn’t really notice the
weather. No sooner had we paddled 100 metres
from the boat when a squall hit with 40 knot winds that literally drove us into
the river mouth across the bay. It was
like a big hand just lifted us up and pushed us along. I’ve never experienced anything like it. One minute all was calm, the next (literally)
I’m back-paddling for all its worth trying to keep my kayak pointed downwind in
2 foot chop with spray coming off the top.
Crazy. Thankfully it was pushing
us into shore (albeit shore with a steep sided mountain that separated us from
the boat) instead of out to sea. We
surfed into the river and paddled up as far as we could go before the current
was against us, then slid the kayaks into some reeds to wait it out. There was nothing else we could do. I was wearing wetsuit bottoms and a long
underwear top under my paddling jacket and had at least brought a wool hat, but
Gary was only wearing fleece pants and a t-shirt under his paddling top. It wasn’t long before we were both wet and
cold. After a half hour or so it seemed that the wind was down a bit so we
paddled to the river mouth to check the conditions. Nope.
Back to the bed of reeds. At that
point we decided we needed to get off the water and start looking for shelter
as it didn’t look like the weather was going to improve. We found a small divet in the field behind a
small tree and started to take stock of what we had with us (a camera – sorry,
no pics!). It was at this point that Gary
mentioned that we had forgotten our lifejackets… Agggghhhh! Things were not going well. After getting reasonably settled, we realized
that the wind had dropped a bit. Should
we make a run for Sea Rover? We felt we
had to try. We dragged the boats back
into the river, Gary took me under tow (he paddles faster and didn’t want to
wait for me), and we paddled for our lives.
It was still windy, but the waves were down and it was probably only
blowing 20 knots vs 40. We slowly inched
our way up the steep sided mountain shore and finally reached the lee of the
trees and the safety of the sailboat. We
dragged the kayaks on board, changed into warm clothes and drank a lot of hot
liquid. By the time we’d warmed up the
sun was out (of course). But, 30 minutes
later, the same type of squall came out of nowhere and hit the boat again. Happily this time we experienced it from the
safety and comfort of our cockpit!
And so ended the tumultuous year of 2021.
|Caleta Olla and beyond. River mouth on the right. |
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