Monday, October 24, 2022

The Straits of Magellan the hard way

After waiting in the protected anchorage of Brecknock for a couple of days a small window for rounding one of the worst parts of water on the trip opened up and we left our sanctuary at 0 dark 40. Light was dawning as we rounded the first corner and shortly after that we were into the swell. There was only a bit of wind and rain so we chanced the shortcut through a difficult pass. As on the way down 3 years ago dolphins shepherded us into this extremely complicated group of rocks and islets... I wondered if they were there to show us the safe way or were trying to tell us to turn around. Unlike last time we had no crazy squalls and were able to transit the area with little difficulty.

Once again we emerged into the full force of the open ocean (next stop New Zealand) but surprisingly the wind was at a favorable angle and the swells slightly aft of the beam so we tore down the channel and were soon back into the protected inlets. The sun poked through the broken clouds causing the sheer carved rock faces to glitter as if covered in diamonds and soon were approaching our next hurtle for the day, a narrow pass with a rock in the middle and fast moving current. Our timing wasn't perfect so I expected to have to wait for the next slack tide in 2 or 3 hours. As we approached, I stood on the deck peering through the binoculars looking for signs of standing waves. Suddenly I realized we were moving faster than expected towards the pass... Shortly after that we blew through unscathed. In less than 7 hours Sea Rover had transited two areas that I stressed about since the start of the trip had been passed without any challenge whatsoever.

We continued to make excellent time and as we passed each favorable anchorage we kept deciding to continue on with the day. Soon enough we emerged into Magellan strait. This strait is where so many nautical legends have passed through since Magallanes himself. For over 500 years sailors have toiled in the strait, like salmon swimming upstream, trying to get from east to west against the wind and current. When planning the trip north, this strait was the main deciding factor in choosing a late winter passage over summer. We needed a low to pass over the continent north of us causing the winds to swing from the almost constant NW to NE then SE then SW. Since we'd arrived in Chile more than a month ago there hadn't been one yet so despite being rare, I had hoped one would appear. A week before a small low was forecast to arrive on this day, which was why we pushed so hard to get here. Alas, it was not to be and there was nothing forecast for the next two weeks that would help us pass the strait with ease. We would be forced to do it the hard way.

Shortly after arriving in Magellan the hard way started and we fought to make it across the strait. A mere 5 NM took almost 3 hours and we were forced to divert slightly east to take refuge in a less than desirable anchorage. Wind and side swell meant a challenging nights sleep and in the early morning we were all ready to move on no matter what the forecast stated. We had concurred the Beagle, rounded Brecknock peninsula and we were proud of our accomplishments so far. After 300 NM of very difficult sailing, our boat and team were now well oiled machines ready to take on what ever was to be thrown at us. The hard way or not, we would emerge out of Magellan stronger for the toils, like so many legends before us.

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