Sunday, November 6, 2022

The HARD Way Part IV

"I've got nothing but white and something labeled Rocks on the chart plotter. We are just about to go over them.... Can you see anything???"

All three crew were standing out in the pouring rain although the wind was strong enough to keep them mostly dry. The side swell from New Zealand was tilting the boat from side to side. We were entering a small uncharted channel before the headland marking the end of Magellan strait. I had hoped to avoid this shortcut but the seas and wind were too strong to make any further progress so it was either this or turn tail and sail 30 NM back to Mostyn. The Chilean navy had once charted and approved this pass but I guess too many boats were lost so they issued a chart update that simply had a "Canceled" stamped across it. The guide book described the passage as "delicate" and said that while its location would make most think the pass to be fantastic, the random nature of the boat killing rocks would make them wish they were somewhere else once inside. We were doing it anyway, the HARD way would end one way or another.

Out of the spray and spume two large rocks appeared like a gateway to hell. We surfed the 2-3 m swell between them and finally entered calmer water. The rain even seemed to let up a bit. Dolphins swam in front of us. Maybe this wasn't a bad idea after all. The guide book described a single gps way point at the north end of the pass to indicate clear water. We were on our own until then. We felt our way up the channel back tracking once or twice to avoid shoals identified by the depth sounder and emerged into the large bay at the north end of the pass. I stood on deck with the binoculars and could see no way through the labyrinth of rocks and crashing waves. Mark was able to see a ship in what looked to be a pass so we turned our boat towards it. The GPS way point seemed to be more or less in the same direction. Things were looking good. Then they weren't.

"There is something wrong with that boat! It doesn't look right" Mark called out. Sure enough that boat certainly wasn't right. It was a medium sized freighter recently half sunk in what looked like the middle of the pass. We decided not to go there but the GPS way point was directing us just to the right of it and all across the bay jagged rocks and islets bared any other options. We inched closer to the way point. A large rolling swell gently moving the depth sounder between 15 and 10 m as it passed under the boat. It was a good thing I was wearing waterproof pants, the moisture streaming from my body was hidden. None of the crew noticed my extreme concern.

We passed within 100 m of the half sunk vessel, thankful that it had identified the mid pass rock but wondering if all hands were fine when that calamity had occurred. Given the size of the swell on this calm day we all knew this ship hadn't been there very long and had maybe only run up on the rocks in the storm a few days past. All were silent as we pondered the flood of emotions passing over us. Joy in having finally completed the Strait of Magellan combined with a touch of sorrow for all those who's toils had not led to success.

We turned north and after a brief interlude of heaving from side to side the waves evened out and rolled behind us, the wind decreased and blue sky started to poke out of the gloominess. We were through and perhaps our days of struggling to make way were finally over.

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