|Our track around Isla Tamar and into the Magellan Straits|
Isla Tamar was all I was thinking about as I looked at the next section of Chilean coast we would have to navigate. I saw the wide gap that is the Magellan Straits and imagined all the nasty weather that could tear through that opening from the west, bringing harsh winds and daunting wave height. For weather we had GRIB files from Puerto Eden but they had passed the point of reasonable accuracy. You can download GRIBS for up to sixteen days but can't count on their accuracy for more than five. We also had weather reports from home and a barometer, but the weather of Chilean Patagonia seems to be impervious to forecasting accuracy. During this time we were always feeling a little in the dark. To our great benefit, there is a consistently-manned Armada station on Isla Tamar that can be contacted about weather from within 15 miles, so we headed south to get within range and had an emergency anchorage ready if the weather was not favorable.
|The fantastical lichen-covered granite hills of the Magellan Straits.|
|Max at the tiller in the channels, looking dapper in a cowl I knit for him.|
In Paso Shoal we also saw the rusty carcass of an infamous 1914 shipwreck, the Santa Leonor, lying on a shoal to the east. Just as we were about 15 miles away from Tamar, we passed a cruise ship called Bidoucci and they called us on the radio. I was a little surprised to hear the captain calling sailing vessel Tortuga south bound in Canal Wide. I love talking to other boats on 16. We moved to channel 68 and he spoke in English giving us a stout order to not proceed around Tamar. He said he had just been there and the winds were 40 knots and the wave height was 5 meters. He repeated DO NOT GO THERE. So, we didn't go there. We pulled into a bay with many anchorages to offer and squeezed into one called Caleta Teokita, the opening of which would not suggest that passage was possible. However, inside we found a cozy, private cove surrounded by low hills and tied up to thick trees on shore. We radioed the Armada and they confirmed the captain's forecast and told us that the next day promised even worse conditions. We would have to sit tight for two days. Life inside the cove was utterly peaceful. We rowed around and found a thriving population of purple starfish, kelp, and mustard-colored coral reminiscent of Dominica. Each day we climbed to the top of the nearby hill and watched the weather in the canal and the Straits which we could see clearly. Wind is such a visible thing down here. It is memorizing to watch it travel across water. When it is light, the gusts look like a giant hand is caressing the water. When it is strong, the wind whips the water into fantastical forms of white spray and streaks of foam. From the top of the island we could see Isla Tamar as well as the entrance to the Straits. Our own Windy TV.
|The narrow entrance to our storm-proof anchorage north of Isla Tamar.|
|The kinds of things we do when stuck in the boat for a few days waiting out weather.|
On the third day we passed around Tamar in such tranquility that we felt as though we were on a peaceful afternoon sail on the Hudson. We worked hard that day in the sense that we pressed ourselves to sail 60 miles and be done with the opening to the Straits. Twelve hours at the helm and a lot of audio book time. By the time we dropped anchor in another stunning bay, we were
|A typical Patagonian anchorage.|
|Our view from our anchorage in Caleta Felix.|
|Making dinner in Caleta Felix.|
Paso O'Ryan is the only challenge in Canal Acwalisnan, but it should not be underestimated. It is an exceptionally narrow pass with a large rock in the center. The tides can reach eight knots there and a passage has to be carefully timed. We left our anchorage so as to arrive at the pass at slack tide, signaling the end of the flood. We were a bit early but decided to go for it anyway. As we got closer I could feel the current through the tiller which began to squirm in my hand. The seemingly flat water was rife with eddies and currents that moved the boat as they pleased. We began to see whirlpools in the water all around us and our progress slowed to a complete stop with the engine at full throttle. We had to give up and as soon as we turned, the boat moved away very quickly. We decided to eat lunch and wait. A half hour later a small fishing boat passed us and entered the narrows. I could see him slow down and his transom squirm against the power of the current. At the narrowest part he seemed
|The boat that passed us as we struggled to move through Paso O'Ryan|
|Some kelp anchored to a vertebrae came up with the anchor in Brecknock.|
The next day we began making our way across Bahia Desolada, through Canal Ballena, and into the Beagle Channel. I started to feel like something big was coming to and end. As if we were graduating, checking off a big list item, arriving at the end of a long day's toil, and like it was soon time to fully exhale. At least for a while. The day passed just as uneventfully as the one before and the scenery found a way to increase in its pure, clean, and untouched aspect. I loved my hours at the tiller watching new mountains come into view as the old ones passed out. We turned corners around islands to surprise seals who were sunbathing, fast asleep, with their flippers high up in the air. The other members of their group came racing towards us in groups, as curious as a creature can be, and dove to inspect the hull. In the distance, I saw the white peaks of the Beagle Channel and knew that we would soon be protected, relaxed, and amidst the glaciers that embellish the Beagle Channel like monuments on the Champs-Élysées.
|Our view of the entrance to the Beagle Channel from Caleta Connor.|
The night before we entered, we anchored in Caleta Connor, where there are trees dedicated to home made signs from passing yachts and a sailor scarecrow in his foulies. I really felt like we had accomplished something great. I felt proud. On the way in a dolphin zipped around us, riding the bow wake on his back, turning to look me right in the eye. I struggled to hang myself off the bowsprit in a way to capture the moment with my camera. Max said later that I looked like a crazed dolphin photographer trying to yell indecipherable things to him, frizzy blond hair everywhere. At this comment I realized that, not only was I becoming my mother, but as that dolphin jumped 10 ft out of the water and looked down at the deck of Tortuga, I was also living her wildest dreams. The anchorage was peaceful and in the distance the light hit sharp white peaks that hinted at what was to come in Canal Beagle.
The Beagle Channel is the most stunning stretch of water one can imagine. The glaciers come into view one after another in an act of revealing that doesn't seem to end but only intensify. Just as you get over the size, color, and proximity of one, another peaks out at you and reveals itself as even more amazing. Larger, closer, bluer, taller, more exotic waterfall, larger crash of calving ice, more
|Glacier in the Beagle Channel|
After Caleta Olla, we headed for Puerto Williams, but found unfavorable winds just as we were passing Ushuaia, where we could not land since we were still under the Chilean flag, so to speak. The Armada suggested that we tuck into Puerto Navarino, on the opposite shore of Ushuaia. We dropped anchor in front of the Armada house which always feels safe. I awoke very early to the sound of Max yelling, "We are dragging anchor towards the rocks!" I'll save that story for next time. For now, more pictures of the Beagle Channel...
|The Beagle Channel|