Location: Port Williams, Chile and Ushuaia, Argentina
Well, a day by day account of this weeks activities is not extremely interesting. We spent two days in Porto Williams clearing back into Chile and then clearing out the next day. We then sailed to Ushuaia, Argentina twenty-seven nautical miles (nm) up the Beagle Canal. The crew was given two days off for rest and relaxation. Zetty and I toured the National Park, collected a few things to send back to her family in England and we all attended the prize giving for the last two legs of the race. We finished third in the race from Cape Horn to Deception Island and FIRST in the race from the Melchior Islands back to Cape Horn. I must mention a restaurant in Ushuaia that deserves special recognition. The Kaupe restaurant provided some of the best food we've had anywhere in the world. Kaupe is owned and run by Ernesto and his wife Tess in the ground floor of their lovely home, high above Ushuaia. The experience starts with cocktails overlooking the town and bay followed by one of the best dinners in South America. If anyone reading this gets down to Ushuaia, they MUST have lunch or dinner at Kaupe restaurant. They can be reached at 54 2901 422704 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. EXCELLENT FOOD!!
The end of the week brings us back to Porto Williams again to clear back into Chilean waters in order to travel up the canals towards Valdivia. We have 23 days to make 1400nm and to see the sights, hike the glaciers and brave the williwaws. (Williwaws are the sudden downdrafts of cold air rushing from the top of the mountains. They hit the water at speeds of up to 70kts for about five minutes. Williwaws are caused mainly at night when the upper mountain air cools more rapidly than the air below. When the heavier, higher cold air cannot be supported by the warmer, lower air, it punches a hole into the air below and gushes downward, flowing like a fast moving river.
The first day turns out to be one of the best as we had almost zero wind and clear skies. Its not advisable to sail/motor in the canals at night as many of the hazards are not marked so we planned our daily runs for about 40 to 60nm per day. We anchored the first night at Caleta Olla (double l is pronounced as a y), 60nm west of Port Williams. We found two other boats in the bay, Vouyou and Plum III. We knew Vouyou from a visit with them in Antarctica, (small world) and Plum III was coming South for the winter to do Antarctica the following season. We stayed here for the next day and hiked up to the beginning of a large glacier. It turned into quite a muck fest as it started raining during the 4km trek. We were spent as we returned to the snug warm ship Risque. Plum III invited us for a "beach barbecue" the following night but we declined as our schedule was getting tight. They had been there for a week already, we couldn't figure out why, it was a nice anchorage, no williwaws, protected... but as we would find out later, one of the best. There are no people in the canals for the next 800nm, spare an occasional fisherman so one anchorage tends to blend into the next. The type of scenery, although beautiful beyond belief, doesn't change that much and we constantly found ourselves asking each other where we were a week ago. The wind throughout the southwestern section of Tierra del Fuego or "Land of Fire," is from the northwest ninety percent of the time at speeds ranging from 20 to 60kts. Of the 4 weeks in the canals, we had only two days with wind less than 10kts. "Racha" is the Chilean word for williwaws. These sudden downdrafts of cold air can leave an unprepared boat "knocked down" in no time. Unfortunately they occur with the most force in the anchorage's, so mooring for the night became a tedious process. Drop the anchor, (pick, hook, lump or stones are nicknames for the anchor in other countries). Drop the dinghy in the water and if windy, put on the motor. Get the three 100 meter long polypropylene lines ready, place the emergency box in dinghy along with the wire strops that attach to the shore lines and secure around trees, rocks. Take off. Secure all lines ashore, bring the dinghy back up on deck, (more on this later), and sit back and wait for the williwaws. We still had the heating on during our journey north, the average temperature still only about 40-45F. The williwaws usually came just after 3AM, usually during some nice dream or R.E.M. sleep. They start the boat swinging from side to side as the wind gauge goes from 10kts to 45kts in five seconds. The WORST sound you can hear at 3AM is the anchor chain on the bow roller. This sound echoes throughout the boat as the anchor starts dragging. The "All hands on deck" command goes out and we scramble about in the dark to reverse the mooring process in pitch darkness. Oh ya, with the williwaws too. Some anchorages were small enough that we could get four lines ashore thus making them "bulletproof." They were nice as we knew we could sleep all night without fear of the dreaded slipping pick. The three weeks were like this, a different anchorage every night. We actually did have fun during the days, arguing about navigation, betting who would get rain storms on their watches and reading quite a lot. The navigation through the canals can get quite tricky at times as the charts were drawn before the age of GPS. The coordinates didn't always match up, creating a visual navigation situation. The radar unit also comes in very handy at these times. We saw some amazing things along this route, the 60kt rachas whipping up the canal into whiteout conditions, icebergs, waterfalls, glaciers, giant jellyfish, steamer ducks and the oh so beautiful mountains.
2/28/99: We had our normal 9AM start today, complete with Argentinean pancakes, the same as crepes to Americans, complements of Jacky. The nights sleep was unique in that nothing happened. No wind, no waves, no nothin, which is nice. Were cruising up the last part of the Magellan Strait today and then entering the Canal Smythe. Were also getting our first really good view of the Pacific Ocean today at the end of the Magellan Strait.
3/10/99: We're on our way to Porto Eden, a fishing village about halfway to Valdivia. This will be a much needed stop off as we're getting very low on fuel. World Cruising, the event organizer, has arranged for enough fuel to be delivered here for all seven boats. This will also be our first contact with human beings in about 2 weeks.
3/11/99: Porto Eden turns out to be only five or six houses along with a coastal station for the Chilean Armada (Navy). After fueling, via hand pump and drums, we left the same day so we can hit the Pacific running in two days.
3/12/99: We run across a old ship grounded in the middle of the canal. The captain found the only uncharted rock in the middle of the canal! The Armada welded the canal mark right to the old pilot house. Bad day for him, lucky for us.
3/13/99: The Pacific at last! We'll sail outside the canals for two days, skipping some of the less scenic areas inside.
3/16/99: We have arrived in Castro on the beautiful Island of Chiloe. We visit the town for fuel, a few trinkets and dinner. Most of us had a local dish consisting of mussels, clams, sausage, chicken and some kind of dumpling. The whole dish is roasted in hot coals giving it a smoked flavor. Some people like it...some don't.
3/18/99: Porto Montt is one of the largest cities in Chile and also has a marina with a Travelift large enough to haul us out of the water. We still need to have the rudder repaired so we stop and check out the facilities. Not exactly what we would regard as a good shipyard. The only real place is up the river under the bridges, which would require us to take down the rig. Not really what we had in mind. On to Valdivia where we know we can get it repaired by a good yard.
3/21/99: Valdivia, Chile