Estero Cono , Caleta Suarez 46 36.8 S 75 27.7 W December 18th 1834 and Darwin sailed in on the Beagle. He climbed Mt Cono . 1600′ asl which he described as a difficult bushwhack. We left Puerto Refugio, where Lord Anson’s pink , the Anna , recovered from their trials, and headed out hoping to sail the 55 miles SSW to this Caleta Suarez, not far from the west end of Peninsula Tres Montes. Many sailors refer to some notorious headland in their own homewaters as ” the Cape Horn of the (fill in the blank)” , like the Brooks Peninsula or Point Conception in California. This nearby cape is too close to Cape Horn for comparison.
The Peninsula Tres Montes protrudes west into the Pacific, and must be rounded to sail the length of Chile ( there was a scheme to dig a canal across the Istmo de Ofqui near Laguna San Rafael but it never progressed). It is at this point in the coast where an east flowing current splits with part going north to become the Humboldt or Peru current and the rest returning to the Antarctic. The latter part pushes into the Golfo de Penas, on the south side of the peninsula, giving a significant and dangerous onshore set , along with a big predominant SW swell and relatively shallow waters.
The Golfo de Penas , the gulf of suffering, that’s tomorrow’s treat.
Today we have hung out at Caleta Suarez, chatting with and watching the crews of the 15 fishboats that were rafted up when we arrived yesterday afternoon at 1800 hrs. They had been here for 5 days waiting for a break in the weather so they could resume work. The do long line fishing about 30 miles from here for Pacific Toothfish (aka Chilean Seabass) and later in the eyar and more to the north , for Albacore. The boats are mostly wood and about 16m long with crews of 5 to 7. Their trips are for 40 days , then they steam for 3 days to Puerto Montt for a week , then head out again , all year.
Yesterday was exciting. We left Pto Refugio knowing that the wind would be north and favorable , but hoping that it would not build to be too strong. As we sailed west to the end of Peninsula Skyring it increased from 15 to 25 knots. There was a 4 m west swell left over from previous weather. There are several offlying rocks and the swell was breaking on them with frightening results. With the imperfect charting we really had to keep a sharp lookout into the gloom. Another set of rocks , Roca Hellyer, lies about 3 miles off the end of Peninsula Skyring, and we passed within a mile of it.It looked way too close and truly had a fearsome and violent appearance with huge white sheets of water flung high into the air and blown away.
The west swell and the north wind made for corkscrewing progress, but as the wind built to 30 knots or more , we sped along at 7 or 8 knots with a triple reefed main and a scrap of jib. The Black Browed Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrels , Wilson’s Storm Petrels , Sooty Shearwaters , Pintado Petrels , and others were all wheeling and gliding around us in the blow- completely at ease.
Fifty miles later we were closing with the north coast of Peninsula Tres Montes, and the north wind made it a lee shore. So we had to be accurate getting into our chosen bay. The ceiling lowered , the rain thickened and the wind increased. Perfect.
But , the radar got us into Estero Cono in very bad conditions. As we sailed into calmer waters the wind became gustier so we were sailing 7 knots with just the triple reefed mainsail. Three miles up the inlet , around a gravel spit , and we glided into the calm pool of Caleta Suarez, to raft onto the side of the Don Jorge , a Chilean fishboat. The fishermen were very friendly and welcoming, and gave us Congria ( a big conger eel) to eat for supper. They were surprised that we had sailed in out of the windy ,wet murk. The rain was coming down in windblown sheets and we retired below with the heater burning.
An exciting and , at times, worrisome and frightening day. The only casualty of the day was the small pressure cooker , it fell off a bunk and shattered the far side handle – nothing too critical.
Now we have a 3 day outlook of more settled weather , so we might have to motor most of the way around Cabo Raper and Peninsula Tres Montes.
So it goes.