Wind, and Smoke on the Water

It is blowing again today , gusting 45 to 50 knots all day. However it is amazingly warm , around 25 or 30 degr C , which is unheard of around here. It has cooled to 14 degr now in late evening.

Unfortunately a camper started a fire in Torres Del Paine park nearby, which is developing into a disaster. Hot windy weather with no apparent fire management plan and little apparent human or equipment resources to combat fires. This, despite another big fire in the same park only 5 years ago. Ron Q: it would be interesting for you to have seen the scene here. This afternoon in Puerto Natales the streets were crowded with people carrying packs and wearing technical gear. The park has been evacuated and a lot of people have had to change plans. Two of the Refugios/Lodges were burned down.

I could see the glow of the forest fire last night from our anchorage.

Meredith returned this afternoon, a day early, because the park is now closed due to the fire. She was dusty , footsore , but unscathed. I hope she will tell her story on this blog about the last 3 days hiking in the vicinity of the fire. She was camping for 3 nights and only really slept well for one of them because it was so windy she had to support the tent from the inside. She was dashed to the ground this morning by the wind while breaking camp. She had two 30 kilometer walking days. The park gets about 600 people starting to hike every day in the summer season (now). Ninety thousand per year. No limit on entry numbers. Large fairly primitive unregulated campgrounds. Despite this obvious potential for crowds , she was hiking much of the time without seeing anyone. Strange.

Unfortunately this fire means that I cannot go to Torres del Paine Park. Fortunately there are many other beautiful places that we have seen, and will visit before this trip is done. Tomorrow being New Years Eve, we have planned an asado in the quincho. We have purchased a small lamb carcass to rotate over a woodfire in a small building called a quincho. This quincho is built solely for barbecues, and it is about 1/2 mile farther up the inlet. The ranch owner is happy for us to use the quincho and may come to join our party tomorrow evening. There should be 10 or 12 people from the various boats.

Watersports at the Puerto Consuelo Rowing and Paddling Club

What a contrast to a couple of weeks ago, when we were out on the open coast of southern Patagonia.. Here we are on the east side of the Andes ; dry , relatively warm, endlessly sunny,four other cruising boats nearby for socializing. The fly in the ointment is the wind. Yesterday it blew the clappers. Three other boats dragged anchor and had to re-set. Two of them arranged tandem anchors (two anchors in line on the same rode) and are well set now. We didn’t drag , but we had done our share of dragging last week in Puerto Natales. It was 30 knots gusting to 50 yesterday. I did set a shore line , leading it about 400′ to the shore and using a cable strap around a rock nubbin. That really eased the load on the anchor , each line leading about 45 degrees off the bows.

So, no rowing yesterday. I had rowed over to Companera in our dinghy to see if conditions were good for rowing the sliding seat boats( I have a little trouble with the huge long oars in a chop) , but as I arrived the wind really kicked up. I had a cup of coffee with Doug and Jill and went to return to our boat. Surprise! there was only one oar left in our dinghy. Somehow in the chop and tied up alongside Companera , an oar had been flicked overboard.#$%&*. Scanning downwind with binoculars revealed nothing but whitecaps. More curses. We really need that oar. Then Per on ‘Freydis’ called on the radio saying that he had seen our bright yellow oar drifting past. He risked his life to go into the gale in his little dinghy to rescue the oar. Thank-you ,Per. Fortunately, Meredith had painted the oars a really bright yellow , just before we left Valdivia. Thank-you, Mer. Oar retrieved.

However at 0930 today the wind was only moderate so I went rowing in the double with Jill. Three miles up and 3 miles back. Two Patagonian Foxes seen on the beach and about 8 Andean Condors. These sliding seat boats are a great way to travel, but I am unsure if I am ready to row around Spitsbergen in one.

Two days ago we had seen a van with a trailer and 6 kayaks come to Estancia Eberhardt at Puerto Consuelo. The clients paddled a couple of miles up the inlet against a good stiff headwind. Then the wind obligingly switched 180 degrees so that they fought a headwind on the return leg as well. Today they arrived again , launched, and headed downwind. Today, though the wind did not switch , it strengthened and became gusty. First, a single kayak capsized , then another single, then a double. Cold water. About 12 degr C. We were getting ready to mount some kind of rescue (they were about 3/4 mile away , straight downwind) when we determined with binoculars that all paddlers had made it to the rocky beach. No more little bobbing heads among the whitecaps. Doug Fesler , on Companera, and Jill are professional mountain rescuers (among other things). They were ready to rock and roll. Meredith is off at Torres del Paine. It would have been painful for her to watch this kayaking near-debacle.

Lots of fun. Meantime we are only a few kilometers walk from the Cave of the Milodon. This was first made famous by Bruce Chatwin when he wrote in ‘In Patagonia’ that one of his relatives had a piece of the Milodon (extinct Giant Sloth)on display in their front room in England (?). The Eberharts used to own the land with the cave but have since sold it. I plan to walk up there while we are here.

Birds seen , many with chicks: Chilean Wigeon, Crested Duck, Spectacled Duck, Coscoroba Swan, Black Necked Swan, Andean Condor Cinereous Harrier, prob Peregrine Falcon Black Chested Buzzard Eagle Rufous Collared Sparrow, Long Tailed Meadowlark Chilean Flicker Dark Bellied Cinclodes Tern (sp?) Chilean Skua Plumbeous Rail

Puerto Consuelo in the Summer

Christmas has come and gone and we had a pleasant social time with Christmas Eve lamb aboard ‘Freydis’ , Christmas morning ‘stollen’ bread aboard ‘Silas Crosby’ ,and Christmas beef dinner aboard ‘Companera’.

Meredith gave me a beautiful warm pair of hand knitted (by herself) socks, and a memory stick with a bunch of ‘Jack Reacher’ novels loaded for my kindle. I gave her a tacky commemorative mug with pictures of Felipe Camirroaga (a long story) and a lot of nuts and dried fruit. Harry had left us a gift packet of Toblerone, beer , and dried fruit. Much Appreciated , Harry!

The weather has been dry and warm, but windy in the day.

Jill and Doug aboard ‘Companera’ have two rowboats aboard their 47′ motorsailer. These are NOT ordinary rowboats. The single is 19.5′ long and is based on a Necky double kayak. Jill has rowed this very boat around Spitsbergen , the length of the coast of Norway, the length of Labrador , and a lot of travelling around SE Alaska. She rowed a different boat through the NW Passage. Doug was paddling a kayak for the first few trips but switched over to rowing several trips ago. They also have a double rowboat aboard. Meredith and I have had the opportunity and privilege to row in both boats over the past few days. Neither of us had rowed with sliding seats and outriggers before. These boats fly. A five knot average is not difficult. Nine foot hollow spoon blade oars. Seno Eberhard extends another 3 or 4 miles beyond Puerto Consuelo , eventually ending in mud shallows with lots of waterbirds and the attendant birds of prey. After a few hours of rowing , I cannot say that I am smooth , but I am enjoying the exercise and can look around a bit. No capsizes. Jill is a good instructor.

Meredith has headed off this morning to go to Puerto Natales , and then by bus to Torres del Paine for 4 days of backpacking. She is going to do the ‘W’ rather than the ‘full circuit’. This is high season so she will not be lonely. I filled the water tanks today from the Eberhard estancia water source.

The yacht ‘Necessity’ just called on the radio. Jans and his wife have just arrived in Puerto Natales and are on their way to Puerto Consuelo 10 miles farther on. I last saw Jans at Sausalito and before that he was at our house in Courtenay for the going-away party in August 2010. I had forgotten completely that they were considering sailing to Chile.

So, we will be in this area for another week or two befroe sailing on south towards the Magellanes region.