Sailing and Whales

This morning ,another early start because I was concerned that the south wind might strengthen early and perhaps be in the SE quadrant. But luck held and it was due south , so we had a great beam reach in 10-20 knot winds across the Golfo Tres Montes at the north edge of the Golfo de Penas. This stretch of water has a heinous reputation. Today , though we were lucky and had sunshine , reasonable SW swell of 2-3 m and a steady breeze until we rounded the S end of Isla Javier into the S end of Canal Cheap.( Capt Cheap was the captain of the “Wager”- not an admirable character). We sailed 55 miles from 0600 to 1800. Less than a 5 knot average , but mostly we were at 5.5 knots close reaching

Now we swing at anchor in a tiny cove off Estero San Salvador which is off Estero Jesuitas. The Campo de Hielo Norte (northern icefield) forms the backdrop with some really beautiful icy peaks. There’s noone here but us. Position GPS 47 12.69S 74 11.9 W The cove is about 75′ across with just enough room for us to swing, without shore tieing. It is HOT! Not hot enough to swim in 12 degr water ,but we thought about it.

Over the past 2 days we saw 3 dead whales( Meredith is Dead Whale Woman) and today we saw another 6 live whales , some of which were Sei whales with distinctive dorsal fins.

Now we will need a north wind to get farther south , which means poor weather . We shouldn’t have long to wait. Meantime we will explore around here. The seaweed packer boat we tied up to last night gave us two items : a bag of locos (false abalone) which I have now tenderized with a hammer and pressure cooked, and a 2′ long octopus, which has been put into the crab trap for bait. Buen Provecho.

To The Lighthouse and Rafted To A Seaweed Packer

Nice and calm this morning so up anchor and on motor to get up Estero Slight before the thermal wind gets going. Ten miles brings us to the end of the inlet. On the way we pass another dead baleen whale , attended by a hundred or so Giant Petrels.

At the head of the inlet we anchored in 6′ of water. Then we went ashore and walked the 7 kms to the Cabo Raper lighthouse. Two kms through the forest and 5 kms along the sea coast on the outside. A beautiful warm calm summer day. This lighthouse was built in 1914 to the design of Mr Slight, an English engineer. The original route through the forest was a raised wooden railroad on concrete piers. Now it is a classic rainforest eroded rocky and root road. Darwin and Capt Fitzroy bushwhacked through here in the mid 1800’s, just to have a look. Gerry Clark on Totorore came here in the 1980’s on his epic trip , to count Sooty Shearwaters flying past the light at night. He counted thousands per hour. I called the light station by radio from 2 kms away, and the crew met us on the path. There are 5 men at the lighthouse and their shift lasts for 4 months. They are Armada staff , and all single. Each ship that passes within 12 miles must call the station and give indentifying info. They were happy to have visitors. They had some visitors before , last year , 3 people from another sailboat. Otherwise none.

There was a small dead whale on the beach , making our dead whale count in this area a total of three. Must be because of the shape of the Golfo – a huge SW facing scoop. I also saw Southern (Antarctic) Petrels, Chilean Skuas , South American Terns, and Magellanic Oystercatchers ( displaying and giving a very distinct call). None of these birds are rare, but my eye is becoming more discriminating and they don’t all look like white and grey seabirds anymore

We flew down the inlet in the afternoon with a good strong thermal wind, which died in 5 miles. Motor on again and into the Islas Marinas. This small archipelago was where 4 survivors of the Wager Shipwreck and subsequent Mutiny of the 1740’s ultimately became non-survivors.

The sun was still shining but now the wind was against us. The islands are like the Gulf Islands in BC except that there is nobody here. No boats , no houses, no logging , no fishing , no towns : nada.

We had heard of a couple of potential anchorages that we were going to check out. There are lots of little coves and hooks , but it seems that 30 knot winds can arise at any time from any quadrant so more protection is generally sought. Our experience so far is that the grib file weather maps are generally useful and accurate here in the 48 hr timeframe. We looked at one little cove but a SE wind was blowing directly in, so we went another 1/2 mile across to a narrow gap between two islands. It looked like the wind was blowing right in there , but maybe we could slide through a gap between two islets. There are no soundings on this chart so we must go slowly. We rounded a corner and saw a launch on the beach with a big cabin tent in the bush nearby. Then a 60′ wood fishboat tied between the two islets came in to view. As soon as her crew caught sight of us they waved and gestured to come alongside.

So here we are tonight , tied alongside the Dona Leda, from remote wilderness to intense foreign language socialising in 2 minutes. A crew of 5 guys from Quellon on Chiloe , they are here as a packer boat for seaweed divers. There are 5 smaller boats that use dive compressors to harvest the purple seaweed that is used in shampoo and some cosmetics.

This was their first opportunity to have a close look at two items of interest: the pleasure sailboat , and the blonde Canadian woman. I was able to explain the details of sailboat technology to the crew and they were very keen to show me around their ship and compare engines and navigation instruments. The Blonde Woman we all had a little more difficulty explaining and understanding. SHe was able to answer some of the smaller questions for them but the bigger questions such as ” What the hell are you two foreigners doing out here ?” are more difficult.

If the weather gods allow , tomorrow we will sail east about 35 miles to Bahia San Quintin where we might get a front row seat view of the San Quintin Glacier coming off the Campo de Hielo Norte ( northern icefield).