on the Magellan

53 22.9 S 72 48.3 W in Caleta Notch. We sailed about 20 miles east along the Magellan today in gusty winds , mostly under 20 knots. It is gusty and cold in Notch but with occasional sunny periods. I had a good paddle/explore in the kayak , but ‘froze’ my hands in the 7 to 10 degree temps. Fresh snow on the hills nearby. Glaciers everywhere, over bare rock. A 150′ Chilean offshore fishboat passed us today in the strait,heading for Punta Arenas. Slocum stopped here in 1893. I assume that many ,many others have also sought shelter here , but there is no evidence of their passing. The barometer is low (984 mb ) and steady , on the backside of a low pressure system, but it looks like showery ,cool weather will persist. As seems usual , we are anchored by the bow , with a shorline leading to a tree from each quarter at 45 degree angles- we are pulled tight in within 10′ of the trees and bush behind us, to get in the lee. Even so the gusts buffet us from ALL angles, heeling the boat to port and starboard and dragging the chain grumbling over the rocks on the bottom. With the shorelines set up tight with the cockpit sheet winches everything is in tension and seems secure. No shock loads on the anchor, so it is very likely to hold.

Having sailed south out of the ‘canales’ to the north and into the Strait of Magellan , we must travel about one hundred miles east along the strait before dodging south again towards the Beagle Channel. There are 3 channels that connect the Magellan to the Beagle: Canal Barbara , Canal Acwalisnan, and Canal Magdalena, from west to east. We will likely sail down Acwalisnan because Barbara is complex and difficult to navigate ( not a good metaphor for any Barbaras that I know), and Magdalena is more east which means we would have to fight the west wind to get back to the west end of the Beagle Channel area. I use the words Canal and Channel interchangeably.

Sailing east along the Magellan is unlike any sailing I’ve done or scenery I’ve seen. Hand steering all the time due to the gusts , and reefing/unreefing constantly. Glaciers and stark rocky peaks emerge form the clouds and from around corners, to be suddenly lit up by stray and unexpected shafts of sunlight.

Rufous-Chested Dotterels on the beach at Caleta Notch.

Slocum’s Notch

Last evening we ghosted into Puerto Angosto under sail. We were able to anchor inside a tiny nook just to the right of a big waterfall. A rocky sill with about 6′ of water over it guards the entrance. We tied onto three trees , not even using the anchor. There is noone else here. 53 13.34S 73 22.3W

Today has been cold and rainy. We started up the rock slabs behind the boat, but the rain intensified and began to feel like snow. It is now about 6 degr at mid evening.

Joshua Slocum was in and out of here for a month trying to get west and out of the Magellan. He anchored out near the inlet entrance so he could monitor conditions in the strait. While he was here he was joined in the anchorage by two navy ships at different times. Also, in the bay were two Swedish scientists camped near the waterfall , studying mosses. It would be a really good place to study mosses. This is the kingdom of the Bryophytes.

We have caught about 60 litres of rain from the pilothouse roof for our watertanks today. We have good reception of the BBC shortwave service to Africa. So we have learned the results of the Cup of Nations football tournament. I finished ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’. Also I recently read ‘The Knowitall’.

Thorntailed Rayaditos and Magellanic Tapaculos are singing in the bush.

Estrecho de Magellanes

AT this very moment (53 06.5 S 73 28.6 W) we are sailing at 7 knots with 25 knots NW wind on the port quarter. Leaving Puerto Profundo this morning at 0800 we rounded Isla Tamar after exchanging radio greetings with the Armada staff at Isla Fairway lighthouse.

We had intended to anchor for tonight in Puerto Tamar, a bay just around the corner. However when we went in to the bay it looked as little unappealing, with poor prospects for hiking or kayaking. ALso the bay was very encumbered with kelp. Thusly , with a fair breeze , partly cloudy and patches of sun, a steady barometer, we sailed on into the Straita of Magellan. A long sea-corridor bounded on both sides by stark rocky mountains , with glaciers and snowfields in the distance. At this point the Strait is about 4 miles wide and clear of dangers.

We are crossing the wakes of famous navigators , Magellan , Drake , Slocum and many others. It lends an air of gravity to an otherwise lovely sailing day.

We have 11 miles to sail before anchoring at Puerto Angusto (‘narrow bay’) (53 13 S 73 20 W) also known as Slocum’s Notch. Joshua Slocum on the ‘Spray’ waited for a month at Pto. Angosto for favorable winds , so he could proceed to the west and the Pacific. He eventually did reach the Pacific 30 miles to the west , only to encounter a NW gale and he as blown SE. He navigated thropugh the “Milky Way” a nightmare of rocks and reefs to the NW of Cape Horn. What an epic! Without an engine he had much less choice about where to anchor and when to travel.

Incidentally , even though a place is named a ‘Puerto’ it is unlikely to have any settlement or inhabitants. It only means a sheltered bay. The only settlement between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas – there are none.

We just had some warm raisin-duff , thanks to Meredith.

I will raise a glass, when we get anchored, to all the adventurers who have made their way through these waters- especially those who did it without engine or GPS. That is a different trip. Here’s to J.Slo., a contemporary of SC.