Estero Coloane

Well, good weather has continued for, like, 3 days. This has changed our perception of the whole place. After 4 or 5 weeks of pretty sad weather conditions, these last 3 days are a revelation. It is not really warm, but 14 degr C is way better than 4 degr C. Patches of sunshine make the glaciers really jump out.

We hiked up a thousand feet yesterday and could look east and west along the Southwest arm of the Beagle Channel. We could see probably 20 glaciers and icefields, or more. But it was cold , and it snowed a bit. We could see the NZ yacht ‘Victoria’ motoring west along the Beagle heading for Coloane. By the time we returned to the kayaks at the beach they were alongside our boat and tying up.

Jim and Karin are from Auckland and have recently sailed across the Southern Ocean to Chile. ‘Victoria’ is a beauty, a 50′ cold molded Kauri centre cockpit ketch that he spent 12 years building. What a well set up boat, totally practical and really attractive. Even though they have cruised Japan , the Aleutians , Alaska and BC, and now Chile , they never installed a heating system other than a portable propane catalytic heater. We had dinner aboard ‘Victoria’ along with Jim’s sister Mary and her partner Alan.

This morning I kayaked over to the snout of the main glacier dumping into Coloane. I was able to get right onto the glacier via a rocky medial moraine stripe. This took me a mile or more onto the glacier where it flattens out up in the valley. Still wearing rubber boots. By noon we were underway, returning east under sail along the Southwest Arm and now are anchored in Caleta Chorlito 54 59.7 s 69 17.2 w which is just a little nook off the Beagle on Isla Gordon. The wind is dying , the evening sun is alright. As we anchored a Condor glided overhead , followed by a Giant Southern Petrel. Possibly we will arrive at the metropolis of Puerto Williams (pop ~ 2500) tomorrow. It has been 6 weeks since Puerto Natales.

Glacier View Hotel

In 1977 I struggled from Namche Bazaar in Nepal up the hill above the town to visit the “Everest View” Hotel. I couldn’t afford to buy a coffee but there was nothing preventing me from walking through the lobby and out onto the flagstone patio that looked NW towards Mt Everest and the Khumbu Glacier. At 13000′ feet EVERYTHING seemed spectacular.

Now we’re anchored in Estero Coloane at the west end of the Southwest arm of the Beagle Channel on Isla Hoste. We motored 10 miles west in the Southwest Arm from last night’s anchorage.

The scenery is every bit as spectacular as around Namche Bazaar. Clearly the mountains are not as high , but they rise directly from a tree-lined placid cove to ice covered peaks in 2000′. The icefalls and glaciers cascade down through the valleys and gulleys to end at tidewater. We are tied ashore to bent Southern Beech trees, well protected from west winds. Estero Coloane is named for Francisco Coloane, a Chilean author who wrote extensively about the Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego area. The name was applied to the cove by the authors of the ‘Italian Cruising Guide’. Apparently it didn’t have a name before. Or if it did have a name, it disappeared when the Alacaluf indians died out.Why didn’t the surveyors , Chlaen or British apply a name ? Maybe they did , but it is classified. Not all existing hydrographic information is made available to civilian navigators in Chile.

Yesterday afternoon I paddled one mile south of our anchorage to visit the Ventisquero Fouque, which seems quite quiet , so I paddled right up to the snout. Then I climbed up the rocks beside the glacier. As I crested the top of the rocks , a big chunk of ice fell 30′ down onto the rocks below, with a sound of major trauma. When my heart rate settled I climbed back down and paddled back in the dusk, in light rain.

This morning I hiked up about 1000′ on to the nearby rock dome to have a view around. Sleet and rain limited the view.

By the time we hove up the anchor at noon today , the sun was shining with no wind. Snow and ice and waterfalls shining in the sun on every aspect.

We are at 55 05.7 S 69 48.6W. We still have quite calm conditions , but when the west wind resumes in a day or two we will start to move east again to Puerto Williams.

Warm and Calm

Today and yesterday were warm (10 – 15 degr C) and NO Wind. Unbelievable. Tomorrow is predicted to be similar. This puts a whole different spin on things. No looking over one’s shoulder for the 40 knot gusts. Maybe it won’t rain hard in the next hour. Great. We spent 3 days at Caleta Olla and had some great hiking. The Ventisquero Italia is right there , and one dya I struggled up into knee deep snow (in my gumboots) to look down on the glacier from high up. Yesterday I hiked up another valley to the west and ended up on Gauanaco trails leading up the valley. Eventually they ended in standing water , courtesy of fresh work by the exotic Beaver (introduced in the 1940’s).

Today , with no wind ,we took advantage of the opportunity to head a bit west along the Brazo SurOueste (Southwest Arm) of the Beagle Channel , along the south side of Isla Gordon. In flat glassy calm we went 15 miles to Estero Fouque which is on the south side of Brazo Suroueste , going into Isla Hoste about 10 miles. All these islands have peaks of 2000m to 2500m and they are coverd with thick icecaps and glaciers coming off in all directions. From our anchorage here 55 06.9 S 69 32.5 W we look up behind the boat to major glaciation, it looks almost like it si hanging over the boat. Very spectacular.

There were 3 other boats in caleta Olla. They all left yesterday, leaving us alone. Within 30 minutes of the other boats leaving , a family of foxes , a vixen and three kits, emerged from the forest to play on the beach.