Day 63 First gate to Laguna San Rafael

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Sun 16 Oct 2016 01:03
46:30.66S 73:51.19W

It was touch and go whether we went south or north this morning. We had agreed that if the wind was as strong as yesterday from the south, we would turn around and abandon our visit to the San Rafael glacier. As we got ready to leave the anchorage, a stiff breeze picked up blowing straight down the inlet, but as we entered the main channel we were relieved to find it less strong than we had feared.

The weather was glorious today, and if we didn’t have access to excellent weather forecasts, we would be under the illusion that ‘heading south to find the sunshine’, as we joked the other day, had indeed paid off.

Blue sky, normal service has resumed

We arrived at the first tidal gate during the second half of the flood, by then the current had slowed down but was still strong enough to give us a helping hand. Franco noticed a dot a long way behind us. The AIS information showed ‘Campo de Hielo Sur’, the same boat that passed us yesterday. “Oh dear, I hope he passes us before we get to the narrows,” I whimpered. I needn’t have worried, travelling at 21.8 knots, he passed us before we could say “Campo de Hielo Sur”. True to my theory ‘a person you meet a second time is an old acquaintance’, he gave a friendly blast on the ship’s horn.

Paso Quesahuen, the first tidal gate

Caramor shot through the gap at 10.9 knots into the Golfo Elefantes. We crossed this to reach our anchorage for the night in the shelter of ‘Leopard Point’, a long wooded spit which obstructs the passage into the very shallow San Rafael Bay. This is the second tidal gate, which we will tackle tomorrow. From the bay we will wind our way up the narrow channel of ‘Iceberg River’ into Laguna San Rafael.

We spent the afternoon lazing in the cockpit. The Chilean word for sunbathing translates as ‘to lizard’, a great concept. Franco contemplated starting work on his suntan following complaints received from readers, dazzled by the paleness of his skin. The sun was hot but each time he intended to remove a layer, a cold breeze flowing off the ice field thwarted his intentions. 

In the end we decided against dinner in the cockpit for risk of sunburn. “It’s hell but someone has to do it”, concluded Franco philosophically.

Bahia Islote Ruiz anchorage

Thank you to Nigel Ajax-Lewis for identifying the exotic looking ibis from Puerto Millabu, it was a ‘black faced ibis’. We have heard of ‘remote medicine’ before but ‘remote ornithology’ is a new one! Nigel has provided the following information:

Black faced ibis cover a huge range including the whole of Argentina and Chile, with another population along the coast of Peru. Numbers are around 100,000 and stable.

They can be found in open country in meadows, pastures and cultivated fields as well as marshy valleys, arid rangeland, upland bunch-grass heaths and along lake and river margins. They eat insects, worms, frogs, salamanders and occasionally rodents.

They breed in colonies with black-crowned night-heron or cormorants; colonies of 10-30 pairs in Chile and over 50 pairs at a site in Tierra del Fuego.

Correction for Day 62: San Rafael is the northernmost glacier in the southern hemisphere that reaches the sea. There are of course many high mountain glaciers further north in the Andes.