Day 75 Anyone for a crab sandwich?

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Fri 28 Oct 2016 02:08
45:02.30S 73:27.79W

The forecast was for no wind (again!). We are thoroughly enjoying the long warm sunny days, but to make the conditions absolutely perfect, we would need a steady breeze. This is because Franco doesn’t want to buy fuel before Puerto Montt and I am keen to increase our sailing to motoring ratio to above 50% (currently it is 44% on the stretch since Puerto Natales). It isn’t that Franco wants to motor, he is just more pragmatic about it. 

Everyone we met in Puerto Williams told us that we would motor 90% of the distance, so as a matter of principle, we set out to do better than that. Many people have transited the Chilean channels in engineless boats. It isn’t that it can’t be done (though losing the wind when still miles away from an anchorage and drifting in these poorly charted waters in the dark couldn’t have been much fun) it’s about how long one is prepared to take to do it.  

There wasn’t a breath as we weighed anchor in pretty Puerto Rosita. “Not another day of motoring …“ we groaned. However once out in Canal Ferronave a light breeze picked up. We have moved the goal posts, no longer do we turn the engine on when our speed drops below 2 knots. We now stick it out until we either lose steering or start drifting backwards with the tide. This morning we took an hour and a half to sail 3nm,  only gaining 2nm as we had to tack for part of the time. Our average speed was 1.33 miles per hour. 

As the crow flies, Puerto Montt is 215 miles north of here but there are islands in the way and anchorages to get in and out of so the real distance is probably around 350 miles. At this morning’s speed, that distance would take us 44 days, without any bad weather or rest days.

Franco enjoying some sporty sailing, making the most of light winds

Luckily the wind picked up again and we were able to sail to within a few hundred metres of the anchorage. On our way we passed Puerto Aguirre, a substantial community on the island of Las Huichas and the first small holding we have seen, just before Caleta Olea. 

Puerto Aguirre

The first small holding we have seen since Puerto Natales

After tidying Caramor, we were discussing whether to row to the beach when Franco suddenly noticed an otter swimming just a few metres from the boat. I fetched the camera and took a few shots. This time we could prove that we had seen one.

The otter dived, came up with a crab and swam to the shore where it crouched, crunching the body shell and gulping down the soft flesh. It wasn’t phased by our presence, the anchorage is sometimes used by fishing boats and the otter must be used to humans. We watched it for about half an hour as it went about its business. We noticed it dive near the bow, it surfaced just a few metres away and swam the length of the boat staring at us, a large crab between its teeth. 

“Anyone for a crab sandwich?”

Otter swimming under water

It disappeared for a while then returned with her pup. They swam along and when they reached our shore line, she ducked under it, but the pup got a little stuck. She came back and demonstrated how to get under it. While she hunted, he played around, often jumping onto her back. She was very successful, returning with a crab each time she dived and we wondered how long they would stay in the area as she would probably exhaust the supply fairly quickly. The pup wasn’t hunting for himself yet and relied on his mother to crack open the shell so that he could eat the meat. 

They stayed all afternoon, swimming and diving around the boat. It was as if she was introducing him to the presence of boats in the bay. Later, as it started to get dark, she returned for a feed on her own.