Adrift in Bahia Anna Pink

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Sun 9 Oct 2016 15:19
45:44.06S 74:36.04W

The night was still, not a breath of air. As each oar struck the water in turn, thousands of tiny organisms lit up, leaving a luminescent trail behind the dinghy. The only other creature awake was a tiny frog poised on the bright green algae with the same consistency as the crispy seaweed you order in a Chinese restaurant. Maybe a hundred eyes were watching us from the unseen forest, but if they did, it was in total silence. Caramor was ready but it was still pitch black. It started raining, we ate breakfast. 

Heading south out of Golfo Tres Montes

Since crossing the Golfo de Penas, the wind has been strong and from the north, with rain. There was a half day of southerly breeze but this was too short for us to get round the large Peninsula Taitao into the sheltered channels further north. This time we had a two day weather window before the wind turned northerly once more. We would have to keep up an average speed of 5 knots, possible with the force 4-5 south-westerly predicted though it looked like we might have to motor for a spell overnight.

Sunrise over Peninsula Tres Montes

The wind was slow getting going but by the time we were off Punta Diego we were making good progress. A short distance away, a pod of killer whales was heading south, probably on their way to the Penguin Festival in the Strait of Magellan. Neither of us have ever seen orcas before, but their tall dorsal fins are so distinctive, they couldn’t be confused with anything else … other than, maybe, a flotilla of surfacing submarines. 

Here, out in the open sea, we recognised many of our bird friends from the Southern Ocean. Black-browed albatrosses flew in perfect synchronicity over waves, only to peel away in different directions as if oblivious to each other’s presence.

As we approached Cape Ráper lighthouse, we radioed our position. We could hear many voices on the VHF and passed several fishing boats heading south. 

Cape Ráper, the lighthouse is on the left

Unfortunately the wind died before dinner. With loss of forward speed, the motion was terrible. Not surprising given that the the depth decreases from 2,000m to 100m and all that water with nowhere to go bounces around aimlessly. Add to that a south bound current and an easterly set and you get a churning like on the inside of a washing machine. 

The sky at night was very clear with stars visible as low as the horizon that I mistook for passing ships. Franco took the last watch and I went to bed for three hours. I awoke with a bad headache. While preparing breakfast, I could smell fumes. Franco didn’t think it was the exhaust blowing back in and he didn’t recognise the smell, which reminded us of ethanol. He checked the engine compartment and found diesel leaking out of the fuel filter and dripping into the tray. We had a problem. (We later concluded that the diesel smelled different because of the additives used to stop the fuel freezing in the winter.)

We stopped the engine. We had just entered Anna Pink Bay, studded with islands and reefs. The bay is named after the ‘Anna’, a ship from the Anson fleet that was dismasted in 1741 and, incredibly, was able to find a way to safety through the uncharted bay. Luckily the wind picked up and we were able to sail, though we weren’t making much progress as the wind was against us and we had to keep tacking to avoid reefs. Franco cleaned up the spilt diesel and stored it in coca-cola bottles - a horrible job, if ever there was one. The engine was too hot to attempt a repair so we carried on, hoping to sail right into the anchorage, still some distance away. 

A very tired Kath at the helm

We were feeling very tired by now. On the next tack the wind shifted and we ended up, discouragingly, nearly at the same point as we had on the previous run. We reviewed our options and decided to head for an anchorage further north. This way we could point straight at it and wouldn’t need to tack anymore. Then the wind died completely. Bahia Anna Pink is not somewhere you can afford to drift.

Franco went below, changed the filter and bled the engine. After a few splutters it burst into life. We were back in business. Just then the wind picked up, backed to the north and freed us up. Caramor, keen to get her anchor down for the night, took off at seven knots and sailed beautifully into Estero Clemente.

Isla Clemente

Luckily the sun was shining and we were able to vent the cabin as everything stank of diesel. I hastily put together a shepherd’s pie from tinned ingredients (fresh food is now a distant memory) and desert was a couple of paracetamols (we both had splitting headaches). As we got ready for bed, I noticed commotion in the bay. Heading towards us at speed was a solid line of twenty or more dolphins, splashing, diving shallowly, snorting bubbles … honed killing machines working as a pack to hunt the fish in the bay. Following behind were the scavenging gulls hoping for scraps and leftovers.

By 7:30 pm we were fast asleep.

The bay with a fabulous waterfall

P.S. Caramor’s engine is a Beta 30. The maintenance manual says to change the fuel filter every 750 hours. Fuel filters aren’t supposed to leak in such a potentially catastrophic way, yet every filter ever fitted has failed in this way. This one lasted the longest, 230 hours. We would be delighted to hear from any Beta engine owners. As soon as practical we will change the fuel filter mount.