Day 6 Always a first time for everything
The gentle pitter-patter of sleet hitting the coachroof was the first indication that ‘agent of gloom’ Ferrero’s prophecy of weather change had come true. The wind had swung round to the north, and although light all day, was on the nose.
Kath in a silly hat for a snowy day
The shower soon passed, giving way to sunshine and clouds. The snow clad islands all around were a fair reminder that it is still winter here in Patagonia. As we drew level with Puerto Bueno, a possible anchorage, we noticed a small orange boat powered by an outboard engine going round and round in circles. We observed for a while and decided that he was neither drunk nor in distress and must be doing some kind of survey, possibly looking for suitable sites for ‘salmoneras’ (salmon fish farms).
Fish farming has become a huge industry in recent years and has contributed to the rapid expansion of Puerto Natales. The advertising sounds great: “Salmon from the pristine waters of the Patagonian fjords”, but it isn’t quite as I had imagined, there is no chap in waders standing in a stream for hours on end, using skills passed down from generation to generation, to hook just a few of those plentiful wild salmon. Instead, hundreds of fish are crammed together in cages and fed on fishmeal until they are big enough to look good on a dinner plate. Having said that we did try some and it tasted good.
Turning into Estero Peel
The weather forecast is for strong winds by the end of tomorrow, 50 knots out at sea, reducing the further east you are. We are heading for Estero Peel, another long inlet into the Southern Ice Field. It is off the direct route but worth the visit, we are told. Puerto Bueno was our original goal today but we still had enough daylight to go to the next anchorage which is a little further east, and where we hope there will be less wind. Caleta Villarrica has an inner pool approached through a narrow passage between cliffs, it sounded delightful, unfortunately it was iced solid. We steered for the alternative anchorage in the outer bay. We dropped the anchor and reversed in, at the last minute we noticed a rope covered in kelp floating just below the surface. The anchor didn’t grip first time so we went out to try again. As we approached the shore, Franco lifted the sunken rope with the boat hook to keep it out of the way of the rudder, unfortunately there were other strands trailing from the main line and two of them wrapped themselves around the propeller.
This is the first time we have caught a rope around the prop. It is something we have always dreaded and have felt sympathy for fellow sailors met during the early part of our trip for whom diving to clear the prop seemed to be an occupational hazard.
As we struggled to untangle Caramor in the rapidly fading light, we considered our options. If we didn’t succeed one of us would have to dive tomorrow. We have drysuits and plenty of weights to pin us to the bottom but the water is cold enough to give you the ice-cream head of a lifetime. Having trimmed the rope, I pulled on the last two strands while Franco turned the prop shaft, left, then right. One last yank and they came free, they had been wrapped in opposite directions but luckily hadn’t had time to jam hard. We hadn’t felt cold whilst working away with our sleeves rolled up and our arms plunged in the water up to the elbows so it was a surprise to find Caramor’s deck slippery with ice.
Yippee the rope is free!
It was 7pm when we finished and it had only just gone dark. We knew we would sleep well tonight.