Day 10 Chickens escape to Steamer Duck Lagoon
The sun wasn’t shining. Although we are taking the line that glaciers are only worth visiting in sunshine and blue skies (yes, I know, we have been spoiled), we are optimists and believed the weather might improve. Besides, Franco fancied spending a night in Caleta Tilman.
Bill Tilman was a mountaineer and sailor (you can see why he appeals to Franco) and wrote several gripping books about his adventures. His first sailing expedition was in 1956, his goal was to cross the Patagonian ice-cap from the Pacific to the Argentinian lakes.
“There’s quite a lot of ice, it may be aground on the shore. It’s hard to tell from this far.” Franco called through the hatch as I made coffee.
Indeed there was quite a lot of ice … right across the entrance to Canal Peel and Canal Amelia where we were heading. Dolphins came bounding over enthusiastically “Come on Caramor, it’s really fun” they seemed to say but soon lost interest and returned to the rich fishing ground where the icy water met the warmer channel.
Ice in Canal Peel
Our route was barred, the conditions we encountered were exactly the same as those described by Tilman in his book ‘Mischief in Patagonia’. His crew were delighted to see ice, most of them were unfamiliar with glaciers. He commented “they greet the ice much as some ignorant clown might greet the first few ranging shots of a hostile battery.”
As we clucked and discussed whether to turn back, we talked about sailors we know and know of who don’t think twice about taking a fibreglass boat through ice. Franco has learnt respect for the power of ice through his climbing experiences, and I am catching up fast; the terrible sound of ice scraping against fibreglass as I kayaked in Estero Las Montañas and the damage suffered by our poor dinghy as I rowed through thin ice to recover our shore lines one morning.
Tillman struggled through the ice floes, it took him hours and in the end the anchorage was so chocked with ice that he had to seek refuge in a tiny notch, now known as Caleta Tilman.
Finally Bill and his team were able to get to the glacier and start their crossing. Meanwhile the skipper searched for a safe anchorage (none of the three guide books we are using had been published at the time) to wait for the shore party to return. Unfortunately he ran aground at the top end of Canal Peel and damaged the propellor. The boat crew were constantly battling bergy bits, calving off the glaciers, that threatened to sink the yacht.
We clucked a bit more before turning tail and heading on our way north, up Canal Pitt. In fact Franco feels he has seen enough ice, so much so, that he doesn’t even want ice cubes in his drinks.
The wind was light from the south at first and we drifted at 1.5 knots with the tide, eventually it picked up, but from the north. Nevertheless we enjoyed some good sailing with the bonus of getting to know both sides of the channel as we tacked to and fro.
Our anchorage is in beautiful Steamer Duck Lagoon, where it is rumoured we may see otters. Since the wind forecast for Thursday and Friday is in the right direction, we will take tomorrow off to go walking.