Day 17 To Caleta Refugio where Franco goes swimming
49:52.61S 74:24.9 W
As the shops in Britain prepare to stack the shelves with Christmas goods, the Patagonian weather reminds us that winter isn’t quite over yet.
Snowing in Caleta Neruda
A very snowy morning made way to a glorious afternoon and a following wind.
We are sailing up the east coast of Wellington Island. Lucas Bridges, the son of the first missionary to settle in Tierra del Fuego, describes a curious meeting which took place here in 1885 in his amazing book ‘Uttermost Part of the Earth’ . Lucas grew up alongside the Yaghan people and was fluent in their language.
“A canoe came alongside our steamer. The people in it did not wear even the scanty apron that was customary among the Fuegians (Yaghan). One man had instead a flat-topped, wall-sided bowler hat as his only garment, and another a collar, once white, tied around his neck, for the lack of a stud, with a strip of hide. Neither Acualisnan nor Sailapaiyinij (two Yaghan men) could understand their language, but one of the three young Alacaloof (canoe nomads from the western channels) was familiar with it, so we had the unusual experience of carrying out a conversation through two interpreters. We learnt that these were Chonos from further north. Father expressed his surprise at meeting them in those high latitudes.”
The Chonos Islands are the other side of the Golfo de Penas, over three hundred nautical miles away. These people had travelled all that distance in their open canoe.
Sailing in Canal Wide
Mid afternoon we arrived in Caleta Refugio. Instead of swinging at anchor as originally planned, we decided to reverse into a sheltered cove and tie to the trees for additional protection, as a snow storm was brewing.
At some point during the process Franco realised that the anchor windlass handle had jumped ship (you just can’t get the crew these days!). The item is a heavy steel bar, we have a spare so it wasn’t the end of the world, but once the spare becomes the main, we no longer have a spare, if you get my gist. The water is very clear and after a while staring into the depths, Franco spotted the handle some distance away. The fridge magnet (the one that holds the door open so that it doesn’t fall on our heads, rather than Mickey Mouse) was removed from the fridge door and tied to a long string. Although it could lift one end of the bar, it wasn’t strong enough to drag it to the surface. Bravely Franco decided to dive. Recklessly, (I thought) in a wet suit rather than a dry suit.
Franco is a very good diver, but cold water is not his forte. In the outer Hebrides, he wouldn’t even dip a toe in the water. In northern Spain, while David was swimming a half marathon, Franco managed one lap of Caramor.
Although I hoped for success of course, if I were a betting woman …
In he went, there were a few gasps, but nothing serious. He dived and a few seconds later burst to the surface, steel bar in hand and starfish on shoulder (a new fashion for Patagonian sailors, the parrot is just so passé). I measured the depth: 3.5m, and the water temperature: 5˚C (the Irish Sea is 9˚C in winter). Double helping of cheese cake for Franco tonight!
The evidence (yes, it did really happen!), complete with star fish
Franco assures me that the next time he goes swimming will be off a coral reef in French Polynesia.