Day 19 One way ticket to Caleta Grau
The passage at the northern end of Canal Wide is partially blocked by a large island called Saumarez. Canal Grappler goes round to the east and can fill with ice from the Pio XI glacier. The shipping route goes west around the island and splits just three miles on to avoid Angle Island. North bound traffic (that’s us) takes the right-hand ‘lane’ through Paso Piloto Pardo (named after the ship that made the first surveys of the area) and south bound vessels go through the Pass of the Abyss which sounds very romantic. Given that the last time we saw a boat was thirteen days ago, it seems a little absurd following these rules to the letter but ‘shit happens at sea’ and you can be sure that if you go the wrong way down the one way system you will meet a supertanker … the only supertanker that ever transited the Chilean channels.
The entrance to the two passes
There was no wind, to move we had to motor. Maybe not such a bad thing through these narrow passages between towering mountain cliffs, from the summits of which mighty williwaws plunge onto unsuspecting yachts.
Looking back at Paso Piloto Pardo to the left and Paso del Abismo to the left
This was once the land of the Kaweshkar. Like the Yaghan, they were sea nomads but their canoes were skin on frame, usually seal or otter, rather than the stitched bark of the Yaghan craft. At the end of the 19th century the missionaries arrived and with them diseases, such as measles, which decimated the Kaweshkar as they had no antibodies.
To make a bad situation worse, the new European settlers regularly blamed the indigenous people for the disappearance of cattle, possibly a pretext to persecute them. (I find it hard to imagine a nomad making off with several cows and a prime bull in an open canoe, but I will keep an open mind.)
Otter skin canoe (scale model)
By 1936 the population had crashed to 250 (a quarter of the population in the year 1900). The Chilean Airforce set up a base at Puerto Eden and gradually the surviving Kaweskar settled nearby. Today the language is still spoken in three small communities, the main one remains Puerto Eden, our next stop.
Caramor in Caleta Grau