Chilean Fjord Cruise Mk2 Starts With Another Gale

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Thu 23 Feb 2012 00:58

Position: 54° 51.453S 068° 48.863W, Caleta Ferrari, Bahia Yendegaia

Date: 22 February 2012


The day before yesterday we returned, once again, from Ushuaia to Puerto Williams to clear into Chile in order to start our second cruise of the Chilean fjords.


Ushuaia in Argentina is the place to and from where crew arrive by plane, and it is the only place with supermarkets where one can stock up with provisions for a long cruise. So it has to be the starting point for any cruise of the spectacular fjords and glaciers which branch off the Beagle Channel, starting 50 miles to the west of Ushuaia. Only problem is that Ushuaia is in Argentina and the fjords are in Chile and the only place where you can clear into Chile is 25 miles in the wrong direction at Puerto Williams. So the first two days and the last two days of any cruise is spent clearing out of and into the two respective countries and sailing the 25 miles away to Puerto Williams then battling against the fierce westerlies all the way back, past Ushuaia where one first started and on to the fjords.


So having cleared into Chile in Puerto Williams we left at breakfast time yesterday morning for the 42 mile first passage to Caleta Ferrari at the top of Bahia Yendegaia.


As we left Puerto Williams we saw the distinctive blows of the enormous Sei whales which we had seen before rescuing John Wheeler on Tramp. Since then I have discovered that it is almost unheard of to see baleen whales in the Beagle Channel so we have been very privileged to see so many.  


As the morning progressed, the strong westerlies against which we were punching, became very strong westerlies. By lunchtime, even though we are in a channel barely 2 miles across – not exactly in the open sea, the waves were a metre and a half high and steep sided. Mina2 was bucketing through the chop. It was cold, wet and uncomfortable. By mid-afternoon we had barely covered the first 20 miles. The wind was now blowing a full gale with gusts of more than 50 knots across the deck and the constantly chattering coastguard stations announced that all the ports were closing on both sides of the channel. It would have been very late evening before we were likely to get to Ferrari, so we threw the towel in and went into a well protected anchorage opposite Ushuaia for the night. A few hours later our Norwegian friends on Anne Mari also came in seeking shelter, looking completely beaten up, and snugged alongside us.


By this morning the winds had subsided but more very strong winds were forecast for this afternoon so we made an early start for the last 17 miles to Ferrari, leaving the crew of Anne Mari still sleeping. Twenty minutes before we reached the protection of the big bay, the wind rapidly increased and with it, the boat stopping choppy waves. We’d made it in the nick of time. Three hours later, who should come in but Anne Mari, the crew looking completely beaten up again. They said that, if anything, the conditions, which we had missed by a whisker, were if anything worse today than they had been yesterday.


Caleta Ferrari, overlooked by a range of sugar-coated mountains, has a small rather ramshackle farm house at the head, where Jose the gaucho farmer lives with Anemie, a Belgian woman who arrived by yacht and stayed. They keep horses and will take crews off for a few hours trekking which everyone says is a brilliant experience, fording deep rivers and seeing more of the wild countryside than could be possible for even the most intrepid hiker. Sadly we found they had gone away, so we will leave tomorrow morning for our next stepping stone to the glaciers, Caleta Olla, and plan to return here at the end of our circumnavigation of the glacier ridden Isla Gordon.


I ferried the DS and Andrew ashore in the dinghy for a walk whilst I settled down to catch up with the blog (the sacrifices I make for you faithful readers is limitless). When they returned we were all marvelling at our good fortune at being able to enjoy such spectacular, tranquil anchorages when, to cap it all, a family of Sealions came frolicking around the boat. The magic of it all almost made us forget the low scudding clouds dumping sleet on us.


Andrew seems to have settled in well. He now runs the boat quite efficiently but has ruined his goodwill by beating both the other Skippers at Rummy on his first two games ever. The DS is also slightly concerned about Andrew’s appetite. He eats for four and at this rate we’re going to run out of food well before the end of the cruise. The DS says I will have to go out and catch a guanaco (llama) to supplement what might otherwise become a meagre diet.