A Pause in the Cruise of the Fjords of Tierra del Fuego
Position: 54:51.490S 068:48.902W, Caleta Ferrari, Bahia Yendegaia
Date: 5 February 2012
Yes, the sharp-witted amongst you will have noticed that two days on and we are still in the same place. The Cruise of the Fjords of Tierra del Fuego has got off to a slow start due to adverse weather. We knew from the forecasts that a couple of low depressions were coming through which promised strong winds for about four days. What I had underestimated was that the steep chop that the winds created in the Beagle Channel were capable of reducing boat speed by more than two thirds – turning a 4-hour passage into an unacceptably long 12-hour passage.
So yesterday we stayed for an extra day in Caleta Ferrari in the Bahia Yendegaia (58°24.33S 68°00.00W – check it out on Google Earth). It is a lovely little bay surrounded by mountains covered with thorny calafate bushes and beach trees, but it is just a stopping off place on the way to the fjords that have the spectacular glaciers. The weather has been atrocious. The wind is coming from the south west – straight from Antarctica, so the temperature has dropped to 3°C and wave after wave of sleety showers discouraged us from spending too much time ashore on bracing walks.
So we were all down below quietly reading or, in my case, fashioning an award-winning blog when we were jolted by a cacophony of fog horns. I looked out of the window to find the bloody reprobates on Dawnbreaker had turned up to share the anchorage with us, after a hard 10-hour slog from Puerto Williams.
Meanwhile Dolly Mk2 had had her first amputation which was sizzling in the oven. Whilst it was cooking I popped over to Dawnbreaker with a bucket of absolutely clear Antarctic ice for a G&T or two. Dawnbreaker were horrified to hear that I was not creating a Cordon Bleu pudding for dinner and insisted that they come over after dinner with all the ingredients. Which they did.
The six of them arrived with two bottles of sparkling wine, and Ton Ton, the Swiss-Brazilian and self-appointed Chef on Dawnbreaker, took over our galley. Pears were peeled, cored and sliced and braised in a jus of fine white wine. Swiss chocolate was melted in a bain marie and the ice cream was put into the freezer. So after our dinner of succulent roasted lamb and sauteed potatoes, our taste buds were further bombarded with the delectable pud and washed down with fine wine. Then the drinking began.
The rest of the evening was, to be honest, a bit of a blur but suffice to say in the morning we counted amongst the empty bottles one of whisky, en entire bottle of Kahlua, and ten bottles of wine.
That wasn’t the only thing I discovered in the morning. I popped my head out of the cockpit and there was Dolly Mk2, gone. Instead, hanging on the backstay, was a can of Heinz Baked Beans on which had been written “Dolly Mk3”. I looked round to Dawnbreaker swinging to her anchor and there, at the top of her 100-foot mast was poor DollyMk2, stolen by the pirates.
We were heading off further up the Beagle Channel and had to recover Dolly Mk2, the source of about four further nourishing meals. We put a boarding party on board Dawnbreaker, daggers between their teeth, and after a light skirmish with the still groggy pirate crew, Dolly Mk2 was once again hanging from our backstay. Bahia Yendegaia where we had been anchored is very well protected and you can’t tell what the wind is like in the Beagle Channel. But as we left the protection of the bay, we soon found out. It was blowing a full gale and whilst the white horses looked very pretty as they marched relentlessly towards us, our speed through the water was getting slower and slower as we punched into each wave, spray hitting the crosstrees.
The Chilean Armada keep a very close eye on all the shipping in their area, and particularly yachts. We had reported to them by radio as we were leaving Yendegaia and as we battled our way into the increasingly fierce winds they called us up. The conditions were worsening and they advised us to return to Yendegaia. We were already one day behind schedule so we advised them that we would plug on for the time being. But after half an hour with the wind now shrieking through the rigging at 55 knots, we threw the towel in, turned around and now with the fierce winds from behind us, we shot back in double quick time to the protection of the bay and to the same spot in Caleta Ferrari where we had already spent an unscheduled two days.
Meanwhile Christine, who is not renowned for her cast iron stomach (Mina2 blogs passim), had taken one of her strong seasick pills just before we turned back. It was not until we reached the tranquillity of the anchorage that it kicked in, so she spent the rest of the day like a drugged zombie.
It was getting colder and colder and as the endless clouds washed over the surrounding slopes, they were covered in a pretty mantle of snow. We went for another walk ashore, but it was so wet and cold that we returned to the boat for tea and homemade bread.
Tomorrow we are determined to press on regardless of the conditions. Having spent three years planning the cruise to the deep south, but having only a few short weeks to explore the channels, I’m not going to let a little discomfort get in the way of our plans.