Mina2 Strikes Large Tree
Position: 55° 04.543S 069° 25.823W
Estéro Penhoat, between rings 1 & 3.
Date: 10 March 2012
In the last week we have seen not one yacht; not one fishing boat, cruise ship, house or person. We have not heard anybody on Ch 16 on the VHF radio. We are completely alone in this, the uttermost part of the earth. Talk about a getaway-from-it-all holiday. (Yes, although the channels can be extremely demanding by normal cruising standards, I am reluctantly prepared to admit that, for me, this IS a holiday and not an expedition). The DS feels rather spooked by the total remoteness of the place. For me, curmudgeonly unsociable animal that I am, it is bliss. But all of us are revelling in the completely unspoilt wildness of the area, and the richness of its wildlife.
Yesterday afternoon we tied into one of the most bizarre locations that Mina2 has ever rested in. In Estéro Penhoat on the north side of Isla Hoste there are few places shallow enough to plant your anchor. All the sides are incredibly steep-to – 20 metres out from the rocky shore you have 50 metres of water under the keel. But against a particularly picturesque cliff with trees growing out of the cracks in it, someone – and no one is quite sure who – many years ago hammered in some stout wire cables with rings on the end for putting a rope through, and then painted a number on the sheer rock by each one: 1,2,3, and 4. We nudged Mina2’s bow within touching distance of the rock where ring number 1 hung, and Andrew slipped a line through. We backed off, turned the boat and headed for ring number 3 where we did the same, and then tied ourselves fore and aft between the two, with the sides of the boat just a few metres from the high cliff wall. The procedure all sounds very controlled – well, it was. Almost. As we were nudging our way towards ring number 3 with Andrew draped over the pulpit in the bow, rope in hand, the DS said “Watch out – you’re going to hit the trees!” I looked at the masthead. It was clearing the high overhanging branches by at least a metre. “Nonsense, woman” I retorted, “we’ll miss them by a mile”. At which point there was a loud crack and a branch fell on Andrew’s head. I hadn’t bothered to look at the forestay which had demolished a branch that was protruding much lower down.
As we were tightening the lines in this extraordinary berth, a colourful Kingfisher flitted by and sat on the branch of a tree just a few feet away from us. Just in front of the boat, nesting in the trees was a rookery of Shags: a few adults with their brilliant white breasts, and a load of youngsters, still all black. They were launching themselves off the trees hanging to the cliff, doing a couple of circuits and then landing back in the trees. It was school time for this year’s broodlings. Most made it. One didn’t. It threw itself off the cliff and plummeted straight into the water in front of us with a splash. It shook itself and then swum around a bit looking rather embarrassed.
Andrew went off for a 3 ½ hour kayak exploration to the end of the fjord and then tested himself against the rapids of a river in which small fresh water fish were darting around.
Talking of fish, one of the things that has surprised us is that we have seen absolutely no fish in the channels at all. We know they’re there because we saw a fishing boat in Caleta Olla about 5 weeks ago who sold us some of his large catch. But most places we sail in the world, you sea fish swimming around near the shallows, but here there is nothing. God knows what the sea birds live off.
We’re now beginning to wind down towards the end of our cruise of the channels. Now heading slowly east back to Puerto Williams, having bashed our way west against the prevailing strong westerly winds, we are hoping to be able to enjoy some good downwind sailing on our return.