Blog catch up
Blog Catch Up
Date: 22 March 2012
Apologies about the lack of blogs recently, but at least I managed to find the time in Ushuaia to get the photos out which I hope you enjoyed.
As I write we are sailing north, back to Buenos Aires, but before I bring you right up to date, I’ll just fill in the gaps since I last wrote.
I left you at Estéro Penhoat, tied between the rocks, slowly heading east to Puerto Williams and the end of our channels cruise. Having had to bash our way all the way here against the strong westerlies that blow in the channels almost all of the time, we were keenly looking forward to some great downwind sailing. Dawn broke serenely with clear blue skies and absolutely not a breath of wind, so we had to motor all the way to our next anchorage, Caleta Yishka, where we stopped overnight. The following day we were to head 25 miles east to Caleta Ferrari again, hoping that the gaucho Jose and his Belgian girlfriend Anemi would be there to take us horse riding. We poked our nose out of Yishka first thing in the morning. We could see the white horses galloping down the channel – just the sort of winds we had been hoping for. The only problem was that, cruelly, it was one of those very rare days when the wind was blasting from the east (the direction we were going in) and not the west. We had a murderous 5 or 6 hours motor-tacking into bone-crunching choppy waves in gale force winds of 35 knots, gusting over 50 knots.
Arriving at Caleta Ferrari just after lunch we discovered that, for the third time, no one was at home. We stayed overnight and in the morning we saw Anemi galloping round the bay, returning home. (Ferrari is very isolated. There are no roads anywhere near, and the only way in or out of the ranch is either by horse (two hours to get to the nearest track) or by boat).
So in the afternoon, we all went riding for three hours, gaucho style. Taking yachtsmen off on horse treks is just a sideline. Jose’s job is to keep the populations of wild horses and cattle under control by selective culling. The horse meat is eaten not only by Jose and Anemi but also by the collection of ranch dogs. Eating horse meat is one thing, but for us city-dwellers it was a tad disconcerting to find lying casually on the ground sawn off horse shins complete with hoof, still covered with hairy skin.
The gaucho style of riding is different to genteel European hacking. The saddles are made of wood and covered with a few sheepskins – it’s like sitting in an armchair – and the stirrups are just a coarse hoop of steel. None of your lah-di-dah rising trot here. You just sit in the saddle like a sack of potatoes whilst the horse trots along (which for us was most of the three hours) with your brain being jolted into your neck, all your internal organs alternately smacking your diaphragm and pelvis, and your vertebrae being subjected to sickening jars – all at a frequency of three times a second.
The scenery was fabulous - we felt like real cowboys riding through the shrubby flat land, looking up at the snow-clad mountains and fording deep fast-flowing rivers with milky green meltwater from the distant glacier. But the pain of trotting all the time started off as uncomfortable and after a while became excruciating.
I was feeling aches and pains all over the place for a couple of days, but the DS fared even worse, trapping a nerve in her back which was giving her considerable pain for a week or more. Quite an experience.
The following day we returned to Puerto Williams to clear out of Chile and after a couple of days, we left for Ushuaia to clear into Argentina where we were to prepare the boat and provisions for our long 1500 mile passage north to Buenos Aires. The DS was to leave Andrew and me, and we were to be joined by Lawrence and Tom who were flying out from the UK.