At long last a decent day’s run. I have been working out a few figures and
since leaving Puerto Williams we have sailed some 750 miles to make
good about 475 miles, leaving about 615 miles to go to Puerto Montt. It has
taken us 35 days thus far which makes an average daily run of 13.6 miles, so
putting 68 miles behind us in 24 hours is a huge achievement.
Last night we were approaching some tricky bits of navigation, I was still
working on quite good scale charts, but even so at one point we came very close
to a rock cliff while I was dropping the pole on the foredeck. I had intended to
stop once we either ran out of wind or large scale charts but we had made such
good progress and the wind was still fair as we were about to drop of the edge
of the world that I was loathe to stop. So I didn’t, we kept on going.
At this point my hydrographer readers had better stop reading and do something
else as for much of the Patagonia voyage from here on my charts are very small
scale and little better then indicators of where I should be heading, with very
few soundings and only the major lights marked, and I worked out that GPS
positions were at least half a mile out, so not terribly helpful. Nonetheless,
last night I decided to risk it and in fact it has worked out pretty well.
With such good weather conditions I could see the dark masses of land on either
side, the water was deep, very deep, the echo sounder rarely registered. I had
the depth alarm set for 50 meters so if it went off I knew I had to pay
particular attention. For the most part it was an excellent sail, and I thought
if Chile had more days like this it would be a yachty paradise, but this sort of
weather is obviously extremely rare here, so the channels are not likely to
become another Barrier Reef or Caribbean any time soon.
I really only had one moment of concern and near disaster when negotiating a
dog leg in the channels. As I approached the turn a green flashing light
appeared that was not on my chart. At night it is very hard to get a perspective
of distance and as it turned out this light was much further away than I
thought. I assumed that I had to leave it to port as this was the convention I
had encountered so far and there was no reason for it all of a sudden to change.
As I got closer however a merchant ship coming the other way appeared to pass it
on the wrong side. This confused me so I decided to go closer to decide which
side I should pass it. As I approached I shone the spot light at it. Eventually
it appeared out of the misty weather, and then suddenly the echo sounder alarm
went off, the depth was shoaling quickly, I peered into the dark night and then
saw rocks ahead and to port. I altered course hard to starboard and we cleared
them probably no more than a couple of boat lengths away. Another close call.
At the time I was saying to myself, “You’re a fool, Bob!” but a little
later found myself thinking, “Boy, what an adventure this is turning out to be”
,and reflecting on Josh Slocum’s experience in the Milky Way, dodging rocks with
hail lashing down causing his face to bleed. He did not complain, but rather
called it the greatest sea adventure of his life. And I also think of Bill
Tilman, one of the 20th century’s great small boat sailor
adventurers, he lost two of his cutters and I do not know what eventually became
of the third. I know I should have better charts, a better engine, more fuel, a
lot of everything, but I don’t, and if I had waited until I did I probably never
would have left port.
At 6 a.m. we found ourselves drifting on a perfect calm, I was nodding
off to sleep in the cockpit. An easy anchorage lay only two and a half miles
away and dawn would soon be here. With no more wind coming for the moment I
decided to start the engine. At 7.50, with the shore now easy to see, we dropped
anchor in seven meters of water in Caleta Columbine. I was well pleased with the
previous 24 hours.
All is well.
It was cold, it was dark, the food is terrible, no heater and no skipper to
warm my bunk at night - I do not know if I can stand it anymore. I think I want
to get off. But I can’t. The heater is on at last, I think I will …
PS Happy Birthday