Light Winds

Position: 54 56.37 S 068 33.81 W
At anchor Caleta Canasaka
Wind: Light and variable
Weather: Overcast, showers, cool
Days run: 15 nm

With a lot of miles to cover within my visa period and given the difficult conditions we are almost definitely going to encounter between here and Pto Montt, especially with my self imposed constraint of minimal motoring, partly philosophical and party pragmatic due to the engine’s less than optimal condition, we need to cover as much ground as possible when conditions permit. To this end we had an early start to the day, up before the sun to get the morning weather fax and to be on our way at first light. As an incidental reward for our early start we were greeted by all the more regular early birds, including a beautiful black hawk who, like most birds of prey, wanted to perch upon the highest stick in the region, which happened to be Sylph’s masthead. On his first approach he clipped the VHF antenna but this did nt deter him and he came in from the other side and perched upon the masthead light, which I was not very happy about. Fortunately birds are a lot lighter than they look. Then he decided to see if he could remove the annoying twig, my VHF antenna, which had disrupted his initial approach. Fortunatley Sylph's VHF antenna is a little stronger then the twigs of similar dimesions the bird is undoubtedly accustomed to and after a few tugs with his sharp pointy beak he gave up.  The hoisting of the mainsail persuaded him that this particular stick was a less than ideal perch from which to survey his territory and he flew off.  We weighed anchor and enjoyed the pleasure of sailing from the tight cove in the very light easterly breeze.

The wind continued very light during the day but Sylph managed to ghost along in even the tiniest of zephyrs, at times I could not feel the breeze but she kept up a steady pace, small ripples streamed out from her side, setting up interesting patterns with the ripples radiating out in expanding circles caused by spots of rain hitting the sea's surface. Undoubtedly a lighter boat could have zipped past us, but Sylph performs well in a variety of ways, and she is my home and likely to be so for a long while yet, I hope, so I am content.

Today we managed to pass Ushuaia so we are now getting into new territory again. On such a light wind day it was extremely still and quiet, and all the sounds of nature could be heard amplified across the cool still water. The beating of bird wings as they slapped the water and struggled to break the grip of the sea and get airborne, the splash of seals porpoising in and out of the water, their mournful lowing from a distant shore, cormorant’s squeaking wings as they flew past barely a breath above the water’s surface. And then every now and then it would all be drowned out by the noisy machinery of modern man. The mountains all around us make for a huge natural amphitheatre and I was shocked when I heard a jet take off from the Ushuaia airport, its engines roared and boomed, a deep steady thunder, echoing all around, until it had gained enough height to have ascended above the amphitheatre’s open ceiling. Vessels plying the waterway also seem deafening against the otherwise serene quiet, their diesel engines throb like a monster’s heartbeat as they steadily churn their way past us. The contrast got me thinking about what the state of mind of the indigenous people must have been like before the machine age. Modern man must be almost deaf to the symphony of nature‘s sounds. If it is quiet we turn on the radio or a TV set; and the background decibel level of the cities in which we live must be horrendous compared with the stillness here - when the wind isn’t blowing that is.

At about 3 p.m. we were getting close to another small cove, the one we have anchored in for the night, Caleta Canasaka. It is even smaller then the cove we anchored in last night, too small to swing at anchor so it requires a couple of lines ashore to hold us in position without the risk of hitting the rocks. Despite the cove’s small dimension I decided it was worth trying to sail into. The wind was very light and was coming from a convenient angle so the risk seemed pretty minimal. I started the engine  to have it warmed and at immediate readiness in case something went wrong. But as things turned out as were entering the narrow entrance the wind left us completely, we were no longer moving forward at all, only moving very slowly sideways with the ebbing tide. Well we got close and it is all good experience, but short of breaking out some oars we were going to run aground well before we got to anchor so I started the engine satisfied that we had given it a good shot.

Once we had safely gained the centre of the cove I dropped the anchor to hold Sylph in position while I got the dinghy in the water and broke out one of my new polypropylene lines I had purchased in Mar Del Plata specifically for this purpose. I ran a line from the stern to the southern shore and the other end from the bow to the small islet to the north as the cruising guide suggests, so while it was a bit of messing about it at least provides peace of mind and was good practice, this being my first time at securing Sylph in such a manner.  As | rowed back from the shore to Sylph I was dismayed at the sight of Sylph’s sides, the eight weeks alongside Ushuaia constantly grinding against fenders against the wharf and with the pressure of at times two or three other boats outboard of us had worn the paint away to various layers below and presented a very mottled look, not to mention the awful line of oily scum around the waterline. I couldn’t stand it and despite the rain grabbed a scourer, brush and sponge and did what I could to improve things a little. We are well overdue for a haul out, which I hope to achieve in Pto Montt, at which time, if the weather permits, we will give the topsides a fresh coat of paint.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

I really seemed to have been provided with one of the less intelligent of the human species as my skipper. He just does not seem to understand my simple needs despite my very clear and concise feline communications. Surely a deep rumbling meow while standing next to my food bowl is a clear indication that I desire some food (other than that unpalatable hard tack of course) and when I sit on the bunk letting out a long steady stream of meeaws it means please turn on the heater, I am getting cold. Well the heater is on now, but it has taken long enough. The food bowl still only has the dry hard tack in it but the night isn’t over yet. In the meantime, a quick snooze beside the heater to warm up these old bones is in order …. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.