Caleta Alakush

Position: 54 53.99 S 070 00.80 W
At anchor Caleta Alakush, Isla Chair
Wind: WSW, F3-6 gentle to strong breeze
Weather: Overcast, occasional patches of sun and drizzle
Days run: 16 nm (26 nm sailed)

I woke once more to the morning weather fax, for perusal over cereal and a cup of tea. A front was due through and a low pressure system was moving in from the southwest but the isobars were not too scary looking so I concluded we should put a few more miles behind us. I took an hour to retrieve the shore lines, secure the dinghy on deck and generally get Sylph ready for sea, which had us aweigh and motoring out of the calm cove right on nine o’clock. We continued motoring out of the sound and into the channel where we were met with a fresh little headwind which had Sylph heeling over and making a very comfortable five knots with all plain sail set.

Meanwhile the barometer had been slowly falling and the weather ahead was looking bleaker and bleaker. Just after midday we tacked for the third time and I put a reef in the mainsail and furled some of the jib, just in time in fact, 20 minutes later I put a second reef in and furled the jib down to about 40%. The wind was now up to about 30 knots, Sylph was well heeled over, I was saturated from the spray flying over the bow as I put the reef in the mainsail. Despite my foul weather gear water had made its way up my sleeves and totally soaked my clothing underneath up to my armpits, and I had only put on a clean shirt this morning. Bother! And the water was cold. I had to kneel down at the bow at one point to put an extra lashing on the anchor as we pitched into the short little sea that was developing, my exposed forehead was freezing. I didn’t measure the wind chill today but a couple of days ago it was down to 2 degrees C. It had to be at least that cold today.

I had hoped to make Isla Chair today, a short jump of about 12 miles from the entrance of Seno Pia, which I felt was at least a good little nibble at the total distance we have yet to cover. As we punched into the seas I looked around and assessed our position. We could push on or turn around and head for Bahia Tres Brazos. But Sylph seemed pretty comfortable with the two reefs so for the moment we pressed on. Which, as it turned out, was the right decision, for an hour later the sun started to shine and the breeze moderated, and by two p.m. we were sailing under full sail again. In fact we have made pretty good time for the day and just after three p.m. I dropped sail and motored the last few hundred meters into the small cove, where we dropped anchor.

Now began the chore of getting Sylph secured for the night. First job was to get the dinghy in the water, then run a line out to the shore, tighten up on this a bit so our stern is now lying into the cove, then get a second line ashore to the other side of the cove so we are finally nicely tucked in out of harm’s way with two lines holding the stern into the tight little cove, the sides of which are about two boat lengths apart, and the anchor holding the bows out towards the sea. In this particular cove there is a small islet that protects the entrance so this provides a little extra shelter as well.

Once all was secure, about an hour later, there was still some daylight left so I went for short hike to stretch my legs and explore our surroundings. My first impression as I rowed ashore was how clear the waters were, something I had noticed as I lay out the shore lines. The sides of the cove was steep clean rock which plummeted into the inky depths only a few meters out from the shore line. At the head of the cove a small stream splashed, and once ashore in the valley which forms the cove I discovered a regular rainforest. The diversity of vegetation over very short distances was fascinating. The Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard Island with its three distinct microclimates spring to mind in the way of a comparison. But here of course we are in a wet cold temperate zone. The rainforest‘s growth, while sporting only relatively small trees, was think and luxuriant. It was a slog trying to get through it, bushes, ferns, thick spongy mosses - a botanist would have been in heaven, but I am afraid I can barely tell a fern from a flower. I eventually managed to scramble my way onto higher ground which by comparison was a wet desert; bogs, reeds, moss, and a sort of spinifex grass dominated. Apart from the risk of sinking ankle deep or worse into the bogs, it was at least relatively easy to get around up on the heights. Clearly the wind makes a huge difference as to what vegetation grows where. On the exposed slopes nothing taller than a sturdy six inch shrub or grass seemed to be able to survive, but down in the small valley it was literally a jungle where a good size machete would have been useful in getting around.

My guide tells me that Isla Cushion marks a boundary point between the thick forests to the east from where we have come and the hard, barren rocky areas to the west, where we are heading, with only stunted growth due to the strong winds. It seems maybe this little cove is the boundary post.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Yesterday was such a nice quiet day. But today, once more we are back to leaning this way, then that. Sleeping is nigh on impossible, getting to the food bowl is hazardous in the extreme, and at one stage the skipper comes in and drips all over me. For goodness sake! Now how did I end up here I ask myself. Life is very strange. But it is calm again, the heater is on, I am fed (hardtack), contentment coming on …. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.