Position: 54 56.88 S 070 46.56 W
Today was the day we should have stayed in port.
This morning’s weather fax was mush and completely unintelligible. And the barometer seems to be stuck on 980 mb. I looked around, the weather didn’t look too bad outside the cove, there was even a hint of sunshine. I decided to give it a go, The usual hiatus ensued getting ready for sea and just as I had cast off the shore lines it began to snow. “Hmm“, I thought , “maybe this isn’t such a good idea“, but I continued anyway.
Today’s challenge was to negotiate Canal O’Brien, a narrow channel of about 10 miles length, very narrow in one spot with quite a few rocks and small islets making the navigation a little interesting. As it turned out the wind remained in the northwest for most of the day, including the channel which runs west sou’ west. This meant only a few tacks and we made most of the it close hauled on starboard. Because the channel lay athwart the breeze and Isla O’Brien to the north was on the rugged mountainous side the winds were very gusty. Sometimes we would be barely ghosting along, and had me contemplating shaking out a reef or maybe even two, when a gust would hit us, heel us well over and I was glad that I had been cautious in putting in two reefs and had the jib well rolled up. One good thing about these narrow channels is that the seas are very slight even in strong winds so when the wind drops off you can afford to be a bit underpowered as you don’t have to punch your way through sizeable seas the way you do in open ocean.
Just before midday we were approaching the western end of Canal O’Brien and into the more open waters of Canal Ballenero, and I did not like the look of the weather ahead - it was dark, the ragged bottoms of the grey clouds were very low, and the water was covered in white caps. I reduced the jib a little further and waited. As we exited Canal O’Brien the wind hit us, we heeled over, spray flew over the decks and, out in the relative open of the much broader Canal Ballenero, the sea picked up. We were nonetheless holding a good course close hauled for Puerto Engado, only four miles away and as we were still making good a very respectable six knots I pushed on, it is always very painful to give up hard won miles to windward.
At times Sylph buried her lee rail so deep water sluiced into the cockpit, and unfortunately I had not plugged the galley pump outlet which meant the starboard water tank poured a lot of fresh water into the sink and out onto the galley counter, and in all probability quite a bit from there into the bilge. I was extremely relieved when the red beacon marking the northern point of Puerto Engada became clearly visible and it became obvious that we were not going to have to tack to make the entrance. As we approached I furled the jib, started the motor and entered the well sheltered cove under the mainsail. As we sailed into the head of the cove the wind fell light and the mainsail luffed. I dropped it and motored the few remaining yards to anchor, very grateful that we were safe
Then began the chore of making sure we were entirely secure. Initially I thought maybe we will just rely on the anchor, the guide says this is OK, but I wanted to be especially sure. A few snow flurries and some hail had me hiding below for awhile but when things cleared I eventually got the dinghy in the water and two lines ashore and Sylph winched in to a well sheltered position. Once secure I went for a short walk up the hillside, following the fast flowing stream, up to a ridge overlooking the anchorage. The whole area was very boggy. A few stunted trees surrounded the cove near the water but otherwise “Wuthering Heights” and the idea of blasted heath comes to mind.
It was good to get back on board. Now the heater is on drying things out a little and I am enjoying a nice hot curry.
All is well.
OK, I was wrong, today was the worst day at sea so far. There wasn’t so much thissing and thatting, but I don’t think my abode has leaned over so far before. Actually there was this one time, when I got awfully wet. I try not to think about it. But even that only lasted a moment, this seemed like forever. Early on, before it got too bad, I even went out into the cockpit to register my entire disatisfaction with the situation to the skipper, then quickly hurried below. But it didn’t do any good, in fact things only got worse, Surely tomorrow will be better. Please!
To the heater … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.