Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 24 Apr 2010 00:03

Position: 53 36.60 S 070 55.80 W
At anchor Bahia Mansa
Wind: West to Northwest, F1-5 light air to fresh breeze
Weather: Cloudy, cool.
Days run: 33 nm

I have decided to make a short diversion from out planned track to stop at Punta Arenas, primarily to top up the propane bottle so that we can continue on without worrying about eating cold food out of cans or worse. While there of course we will top up with other essential stores and fuel. To this end today’s goal was to get across the Magellan Straits and to mainland Chile.

The weather forecast for the day was predominantly fresh westerlies though I expected that the wind would tend to be more northwest in Magellan Strait due to the funnelling effect of the channels. Getting underway went as per normal routine except as the anchor was almost home the winch started to slip and I had to bring it in the last few meters by hand which fortunately once I had cleared all the kelp off it was not too difficult. There could be only one explanation, the keyway had not engaged properly and in fact thinking about the way the winch goes together I could only conclude that the key must be lying at the bottom of the winch casing buried in oil. It is looking very likely that I will have to pull the whole winch apart after all. But that would have to wait.

Once away we motored the first few miles to get out of the wind shadow of the land, initially picking up a very pleasant breeze but not surprisingly as we got out into the broad reaches of Magellan Strait the wind veered into the northwest and freshened significantly requiring a couple of reefs in the mainsail and some heavy furling to the headsail. Also the tide was running strongly against the wind so the seas were short, hollow and steep. One good thing about Sylph’s classic lines is that her fullish bows handle these conditions quite well. She may not be as fast or point as high as modern boats but she takes a sea on the nose relatively comfortably.

With the fresh breeze and favourable tide it only took us a few hours to get into the relative shelter of the mainland where the seas flattened out and the wind became generally lighter though very gusty and had me putting in and taking reefs out every half hour or so.

We eventually made today’s destination, Bahia Mansa, dropping anchor at 3.40 p.m. The bay is a base for many Chilean fishing boats and the gaily painted boats in their bright blues and reds make for a picturesque setting. I would estimate there are about 50 boats here. The bigger ones are moored out in the bay, rafted up alongside each other, smaller ones are dried out on shore. Gulls as ever where there are fishing boats wheel about screeching and fighting over the fishermen’s offal. Ashore there are only a few small dark houses with the exception of a bright blue building standing on the western hillside of the bay. This apparently is the yacht club though no one here owns a yacht. Maybe I will check it out tomorrow before continuing on to Punta Arenas.

Once at anchor I had another look at the anchor winch, pulling apart yesterday’s work. Sure enough no key in the keyway, it must have fallen out as I was assembling it. I thought I had been rather lucky in it all going together pretty much first time. What I am a little baffled by is how it managed to work for as long as it did. There was no way I was going to be able to retrieve the key from inside the winch housing so I looked though all my tool boxes and various mechanical supplies for something that could be made to work. My eye fell upon a spanner, “Hmm if I cut part of the jaw off it should be just the right shape.” I was reluctant to ruin a spanner to make a jury key but after more fruitless looking around for something better and staring for a good while at the winch thinking I should really just pull it apart and retrieve the original key, I got out the hacksaw and in a few minutes had my substitute key. I then fiddled with the winch for a good hour trying to ensure that the keyway all lined up properly and that I wasn’t going to repeat yesterday’s mistake and have two keys sitting in the bottom of the winch. Well it seems to have worked but am a lot more sanguine about the results, no three cheers this afternoon. In fact when I get to Punta Arenas where I should have access to a few supplies I reckon I will pull the winch apart and do the job properly.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Bouncing around again, I actually got thrown across the boat at one point, highly unsatisfactory. And still on hard tack rations. I know there is fish nearby, I can feel it in my bones, I can almost smell it. I am going crazy. Meowargh!

What to do? Only one thing … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.