A Decent Day's (plus night) Run At Last

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 15 May 2010 00:03

Position: 51 53.29 S 073 42.27 W
At anchor Caleta Columbine
Wind: Northwest F3 gentle breeze
Weather: Partly cloudy, cool.
Day’s Run 68

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.

Bob Cat:

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 … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


PS  Happy Birthday Mark.