Another Inch

Position: 53 53.66 S 071 50.47 W
At anchor Bahia Bell
Wind: west-sou’ west F4 moderated breeze, backing northwest increasing F5/6 strong breeze
Weather: cloudy, sunny patches, cool.

Day’s Run: 12 nm (16nm sailed,)

Last night we experienced the violent gusts that the cruising guide mentioned. I lay awake for much of it listening to the wind howl, anxious about Sylph dragging her anchor. I went on deck a few times during the night, fortunately only occasional spats of drizzle greeted me, to check the anchor and found it to be holding well. Eventually I managed to fall asleep despite the commotion, as I pondered how to describe such a wind. A soft whistle high above gives warning, then quiet, then loud wailing shrieks. In the small hours of the night I imagined the dead souls of a thousand women crying, “Why… Why … Why …”, all the pain and suffering of the world in their angry wailing. Sylph would be buffeted from side to side as the gusts passed, then silence for a minute, maybe two, before the next gust would arrive. In the periods of silence I could feel my heart beating making me aware of the tension I felt laying in the dark listening to the wild women outside.

I awoke to the sound of the alarm for the morning weather fax, it seemed we had survived the night of banshees. The fax did not look great, though there was quite a bit more white between the isobars then yesterdays, the wind was still gusty outside though not as bad as earlier, the barometer had risen quite a bit. I decided we should poke our nose outside and see how it went. We cleared out of Seno Pedro just before 10 and were out into Magellan Strait proper half an hour later. The wind was fresh from the west and as usual a small steep sea was running. A single reef in the mainsail and partially furled headsail seemed to allow Sylph to cope with the conditions and make slow but steady headway. The short sea made it difficult for her, she would rise to meet one wave but the seas being so close together she would fall into the next trough and at the same time her bow would meet the next crest which she would dig into, then lift up and fling down her side decks. At just after midday we had made it across the width of the Strait and tacked. At about 1.30 a Chilean Navy vessel called me on the VHF radio asking the usual information and advising me that the weather was going to be bad over the next couple of days and suggested I should seek shelter. Great!

I thanked him for the information and as if this was a cue, the wind picked up, Sylph buried her gunwale and water started flooding the cockpit. Damn!

I furled some more of the jib, put a second reef in the main and considered what next. We were clearly not going to make the bay I was aiming for by nightfall and the increase in wind seemed more than just a gust. There was a Sound right near us, Bahia Bell, my cruising guide made no mention of it but I had been reading the US Pilot yesterday which mentioned a bay suitable for small craft to shelter in so we eased sheets and headed for that.

And here we are. We dropped anchor at 2.30, then it was dinghy into the water and out shore lines. The bay has an open gully in its centre and I expect if there is any wind it will funnel through this gap, the shorelines should help me sleep a little more peacefully then I did last night. Once Sylph was settled I rowed ashore, filled some water containers from a small stream discharging onto the narrow pebbly beach and I went for a short hike. Hiking in this saturated terrain is like walking across a land of foam mattresses, the thick soft spongy grass and bush squish underfoot and one is always looking for a tuft of grass to tread on rather then a the gaps in between which like as not are full of water and mud. I found a nice hill to climb which gave a good view of a pretty lake with its own small island a little inland, a stream ran from it a short distance into a small narrow cove next door to the bay we were anchored in. Out in the Strait it still looked pretty windy and on top of the hill I was on the wind whistled past me. I was content to be at anchor. While we have sailed 16 miles today to cover 12 miles over the ground, we have actually only made good seven miles towards our goal up the Magellan Strait. Still it is progress, no matter how small.

Back on board it is now calm, the evening weather fax doesn’t look too bad to me. Manana.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

As days go this one hasn’t been too bad. Not too rough, and tuna tonight. Hooray at last. Now if I could just get the skipper to turn the heater on, the next thing in order is a good … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.