Wed 19 May - Bashing to Windward

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 21 May 2010 23:58

Position: 51 18.67 S 074 04.44 W
At anchor Puerto Mayne
Wind: Northwest F4-6 moderate to strong breeze
Weather: Mostly cloudy with sunny periods late, cool.
Day’s Run: 15nm (34nm sailed)

This morning I got up nice and early with the idea that maybe there would-be a remnant of the southwesterly left over from the night and we could make some use of it before the winds returned northwest. I had finished breakfast and had already started preparing to get underway as the morning’s wether fax came in, recovering shorelines while it was still pretty dark. The fax indicated that the wind, while northwest, would not be as bad as earlier faxes had forecast. Such it was that we were back out in the channels just after nine. The calita we had spent the night in obnvioulsy offered more shelter from the wind then I would have expected, for no sooner were we back out in Canal Sarmiento then the we found the wind fresh from the northwest, it was exactly as we had left it the previous afternoon. I was tempted to turn around in disgust, go back to anchor and wait another day but thought now that we were out here we might as well push on for a bit, bash our way to windward and see how we fared.

And we actually ended up doing pretty well, despite the fact that for much of the day we had two reefs in the main and the jib rolled down to less than 50%. We had to make 15 miles befoere sunset to get to the next nearest recognized anchorage.  I was concerned that this might be asking a bit much of Sylph with strong headwinds and the short daylight hours, but she did it, bravely bashing forward through the short waves, spray flying over her almost continuously. At one point in the afternoon we managed to get in the vicinity of a large cold bare granite mountain that sent williwaws rushing down its leeward face and for a short while had Sylph almost over on her beam ends, the cockpit flooded but fortunately no water got below. At the time I could do little more than hang on until the short lived downdraft had passed. Once it had, I tacked and got Sylph clear of that particular spot as quickly as I could.

The scenery is changing as we move north, the landscape is now dominated by huge stark bare granite peaks, when the sun shone they glistened harshly, and when the visibility was good snow capped mountains could be seen in the distance. It all had a biblical grandeur to it.

15 tacks for the day brought us to anchor in Puerto Mayne, with plenty of daylight to find our way in and a secure (I hope) spot to anchor. Plenty of greenery lines the shores, the trees are all standing upright, which is a good sign that it is reasonably well sheltered, otherwise there would be only short stunted vegetation and the trees would be leaning in the direction of the wind. (Some trees you see barely manage to lift themselves of the ground, like a medieval courtier bowing and scraping as he backs his way out of the royal presence.)  Nearby I can hear a stream, and behind the shoreline the bay is encircled by the massive bare stone walls of the surrounding mountains.  Once we had anchored I stood still in the cockpit for several minutes, just looking at my surroundings.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Another grim day of simply hanging on as best I could. The athwartship settee was the only place of any comfort whatsoever, and I use the word comfort in a very relative sense. It was just plain awful. But its stopped now, some tuna for dinner, small mercies, now time for a much needed … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Thursday 20th May.  Rest Day

At anchor Puerto Mayne
Wind: Northeast F4-6 moderate to strong breeze
Weather: Mostly cloudy with sunny periods, cool.

Today was definitely a day to stay at anchor. The forecast was for very strong northwest winds, worse than yesterday and the next leg is 20 miles, we will need a favourable forecast to make that sort of distance in daylight hours, tomorrow's looks promising.

My big problem for the day was trying to sort out the data connection to the Iridium sat phone. Still no joy at the end of the day so we remain incommunicado. I have tried everything I can think of, now I can only hope that it either comes good, possible I guess but unlikely, or wait until we get to somewhere where I can communicate by other means and seek assistance from Iridium or Mailasail.

Had one sucess for the day, I managed to track down the minor electrical problem I was having, a wire had gotten loose and had rubbed against the prop shaft eventually causing it to chafe through. Now I have light back over the dinette and power to recharge the sat phone and the ancient computer I use for navigation (not much use in southern Patagonia I am afraid as all it charts are very small scale, same as my paper charts).

Also repaired a spray cloth that was torn in the williwaw that put us on our beam ends yesterday.

Now the wind is blowing fiercely, I am glad to be at anchor, just hope it doesn’t get as bad as the night in Puerto Tamar.

Speakng of Puerto Tamar, here is an extract from an email I received from a friend I have made down this way, someone with many years of experience in these waters.  It sort of puts my experience into perspective:

Hi Bob, sounds like you are getting the full `Chilean channels
`experience. I sympathize with you at Tamar. I had a nasty time there
once. We hit a rock in Cta Notch & loosened the keel, I mean flopping
around underneath lose. We were bucket bailing round the clock & at one
stage we tried to shelter in Tamar but the anchor dragged & we got
banged around the rocks even hit our spreaders on the rock faces, then
around midnight (of course) we headed over to Bahia Wodsworth. Then it
was a mad dash to Valdivia & the travel lift before we sank . It was an
adventure & a half. ... Be careful chasing
oars, slippery rocks & the cold water. At this time of the year I have
often noticed that once you get past Golf of Penas you get favourable
winds, even southerlies. I reckon ya betta give BC a can of tuna soon, I
think he has earnt it as well.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Incommunicado? Does this mean our last small connection with civilization has been severed, we are totally alone? Oh dear, this does not bear thinking about. I know what to do … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.