A Few More Hard Won Inches

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 3 May 2010 23:53


Position: 53 41,22 S 072 00.02 W
At anchor Caleta Gallant, Bahia Fortesque
Wind: west F3-6 gentle to strong breeze
Weather: mostly overcast, rain and drizzle, occasional brief sunny patches, cold.
Day’s Run: 14 nm (26nm sailed,)

After enjoying a peaceful night I was reluctantly dragged from my warm bunk by the weather fax alarm. Over porridge and tea I scrutinized the weather chart, the grib files, the tide, and the navigation chart. Should we stay or go?, the question I ask myself each morning. The Chilean Patrol Boat’s warning had obviously given me pause to peruse the weather chart a little more closely but from what I could see it didn’t look any worse than yesterday, I only needed to predict the weather for the next 12 hours at most, so while the weather in these parts is notoriously unpredictable, I came to the conclusion after a good look around outside, looking at the cloud movements overhead and what I could see of the sound outside our sheltered cove, that we should once more poke our nose out and see what’s what. In fact with the low cloud and steady drizzle I was concerned there might be no wind.

Despite having shore lines and a dinghy to recover we had the anchor aweigh by 9.30. Actually this did not go quite according to plan, as the anchor broke free before I had expected it to. Probably with my shorelines it never set into the bottom properly. I had partially hoisted the mainsail but had not started the engine, which now would not start. We were heading for a large bunch of kelp and some rocks. I set the jib to help the bow pay off which it did, we avoided the rocks but not the kelp. The anchor which I had not yet brought home was still trailing in the water at the end of about 8 meters of chain. We slowly came to halt as the anchor and chain harvested a ton of kelp. I furled the jib and continued raising the anchor. Once I had cut the kelp free with the garden saw I had purchased for this very purpose back in Ushuaia, we were away again. I set the jib, completed hoisting the main with one reef and it wasn’t long before we were out in the Strait close hauled on the port tack to fresh breeze from the northwest.

Today’s sail was easier than yesterday's, despite the wind being quite fresh and requiring the reef the seas were not as high or as steep and Sylph managed to make relatively good progress. The wind freshened further in the afternoon requiring a second reef and the jib furled down to about 40%, but we were still making reasonable progress.  The seas were relatively small so despite the strong wind the sail as relatively comfortable. As we have ever so slowly clawed our way up the Estrecho de Magallanes the channel is narrowing and ahead of us lies a narrow passage we must soon negotiate, perhaps tomorrow. I believe the islands that cause this restriction in the channel is what helped keep the seas down today, the fetch is much shorter, but perhaps also is responsible for funnelling the wind and making it stronger.

About 2.30 I was very pleased that we were approaching our goal for the day, I felt Sylph had performed well in the conditions. We put in a few more tacks as we closed the entrance leading from the wide expanse of Fortesque Bay into the broad cove, Caleta Gallant, that lay behind an island separating the two. My guide warns of a bar inside the cove being formed by a stream which discharges into it. I watched the echo sounder closely as we passed the island. Suddenly the depth began to decrease, I spun the wheel to tack and as we rounded up into the wind, before we could make it through stays, we touched bottom and came to a gentle standstill. How embarrassing, I thought, as I looked over to the island where a small half cabin fishing boat was anchored hard up on a beach, a stream of white smoke pouring forth from a small stack, obviously working hard to keep its occupants warm in their open shelter. I looked over the side, “Yep, sure is shallow hereabouts. Bother!” I furled the jib and dropped the main. The engine was already running, so I tried manoeuvring this way and that to free us from the shoal. Fortunately we were on a rising tide and with the engine going half astern we soon backed off and were able to continue on our way into the cove. I gave the fisherman a sheepish wave as I motored past.

We are now at anchor in the middle of this nice large shallow lagoon. I have enjoyed a large bowl of stir fry for dinner and my wet clothing is hung to dry in front of the heater.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Comfort is indeed a relative thing, and there is lots of room for improvement around here. With this constant leaning over, first steeply one way, then the other, I have found the only satisfactory place I can station myself is the centre settee. I face downhill and hang on, ready to leap if this rather overactive residence I find myself in lurches suddenly. Also it is easy for me to tack with the boat.

Now it seems we have stopped moving for the day. The heater is most satisfactory but despite regular excursions to the food bowl nothing but hard tack greets me. Back to the heater, time for a much overdue … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.