Caleta Bob Cat

Position: 53 24.83 S 072 47.0 W
At anchor Bahia Guirior
Wind: west nor’ west, F4-? Moderate breeze to ??
Weather: overcast, rain and drizzle, cool.
Day’s Run: 6 nm (15nm sailed)

We enjoyed a peaceful though somewhat lonesome night at anchor after having parted ways with Persimon.  this morning we got the shorelines in, the dinghy raised, the anchor home and were underway just after nine. As we were leaving a fishing boat came past to inspect our position then turned around and appeared to head out of the bay again. As we motored out of Bahia Swallow however I saw that he had gone to anchor nearby. Looking out to the channel it did look a bit lumpy, maybe my spot was better sheltered then I suspected because we could feel very little breeze before we departed. Sure enough, as we left he lee of the headland the wind picked up to strong breeze and had us down to two reefs in the mainsail and only a small amount of jib. I considered turning back but thought now that we were out here that we would continue for a while and see what sort of progress we could make before giving up for the day.

Certainly now I wish we had turned back. Initially we made pretty fair progress but after a couple of hours the wind freshened further to a near gale and we were making very slow progress indeed. I was hoping to make Caleta Notch which is in the guide book but after another hour and two tacks we had only made good about a mile and Caleta Notch was still four miles away and it had a nasty looking lee shore to negotiate at the entrance. I studied the chart and decided a spot within Bahia Guirior looked promising so we bore away for that. We had passed it an hour ago but now with the wind on our port quarter we were back at its entrance less than ten minutes later. It is amazing the difference it makes putting the wind abaft the beam and further the difference in the wind once behind a nice steep headland, as once inside the large bay, more of a sound really, the wind dropped off and we had to resort to the motor. Up in the head of the bay I could see the telltale signs of williwaw activity, spirals of white water raising up off the sea’s surface. It did not look good but I thought I would check out the spot I had in mind first, if I didn’t like it then we would go back to last night’s anchorage.

As we turned the small headland on the west side of the bay, there opened up before us a perfect little lagoon with a narrow rocky entrance. It looked ideal and I warily motored into the little cove keeping a good lookout for rocks and watching the echo sounder. The cove was a little shallower than I would have liked but otherwise it was protected all round, so I dropped the anchor in about three meters of water (it was low tide and the tidal range is only about a meter) then worked quickly to get the dinghy in the water and some lines tied up to the shore. It took a while but I soon had four lines connected.

Once satisfied that we were well secured I went ashore for a short hike to see if I could gain a little height and get a better perspective of our newfound haven. First I had to climb and crawl through the dense growth that surrounded the shoreline back for about 30 meters or so. It is amazing how things grow around here. Out where the ground is exposed to the wind the rocky peaks are bare with perhaps only some grasses hanging on, but where there is a little shelter it is an absolute forest, admittedly a very stunted forest but prolific nonetheless. The ground, if you can even call it that is just a deep damp spongy green growth, I have no idea how deep down the actual dirt or rock is, small gnarled trees shoot up out of the undergrowth and the ferns and mosses and algae that makes up the undergrowth follow the trees trunk and branches for several feet before the tree’s own bark breaks free. I rested for a moment about half way through to survey the path ahead and to have a rest. As I looked around me I was interested to see a small red flower, in fact there were several of them. The flowers were all almost identical but they clearly belonging to two quite different species of plant, one had leaves like a holly, the other had narrow thick leaves. The flowers were red, about an inch long and shaped like long narrow bells with the mouth facing downwards. I wondered about this and as I wondered a big fat furry brown bumble bee buzzed by paying a visit to a couple of the flowers. This is the first bee I have seen down this way. I certainly have no complaints about being annoyed by insects, between the wind and rain the noxious critters are kept to an absolute minimum (I don’t count bees as noxious by the way). It occurred to me the reason the flowers faced downwards is to protect their precious contents from the near continuous rain, and to give the bumble bee half a chance at pollinating them. After watching the bee for a short while I pushed on. I eventually gained open ground and climbed to a nearby hill, climbing one of its steep sides as you would a snowy mountain by digging the toes of my boots into the soft thick growth. At the height I could see Sylph tied up below me and the larger bay outside the lagoon. Gusts seemed to circle the lagoon but only very minor puffs appeared to make it into my little shelter. Well pleased I thought I will call this place Caleta Bob.

Back on board I started preparing dinner, at about the same time my confidence in my lagoon was shattered as some very strong williwaws tore by, causing Sylph to lean heavily on her lines and heel to about 15 degrees. I had just taken a couple of bites of my meal when Sylph's keel crunched on rock. I looked outside and saw in the rapidly fading light that one of the shorelines had come loose from its rock mooring. Sylph leaned over for a moment and I wondered whether she was going to end up on the beach but fortunately the next williwaw blew from the opposite direction and dragged her off. I hurriedly donned foul weather gear, grabbed another length of line, bailed out the dinghy (it had nearly capsized in one of the gusts and was half full of water) and rowed ashore. I soon had the line resecured to a stout tree further back and used the line to drag myself back to Sylph hoped I would not be hit by any williwaws on the way back. I had just gained the shelter of Sylph’s bow when one hit, the water’s surface was white with spray. I looked to the other side of the cove and saw that as the tide was rising and when the gusts were blowing from the northeast that another line was at risk of floating free from the very solid rock I had wrapped it round. I decided I had better fix it now, grabbed another length of line and pulled myself ashore. Again I attached the line to a tree and then tied the end to the dinghy. The rock was now surrounded by water and as I pushed the dinghy off the shore another williwaw hit. This one tore the dinghy from my hands, blew it about five feet up into the air when it was brought up short by the line tied to the tree, thank God, turned upside down and dropped back into the water. Now I admit I was getting a little scared. I could see one of the oars drifting away. I pulled the dinghy back into the shore, righted it, fortunately the other oar was trapped underneath the dinghy, rescued it, emptied the water out of the dinghy and tried to attach the line from the tree to the shoreline wrapped around the rock. It was too short. I found another length of line in th dinghy but it would not be strong enough. I attached it anyway thinking I would get back to Sylph and find another more suitable length of line. As I was trying to tie the two lines together the line slipped off the rock and with the lines under tension I could not tie them together properly. I pulled myself back to Sylph, loosened off the shoreline then returned ashore once more, tying the shoreline directly to the stronger piece of rope attached to the tree. Then once more back to Sylph. I tensioned up all the lines and now I hope we are safe.

Once I thought Sylph was secure again I grabbed the spotlight and had a careful look around for my missing oar. It took a while to spot it, but sure enough it had drifted over to the opposite side of the lagoon. Once more into the dinghy and using the now secure shoreline (I hope) I pulled myself to the shore and recovered the oar. Hooray!

Back on board Sylph I have attached the dinghy with five lines, figuring the worst thing that can happen is it will flip over and float partially submerged alongside. As long as it is firmly attached it can’t go too far and Sylph’s topside are way beyond the high gloss finish of 12 months or so ago so this is not even a consideration.

Dinner has been reheated and contentedly eaten. The worst of the williwaws seem to be over but I am not holding my breath. I think I shall call this cove Caleta Bob Cat.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

I am not sure if it is much of an honor to have this small body of water named after me. After all I am a gentle being of mild disposition, and this Caleta is nothing like me at all. I’d rather have the honor of addressing a nice can of tuna please, and failing that, well I think I will just have a nice … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.