28 december 2010

Golfo de Penas

Sjökort över Caleta Jaquelin till Mallibu och starten på Gulfo de Penas

Överseglingen över Gulfo de Penas

Inloppet till Puerto Francisco

Estrero Balladeros

Estero Mallibu

Estero Mallibu

Leaving Mallibu

We left Caleta Jaqueline after breakfast October 28 and motored around 20 Miles to our next anchorage, Estero Balladaros. With the anchor down with 40 meters of chain and two lines ashore we were satisfied although the anchorage is quite wide. We were getting close to the open sea again, preparing for the trip over Golf de Pena so the weather report from the Navtex was not favorable since it predicted south to southwest winds (on the nose over the bay). So we decided to stay in the anchorage to wait for better wind. During the stay we also got in contact with the Patagonian network for the first time. It is “run” by Wolfgang and mentioned in most guide books. Wolfgang is now living in the area and has a short wave radio (SSB) that he contacts all the boats en route or at anchorage in Patagonia every day at 09.00, local time. Apart from keeping track of all the boats and make sure nobody has an emergency he can download grid files on his computer and give relatively good weather prognoses for your specific position. Since the Navtex does not seem reliable of sending every night (or receiving conditions are bad at times with the high mountains) this felt as a good network to keep in contact with. So Milo has made it a daily routine to check in to the networks (a bit reluctant since getting up early in the morning is not one of her strong points). The new weather report was better since it predicted the wind to shift back to the prevailing northwest, but it was also expected to increase to gale force so we decided to wait for another day. But since we still were in more protected waters and also needed an anchorage with better protection for the new wind direction than the present we decided to move even closer to the opening of Golfo de Penas. So on October 30 we motored another 20 Miles to Estero Millabu just by the opening for the Pacific Ocean towards the peninsula reaching out towards the Golfo de Penas.

Estero Millabu was an even deeper fjord than Estero Balladeros with high deep slopes, where you still can see some snow higher up on the cliffs, on either side of the way in to the mouth were an impressive waterfall was throwing itself down the cliffs down to a broad and flat delta that was exposed during low water. It reminded a bit of Trollfjorden up in Lofoten in northern Norway for those who have been there. The mouth of the fjord was fairly broad so we had to join two lines together to reach both ends for a secure anchorage (the longest line we had was 100 meters). When we had finished tying up we made an excursion with the dingy to the sand delta in hope to see the waterfall more close up. This turned out to be trickier than expected since the flat sand delta, covered with different kinds of crabs, clams and mussels, was creating creeks that were filling up in the incoming tide water. The problem was to find a place to tie up the dinghy that we actually could get back to without being forced to walk in knee deep 10 degree water on the way back. We finally realized that the safest bet was a short walk on the flats before getting back to the dingy without exploring “the source of the waterfall”. However, it was nice moving on land again, if only for a brief moment.

When we came back we got a guest onboard. Some kind of raptor had taken a liking to our wind vane. Probably a buzzard or hawk sat on top of the vane fitting and was not easily scared. It was exciting to get so close to a wild predator, staying for half an hour even when we needed to move around on deck. But the raptor was not the only bird around. We had a couple of albatrosses that had been following us during the day that lay in the water waiting for our next move. Beside them a couple of penguins were fishing and high in the sky a vulture, maybe a condor, was souring. The clouds had been hanging around us but it had not rained during the day, but in the evening it started to pour down. It rained hard all night long and in the morning the waterfall that was impressive by our arrival was really making a significant noise when the water was tumbling down the mountain sloop.

The weather reports gave at hand west to north west winds, however the strength differed depending if you believed the Navtex (strong winds) or Wolfgang at the Patagonian network (moderate winds). The only way to find out is to poke the nose out there and see for yourself, so in the morning we headed for the open sea to sail across Golfo de Penas, the last longer stretch of open water on our trip. What we could see immediately was that we could not see, the visibility was really bad with low clouds and drizzle. The wind was also weak so we motored the first three hours before we got out of the sea lee of the peninsula sticking out protecting from the old wind direction from the south. The rain increased in intensity and in the open sea there were at least three different old wave systems that was meeting and with light wind we motored while Artimisia 2 was rolling heavily. To avoid wearing the autopilot out in the rolling sea we hand steered during the night in wet and bumby conditions. The steering in the pitch dark under the overcast and rain with no landmarks, no wind, no healing, no compass and a GPS that reacted late on course changes and rolling conditions it was very tricky to keep a steady course.

In the morning on November 1 the wind started to fill in and the confusing seas started to slow down. Still not enough wind to sail if we wanted to make the anchorage before nightfall but now we at least could use the auto pilot. The Caleta Puerto Francisco was situated a short distance from the entry of the canal (fjord) south of Gulfo de Penas, 160 nautical miles or more than 30 hours of sail. The rain stopped and we motored in through a narrow (not more than 20 meters wide) entrance stretching several hundred meters through lush vegetation. On the other side of the entrance a lagoon surrounded by mountains was opening up with several alternative anchorages. On the way in the narrow entrance a seal was lingering in the surface minding his own business and in the lagoon dolphins came to greet us. They followed us up towards our chosen anchorage and soon after the anchorage procedure was done we started the heater. The memories of a not so pleasant overnight sail soon disappeared in a haze when the enjoyment of the warm welcoming, beautiful surrounding and the warm interior of the boat took over the senses. We were now in the “real” Patagonia were there were numerous fjords, fewer boats, higher mountains (over 3000 meters), and lingering interior glaciers sometimes reaching out to the Esteros. I slept very well that night.

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