We left Bahia Elisabeth with a clear sky and a weak southerly wind and passing by the glacier gave sweet memories from the day before. And it was not until afternoon until the wind really started to pick up and soon we had a near gale on the nose. The chop in the canal build up rapidly and our speed was reduces in spite of increasing the engine speed. It was a wet and bumpy ride and since the weather prognosis had indicated the prevailing direction, northwest, we had looked for Caletas best for that wind direction. We went in and checked a couple of places but none of them gave good enough shelter in the increasing wind. We had to get our in the chop of the canal again and fight ourselves 15 miles further south. The Caleta we aimed for was Estero Dock, it looked well protected in the guide book. It was a short and narrow fjord sticking in to the west from the canal.
The only worrisome was the entrance. With the increasing wind and building sea state in the canal we were not sure if there would be any breaking waves at the entrance when the depth went from several hundreds of meter to only 3 meter at the 10 meter narrow entrance between an island situated in the middle of the entrance and one of the sides of the fjord. There were also shallows and kelp indicated of both sides of the entrance it was with mixed feelings we approached the Caleta. It would be great to get in lee from the ever building seas but also a bit nervous haw the entrance would be. With binoculars we could soon see that the entrance was in semi sea lee from the southern point of the fjord and there were no breaking waves at the entrance, but it was narrow. And as usual we arrived in low tide and with a squall so conditions were not ideal.
After some nervous minutes going through the cut when the depth meter went more shallow than the guide book indicated and with kelp lingering just below the surface (which could have affected the depth sounder and making more nerve wrecking than necessary). But with half a meter under the keel we moved in to protected water and the rocking ceased as our worried looks. We positioned ourselves across the narrow fjord with one lines ashore supporting the anchor in in front and one line ashore from behind. It had been a long day since we covered some extra distance, close to 50 miles, to find a good Caleta so it felt really good to be at a secure anchorage. Especially since more dolphins came in to the fjord to welcome us.
While maneuvering we heard a not so fun rattling noises from the gearbox every time Milo changed gears. The first that came to our mind was kelp in the propeller so once we were secured we tried to look overboard, but everything looked fine. Next step was to check the gear box and the coupling between the propeller shaft and the gearbox. There we found the problem. Of the eight bolts holding the two together (the shat and gear box): two were missing and four were loose. Only two were sitting tight. We found the two missing bolts and nuts in the bilge under the gearbox and the rest was just to overcome the uncomfortable working positions. I positioned myself in the saloon by the engine compartment and leaned down to reach with a socket wrench. Milo got hold of the other end of the bolts from under her bed in the aft cabin. And so we moved the shaft around to get hold of one bolt at the time for tightening. It felt good after it was done, it was really lucky that we caught it in time. At the same time we did some engine service like filling oil and tightening the engine belts.
We decided to have a lay day the following day and slept later than usual (Milo got up for Patagonian network, but then crawled back to sleep again). We did an excursion with the dinghy to the mouth of the fjord where there were a river coming out. In the flats exposed by the low tide a flock of goose-looking birds with total different coloring were wandering around. We also explored the little island by the entrance which was covered in mussles.
After night fall the second night a squall line came by with really strong gusts and heavy rain which resulted in the need for extra lines both forward and aft and also retying one of the forward lines that had worked itself loose. So with a flashlight Milo rowed the dinghy ashore again in the beating rain, but everything went well and soon after the lines were secured the wind dropped considerably and we could have a good night sleep.
The following day, November 12, we left Estero Dock in a light breeze and I had my work cut out for me for at least an hour, cleaning the mooring lines from sea weed. I positioned myself on foredeck and patiently removed the green yucky stuff that most of the lines were covered with. After a while we got company from dolphins that followed us a good part of the way to our next Caleta, Bahia Tom. The distance was not more than 22 miles and apart from the dolphins not much happened until we reached Bahia Tom. Then a squall came and made it wet and windy to anchor, but the good thing was that we were welcomed by a steamer duck (not really welcomed – he fled in the special way steamer duck do, by paddling there wings in the water instead of flying).
Otherwise the most significant that happened on the day trip was that we passed Latitude 50 degrees South, we are in the roaring 50:s, something that did not really showed that much when we early next morning set out for the next leg, since our next destination was close to 40 miles away. It was cloudy, but the sun showed itself every now and then and the rain kept to the sides of the canal we were travelling on, and in the beginning we had enough wind from northwest to actually sail. But soon the wind died and we started motoring again. And as usual, just before reaching our destination, Steamer duck lagoon, the wind came back with some rain. But the anchorage is protected since you pass a narrow cut to get in to a small lagoon. We hoped to see both steamer duck and sea utters, that would be in the lagoon according to the guide book. However, we left the Caleta on the following day, November 14, after only have seen a white type of gooselike bird.
On the way to Puerto Bueno we sailed the whole distance and had practically no rain. Puerto Bueno has no mountains, only low trees as protection. That makes the anchorage a bit more windy from the more steady "normal" wind, but you do not have to fear the stronger mountain winds (rachas or williwas). We had time to make an excursion to land since there was a waterfall facing the lagoon, and the water came from a small lake upstream. And the vegetation was not so dense so there were possibilities to actually get through. So we parked the dinghy by the bank at the waterfall and for the first time in Patagonia did a land based excursion. The lake was not more than a couple of hundred meters in but it was good to walk on land again. The ground was very cushy under your feet, it felt like walking on sponges. There was so much moss on the ground, and not only on the ground. It was everywhere and was thriving in the damp climate.
Since we wanted to make up for lost time and the weather was favorable we set out early next morning for another long stretch, and we did have sailing wind again. Although there were plenty of dark rain clouds around us it was not until the end of the day they started to hit us. Again we had dolphins tagging along every now and then on the trip. We did not arrive to Caleta Ballandra until around seven and the entrance was through a narrow cut in to a lagoon. According to the guide book we were suppose top keep close to the northern shore to avoid some rocks to the south in the cut. We started out good but while we were trying to avoid kelp we drifted to much south, and clunk, we hit bottom. The speed was not more than two to three knots so we did not get stuck (and the tide was coming in so we would have got loose anyway), but it felt a bit embarrassing. But soon we were going in for a second try and now it went better.
After pushing several days along we decided to have a lay day, especially since it was pouring down with rain the whole following day. And it was continuing raining when we left on November 17, and was keeping on all day. When we came out in the canal we realized that it had blown more than we felt in the Caleta. We had steady wind over 25 knots and gusts well over 35, so we did not have to roll out that much of our foresail to make good headway. After 35 miles we arrived to Bahia Welcome, a bay behind some bigger islands. It is a well-protected anchorage with several option and also popular amongst fishing boats. And sure enough, we passed a fishing boat preparing something on our way in to the Caleta, and in the Caleta there were already two fishing boats there. They usually have prepared lines hanging from trees that they just grab on to, and usually tie up very close to land/the tree. If no fishing boats yachtsmen can use them, when we can reach since they often are high up – the fishermen stand on higher deck reaching for them.
They waved at us to come over but we did not feel like company today and we did not feel like bringing out fenders and we knew that another fishing boat was on its way in and we would then be in the middle. So we opted for another option just around the corner from their little bay. And again it was low land around so it was windy, but not that gusty. And the lagoon was small enough so we could tie lines in all four corners and had basically no pressure on the anchor. After a cold and wet day we started the heater again and the barometer started to fall again. The next day we planned to go through a narrow part of the canals with unusually many shallow areas, and we did not have good charts for the area. The GPS-charts were nonexistent for this part which was strange, and the paper charts had a small scale – but that was not the only challenge we would get on that leg. But more on that in next entry.