Good to be in sheltered coastal waters again! The surf on the outer coast was very impressive, not a good place to run aground, as countless ships did trough the centuries. We had our bearings right and entered Bahía Anna Pink (one of those lovely placenames again), the entrance to a system of channels through the Archipelago de los Chonos. The sea got completely calm during the morning, the water was like a mirror again mid-day.
Green trees covering the mountains in the Archipelago de los Chonos
The sun was shining warmly and T-shirts and shorts were seen on the sun deck. Maybe it was just the impression under the coincidence of today’s weather, but everything seems to be milder than south of the Golfo de Penas: the air is warm, the forests are covering the hills up to higher altitudes, the land appears green, lush and mild. Nevertheless, penguins are swimming around in considerable numbers and further inland, there is one of the biggest non-polar ice-caps of the Earth. Maybe it is really just the weather of today …
Sunrays hit the water, Canal Chacabuco
Sailing in the late evening and during the night, across calm waters and in moonlight, is very atmospheric!
Gallery – Archipelago de los Chonos – 31 March 2018
After the sunny hikes on the Isla Jungfrauen, we had to wait out yet another day while the storm was raging out there on open sea.
It was pouring rain for most of the day, so the on-board cinema was by far the best thing to do.
Wind, waves and Albatrosses: sailing at open sea around the Peninsula de Taitao.
Yesterday, we could finally set sail again. We have to get this next leg done, across the Golfo de Penas and around the Peninsula de Ta Ito. We still have 500 nautical miles ahead of us to Puerto Montt, and the days are going quickly.
Albatrosses have an enormous wingspan of more than three meters!
The open sea is always something people see with mixed feelings: some have to retreat to their cabins while others are enjoying wind and waves. Representatives of both groups are present on board. But the sailors and photographers amongst us had a lot to enjoy! We made good speed with up to more than 8 knots, wind and waves in constantly changing light conditions and many, many seabirds. From the small petrels to the Grea Albatrosses (Wandering, Northern and Southern Royal Albatross) and a lot in between.
Gallery – Peninsula de Taitao – 30 March 2018
We have got the Golfo de Penas ahead of us and thus an open sea passage which will take about one and a half days without the protection of the coastal waters that we have enjoyed so far. It is obviously important to have a good weather window for that, which we were supposed to have now, but reality was different. The wind and sea were quite rough already in the channels, and the latest forecast spoke a quite different but very clear language.
Waiting for the wind to calm down, Isla Jungfrauen
So there is not much to do but to wait for better times regarding the open sea passage. Something that is great at the time being (later, we will have to catch up again, though), as we have got the Isla Jungfrauen nearby, which has the beautiful Caleta Virgin. The name of the island („Island of virgins“) is interesting, but it does not keep the promise, as we have found out by now. But the island has got the beautiful Caleta Virgen, which turned out to be a great place to stay safely with a ship and beyond that, it is a great place for hiking! Once you have got beyond the usual few metres of dense coastal forest, the landscape opens up and offers many great hiking opportunities over hills and smaller mountains with stunning panoramic views, some lakes, wind-beaten trees and a lot of amazing places to discover. An unbelievably beautiful hidden corner of the planet! We were all a bit tired after the last night, but that was quickly forgotten in the beauty of the scenery. And in here, the weather is great! The Caleta is well sheltered, so hardly notice anything of the strong winds and heavy seas outside (on the mountains, you can hardly stand at times) and the sun is with us most of the day. Lovely!
Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.
As mentioned, we will have to catch up again time-wise, the days are going and they are not coming back. But we could not have found a better place to wait for better conditions, and when you see the photos, I guess you don’t believe that we are stuck here for weather reasons.
What you can’t see in this picture: Due to strong winds you can hardly stand on some of the higher spots.
There’s definitely no better place for a day of waiting.
Suddenly the weather is on our side again and Caleta Colibri lets us go. The advantage of the quick weather changes is that the weather changes quickly.
After a night and many miles we reach Puerto Edén, which really looks like a bit of a garden Eden on a day like this, under a blue sky and with mirror images on the water. We haven’t had too many days like this!
Simple but colourful huts in Puerto Edén
Puerto Edén is a small village with a few hundred inhabitants, most of them descendants of the indigeneous population of this area. The usual, tragic history of colonial murder and diseases has not left many of them alive, and practically nothing of their culture. Instead, there is Puerto Edén, which started its existance as a small airforce base and still has a military presence. Beyond that, it has a number of simple but colourful huts near the shore, which looks beautiful. It is lovely to walk around and enjoy all the views and colours and the weather which feels really mediterranean on a rare day like this. Unfortunatly, my Colobri photo from yesterday (or the day before? Time is flying, it is amazing!) has lost a lot of value as a rarity today, as there are a lot of Colibris around here and the dedicated photographers got rewarded for their patience.
Caleta Colibri is not a place for long hikes. The forest is so dense that it is simply impossible to get anywhere. I have tried it. It does not work.
But there are several interesting places. In one place, people obviously spent a lot of time eating mussels. There is a big pile of them. Who and when? That’s something we’d also love to know.
Where do all these mussels come from? Unsolved questions in the Caleta Colibri
You can climb up a tree and it does hardly look different from standing on the ground. Many of them are so densely covered with mosses and all sorts of plants that it looks like the ground. It is all green, everywhere.
And, yes, Caleta Colibri lived up to its name! A small group of dedicated photographers waited patiently to get a chance, and we were rewarded. I would guess it was a Green-backed firecrown (Sephanoides sephanoides), according to our book „Bird of Chile“.
Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.
Now the wind has to calm down a bit so we can continue towards Puerto Edén. That is the next place we are heading for and the first place since Puerto Williams where people are living. We have to go shopping, we are running out of chocolate and beer.
After a real Sunday morning breakfast (scrambled eggs and fresh rolls!) it was time to move northwards again. Wind and rain in Canal Pitt, stunning light later, sun and blue sky alternating with some light clouds.
The wind is supposed to pick up again strongly tonight, so we decide to hide in Caleta Colibri. A lovely place for a calm night. And maybe the name keeps the promise ..?
A lovely bay with a promising name: Caleta Colibri, Canal Tres Corres
After a long day out and a forecast with a lot of wind for the night, what we needed was a good Caleta to provide a sheltered anchorage for a night.
Caleta Villarica can be recommended for that purpose. It starts a bit like Deception Island: you approach a steep coast, a narrow entrance with rocks in the water, steep cliffs on both sides (a bit greener here than on Deception Island), everybody starts placing bets if the ship will actually fit through it – of course, it works, the skipper knows what he is doing. Then, a lovely bay opens, a real pirate hideaway. A lovely place to make a ship stormproof for the night.
Will it fit? It will! Caleta Villarica
Walking in these forests is not for the faint-hearted. We could have used a chainsaw, ropes and a ladder for that little walk which in open terrain would have taken maybe 10 minutes. Indiana Jones would have been amazed by the density of this rain forest.
As always, the view was worth it!
Indiana Jones would have enjoyed this: Dense forest in the Caleta Villarica
The amazing view over Caleta Villarica was worth the struggle through the bush
Puerto Bueno lived up to its name and gave us a beautiful and calm night. Very pleasant. Which was followed by a stunning sunrise and a new weather forecast, which gave us some more time before the next period of strong wind is supposed to come. So we could set course for the Amalia Glacier, which was great, because we had all been looking forward to it. We went under sail and sunshine with the view of the Campo de hielo, the inland ice of Patagonia, in the distance. Great sailing.
Sunrise in the “Good Harbour”, Puerto Bueno
We were followed by dolphins on the last miles to the famous Amalia Glacier, a stunning blue ice cliff leading up the the snow- and ice-covered mountains in the area of the inland ice. Again, we were lucky with the weather and had great views; often the whole mountain scenery is hidden low clouds. Another great day!
So, tonight it is supposed to be windy. We have set course for a small bay where the wind should not bother us too much. All these great anchorages here in coastal Patagonia are really a treasure. A great convenience and always a scenic pleasure.
The wind should have calmed down over night, and so it did indeed. Not that it was really comfy, standing outside and steering the ship. Still 30 knots of wind on the nose of ship and helmsman, plus a bit of rain and the occasional bit of hail. Patagonia.
But then came different times! Blue skies and sun! We followed various waterways for many miles to the north, enjoying weather and scenery on deck. Paso Victoria, the long Canal Sarmiento and other big, beautiful channels most people will hardly ever have heard of.
Blue Sky over Canal Sarmiento
Broken land. Many these channels are drawn like with a ruler, a straight line. They follow huge faults, that is geological cracks, in geometrical patterns; sets of fault lines follow certain directions and then there are several of these main directions. Altogether forming patterns that you can clearly see on the hillsides and on the map. The vegetation is a bit more sparse here, especially on some light-grey mountains with rounded tops, which appear to consist of granite or some similar crystalline rock.
The latest weather forecast causes mixed thoughts regarding tomorrow. Our plan is to visit the famous Amalia glacier, which is said to be beautiful. But the new forecast promises a lot of wind already tomorrow. We will have to see how that all fits together. We will see. In the end, nature rules.
For the moment, we decide to drop the anchor in a little, silent bay called „Puerto Bueno“, hoping that the name does not promise too much.
After several hours sailing northwards in Canal Smyth, the wind picked up beyond 50 knots, straight on the nose, of course. After criss-crossing a few miles and gaining nothing but chaos on the galley, we gave up and went rather into a lovely bay to anchor. A small pod of dolphins (Dusky, probably) accompanied us on the way into the bay, and once there, we were welcomed by a curious Marine otter. A very friendly place!
A Marine otter welcomes us near the Peninsula Zach
And it did provide the shelter that we wanted. Calm waters and no wind, except from some occasional gusting. We waited for a strong rain shower to pass through and then we went out to explore the area a bit. The name is promising: Peninsula Zach is named after Wolfgang Zach, the master carpenter in Longyearbyen who is building those great picture frames from Spitsbergen driftwood of which we had a few on offer last year (and we will have some more again later this year … ) so, a promising place! We were curious what Peninsula Zach would have to offer, but it had to be good anyway.
We were not to be disappointed. Peninsula Zach is almost an island. Our anchor bay is separated from the bay on the other side by just 200 meters of dry land (it was actually pretty wet). It is a walk of ten minutes before you reach a little hill from which you have a view towards a bay in two opposite directions. The remaining directions are occuppied by mountains. A stunning panorama!
The panorama over the Peninsula Zach was worth the short but wet walk
The coastal lowlands were lovely with its low forest – less dense than elsewhere – and wetlands, but we went a bit further. From an elevated perspective, the views were even better. The view to the southeast was towards a wide-open valley with a river, lakes and a lot of wetland areas. The sun sent a bright beam down onto this landscape of water.
Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.
Then it started to rain again, and we made sure we were back on board in time for the Piet-show (the daily masterpieces of Piet, our cook).
… by the way: Peninsula Zach was named after Franz von Zach, a Hungarian astronomer who joined the famous Beagle with Captain Fitzroy on the first expedition, from 1831 to 1836 (Darwin was on the second expedition).
Dolphins accompanied us on our way into the bay of Peninsula Zach
Calm night, well sheltered? Forget about it … that works well as long as the anchor is holding, but once the wind starts blowing strongly from the wrong direction and the anchor is dragging, you suddenly find yourself at ungodly early times undoing shorelines from trees on steep, slippery shores in the darkness and so on. Well, some time later the anchor – both of them, to be precise – went down in the middle of the larger bay, and everything was fine again. Back to bed for another little while.
View from Isla Hose over the Patagonian archipelago
A windy day, which kept us inside the bay in Isla Hose, enjoying life on board and later making some walk on the island. For some of us who had an uncontrolled outbreak of motivation for hiking it turned out to be a good bit of a walk, following a couple of hilltops, crossing small wetlands, very dense forests and steep slopes. Good fun!
Magellan discovered the strait that he got named after him in 1520 during the famous voyage that was to become the very first circumnavigation of the globe. A great advantage for us: we know that the Strait of Magellan exists and where it is, so we can easily enjoy the passage of the eastern part, which we do happily while the weather is good for this long channel.
Another beautiful quiet and remote bay and after all: the Sun!
After a passage of 30 hours, we entered Canal Smyth north of the Strait of Magellan, leaving Tierra del Fuego behind us now. The anchor went down in a lovely Caleta, one of these sweet, little bays made by the glaciers just for sailing boats. It takes always a bit of climbing on the steep, slippery shores to get the shorelines fixed, which is good fun, and once it is done, you have an almost bombproof place for the night, in most cases (still, we usually keep an anchorwatch).
We still had time to explore the surroundings in the morning, and we even had sunshine on top of it! Can you believe it? It had been a while, these waters are not exactly sunshine country. Still, it is beautiful here in almost any kind of weather, but of course it is so much more enjoyable when the sun is out. All these colours! All these shades of green in the lush coastal forests! The water, the sky, the clouds, the land … breathtakingly beautiful on a day like this. Bay, narrow channels … A Ringed kingfisher was sitting on a branch as if it was getting paid for it.
Photoshooting with a Ringed kingfisher
Later, we had the opportunity to stretch legs a bit on Isla Hose, kreeping through the densely vegetated forests while trying to get up a hill to enjoy some great views. Now we are enjoying a calm night in another well-sheltered Caleta while some heavy weather is said to come up outside. Shouldn’t really bother us in here.
Gallery – Caleta Profundo – Isla Hose: 20 March 2018
We reached Puerto King yesterday after many wet an windy miles. The name seemed to suggest a harbour of royal qualities, at least a fishing village, maybe with a cosy pub at the harbour … but no, it is much better: a lovely natural harbour, exactly our size. Parking kind of in the middle of the rain forest, we fix shore lines on three sides, securing the boat perfectly safe. No anchor watch! Good thing, as we all easily agree.
Wet and funny: A walk through dense rainforest
It continues to rain the next day, which does not keep us from going out to explore a bit. After all the rain, the landscape is wet. Water everywhere, it is splashing with every step you take, wherever you put your hand. One should not be afraid of getting wet here, it is much better to re-discover the pleasure that we had as children when we played in the water, then it is fun! There is very dense Patagonian rain forest almost everywhere near the shore, a chaos of trees, stems and branches standing and lying everywhere, densely covered with mosses and lichens. A green chaos, almost impossible to penetrate.
A few metres further up, the rainforest is giving way to a more open kind of landscape, wetlands with little streams and rocky hills. The latter are partly steep and slippery, the further have grown to be real obstacles after all the rain. So you have to find your way through this landscape somehow, which is not always easy.
Curious and significantly larger than the European Red fox
Back at the shore, a Patagonian Grey fox follows us curiously for a few metres. They are surprisingly large, much larger than the European Red fox, not to mention the Arctic fox far up north. For a moment the inexperienced observer might think to see a shepherd dog! And the Grey fox is only the smaller one of two species that you may find here.
Canal Ballenero, Whalers’ Strait, was just one of many channels that we are passing these days. Canal O’Brien, Bahia Desolada … you name it. Unknown places, names that sound like adventure.
We have to make some miles now. We have got 25 days altogether, a lot of time, but also a total of more than 2000 miles. Stunning scenery all the way around us. The weather lives up to its Patagonian reputation of being wet and windy, but still, we get our lovely moments of sun and patches of blue sky, stunning light surrounded by a scenery that might remind one of Greenland or Norway, but without losing its very own character.
Sunrays playing on Patagonias fjords
The anchor goes down in yet another beautiful Caleta, one of these little natural harbours which were obviously made for ships like hours. The shorelines are fastened to wind-beaten trees, giving us a calm night despite the strong wind.
Shelter from the wind in one of many “caletas” (Caleta=natural harbour)
Gallery – Canal Ballenero to Caleta Macias – 16 March 2018
It had cleared up a bit during the night, so it was nice and calm in the morning. Perfect reflections of the scenery around us on the water were the first thing we saw in the morning. The clouds had lifted a bit and now we had a free view of the Cordillera Darwin: a rugged, high-alpine mountain scenery, strongly ice-covered with a mighty glacier coming down to the fjord.
And that was the thing for today.
As close as possible: Glacier, Cordillera Darwin
A longish Zodiac ride took us to the rocky shore west of the glacier. Even without the glacier, the place would be worth a visit. Glacier-polished gneiss with amphibolite lenses, beautiful to see no matter if you understand the background or not.
And then there was the glacier itself. A mighty calving cliff of ice and behind that a chaos of crevasses and ice towers. The higher parts framed by a wild alpine panorama and the lower part by – forest! That is quite unusual for me: either glacier or forest, but both of them together, that is quite unusual for an Arctic fox like me. Actually, the glacier has obviously advanced into the forest quite recently: broken trees are lying under boulders on the steep edge of the glacier. Yes, an advancing glacier! There are not to many of them anymore, but still a few. A shame we don’t have more of them.
Either glacier or forest? Both!
You don’t have to do much at a place like that, just find a nice spot – there were plenty of them anywhere – and keep an eye on the glacier (and the rest of it, for that sake). A permanent rumbling and thundering, the glacier was very active and pieces were constantly breaking off and falling into the water. Amazing!
Obviously, the hours were going by quickly.
After a little rest on board, we went once again for yesterday’s little walk up the mountain. Doing it without rain did not do any harm.