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Yearly Archives: 2018 − Travelblog

Caleta Profundo – Isla Hose: 20 March 2018

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.

Caleta Profundo - Isla Hose

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.

Ringed kingfisher

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

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Puerto King – 18 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.

Puerto King

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.

Gallery – Puerto King – 18 March 2018

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Canal Ballenero to Caleta Macias – 16 March 2018

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.

Canal Ballenero

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.

Cala Ballenero to Caleta Macias

Shelter from the wind in one of many “caletas” (Caleta=natural harbour)

Gallery – Canal Ballenero to Caleta Macias – 16 March 2018

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Caleta Beaulieu – 15 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.

Glacier, Cordillera Darwin

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.

Caleta Beaulieu

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.

Caleta Beaulieu

crevasses and towers of ice and stone

Gallery – Caleta Beaulieu – 15 March 2018

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Brazo Noroeste – 14 March 2018

After the sunny, calm day yesterday, today’s weather was a bit closer again to Patagonian reality: wind and rain, a lot of both. An hour was long enough to stretch legs in the morning. Beach, woodland, wetland, hill, wind-beaten trees, view of Caleta.

Brazo Noroeste means northwestern arm, and that’s exactly what it is: the northwestern arm of the Beagle Channel, which is splitting up into two branches at this points. The mountains to both sides of Brazo Noroeste are rounded by mighty glaciations of the past. Today’s inland ice of the Cordillera Darwin, which is where we are now, still sends some streams of ice down to the water. Views were limited due to rain and low clouds, but still, great scenery. The weather is just normal life in Patagonia. Or, rather, Tierra del Fuego. Patagonia starts north of the Strait of Magellan.

We dropped anchor in the Caleta Beaulieu in the later afternoon behind a peninsula with rocky hill, covered with dense woodland which was giving us shelter from the wind. It was pouring rain, but that did not keep us from exploring the area a little bit, so we made a hike up the mountain – and felt like Indiana Jones at work. The forest was so dense that it was difficult to get through. Water everywhere, from all directions. Lovely! You just have to drop the idea that nature is only beautiful under a blue sky. That is not the case. It is always beautiful.

Gallery – Brazo Noroeste – 14 March 2018

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This was proven by stunning views over the fjord and glacier, even in the rain. Just great!

Brazo Noroeste

Pouring rain, but still a stunning view over the fjord with Anne-Margaretha and glacier

Beagle Channel – 13 March 2018

This is not the first time that „Beagle Channel“ is the headline of an entry of this blog. So far it meant travelling from Ushuaia to the Drake-Passage (or back). This time, not so.

How many times did I see these beautiful mountains further west in the Beagle Channel without ever getting there. So, today!

Mountain view - Beagle-Channel

Mountain view – Beagle-Channel

We set sail in Puerto Williams and enjoyed the company of many Black-browed albatrosses, shags and even a few dolphins. South of Ushuaia a Humpback whale waved us off with his fluke. Very friendly.

The rest of the day? A scenic dream made of sky and sea, islands and fjords. Mountains and clouds were mirrored on the water. New islands, new views mile after mile. A dream coming true.

Late in the evening, the anchor fell in Caleta Olla (Caleta seems to be the word for little, well-sheltered natural harbours) under a beautiful southern sky of stars. No artificial light anywhere around us! The Milky way, Magellanic cloud, the Southern cross … so beautiful that a small group of us even went ashore to put the tripods up in darkness. Well, amazing how quickly the clouds can cover the sky down here … anyway, it was still a nice way to finish the day.

Beagle-Channel, Caleta Olla

Evening mood, Caleta Olla

Humpback whale, Beagle-Channel

Humpback whale, Beagle-Channel

Gallery – Beagle Channel – 13 March 2018

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Puerto Williams – 12 March 2018

Puerto Williams! I must have sailed past Puerto Williams about 80 times, but I have never actually been there. So it was about time! The place started out as a naval base in 1953, so it is not actually one of the world’s great wonders in terms of architecture or whatever, but it has grown a bit into a civilian settlement which claims to be the southernmost town in the world!
That is certainly disputable and the result will depend on your definition of a town, which will need to be quite flexible in order to include Puerto Williams. But there are some shops and small restaurants (at least one of them is really nice, as we were happy to find out), the bow of the Yelcho (the ship that rescued Shackleton’s men from Elephant Island), an ATM and the very charming Yacht’s club house, on a boat that is grounded in the Yacht harbour. A lovely place to spend some time and I am sure it has seen some parties over the years!

Gallery – Puerto Williams – 12 March 2018

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We went on a „beaurocratic sightseeing tour“. Something that may be a rather strange approach for a tourist visit and it is by no means more interesting than it sounds. But we had to enter Chile officially with the boat and all souls and that requires paperwork at a number of addresses in town. Not the biggest place in the world, so that was alright.

And Puerto Williams is surrounded by dense, dark patagonian mountain rain forests. I am wondering if they have got Ents there? I’m tempted to believe that there must be some there! ?

Ushuaia – 11 March 2018

The photos may seem familiar. No coincidence, because this is where we said goodbye and farewell to SY Anne-Margaretha at the end of the trip to Antarctica four weeks ago. And now we are coming back on board again! Same place … but beyond that, nothing will be the same. Just the first steps are similar, saying officially goodbye to Argentina, getting passports stamped, leaving the harbour in the evening, setting course eastwards through the Beagle-Channel, but then … in a few hours, we will go alongside in Puerto Williams, the southernmost position of the whole trip! After that, we will continue west- and northwards, sailing through the beautiful, stunning waterways of southern Chile. New land, new passages, new places. Good stuff! It is not exaggerated to say that we are all very excited about it!

Gallery – Ushuaia – 11 March 2018

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Even the veterans of Chile and Patagonia, and we do have some on board, are excited. It is such a remote, hard-to-get-to-area. There is nobody travelling there, compared to Antarctica. It is empty, remote and wild. Patagonia, that is Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno and so on for most people. Stunning places for most people, no doubt about that, but what is lying ahead of us is very much different, and by no means less beautiful and impressive. But far off the well-trodden path! There is no infrastructure, no general guidebooks, no tourism.

Patagonia, here we come!

Harberton – 07 February 2018

As much as we longed to get ashore after almost a week on the boat, the land did not want us today. We knew the sound of the wind good enough, so I did not even have to leave my warm bed to know what was going on outside. Wind, wind, wind. We had been anchored since midnight in the bay at the Estancia Harberton, looking forward to go ashore, to explore some of the green hills of Tierra del Fuego, to walk on land again.

But there was a backdoor which served us well. Up went the anchor and we set course for Ushuaia, making the last miles of this trip on board Anne-Margaretha. Once alongside, we went to get the paperwork (immigration) done and enjoyed a cosy evening on board. Next morning, we took to rental cars for an excursion to Harberton. Cars and – to some degree – roads are available in Tierra del Fuego, we were not in Antarctica anymore, so let’s take advantage of that! And that included being able to stop wherever we felt like it during the trip out, a good 90 kilometres on the road. And there is some great landscape in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia! Mountains, wide valleys, wetlands, wild rivers, and … trees! We had almost forgotten that trees exist, after 3 weeks at sea and in Antarctica. Amazing trees. Wind-beaten, bent double and triple, knaggy and knotty, awe-inspiring beings. Very impressive, very photogenic.

A great appetizer for a lot more of Patagonia’s amazing landscape (if you want more – we have still got some space on our Patagonia trip with Anne-Margaretha in March!

Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.

Harberton itself also turned out to be a very interesting place. Founded in 1886, it is the oldest farm in the Argentine part of Tierra del Fuego. The founder, Thomas Bridges, must have been a bit of a character. He was found as a 2-year-old on a bridge (hence the family name) in England and later became a missionary. He learnt Yamana (Yahgan), the indigeneous language of Tierra del Fuego, and wrote a dictionary (30,000 entries) and grammar without which we might not know much, if anything at all, about this lost language. Sheep farming had always been important for Harberton, but was abandoned in the mid 1990s after severe winters, so today’s inhabitants of the farm, which is still owned by Thomas Bridge’s descendants, are focussing on tourism to make a living. As a result, we could enjoy the Casa de Te (tea house) and an interesting guided tour to see the colonial-style historical buildings, remains from the times of active farming, the old, picturesque cemetery on a hill within a little forest, lichens hanging down from the trees. Blue skies, white clouds, blue water, white horses. A beautiful day.

The next day would not bring more than saying goodbye and farewell, so this was in a way the end of our great trip to Antarctica. Something that we celebrated duly in one of Ushuaia’s fine restaurants. What an adventure! Referring to the whole trip, of course, Antarctica under sails. Big thanks to those who were part of it, and thanks for reading! Travelling in the south and the blog will continue in a few weeks from now in Patagonia.

Tierra del Fuego – 05 February 2018

Land! What a pleasure, after 5 days at sea. Cape Horn is far off in the west – the wind was just not right to go any closer to it. For the moment, the wind has, at least, taken a bit of a break. It is „only“ blowing with 20 knots – from the north, of course. Time to get into more sheltered waters. The next storm is supposed to be just around the corner. The low pressures are passing through one by one these days, not taking a rest at all.

Gallery – Tierra del Fuego – 05 February 2018

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It feels great to see land again, green islands under a blue sky. The sun is warming, and we spend hours sitting on deck without many layers. Black-browed Albatrosses and Shags are flying near-by, dolphins follow us for a while … life on a boat can be so good!

Drake-Passage – 04 Februar 2018

Anyone who might have thought that we had had our share of wind, water and waves had to realise that the Drake Passage still had some more in stock for us when the wind just kept getting stronger yesterday afternoon. The windmeter hardly fell below 30 knots and rather went beyond the 50 mark. That is force 10 on the Beaufort scale, „storm“, simply and plainly. Sounds great, doesn’t it? At least from a distance … although, I have to admight: I don’t want to miss my turn on the steering wheel in the evening and I mean it! Wild and beautiful. The overwhelming powers of nature. The waves may have been up to 8-9 metres high, of course there is no way of knowing accurately, but that should be quite realistic. The howling of the wind was by no means disappointing either.

Gallery – Drake-Passage – 04 Februar 2018

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Later, Heinz shut the ship down. Engine off, sails reduced to the storm fock. It worked surprisingly well and life on board was actually quite ok. Yesterday was indeed the first day since Thursday or so that we saw everybody up and about again. Of course, that is something not to be missed: storm off Cape Horn … great!

Now we are back to course and speed again, towards Cape Horn. We have lost 20 hours or so, but now we are on the way!

Drake-Passage – 31 January – 03 Februar 2018

31 January – 03 Februar 2018 – We have seen a lot of water and many, many waves since we left Antarctica 3 days ago. On the first day at sea, we could enjoy the rather rare phenomenon of a „Drake Lake“. No wind at all!

It was pretty clear that this would not last forever.

According to the forecast, we could hope for one more day with little wind, but that’s not what we got. Since the day before yesterday, we have mostly had around 30 knots of wind (force 7), sometimes more (up to 40 knots, a solid force 8, occasionally gusting up to force 9). The bad thing is: the wind comes almost constantly from the wrong direction, from northnorthwest. No sailing wind that makes us fly across the Drake, but nasty headwinds that slow us down to a frustrating 3-4 knots, making the boat move a lot at the same time. Well, it is not one of these really heavy storms that the Drake-Passage is so notorious for, but still it is a phenomenon how the wind keeps coming persistently from the „wron“ direction in this area which is known for quick weather changes!? Well, is is as it is, we have to live with it, although enthusiasm about the present weather and sea conditions is not unlimited. Some of us actually discover that they are born seamen, while others keep holding on to a bucket. Just for safety reasons, of course.

Gallery – Drake-Passage – 31 January – 03 Februar 2018

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It is still about 170 nautical miles to Cape Hoorn. That makes for 34 hours sailing time assuming that we can maintain a speed of 5 knots. In this case, we will be near land in the night from Sunday to Monday. But often, we are slower. We are kreeping towards Cape Hoorn metre by metre, and we will all be happy when we hear someone shouting „land“!

Melchior Islands – 31 January 2018

The expedition rooster wakes us up a bit earler than normally. The weather forecast for the Drake-Passage suggests an early departure, but we do not want to miss the opportunity to step on antarctic ground one more time and to say goodbye in a proper way.

After a little stroll up a snow field, we settle down on some rocky hills, enjoying fantastic views of the Melchior Islands: small, ice-covered islands with narrow sounds, surrounded by the wide-open Dallmann Bay. Icebergs are drifting here and there, and a whale is blowing in the distance. A moment of antarctic paradise.

Gallery – Melchior Islands – 31 January 2018

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Then the moment has come. The dingies are stowed away and the ship is made ready for the open sea. The anker is going up, and skipper Heinz is steering the ship out between the islands and into Dallmann Bay, the open sea just ahead of us. The sun is shining, there is almost no wind, just a moderate swell that reminds us that this is not a lake. Wide ice caps are shimmering in the sun behind us, and some Humpback whales come close to wave us goodbye with their flukes.

We have got a good 500 nautical miles between us and Cape Hoorn.

Port Lockroy – 29/30 January 2018

29/30 January 2018 – Nothing at all happens on Monday. Wind, wind, wind. No chance to get to the real penguins which are just a few hundred metres away, so at least we talk about them in theory. But this we do extensively. A relaxed day on board. Not what we had planned, but things could definitely be worse. Life in the Antarctic.

Tuesday, however, is stunning. The wind had died down almost completely. We enjoyed a lovely, long morning with the Gentoo penguins at Jougla point, followed by a visit to the „living museum“ at Port Lockroy, the former British Base A, built in 1944. A little time capsule that takes you back to the antarctic 1950s. And the most popular souvenir shop in Antarctic Treaty territory 😉

A 360° panorama tour of Port Lockroy from a previous Antarctic trip.

Gallery – Port Lockroy – 29/30 January 2018

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This is followed by the passage of the Neumayer Channel, a dream of wild antarctic scenery with mirror images on the water. Later, the evening sun adds even more favour to the whole scene as we turn from Gerlache Strait into Dallmann Bay. Something that we, nevertheless, do with some sadness. It means that we will leave Antarctica tomorrow. But we have still got the Melchior Islands ahead of us, to anchor there tonight and to say farewell to Antarctica tomorrow.

Paradise Harbour – Port Lockroy – 28 January 2018

Sailing into Paradise Harbour is a slightly monochrome dream of land and sea, mountains and glaciers, icebergs and islands. Everywhere seals on the ice. Some whales here and there. The whalers gave Paradise Harbour its name for a good reason.

The Argentine station Almirante Brown was built in 1951 but only sporadically used after a fire in 1984. There is now a team there and the plan is to renovate it completely for potential year-round use in the future. Well, we’ll see. What is more important to us now is that we get an invitation for an spontaneous visit, something that is going hard over my very rudimentary knowledge of Spanish language. But we make it work and it is fun. The highlight is, of course, the panoramic view from the hill behind the station and the famous slide down afterwards.

Gallery – Paradise Harbour – Port Lockroy – 28 January 2018

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Click here for the panoramic views of Paradies Bay from a previous Antarctic Tour.

Our prospected anchorage just around the corner is already occupied, and there is really just space for one boat there. So we set course for Port Lockroy, which takes a good couple of hours. It becomes quite windy as we start crossing the Gerlache Strait. We turn into Peltier Channel, which is avoided by larger ships as it has some shallows. A spectacular passage! And icy cold in the wind. Some brave souls spend the whole passage of Peltier Channel outside on deck.

There is a strong breeze at Port Lockroy and lots of bits and pieces of glacier ice are drifting around, but it is sheltered from waves and there is good holding ground for the anchor, and that’s all we need for tonight.


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