Saturday, 7 October 2017

Caleta Suarez

Traversay and fishing fleet sheltering from the storm
As October 6 approached, at first it seemed it would offer a long enough period of good sailing weather to allow the 180 mile passage to Caleta Ideal on the other side of the dread Golfo de Penas (Gulf of Sorrows). After Caleta Ideal we would be once more in sheltered waters as we move further south.

Because the weather here is very perverse though, the window of acceptable weather shrank until it would only allow half the passage - and only if we started as the previous period of bad weather was playing itself out. Happily there was somewhere (sort of) to stop at the half-way point. And so, not totally enthusiastic about spending another week in the same pretty though deserted spot, we set off in the pre-dawn hours.

The gentle breezes wafting the drizzle about our dark anchorage gradually segued into a strong persistent breeze from dead ahead as we entered the more open waters of Bahia Anna Pink on our way to the open sea. We felt discouraged by our abysmal progress against big waves, contrary winds and currents but were buoyed up by the encouraging forecasts that suggested that all would improve shortly.

A small passing cargo ship left us in the dust (spray?) as he shouldered aside the big seas and forged on to his distant destination far to the south. Nonetheless, as we neared the open sea at the mouth of Anna Pink, the wind DID shift to a more favorable angle, we DID deploy more sails and our speed increased from four knots to five or six. Soon, as we were able to turn off the wind and parallel the coast south, we reached eight knots and sometimes more in the fitful sunshine that had replaced our earlier drizzle. By late afternoon, we had significantly reduced the distance to that cargo vessel that had earlier smoked past us!

Larry and fish boat crew
By evening, the expected bad weather with its increasing wind was beginning to make itself felt but our half-way destination, Caleta Suarez (Suarez Cove) in Estero Cono (Cone Fjord), was only a few rapidly diminishing miles away. The rock-bound coast of the Taitao Peninsula is imperfectly charted but our book confidently asserted that the approach was easy with an obvious cone-shaped mountain immediately north of the entrance. With four to five meter seas crashing on a vertical landscape in increasing proximity, we worked at reconciling the various clues into a navigationally useful picture of the coast ahead.

The cone-shaped mountain was unhelpfully obscured by low cloud but an island in the entrance to Estero Cono, visible both by eye and radar, gave us confidence we were in the right place. The chart plotter showing us passing across the middle of an island was just a reminder of the limitations of GPS and the importance of using your head.

Inside the fjord, the awesome height of the waves outside rapidly diminished and, with the distance to our remote and deserted cove quickly disappearing, we downed the sails and continued with motor. In the process of dousing the sails, I stupidly tripped over a rope and, grabbing at the nearest support, managed to put a thirty centimeter tear in the mainsail. This later gave Mary Anne an opportunity to display her sewing talents by putting all right again!

Rounding the final corner into our "deserted" cove and preparing for our anchor and shore-tie procedures, there was a surprise: it was not deserted! Three fishing boats from Quellon on Chiloe Island were taking shelter from the coming storm. As we contemplated how to deal with this disappearance of our planned anchorage, the crew of one of the boats gave us hand signals to tie up along side them.

After a hurried installation of fenders and lines - docking having replaced anchoring - we began to experience the delightful hospitality so common in Chile. After a couple of days, we have had help tying up, with the sail repair, installing sail covers, information, dessert. We, in turn, have tried to reciprocate with wine, cheese, olives.

We'll be here a few more days exploring the beaches and awaiting another patch of good weather. In the meantime, what a special and unexpected surprise!

At 2017-10-07 21:39 (utc) our position was 46°36.79'S 075°27.69'W

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