Tuesday, 28 November 2017

A Pretty Glacier

A friend of ours recently mentioned in an email "Nobody sails Patagonia for the weather".

Following our relatively benign week in Ultima Esperanza - only one dragged anchor - we have only been able to travel north on one day out of two. The "rest" days have been forced on us by strong north winds raising waves in the channels against which we cannot make any progress.

Our friends remaining in Puerto Natales have fared worse. For about a week now, that port has been closed to any movement of small vessels (like ours or the many fishing boats). On some of those days, the fierce winds have caused the port to be closed even to large freighters and ferries.

Sometimes the weather, rather than forcing us to stay in a place, forces us to leave it. This has happened in Natales, Eden and the anchorage immediately after Natales. It's like the ice forcing our decisions during the Northwest Passage.

Most of the places we choose to stop are very sheltered and secure against any weather. Oddly, the inhabited places are often an exception to this. The bay in front of the small community of Puerto Eden is sheltered from north winds but open to the south. Thus, after a day of sheltering there from strong north winds - and enjoying the unusual availability of internet - I felt the need to leave because of forecast strong SOUTH winds.

Progress against the dying north winds was painful in the final open stretch before a well sheltered cove, Caleta Yvonne, at the junction of Fiordo Iceberg and Canal Messier, the route north. Nonetheless, Caleta Yvonne where we stopped a couple of days ago presented the possibility of a bit of sightseeing.

Eighty miles north of Caleta Yvonne is Golfo de Penas - the Gulf of Sorrows. This represents a difficult 175 mile passage in the open Pacific exposed to all the weather the Southern Ocean can muster to torment a sailor. At this point, we have been looking at long range forecasts for several days to find the most benign period in which to tackle the crossing. Establishing that December 1 would be a good day to set out left us with a few idle days.

Following an engine oil change in the Caleta during one of those spare days, the weather perked up and the sun came out for the first time in a week and a half. At the eastern end of Fiordo Iceberg, three hours travel from our anchorage, lies a beautiful glacier. The winds were still blowing quite strongly but that would aid our trip to the glacier - and the winds were forecast to die away enough so as not to impede the return.

We hurriedly disconnected ourselves from the shore, got the dinghy aboard and hoped the sunshine would last. It did! At one point along the route Mary Anne counted fourteen waterfalls in sight at one time coursing down the valley walls. And the reward at the end of the fjord was a perfect glacier of such an impossible shrieking blue color that it seemed someone must have dumped a tanker load of blue die onto its surface.*

Now we wait again for better weather to move along. Caleta Ideal, our last anchorage before crossing Golfo de Penas, is only forty-five miles north of us. November 29 should see us there.

* The one lo-res picture we are able to send by short-wave radio does not do justice to the place; we'll replace it when we have internet access in three or four weeks.

At 2017-11-28 00:27 (utc) our position was 48°20.31'S 074°33.49'W

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