Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Essential gear for cruising in Patagonia

If you plan to come to Southern Chile south of the Golfo de Penas in your sailboat, here are a few things that we use that really help:
The ‘Italian’ book: ‘Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Nautical Guide’ (by Mariolina Rolfo and Giorgio Ardrizzi). They’ve listed over 400 usually safe anchorages.

You need 4 shore-ties. These are described in various books and in an earlier blog by Larry.

If you have a fairly small vessel, you’d be wise to read ‘Winter in Fireland: A Patagonian Sailing Adventure’ by BC resident Nicholas Coghlan. He and his wife Jenny sailed their Vancouver 27 – ‘Bosun Bird’ from South Africa over to Brazil via St. Helena and down the coast of Argentina. They spent time in Ushuaia and Puerto Williams and came up through Patagonia in the winter. His research into the history of the area and his description of the hold-ups they faced will give you an in-depth view of a sailor’s life and how to deal with Patagonia in a small vessel. Even if you’re not a sailor, you’ll admire the story of their life working in Argentina and later in the Canadian diplomatic service.

‘Marine Benthic Fauna of Chilean Patagonia’ edited by Vreni Haussermann and Gunter Forsterra details the geology, maritime and oceanic conditions here in addition to its primary focus on underwater creatures. In some preliminary information it states: “From 42 degrees south, the dominance of bad weather is increasing each year. In some places, like those exposed directly to the action of the air masses, the highest concentration of winter depressions results in more than 25 days of rain per month.” The book later states that 6,000 mm of precipitation falls annually. Increasingly bad weather has also been noted by Greg and Keri-Lyn of ‘Saoirse’ who have been running charters to Antarctica for many years.

We find that negotiating these channels with a bigger boat makes it easier. Although we still face lots of challenges, we can carry more fuel and have a more comfortable time in the cold. Since this is our only home, we made sure that we would have good insulation and a working furnace instead of having a faraway roof or driveway to maintain for disconsolate renters.

Before we left Canada, I knew we’d be making this trip along the Canales. So I bought some essentials. Several unsolicited gifts have also been the source of great warmth.
1. Heat Factory hand heaters … get them at MEC in BC or REI in Washington.
2. Scandinavian model dive mitts. These are great for pulling wet lines out of the 9C water when you are tying to trees. A gift from  Norwegian friend Rune (SV Opportune)
3. Down-filled mitts available at Eddy Bauer – Amanda Neal of ‘Mahina Tiare III’ told me about these. Get 2 pairs – you can wash them.
4. The special ‘Fashy’ German-made hot-water bottle. It’s double-insulated and it comes with a cozy fleece cover. This was a gift from Kania and Gregorio – the physiotherapists who run Centro Praxis in Valdivia. It’s a lifesaver!
5. Get thin merino wool long johns, toques and neckwarmers – they are warm, good under rain gear in rain and they’ll dry quickly. You’ll find yourself using lots of layers. Remember that once socks get wet with sea water, they rarely dry!
You will need the usual heavy-weather sailing gear. Make sure to use the neoprene ‘oilies’  bottoms for putting out and pulling in lines. But on top we use our gore-tex jackets. They keep out most of the rain, while allowing us more ease of movement.
We also use really warm (and much cheaper) neoprene fishermen’s boots. They’re warmer and lighter than sailing boots and Larry likes them for navigating through the shallows prior to tying to trees ashore.

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