Ushuaia in Argentina, the Southernmost City in the World, and Puerto Williams in Chile, the Southernmost Town in the World
With daughter Lisa onboard, we wanted to see penguins. No problem, we've seen lots of penguins! We passed a breeding colony as we made our way westward.
Finally we spied a much photographed lighthouse and knew we had almost arrived in Ushuaia. We were ready to enjoy the town.
Cruise ships come and go at the commercial pier across the bay.
Marcy was tied to the dock at AFASyN, the only game in town for yachts.
A DC-3 wearing Argentine Armada colors is parked at the nearby airport.
The dock is a busy place, as the Antarctic charter fleet comes and goes. Rafting can be intense and complicated maneuvers are carried out to extract boats at all hours.
Most of the boats, Marcy included, refuel with drums and siphon hoses.
To spice dock life up, Ushuaia is a windy spot. One day the airport reported 74 knot gusts. As one can imagine, wind like that can play havoc with rafted boats. It's lucky that the wind usually doesn't last for more than a day or so and the waves are not serious. Peter assisted a catamaran needing to augment mooring lines.
The atmosphere at the dock is something like a climbing camp, with much gore-tex and down clothing. Skis and tents are loaded alongside the usual potatoes and gas cans. Many of the boats, almost all metal, are being prepared for the Antarctic or a long term cruise of the fiords and glaciers. There is a lot of excitement in the air. Most of the boats here are French. And there are famous sailors here, notably Isabelle Autissier of BOC/Around Alone fame and Patrick Taberly, brother of Eric. One Sunday when Marcy was flying her jack at the bow a French girl on a neighboring boat sneaked on board and jokingly tied the “Tricolour” to the staff.
The town itself is nice, reminiscent of a ski town. Which is appropriate because there are a couple of ski areas here. The traffic rules are unusual – at every unmarked intersection (and most of them are unmarked) the uphill and downhill traffic has right of way over traffic on the level street. As pedestrians, we had a heck of a time figuring out what cars were going to do until this was explained to us. Ushuaia is a tourist town, and people from many different countries visit. It attracts lots of young adventurous backpackers, many of whom walk the docks looking for a ride on a yacht to Puerto Williams or further.
With fuel and groceries replenished, it seemed like a good time to leave the hectic scene in Ushuaia and head down the channel to Puerto Williams. Only a half a day away across the Beagle Channel, it is a change of countries and a world away in atmosphere. We noticed one difference right away when we arrived, instead of the need for us to search out the appropriate offices to clear into Chile, all the officers came down to the boat. How nice!
The yacht club at Puerto Williams is unique and very famous in the sailing world. The “dock” is a derelict cargo ship, the “Micalvi,” that is resting on the bottom.
Peter enjoyed imagining hand cranking the 1930's windlass.
The ports reflected the mountains across the channel.
The bar is a cozy cabin. Among long distance sailors, a casual mention of having enjoyed a “Pisco Sour” on the “Miclalvi” gains a certain respect. We earned our bragging rights and enjoyed our drinks with our friendly neighbors, Swiss and Austrian sailors.
Puerto Williams calls itself “the southernmost town in the world” in competition with Ushuaia, which calls itself “the southernmost city in the world.” We have heard that there is a small fishing village further south, no doubt called “the southernmost fishing village in the world.” In any case Pto Williams is a walker's paradise. The roads have no traffic to speak of, there are trails all over the island, and beautiful scenery is everywhere.
The town is relaxed - horses foraging loose in town lie down for a nap, and cows graze on the beach.
The practical Chileans made a bridge using an old steel hull.
Pto Williams is an Armada (Navy) Base. With the considerate English translation on this sign we knew exactly where we were.
We hiked inland a bit, and enjoyed the wilderness.
Back in town, we realized that we need to get back to Ushuaia soon so that Lisa would not miss her flight back home. Filing our papers at the Port Captain's office we noticed that the view is spectacular even from this office. We look forward to returning a few weeks as we continue on south.