Straits of Magellan
Our arrival in the Straits of Magellan has been hard won. Low pressure systems seem to arrive quickly, every 12 hours or so, making choosing a "good" time to leave anchorages difficult.
We checked our grib weather files and left Brecknock Cove early Thursday morning. It looked like our only chance to travel the Cockburn Channel in the next few days. After we had untied the shore lines the wind began to gust from the north. As we were hauling the anchor the williwaws became stronger and we were forced to leave the cove with the dinghy alongside. We hoped for shelter from one of the small points along the mile long fiord but as we found none we finally hauled the dinghy in a relative lull. The wind was blowing very hard and the gusts were heeling the boat half way over toward the dinghy. We were in reverse at 1600 rpm and still making forward way at three knots. As we blew away from our anchorage and rounded the corner into Occasion Channel we had brief respite from full force of the weather. We threaded our way through a fisherman's pass, Paso Gonzales, protected from the swell by some small treeless islands. The visibility was about a quarter of a mile with heavy rain making the radar unusable at times. Our charts were good (enough) and the pilot guide directions were perfect. We made it to the middle of the pass with the wind building and decided to duck into a small cove, La India, rumored to have protection from the wind. We anchored, had a hot drink and some oatmeal, launched the dinghy and set some shore lines and a second anchor.
As soon as we were settled in the cove the wind died to nothing and the water was flat calm. We decided we had just been about four hours too early for the light weather we expected. It was only 10AM so after our rest we hauled in all the lines and anchors and continued on. Out front it seemed better at first. We cleared the second part of the fisherman's channel and stuck our nose out into the middle of the Cockburn Channel. The wind was coming from the north west making it a trip close to the wind. As we made progress further north the wind built and we could see the gusts raising sea smoke 100 feet into the air from the water. We rounded our final protection island and checked the possibility of heading to our namesake bay "Puerto Niemann" but it was upwind and we knew we couldn't motor the five miles into the now fierce wind and waves. We changed course to an anchorage further east and rocked and rolled our way across the last few miles of channel. The dread tide against wind made very steep waves as we approached the point we were to duck behind. Just as we thought we were almost out of the maelstrom we got tossed on our ear by a very steep wave dousing the cockpit, dinghy and even sending water through the vent in our sleeping cabin. Yes, we've now got a system for closing those vents with a seal from inside but it was open for this "inland passage" to try to let some condensation out of the boat. Below decks some things were tossed across the cabin that have never been dislodged before. The big waves were a strong hint that it was time to give the autopilot a rest and hand steer the last 45 minutes out of the channel.
Finally in the protection of the land we found rest at Parmelita Cove with a mud bottom, 20 feet deep. After running two lines ashore and putting out 2 anchors we felt we could ride out the gusts that were rocking our anchorage. By morning, with sore muscles from all the line setting and hauling the previous day we were ready to move on as the weather seemed better. Our trip north was uneventful and we spent two days at Murray Cove waiting for less wind to enter the Magellan Straits. This morning, Saturday we were able to cross the Magellan Straits, seven miles wide here and motor 20 miles up wind at an average of 3.5 knots. The waves were short and steep and the wind was, as expected, a head wind. We finally pulled in at lunch time to wait for the tide change and with luck, better weather soon. We needed a warm up and some hot soup because though it's the middle of summer here it's raining hard and 47° F and we're getting chilled sitting in the damp cockpit.
As we sit watching the rain streak the ports and contemplate what might be lighter conditions and another opportunity to move we glance at the barometer and see that it has just fallen six hPa in the last hour and we have another high wind warning. Maybe we'll just give Peter a snack and a beer and work on boat jobs this afternoon.
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Labels: 2010 - 01-04 Chile