December 18, 2020
Dozens of swallows swept along the shoreline, swooping and looping over the beach, catching insects. They flew within inches of our faces and then veered off at the last moment, as we stood still in a drizzling rain amongst the trees that grow over the crescent beach. They were not here during our last visit to Caleta Olla, almost three months ago. That time we saw winter give way to spring. We saw snow accumulate on deck over a foot high, and then melt in the space of a couple days. The land came alive and we explored as much as we could: up the hills, over the bogs, along the beaches, up to a waterfall, and to the different overlooks of the glaciers, Holanda and Frances. This time, however, we stayed closer to home. An intermittent summer rain drenched the land around us and we spent much of the time aboard. Our two week Puerto Williams resupply was behind us, and we settled back into the slower routines of life in the Channels. We did chores and thought about the miles ahe ad.
On our last time through here, we were on a two month tour of the Beagle Channel. We only needed to cover 200 miles in total compared to the 1200 we now had remaining. We set goals for the coming months; Caleta Brecknock by mid-January, through Magellan by mid-February, Puerto Eden by mid-March, and so on past the Golfo de Penas to Chiloe and finally on to Valdivia. We looked at the weather forecasts everyday for suitable sailing weather. We were at the beginning of a long voyage and we would need to establish our pace.
After a week the strong westerly wind moderated and the rain cleared. We pulled in two shorelines, weighed anchor, and sailed out of Caleta Olla. We were early for the tide change, and our first half dozen tacks, against a foul current and headwind, gained us precious little ground. As the tide slackened and then ebbed, we made more westward progress. However, the further we sailed from Olla, the less the tidal effects, and progress was consistently slow all day. Starboard tack, port tack, over and over again we turned the boat and moved the sails from one side to the other. We left Glacier Hollanda out of view, and passed Glacier Italia. Frances was out of sight as many of the mountaintops were covered with clouds. Over thirty tacks later, we found ourselves abeam of Bahia Romanche. The otherworldly Glacier Alemania was slightly less strange this time without its winter snow surround. Still, we thought the half spherical rock mound protruding from the ice looked like a UFO.
Near Alemania, on the northern side of the channel, a light green river of glacial meltwater ran within the darker saltwater of the Beagle Channel. There was a distinct line between the two. We crossed the line, leaving a trail of black in the green silty water. We tacked again and saw our trail turn and swirl as we crossed back to the dark side.
Everything that we passed, we passed slowly. Zigzagging upwind, we needed to sail about three miles to make good one. We saw the shores that border the Beagle Channel again and again. This was a blessing in such a majestic landscape. Both shores captivated our gaze. With each new angle, something new appeared. A mountaintop peeked through the clouds and layers of landscape were revealed. The Glacier Romanche had a spectacular summer waterfall. The cascade was wide and tall; it spanned the distance between the glacier and the channel. We tacked away, and tacked back. We saw a beautiful place, in a series of slightly different, but ever-changing views, as we moved slowly towards, away, and through.
The tacking fatigued us, but we did not stop in the first available anchorages. We sailed on from Bahia Romanche and aimed for Bahia Tres Brazos. The moderate westerly wind diminished and a passing shower lightly sprinkled on us. We shook the second and then the first reef from the mainsail. We looked up at a full mainsail, something we have rarely seen in the past couple of years south of 50 degrees latitude. The peaks of the Darwin Mountain Range glowed in the lateness of the day. The long light of summer kept us sailing into the evening. The clouds had dissipated, and we sailed directly towards the setting sun as the wind shifted to the northwest. Then, with four miles to go to the anchorage, the wind failed.
After 70 tacks to go 21 miles, we started the engine and motored the rest of the way into Bahia Tres Brazos. Dusky Dolphins swam alongside us at the entrance and one jumped well clear of the water to create space for an elegant dive back in. We crossed the bay to a protected cove named Caleta Julia. Once in the anchorage, we performed the usual Patagonia anchoring ritual. We dropped the anchor, deployed the dinghy, and ran lines ashore. The calm waters made the procedure relaxed. When I tied the last line to a stout looking tree, the arrangement was complete with one line fore, one aft, and the anchor off the starboard bow. We were snug and protected again. We cooked dinner, slowly relaxed from a strenuous day of tacking, and then went heavily into our bunks.
Distance Made Good: 24 miles
Total Distance Made Good: 79 miles
Distance To Go: 1,172 miles
Average Miles per Day: 8 miles
Fuel Remaining: 50 gallons