January 6, 2020
Whitecaps, foam and spray poured out of Paso Aguirre and along the water’s surface. We could see them from Dawn Treader while anchored in Caleta Atracadero. Paso Aguirre is the southerly corner of Canal Brecknock, our next pathway to the north. A few days blew by in a gale with the wind gusting to 50 knots. There was rain, hail, wet snow, wind, and more wind.
The howl of the wind is the frequent soundtrack of islands intimate with the ocean conditions of the Furious Fifties. This spot reminded me of the Falkland Islands: the surroundings were weathered and worn, Black Browed Albatross soared by, and families of Kelp Geese and Steamer Ducks swam around in the anchorage. In Chile, and in Atracadero, the kingfisher also chatters onto the scene, announcing his presence before perching over the sheltered shallows. The birds kept us company in this remote spot. We watched them from our little yacht as she shifted and rolled, straining her shorelines in the weather.
We enjoyed ourselves, looking out of the port lights, and resting next to an occasional warm fire. One day the conditions seemed less severe and we walked up a hill to look out over Canal Brecknock. From our overlook, we could see the Pacific Ocean to the west, where storm force winds looked like smoke on the water. Sudden powerful gusts burst through the channel, agitating the water into the foaming whitecaps and spray that we had been seeing from the boat.
Overnight the weather changed completely, and after a 5 day layover we motored through Paso Aguirre in a calm. By the first turn of Canal Brecknock we were sailing. Light winds filled our sails and we began tacking through the zig zagging fairway. With each turn of the channel our angle to the wind and the wind strength changed. So, we tacked, beam reached, were becalmed at an elbow of the canal, and then finally, in the last section of Canal Brecknock, the wind steadily intensified. The fresh winds gusted strong, and we tacked with heavily reefed sails until we reached the entrance to Canal Ocasion.
By this point in our passage we have sailed upwind enough, that we have played with our method of tacking. We have a large cockpit, but regardless, we have to coordinate our movements to avoid stepping on each other, especially with two five gallon gas cans taking up some of the leg room in the footwell. We can avoid collision when one of us works the jib sheets and one steers. However, after experimenting, we have found it more fluid for us to divide the roles. One of us releases the windward sheet, we tack, and then the other hauls in on the leeward sheet. We pass the tiller between us. This means that we can each stay on our designated side of the boat. This seems to improve our tacks and protect us both from awkward jostling.
We maneuvered under sail through Canal Occasion and well into Seno Ocasion. We had tacked 20 times in 26 miles, and it was a great day of sailing. We dropped the sails and turned on the motor as we closed in on our next anchorage, Caleta Brecknock. The wind was still gusting strong, so we took our time, and hovered outside of the notch in the rock wall that was to be our berth. When we felt confident of holding our position with the outboard, we moored in with anchor and shorelines.
We looked up to contemplate the stunning surroundings. Gradually, as we had tacked into the Seno we had come closer and closer to the surrounding cliffs. Now, secure at anchor, we could relax and begin to absorb the drama of the place. High granite rocks surrounded us, and the runoff from them formed tall cascades. One of these free fell a few hundred feet; I was fascinated by the column of water surrounded only by air. It plummeted down rapidly before rejoining the rock and tumbling into a valley of shrubbery below.
The falls largely disappeared by late evening, having exhausted their supply of rainfall. But by morning they reappeared with a fresh rain. We rested in the downpour, made bread, and carefully planned for our next weather window. On our second day in Brecknock, sunlight streamed down between the clouds and raced across the surfaces of the high grey rocks. We enjoyed a walk around, and then afterwards, we focused on more planning, rereading our materials on the upcoming waterways; Canal Cockburn, Canal Acwalisnan, and the Straits of Magellan. We hoped to tackle these intimidating places soon; we had a promising forecast for the next day.
Our goal was to move through these waterways quickly, to limit our exposure. Both Canal Cockburn and the Straits of Magellan have wide western openings to the Pacific Ocean, and do not provide shelter from the often severe ocean conditions. Acwalisnan would be more protected, but we could face progress halting adverse currents. Our forecast for the next two days showed light or favorable wind. We planned to sail when we could, but also to burn fuel motoring as needed to make fast steady progress. This section deserves respect and caution and there is merit in getting through expeditiously.
It was perfect timing then, to fill our empty fuel cans. We received 9 gallons of gasoline from good friends on a passing boat. They topped up our supply of fuel, cooked for us, and passed us a few goodies too. There are only a few yachts transiting the Channels this year, and this was the first one we had seen. The isolation we experience here is wonderful, but seeing friends was refreshing after a month out on our own. It was an incredible morale boost, and we felt ready for the next leg.
Distance Made Good: 26 miles
Total Distance Made Good: 170 miles
Distance To Go: 1,081 miles
Average Miles per Day: 6
Fuel Remaining: 44 + 9 = 53 gallons