January 15, 2021
We waited through a gale. Dawn Treader held steady in her network of lines. While safe and comfortable inside, we cooked, watched movies, wrote, read, and dried our things by the fire. After a couple of days, we rowed to shore in lighter winds, and walked up a hill. We overlooked the bigger neighboring anchorage of Playa Parda, where centuries of sailors transiting the Straits of Magellan have dropped anchor. It was easy to imagine them here, in this unchanged place. We were compelled to picture the figures of explorers past; wandering the rocky hills, appreciating the waterfalls; sitting on the rocks where we now sat, looking out at the Strait, judging the conditions, and choosing their moment to sail again. We returned home to watch our next weather window approach on the satellite phone forecast. It was not long before we chose to venture out again.
On the fifth day in Parda Chica, I awoke to a light outside in the cockpit. Brian was shining his headlamp around the anchorage. He changed the light from white to red and came inside the cabin for a drink of water. At 02:15, it was early, too dark and too early, but we were wide awake and ready. The air was still, a calm spell had begun.
We managed to exit the tight anchorage in the dark. Looking back, maybe waiting would have been best, the rocks were close and the fairway was narrow. Nevertheless, we were in the Straits by 03:00. A ship passed us, red to red, port to port, and the long reflections from its lights stretched our way. Port wine is red, I thought. It had been a long time since I had used the mnemonic. It was almost a year since my last night watch. This was no night watch though; daylight reigns in the summer. Morning twilight was quickly upon us and the bioluminescence in our wake faded fast. The shapes of land became more distinguished as the shores and sky were lit in subtly different shades of gray.
As we motored on, the closely knit cloud cover unraveled at the western skyline, and pretty pastels colored the sky and sea. By midmorning it was sunny. We peeled off our heavy layers, wore wide brimmed hats, and stood in our bare feet. The calm, sunshine, and warmth felt amazing. Motoring in the pleasant weather, with the outboard at half throttle, in the Straits of Magellan, seemed incongruous, but we basked in it nonetheless. We felt like we were in big sky country as we shot out of the Western mouth of the Strait. Our sense of tunnel vision relaxed, and we enjoyed the broad sunny view around us. After weeks of focus, study, and strategic progress, we were peacefully wrapping up a difficult section. We saw tall columns appear and fade miles away, big whales blowing in the distance. We tried the sails a few times in the light airs, but they flapped as the motor pushed us on.
As we approached the entrance Canal Smythe a southwest wind tentatively filled the sails. With 50 miles under the keel by early afternoon, we killed the motor and were content to sail peacefully forward at 2 knots. In the quiet, a Sei whale approached and surfaced within 100 meters of Dawn Treader.
Eventually, we left a tranquil Straits of Magellan and Pacific Ocean astern. The big sky and open sea at the end of the Strait were a sharp contrast to the very small waterway that led to our next anchorage. We stowed the sails and Dawn Treader motored in, framed by rocks and low hills, through a narrow chute. There was little room to maneuver, sometimes only 30 feet. We were relieved when we found more space at the dead end of the alley. We turned around, anchored, and tied into the charming Caleta Teokita.
150 of the most difficult miles of Patagonia were behind us. The outboard had pushed us into and through the Straits of Magellan. We had motored or motor sailed 140 miles of the last 162! It had taken a week: 3 days of movement, and four days of waiting. Weather forecasts had been essential to the way we had chosen our outings, and we were pleased that we had seen the light conditions on the forecasts become reality.
Distance Made Good: 56 miles
Total Distance Made Good: 332 miles
Distance To Go: 919 miles
Average Miles per Day: 9
Fuel Remaining: 42 gallons