February 10, 2021
A gloom settled over Dawn Treader in Otter Pool. The boat was surrounded by a cloud of biting gnats. The crew were irritable and argumentative. We were tired. Although the boat was tied in and at a stop, we had a lot to do in a week before we sailed on in the next round of fair winds.
We had to adjust to the gnat latitudes. We did not sleep well until we found bug screens for the hatches. Even then, the little explorers found the tiniest points of entry by marching along the edges of the screens. Eventually we added duct tape to the borders where we could. While searching for the screens we did the condensation shuffle (a regular clearing out and cleaning of lockers that has been necessary since reaching the Chilean climate).
Our regular clearing and cleaning of cubbies had been on pause for the past two months. Instead we had focused on making forward progress and exploring, while doing more limited housekeeping on our layovers. The results appalled us. Mold was taking over, and worse, we found that several of our starboard lockers had been invaded by pests. Tiny worms were living in the damp along the sweating hull side. Perhaps the unwelcome stowaways invaded on a bag of potatoes. After we got over our disgust, we simply had to buckle down and deal with it. So, we cleaned almost every locker in the cabin over a few days. The task was monumental, but the mold had to go and so did the writhing little creatures.
The weather was rainy, damp, and still. It was difficult to dry the lockers after cleaning. To help, we built fires with dead Tepu branches that fishermen had left ashore. This wood burns very well, wet or dry. Smaller off cuts had been left ashore where bigger pieces had been taken. We gathered and burned the branches in our wood stove. This helped to dry out the cabin and gave us ample fuel to boil water for cleaning.
Close to midnight on our last day of intense cleaning, I looked up from my perch atop the open starboard bunk lockers to see a very cluttered cabin. We were swamped, surrounded by ziplock bags of food and miscellaneous items, but Brian continued steadily. He emptied the lockers underneath the galley, inspected them with his headlamp, cleaned, dried, and stowed them. I marked the moment in my memory as a low point. It seemed we were in the thick of our battle against the year’s moisture problems. We have examined our experience for lessons, and have lots of ideas about how to improve the situation in the future. It would be lovely to create an “all seasons Dawn Treader” that is more insulated against temperature changes. For now, we are simply focused on taking care of the boat and her contents as she sails through Chile with sweat constantly forming on the inside of her single skin fiberglass.
After we finished the marathon cleaning the tension in the air slowly dissipated. We relaxed, and everything that was bothering us came out in conversation. Uncertainty surfaced concerning our goals, destinations, passage timing, and Covid. Better out than in it seemed; we began to feel better. Our gloomy perspective faded as we remembered that the future is always uncertain. At least our boat was clean and prepared, we were in a beautiful place that we liked, and we had reached latitudes where fair winds were more common. We felt ready for whatever came next.
An uncle told me something I like to remember. As a goodbye last time I saw him he simply said “Be Happy.” After our difficulties in Otter Pool, we decided to make that our motto for 2021. On our last day there, a deep calm showed everything: the trees, the rocky hills and cliffs, and Dawn Treader, all reflected clearly in the peaceful pool. It was beautiful, and it gave us reason to appreciate the the gnat inspiring stillness. In the quietude, when we laid in our bunks that last night, we could hear faraway whale songs through the hull.
The morning after our peaceful slumber we went searching for a fair wind. As we motored Northwest in Canal Andres, gnats clung to the lifelines, to the sail, to anything. There was no breeze in the protected and winding arms of Canal Andres and Seno Tres Cerros. So, we motored through them towards Canal Concepcion. As we made progress, the white and gray clouds above us shrunk and receded to the edges of our view. Sunlight broke through, and great expanses of lush greenery were brightly lit all around us.
After several hours of seeking and 22 miles of motoring, we finally found the southerly! We approached a nonstop train of whitecaps in Canal Concepcion. At the edge of the wind stream we reefed down to accommodate uncertain gusts. Then we turned to the north and felt the wind steady at our backs. Finally, any remaining gnats were swept away. A repeated rushing swoosh from Dawn Treader, as she surged forward and then settled down onto the back of the waves was hypnotizing. We ran downwind wing on wing, one sail out to each side, for the rest of the day.
A seal surfed alongside. Mountaintops met blue skies in the distance, and bright white, snowy peaks of the Andes peeked out in the western skyline. To the East, Isla Wellington was sun-drenched and beautiful. We readied to stop there for the night. As soon as we left the channel for the anchorage, we left the effects of the wind and waves, and we used the motor to push us through the narrow entrance to Estero Dock. We dropped the anchor after 50 miles on the day.
We left early the next morning with a brisk southerly behind us. It was one of the best sailing days we can remember. We had fun steering our way downwind through a narrow passage, Paso Piloto Pard0, through Canal Escape, and into Paso del Indio. Finally as we approached our destination, we stopped short, and called Radio Puerto Eden to ask permission to anchor. We had sailed 52 easy miles along the coast of Isla Wellington in pure sunshine. Although we had read that Wellington long held out from being photographed via satellite by hiding in the clouds, we had seen the eastern shoreline clearly. In the background, some of the peaks still held snow, and the closer hills were covered with an enchanting dense green rainforest that was interspersed with waterfalls.
We made it to Puerto Eden. We were close to halfway through our Patagonian passage. A navy launch came out to meet us at anchor. They kindly arranged for us to access the town’s limited markets and the water supply the next day. It was the first town that we had seen in 60 days. After our temperatures were checked, we were allowed ashore and buy some supplies. We only walked along the boardwalk directly to the stores and back, no exploring. But it was nice to see a few people, maybe 7 of the supposed 176. We returned to the boat, had some celebratory beers after a couple of months without, and then waited aboard in the harbor for more wind. The next days the weather was calm, clear, and dry, the opposite of what we expected from one of the wettest places on earth.
It felt like a heavy damp burden had been lifted from Dawn Treader. We aired the boat, opening hatches and lockers. The solar panel fully charged the battery bank for the first time in a very long time. We had plenty of power and ample time, so I plugged in the sewing machine and repaired a couple of cushion covers. It was relaxing to swing at anchor for a few days in front of town, in little to no wind, without concern. We waved to local fishing boats as they passed by in the peaceful waters. Puerto Eden was a milestone. We were glad to be so far along in our passage, and it was nice to break our immersion in the wilderness by seeing a few faces in the most remote settlement in Patagonia.
Distance Made Good: 102 miles
Total Distance Made Good: 572 miles
Distance To Go: 728 miles
Average Miles per Day: 10
Fuel Remaining: 35 gallons