April 8, 2021
A tiered waterfall ran down from shelf to shelf amongst rocks and trees, towards a long stretch of white beach. Our little white sloop bobbed peacefully between the mountain walls, underneath a low ceiling of white cloud. Millabu seemed the type of place to linger in, but we moved on quickly. Brian cautioned that stronger winds were forecast, and williwaws could sweep the wide anchorage.We sailed to and anchored amongst the forested hills of Isla Prieto for better shelter.
Northwest winds blew, and we waited in more anchorages: Jaqueline, Esteban, and Rosalita. We moved north in light tailwinds and calms: sailing or motoring at low throttle, maximizing our gas mileage, gaining 10 miles per gallon. We tried to play the tides, and occasionally succeeded in feeling the current with us instead of against us.
When we motored north in Canal Errazuriz it was incredibly calm and flat. So calm and flat, that when Brian’s favorite hat dropped overboard, a worn and torn hat my sister gave him from The Club years ago, he turned the boat around and picked it up easily from atop a glassy, mirror-like sea.
We passed salmon farms and their support boats, small ships, and fishing boats. There was more and more trash along the shorelines. Traffic continued to increase as we traveled north in the region of Aisen.
We paused in Caleta Esteban. It was a stop between here and there, between unpopulated and populated. Local boats came and went. Fishermen checked traps, harvesting crab. Divers from another, larger boat went overboard trailing hoses connected to air compressors. They brought up bags of octopus gathered from the shallow bottoms.
Walking the land that ringed the anchorage, we saw remnants of human habitation amongst new flora and fauna. Ferrets darted in and out of the rubble of a house and garden that belonged to an abandoned fishing camp. An exotic looking caterpillar wandered along a blade of grass at the edge of an old overgrown trail.
Alone as dusk settled in, we listened as the forest filled with the clicks and chirrups of insects. When we studied the night sky with binoculars, we were stunned by the number of satellites moving against the backdrop of glittering stars and dark black space. The water was alive with light as well, and so we rowed in the bioluminescent waters. Our oar blades trailed sparkles, and the dinghy left a glowing wake.
Finally, it was time to make contact. After waiting out a storm in Caleta Rosalita, we approached the small town of Puerto Aguirre. We talked with two men from the Armada, who came alongside in their launch. They were helpful, and put us in touch with the health department. After going to anchor, to exchange a few emails and awkward radio calls, we met a young woman with a clipboard at the dock. She took our temperatures, and we were given permission to go shopping for food. It was unclear if we were allowed to do much else.
So, we kept a low profile over the next week in Aguirre. We enjoyed the park next to our anchorage. After so much time anchored adjacent to bosque impenetrable (impenetrable forests), the manmade paths and wooden walkways were pleasant, even if they only amounted to less than a mile.We barely ventured into town twice, and chose a mini market on the edge of everything to do our shopping.
Interacting with the friendly shopkeeper balanced out the discomfort that lingered after our arrival to Aguirre. He was happy to see us, and we enjoyed the warm welcome. We got excited about shopping for beer, cheese, junk food, fruits, and vegetables. It was the first fresh fruit we had bought in three months, since Puerto Williams. After the ferry had come to town, we shopped again, and found lots of treats. The colors were intoxicating: deep purple plums and grapes, nectarines, yellow gold, orange, and red, crisp green bell peppers, and dark avocados. It was a pleasure to shop for such a variety of fresh food, and we carried off fresh eggs and a big loaf of homemade bread too.
Living at anchor, we felt distant from everyone, and we kept to ourselves for the most part. The sounds of cars, dogs, and music filtered over from the shore. We gradually adapted to sharing space again. Ashore, we were surprised by the wake of perfume from a passerby, and by the rumbling traffic along the narrow roads. Although we felt like awkward strangers in a peopled place, stopping in Aguirre was energizing and pleasant.
We began moving again by motoring several miles to Caleta Olea one afternoon. This cued us up to sail consistently for the next two days. The first day was powered by a fresh southerly. We surprised ourselves by reeling off 60 miles in the main channel.
We paused overnight in the picturesque Caleta Pozo de Oro. I remember it as our last truly quiet stop. A single house overlooks a peaceful lagoon. It is a beautiful remote homestead, one built gradually by a Chilean couple over the years. I thought, most sailors who anchor there probably feel a pang of desire, a wanting for this perfect type of place, an isolated, relaxing shoreside retreat where you can gaze dreamily out at your boat from the windows.
The second day, we set out in a boisterous southeasterly. It stayed with us until we turned into the larger Canal. As we turned, Dawn Treader wallowed uncomfortably in lighter winds, and we motored through an odd easterly swell at the beginning of crossing Gulfo de Corcovado.
Eventually, a light and steady southerly filled the sails and we slowly crossed the gulf overnight. We passed abeam of the lights of Chiloe and its adjacent salmon farms. At sunrise we closed the coast and began weaving between islands, underneath a power line, until we reached an anchorage in Estero Paildad.
Estero Paildad is a big comfortable bay located in southeast Chiloe. It’s shores are dotted with farms. We awoke to the sounds of roosters in the morning and heard cows complaining in the afternoon. Hundreds of snipes rustled and swooshed above us as we rowed between mudflats at low tide, and dozens of black necked swans squabbled alongside cormorants, ducks, and grebes.
We rowed in and out with the tide to help cover the miles to a few small shops that people kept alongside their houses. We enjoyed seeing the farm animals: chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, and turkeys. We breathed in the faint scent of apples while standing on a hill above an apple orchard. We paused at new tree smells, eucalyptus and pine had been planted amongst the farms. We tasted countless wild blackberries and enjoyed crisp apples from trees next to the local dock. We explored long stretches of flat and gently sloping dirt roads around the bay. There was a sparse population, but we met friendly people along the shores and a few Chilean sailors out on weekend cruises who were happy to see us.
In the first two weeks of our interlude, swinging with the tide in Paildad, there were glorious sunny, summer days. We relaxed and finally learned how to squander a few fair southerly winds. En route to Paildad, we had always using the fair winds to push ourselves north. We had hopped between 7 anchorages in less than 3 weeks. We had sailed rhythmically on, at the tempo of higher latitudes. During March in Paildad, we saw that fair winds seemed more frequent in these lower latitudes. It was possible that we could have budgeted our time differently and paused more along the way.
As we lingered in Chiloe, it felt like we had reached an oasis in the midst of Covid. We were happy with our freedom of movement. The people were friendly and relaxed. It also seemed we had reached a summer oasis in the Chilean climate.
Unfortunately, it was not long before that feeling evaporated. The months changed over, and there was a tiny chill in the air as the seasons shifted slightly. Amongst the dominant evergreens we saw a few yellow leaves turn, fall, and scatter across the dirt roads.
As soon as we felt ready to continue on, the southerlies disappeared. Fog hung low and heavy in the mornings. Cloudy days became more frequent. We bobbed in wavy waters and waited as a windy depression passed. The weather held us back for another week.
We were ready to leave our oasis. We thought it would be a process of change, of patience, as we island hopped quickly north towards the city of Valdivia. The coming miles would prove to be true to these expectations. We would need patience as we faced difficulty in executing our plans, because change was, as it always is, a constant.
Distance Made Good: 226 miles
Total Distance Made Good: 1,042 miles
Distance To Go: 258 miles
Average Miles per Day: 10
Fuel Remaining: 19 gallons