Passage Through Patagonia

December 9, 2020

In our last post we had just arrived to The Falkland Islands in time for Christmas. In the two years between then and now, we sailed the Falkland Island Shores, down through the Straits of LeMaire, and into the Beagle Channel.

We cleared into Puerto Williams, Chile, the most southerly town in the world, in February. Located in the heart of Tierra del Fuego between the harsh meteorological realities of the Straits of Magellan to the North, Staits of Le Maire to the East, Cape Horn to the South, and the Pacific Furious 50’s to the the West, Puerto Williams is a oasis of shelter offering often sunny calm days, a friendly community, and old growth Magellanic forests. In short, a bit of a paradise. Shortly after our arrival we joined our friends for an 11 day whirlwind trip through part of the Chilean Channels, an intricate archipelago of navigable fiords, to Puerto Eden on their 60+ foot steel yacht. It was a great experience, and we appreciated the crash course in navigating the remote waterways of Chile. We had a tense trip back to Dawn Treader, mostly via ferries, in the early days of COVID-19 lockdowns. After that short separation from our boat, we were happy to spend many months aboard in Puerto Williams, enjoying a view of the Dientes de Navarino Mountains from an anchorage in Seno Lauta. We were there all through the winter, and we came to love Isla Navarino. We were part of a small community of sailors on the outskirts of Puerto Williams, and we were fortunate to be there together during confusing times. In September, although it was still winter here in the south, the anchorages and fiords along the Circuito Ventisquero (Glacier Circuit) had thawed of their of ice, and we ventured out for a two month trip. We circumnavigated Isla Gordon, making stops there, in Isla Grande, Isla Chair, and Isla Hoste. Along the route, we saw giant cascades of blue and white ice and sailed between towering mountains.

Now, again just in time for Christmas, we are beginning a new voyage. One that will take us from Puerto Williams, 1,250 nautical miles North to Valdivia. The mostly upwind passage will be through the Chilean Channels in one of the world’s great wildernesses, Patagonia. We feel absorbed by our spectacular surroundings. The sailing, the walking, and the sights have made our lives feel more full and we look forward to the next months of immersion in these tasks and in this place. We stated on our Zarpe, the passage permit issued by the Chilean Armada, an estimated arrival date in Valdivia of June 30th. We hope that we have given ourselves more than enough time on paper. 6 months to cover 1,250 miles would mean making an average of 6 miles of progress per day.

It is our hope that with patience and persistence we will have a challenging but uneventful passage north. There should be plenty of pauses along the way to update this blog, and we hope to use it as an opportunity to document the passage and encourage correspondence. Welcome aboard!

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 15 Arrival!

December 22, 2018
Days distance: 95 nautical miles
Total distance: 1246 nautical miles
Prominent Feature: In Port Stanley
1800 Position: Port Stanley Moody Brooks anchorage

We have arrived to the Falkland Islands. We are in a snug anchorage and Debbie is making hot soup with the last of our produce. Tomorrow morning we will motor to the town dock to complete formalities. The approach to the Falklands was a windy one. We had to beat into Port William sound and then motor sail the last 8 miles against strong katabatic winds. Our little outboard engine performed marvelously and we made it to the anchorage without issue. Debbie and I are incredibly excited, the town looks colorful and inviting and the wildlife is abundant. The skin on our faces feel stretched by the wind and we are thoroughly caked in salt but we are truly glad. Glad to be here, glad to be safe, glad to be still. Merry Christmas everybody.

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 14

December 21, 2018
Days distance: 95 nautical miles
Total distance: 1151 nautical miles
Prominent Feature: 89 miles to The Falkland Islands
1800 Position: 50-44S 059-43W

We experienced some light winds overnight so we have come up short on our anticipated daily run. However, the wind is back and we are still on track for an arrival tomorrow. We have emailed Customs and the Harbor Authority to give them 24 hours notice to arrival. Upon arrival to the islands it is another 30 miles to Stanley and there may be light winds. We are glad we saved our fuel! The anticipation is building in both of us. Landfalls are one of the most exciting parts of what we do and it has been a long time since we have had a big landfall. That, coupled with the fact we have been dreaming of the southern high latitudes for so long and we are finally here, makes for a pretty excited crew. It looks like we are just in time, the forecast calls fore some strong weather in a couple days and hopefully we are nooked into Stanley enjoying our Christmas in a new and exciting place.

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 13

December 20, 2018
Days distance: 89 nautical miles
Total distance: 1056 nautical miles
Prominent Feature: 172 miles to The Falkland Islands
1800 Position: 49-46’S 061-40’W

We never ended up motoring yesterday. We decided to be patient with the wind and save our 6 gallons of fuel for some other occasion. Progress was nil for the first half of the evening, but as expected a northerly breeze sprung up around midnight and sent us on our way. The wind is now northwest and slowly strengthening. We are sailing 6-7 knots dead downwind under single reefed main and genoa. We are sailing wing on wing with genoa poled out. The latest forecast looks great and if all goes well we should be approaching the Falkland Islands on the morning of December 22nd. The ocean is surprisingly turquoise and looks more tropical than high latitude. But the sea is cold, the air has a bight and we are definitely not in the tropics. In a few hours we will cross 50 degrees south latitude. The Roaring 40’s were unexpectedly benign and we hope for a similar welcome to the Furious 50’s.

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 12

December 19, 2018
Days distance: 67 nautical miles
Total distance: 967 nautical miles
Prominent Feature: 260 miles to The Falkland Islands
1800 Position: 48-40’S 063-08’W

We made unexpectedly good progress last night against a light southeasterly. The seas were small so we were able to harness the wind without spilling it each roll. This put us more than 60 miles on the day. We are becalmed now and drifting in the wrong direction. We may motor for a few hours to better position ourselves for the northwesterly wind expected sometime after midnight. This should be the wind to take us the rest of the way to Port Stanley. We only brought 8 gallons of gas and we burned 2 in the Rio de la Plata. 6 gallons gives us a range of about 60 miles. If we burn a gallon or two this evening we should still have plenty for maneuvering about Port Stanley. The forecast looks good with nothing heavy on the chart until Christmas which give us plenty of time, but we are ready for an ice cream and beer so we may motor a bit just the same.

To answer your question, Mom, it is hard to say how many fin whales there were yesterday. We saw two surface simultaneously so definitely at least two. I think there may have been four but that is just a guess.

Now, I think I am going to go ruin the serenity of this southern ocean calm with the racket of a 6 horsepower outboard engine….or maybe not, we just got a slight puff and we are moving again, perhaps the serenity is saved.

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 11

December 18, 2018
Days distance: 134 nautical miles
Total distance: 900 nautical miles
Prominent Feature: Heading out to open ocean, course set for The Falklands 1800 Position: 47-35’S 063-10’W

Today has been a wonderful day. We made great progress sailing 134 miles in a comfortable sea. Enormous fin whales came within 10 feet of Dawn Treader. One even exhaled some whale breath mist into my face. We saw another boat, a ship named Ben Rinnes. We have gone nearly a week since we have seen another vessel, so it was nice to see another dude out and about. Our biggest news though is that we have altered course for a straight line to the Falklands. We had been staying close to the coast to avoid the larger seas, to make westing for a better final course, and to stay in the vicinity of a number of different bail out harbors and anchorages. The latest forecast looks pretty good and we hope to cover the last 300 miles in 4 or so days. We are keeping our fingers crossed we will arrive in time to catch the Puerto Stanley Christmas Carolers. 134 miles! Great day!

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 10

December 17, 2018
Days distance: 65 nautical miles
Total distance: 796nm
Prominent Feature: crossing the Golfo San Jorge
1800 Position: 44-34’S 064-30’W

We were more or less becalmed most of the night. What ever breeze there was the sails spilled with every roll in the large residual swell from the previous day’s strong winds. At 2 am the wind picked up and the swell diminished and we were on our way. We reeled off 65 glorious miles in what is becoming a typical pattern of prolonged light winds followed by a strong breeze. We bounced around as we close reached in choppy seas at 6 knots. By noon the wind reduced to a gentle breeze, but Dawn Treader continued along comfortably on a close reach. The day was sunny and we took advantage by showering with our garden sprayer bottle filled with water from the kettle. Deb made veggie soup and we cleaned up the cabin. We are feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next 500 miles to The Falklands. Once across the Golfo San Jorge we plan to head out to open water with the prevailing westerlies. Hopefully we make better speed, since our course will be more downwind.

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 9

December 15, 2018
Days distance: 57 nautical miles
Total distance: 731nm
Prominent Feature: 40 miles north of Golfo San Jorge
1800 Position: 44-29’S 064-22’W

All night we sailed a nice close reach in a moderate northwesterly and made some nice progress. Mid-morning however we were stopped by a wall of gale force south westerlies. We hove to and waited for the cold front to blow itself out. Half an our ago at 1700 the wind had subsided enough to start making way again under heavily reefed sails. We are close reaching and doing no better than a westerly course which does not do us much good, but the wind is supposed to lighten more and continue backing and we should be able to make a progressively better course as the night passes. Progress has been painfully slow, but we are still in good spirits. Deb and I love being together when the going gets tough. Dawn Treader is handling wonderfully and we try to repay her by not driving her too hard.

Comments on our blog posts are automatically emailed to us so we do get to read them at sea. However, we are unable to reply to them until we get to an internet source. We are posting via email using our satellite phone. We very much enjoy reading the comments and appreciate you following along with us.

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 8

December 15, 2018
Days distance: 87 nautical miles
Total distance: 674nm
Prominent Feature: Crossing Golfo Nuevo and Puerto Madryn
Position: 43-43’S 063-36’W

We started the day beating to headwinds that gradually veered enough that we could make our southwesterly course. We even recently were able to ease the sheets and reach off on a much more comfortable point of sail. The sun shined all day and we have had our usual escort of birds. We are expecting the wind to head us off once again tomorrow and increase with a small cold front passage. After the previous day’s low mileage we were feeling a bit lethargic and stuck today, so we opened a Christmas present and it brightened our spirits. Deb made Tex-Mex pasta inspired by the gut busting platter served at Sonny’s in Galveston. Our guts aren’t busted, just satisfied, which I think is what you want.

Piriapolis, Uruguay to The Falklands: Day 7

December 14, 2018
Days distance: 24 nautical miles
Total distance: 587nm
Prominent Feature: Off Peninsula Valdes
Position: 42-33.4’S, 062-27.1’W

More slow going today. We were hoping solid Northerlies would push us all night before a frontal passage and headwinds in the morning. What we got instead were squally winds from all directions blowing between a calm and near gale. It created a confused sea state that we wallowed in while the wind was light. We rolled heavily sided to side and I had to hand steer because there was not enough wind for the windvane autopilot to operated. Then the wind would come heavy and we rearranged the sails only to have a shift that required a different set. Lightning was around much of the evening which can be unnerving at sea. At 3am the wind quit all together and with a diminishing sea we went below for rest. We stayed becalmed until 10am and I slept almost the entire time. Soon after waking the wind began to blow gently from the southwest. We set sail and did our best to make progress against the headwind. Deb made a hearty and delicious brunch of eggs, toast, and fried rice. About noo
n the wind was blowing hard enough that progress was uncomfortable, so we hove-to and took a break. We watched Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in “You Got Mail” and ate popcorn. The wind has moderated some and now we are beating again into the southwesterly with 3 reefs in the main and matched roller reefed genoa. We hope for a shift of wind later this evening giving us a better course to sail. All in all a tough day, but the sun is now out, we are sailing, and we just saw our first real southern giant; The Royal Albatross and its 10 foot wingspan.