C9. South Argentina Adventures

Our 3 ½ day trip south from Deseado brought a wide assortment of wind and weather. We motored without wind for several hours before setting the kite to overtake Lucipara and Obelix on a course SW to stay near the coast in the event of unexpected but possible strong westerlies. The idea is to hug the coast in order to deny the waves sufficient opportunity to build to dangerous proportions. Unfortunately, the building wind had a bit too much south in it thereby preventing us from getting closer than 20 miles from Cabo Vigines marking the Atlantic entrance to the Strait of Magellan. With 3 meter waves and westerly winds gusting mid 30 knots, we abandoned the near-shore route and aimed the boat south for Le Maire Strait and Isla de Los Estados (Staten Island). Fast sailing and a veering wind soon found us sailing wing-on-wing into the protection of Puerto Hoppner, a welcome refuge after a few days transiting what can be a particularly nasty bit of ocean.

Puerto Hoppner, on the north coast of Isla de los Estados is an idyllic tiny laguna inside a larger deep bay. Access is at mid- to high-tide only thru a 30 foot wide channel. Once inside, we motored across the lagoon to anchor and tie ourselves (along with Lucipara 2) between a couple of small islands using the long shore lines we bought in Mar Del Plata. This was our first “spider” experience, spinning a web to withstand possible violent williwaw winds. Williwaws are adiabatic winds generated by cold heavy air falling, like an avalanche, from surrounding towering peaks. The exercise was nerve-wracking as the boat’s rudder swung close to nearby kelp and rocks before we could get our shorelines set. Clearly, we would need more practice!

The following day, John, Cindy, and I set out on a hike to find a couple of lakes in the hills surrounding Hoppner. Lovely views, but wrong footwear! Sea boots to make our way thru the soggy moss and across the streams would have to replace our trusty hiking boots.

With nasty westerlies blowing, we spent almost a week in Puerto Hoppner, including a day trip around the corner to visit the Armada base in Puerto Perry where we met Matias, Alex, Carolina and Ernesto, the four Armada soldiers stationed in Parry for 40 days. We were the first private yacht to visit since they had arrived a month earlier. They were excited for visitors but first had to radio to their commander to ask permission for us to come ashore. Anchoring in Parry is not possible as the water is very deep, so, we swung on their very large steel mooring – more suited to an Armada ship than our little toy. We took them a six-pack of beer and they made us pizza lunch before taking us on a hike to the waterfall overlooking their lovely bay.

Shortly after midnight on December 20, we took advantage of a break in the weather to motor out of Hoppner and across the Estrecho de la Maire (Le Maire Strait) the famous entrance to the Beagle Canal. Timing this 15 mile crossing is important as standing waves can reach 30 feet tall when brisk winds oppose fierce currents. Our timing was perfect – flat calm! By late morning, the wind filled in from the east (rare) and we sailed for a few hours past Bahia Buen Successo and Puerto Espagnol. All afternoon, engine on, engine off as we made our way slowly westward, finally anchoring just before midnight in quiet Bahia Cambaceres. The morning brought sunshine and wild horses (at least no fences) on the nearby shore.

Pazzo arrived in Ushuaia on December 22 to a warm welcome by Lucipara and Dada Tux, dear friends made in Mar Del Plata. Our welcome to Ushuaia included a very strong westerly blow – approaching 60 knot gusts for a few hours in the afternoon. Cindy and I were on our way to visit our friend Cath Hew on Icebird when the driving rain and big winds hit. We took refuge behind a dirt berm by roadside but soon grew bored. Cindy rushed to Icebird for a tea while I dashed back to make sure Pazzo was secure against the beam-on wind. All was well.

Chloe arrived from Seattle on Christrmas Eve J!! Her introduction to Ushuaia included a fun potluck Christmas party at the Club AFASyn. Christmas day dawned dry with broken clouds – perfect for a Christmas brunch aboard Dada Tux and a LONG hike to the snow fields overlooking the town of Ushuaia.

The most important project for this first visit to Ushuaia was a major tune-up for our Webasto diesel furnace. This included replacement and insulation of the entire 4” aluminum duct from the furnace in the lazarette to the main register under the navigation station – a run of 24 feet, necessitating taking apart much of the furniture along the starboard side of the boat. Additionally, we added a boost fan to drive more air thru the furnace. HEAPS BIG THANKS TO JOHN for managing and executing this difficult project. A good source of dry heat is critical while enjoying this fascinating and largely unspoiled end of the earth.

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