Cape Horn and Beagle Canal adventures

Over the holidays, Pazzo became well familiar with the entire Beagle Canal. Charles would have been proud of our extensive exploration and frequent encounters with wildlife.

Our first experience with the Beagle was east to west from Le Maire Strait to Ushuaia to meet Chloe for Christmas but many more adventures awaited.

December 27 proved a good day to sail east to Puerto Williams, Chile for a run at Cabo Hornos (Cape Horn). With a north wind to power us along, we made the 25 mile trip thru the Beagle Canal in less than 4 hours, passing yacht “Rana” with Thierry Laffitte aboard, along the way. By evening. we were fully checked into Chile and making new friends in Yate Club Micalvi, the most southern yacht club in the world!

On December 28, with a good weather window looming for a run at Cape Horn, we made haste out of Puerto Williams, heading east thru the Beagle to a comfortable anchorage at Caleta Lennox.

Chilean Armada rules require that we check in daily by radio or email to advise them of our position and 24 hour intentions. Additionally, along our route we are required to announce our intentions as we pass a number of coastal control stations – including one at Lennox. After a yummy dinner and the required check-in, we set off at 20:00 on a nice hike to explore a nearby lake – inhabited by beavers (Castors). The days are very long here, with daybreak starting at 0400 and good daylight lasting until 23:00.

December 29 brought an early 0400 start for the 50 mile southward track to Cape Horn. With a fresh westerly, we were able to sail much of the way, except for motoring thru channels and behind tall, barren hills. Nothing grows down here except for tough grass and small bushes which restrict themselves to small cracks protected from the prevailing west winds. By noon, and thanks to John’s kindness and willingness to stay aboard Pazzo, Cindy, Chloe, and I were climbing the steep steps to visit Alcamar Hornos, the lighthouse keeper and control station on Cape Horn. We were ashore for only an hour, but the experience fulfilled a lifetime dream. Following our brief visit and photo opportunity, we wound Pazzo up hard on the wind and beat our way east to west past this geographical monument and thence NW to the refuge of Puerto Maxwell in the Hermite Islands, just north of Isla Hornos.

The Chilean Armada who actively controls and patrols their waters of Patagonia have approved only a handful of anchorages where visiting yachts may stop. Puerto Maxwell offers protection from all winds after the anchor is set just inside the kelp line and several long and strong lines are taken ashore and secured to strong trees and large rocks.

After a day of rest and self-congratulation at a goal well-accomplished, the weather proved favorable for yet another rounding of the horn… this time from west to east under spinnaker! Somewhere from 30 – 50 yachts round Cape Horn (named for the legendary Dutch square rigger Hoorn) each year, but how many yachts can boast that they rounded the Horn TWICE? Pazzo is in a class by herself! J We may need ear-rings (a traditional entitlement that comes with a successful rounding) in BOTH ears.

Following our 2nd pass of The Horn, we sailed north thru Las Islas Wollaston to Caleta Middle where we slow-cooked a savory Ribeye beef roast on the BBQ for New Year’s Eve. Yummers! 2019 dawned with an exciting broad reach north from the Wollaston Islands with winds steady in the high 30s and gusts to almost 50 knots. John had to spell Captain Jack Sparrow (autopilot) who was unable to keep Pazzo on a reasonable course with biq quartering seas and gusty winds.

We made a quick rest and reprovisioning stop at Puerto Williams in the Beagle Canal before continuing westward to visit the Vientesqueros (glaciers) bordering the Canal. Stopping at several Caletas along the approved route, we visited the Eastern Arm (Too much ice in the Western Arm) of Seno Pia, taking the requisite vanity shots of Pazzo back-dropped by the formidable, if dirty, glacier. We wiggled our way to within a mile or so of the Glacier face and admired large slabs of ice calving off, adding to the mine-field of bergy-bits. With a changing wind, we had to make a quick qet-away from the eastern arm to avoid getting trapped by inflowing ice.

The wind in the Beagle Canal is predominantly westerly with the continuous stream of low pressure systems circling the globe at 60-70 degrees south latitude. These westerlies typically blow at 20 – 25 knots but are compressed between the tall peaks north and south of the canal, reaching 30+ knots with some frequency. This makes for fast sailing when east bound but precludes westbound travel. For this reason, we needed to carefully manage our time in order to return eastbound (easy) to Puerto Williams where we could check out of Chile and sail back westward (difficult) to Ushuaia where Kyra would arrive on the 13th J. Fortunately, the wind Gods were kind to us: the westerlies abated on January 11 to allow an uneventful motorboat ride to Ushuaia.

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