After servicing our transmission in Ushuaia, we sailed east to Puerto Williams to, once again, formally enter Chile (Immigration, Customs, and Armada) for our northward trip to Puerto Montt and beyond. We’d been thru the drill a few times before so the paperwork went quickly and we had our zarpe (zar-pay), permission to sail to Puerto Natales, within hours. At 07:40 on February 23, we set off, once again, westbound thru the Beagle Canal, making only a couple hours progress before 20+ knot westerly winds stopped us in Bahia Virgina. After lunch, we took advantage of a SW wind for a nice but difficult beat/fetch to Caleta Liwaia where Cindy enjoyed a dolphin escort while taking our long shorelines to strong trees in order to secure Pazzo for the night. Quite the distraction from her duties, the dolphins delighted Cindy by frolicking near and under her dinghy.
The following day, Pazzo made good progress up the Beagle, stopping to see friends Gonzalo, Karin, and Catalina, (Armada lighthouse keepers and radio control at Alcamar Yamana) where we delivered a load of fresh fruits and chocolate. The Chilean Armada takes good care of their staff in the field, but this doesn’t include any fresh provisions. We were rewarded with warm friendship and fresh-baked coffee cake!
A few days later, we repeated the drill with fresh fruit delivery to Fabian and his family at Alcamar Timbales at the west entrance to the Beagle Canal. Fabian was most hospitable, but the visit was odd in that his wife and daughter “slept” thru our visit, despite the fact that they were having a hard time with the isolation of Alcamar life. We were the first boat to visit since his arrival at Timbales 4 months ago. A first visit by a yacht seems eventful enough to rise from a nap. Regardless, after a short visit, including toast and coffee, we continued along our way to a hard-to-find, but beautiful and secure little pool known as Pozo Isla del Medio.
March 1 was a long day of motoring thru calm seas en route to Caleta Becknock. We broke the monotony of motoring with a “drive-by” visit to a sea-urchin fisherman who was happy to trade fish for a liter of box wine. We asked for only one fish, but he loaded 5 “Hake” into our 5-gallon bucket, despite our objections. Hake, with its very delicate white meat, is favored down here. The taste is very nice, but the mushy consistency is not to our fancy. We filleted all the fish, enjoyed a few BBQ dinners and fish sandwiches and froze the rest for future gifts to fellow cruisers.
Caleta Brecknock is, perhaps, the most famous anchorage in Chilean Patagonia. The well-protected little cove inside a much larger bay is surrounded by pristine waterfalls and towering granite peaks. It’s stunning when the sun shines and impressive in its majesty. It must be spectacular with the snows of winter decorating the granite cliffs. We enjoyed Brecknock for several days with Brita and Michael from German yacht, “Vera” while waiting for favorable weather to continue northward thru Canal Barbara and into the Strait of Magellan.
Fernand Magallen discovered Estrecho Magallanes in 1520 after a few failed attempts to discover a shortcut to the Pacific. His persistence paid off as he navigated and documented the particularly foul strait that bears his name. Adverse currents and the constant parade of low pressure systems to the south combine for a notoriously difficult trip for vessels transiting from Atlantic to Pacific. Fortunately, Pazzo had the luxury of time to wait out the bad weather and the diesel and speed to dash westward between depressions. In a week’s time, including 5 days waiting for weather, we covered the western half of Estrecho Magallanes from Isla Carlos III, thru Paso Tortuoso, across Boca Ocidental, and into Canal Smyth.
Our trip thru Canal Smyth was uneventful motoring and sailing, highlighted by a stop at Peninsula Zach where we drank a toast to our wonderful son, and a warm reunion with Lucipara II in cold and wet Caleta Victoria . We very much enjoyed LP2’s wood burning furnace!
Puerto Natales, only a day’s run from Victoria thru Angostura (Narrows) Kirke, is one of Chile’s largest towns between Punta Arenas on Estrecho Magallanes and Castro, on Isla Chiloe (near Puerto Montt). With a population about 20,000, Natales offered everything we were craving: internet, diesel, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a rental car to tour inland. We spent a few days ferrying our diesel jerry jugs to and fro the Copec station, shopping, getting Grampa’s cell phone fitted with a new sim card, and staying in good graces with the Armada while relishing the town’s delicious pasticcio ice cream!
About 10 miles north of Natales, we found Puerto Consuelo, a well-protected inlet with soft muddy bottom for good anchoring and a friendly estancia (farm) willing to keep an eye on our girl while we hired a car from Avis to tour and hike the nearby national parks of Chile and Argentina.