Posted on Oct 10, 2015

Few miles south of Estero Dock, Canal Wide joins Canal Conception which leads straight to the Strait of Nelson, in the open ocean. From there few dozen miles south Isla Evangelistas lighthouse marks the entry into the Estrecho de Magellanes.

But we still have other things to see before to reach the legendary Magellan, so we divert to Canal Tres Cerros which will lead us to the long Canal Pitt. We intend to reach Estero Peel, one fjord wedged between glaciers fed by the Patagonian Ice Cap, the legendary Campo de Ielo. Estero Peel is a really poorly frequented fiord because of the constant presence of ice and bad weather which characterize this area, but it also leads to a series of magnificent glaciers, few miles from each other and we read that the view of the peaks of Campo de Ielo is definitively worth the hassle to get there. From Estero Dock, our last anchorage, we will have to sail over 60 miles to get to Estero Peel so we are thinking to make it in two legs.

23/24 September 2015

Spring is definitive arrived, the wind and rain of the first weeks of August are now a faded memory. We face a breeze of 7-8 knots, unfortunately always by S / W, which force us to a close heuled sailing. I must admit that I’m beginning to consolidate an image of Patagonia pretty different from the one I had trough readings and tales.  Yes, we did experience 70 knots of wind and heavy rain, but since our arrival in March, except for July and the first two weeks of August, the weather has been mostly very pleasant. 

25 September 2015

This morning we left Caleta Villarica, our last anchorage, right at the entrance of Estero Peel, on the tip of the Peninsula Wilcok. The day unfortunately is a bit gray, the sky is overcast and the visibility is not the usual. We are heading to the first of the glaciers, Ventisquero Amalia. Despite the modest visibility, the picks of Campo de Ielo that we begin to see are spectacular and it's somewhat weard to see them in a marine setting. Unfortunately, as we advance we realize that fame Estero Peel is well-deserved. The surface of the sea began to be covered by ice, till a point where also Angelique II, the Icebreaker has to stop. We reach Caleta Amalia, an anchorage right in front of the glacier where we decide to wait until the day after to see if the situation evolves.

26 Settembre 2015

Unfortunately conditions remain unchanged and I suspect that ice conditions in via Estero Peel would be even worst. So we decide to give up and continue our journey south. Goodby Campo de Ielo, or rather goodbye Mare de Ielo. Today I can state that Patagonian Dolphins have are working for the local Tourism Bureau. In each single bay, fiord or laguna we have visited sofar we have been welcomed by dolphins, not many, maximun 3 or 4 of them. But this has happened every sigle day since we left Puerto Montt.

Posted on Oct 9, 2015

September 20th and 21st, 2015

Today we expect to reach our second glacier, one of the largest in Patagonia, the Ventisquero Pio XI.

To get there, we set sail yesterday from Puerto Eden, and we had to make a diversione from our way to the south, heading again north to Seno Eyre, a fjord about 20 miles long, where on its head sleeps the glacier.

Another 20 miles saling close hauled  but at least still on a beautiful sunny day. We had to overnight in Caleta Sally, a small well-protected bay, only 4 miles from the glacier.

Ventisquero Pio XI has a front of more than 4 km and eight exceeding 50 meters. We could get as close as 200 meters from the front. In fact we experienced very little floating ice if compared to Laguna San Rafael.

So we were wondering where all the ice rumbling in the sea from the glacier was gone. The exceptional location, the beautiful sunny day and the very pleasant temperatures turn the visit to the glacier into a photo shooting with our crazy cowboy jumping from the surfboard to the dinghy and even on a floating iceberg.

Around 14:00h we hoisted our sails, we want to reach Caleta Parry for the night, an anchorage at the entrance of Canal Wide. 25 mile south, again close hauled, because for our maximum satisfaction, during the night the wind as made quite a leap of 180° and now comes from South!

As we approach the exit of Seno Eyre, where it converge with Estero Falcon and Canal Grappler, a long white line on the water begins to take shape on the horizon. Damn, that's where all the ice of Pio XI ended up! These huge masses that glaciers drain into the sea, begin a journey whose legs are hidden to humans. Aeolus and Neptune, especially here in the maze of the Patagonian channels, have fun drawing unpredictable routes.

A channel completely ice-free, thanks to wind and current, might turn blocked off within few hours. Fortunately the strip of ice is compressed on the south shore and so we are able to pass over without any problems.

We arrive in Caleta Parry virtually in the dark and with deep disappointment we discover it will not be appropriate for the present weather conditions. The very small bay requires the use of lines ashore as there is not enough room to swing on. However this solution will end up exposing the side of the boat to the wind and more important will not allow me to sleep in tranquillity.

So I decided to continue towards the next anchorage, the sky was starry, the barometer was marking 1033 mb, the forecast for the next few days were good and it was only 18 miles away. One hour later the wind completely collapseed and we were forced to run our engines, an opportunity to give me a rest. I left  Vale on watch (Ray was “on watch” in the cockpit with both eyes closed!) and I lay on the couch.

Just one hour late I heard  a bang deaf in one of the hulls. I open my eyes and see Vale back from the cockpit running to the switch panel: "We bumped into a piece of ice, I run to turn on the projector lights." We were about 8 miles from the anchorage but as we advance, our projectors illuminate a completely white sea.

We see two other boats. One of them call us via radio; It is a patrol boat of the Armada. They tell us where they are, eight miles south, there is no ice and they ask if we need support.  Both boats are making their way towards us and this reassures me because it means that keep sailing in this conditions is not a stupidity. In fact, after a while 'I realize that I’m not taking any risk. We proceed at 1 knot of speed trying to avoid the real iceberg. What I can not avoid I try to slide it along the hulls. But the real game is avoid that any piece of ice remain trapped between the two hulls. We crossed the patrol boat of the Armadaa by few hundred meters, also them sinking in the dark with their projector a way out of this labyrinth of ice.

At 04:56H of September 21 we anchor in Estero Dock, a large bay with a narrow access just enough for our hulls but not for the ice! From the faces of my crew I understand that they lived with apprehension this last experience.

I’m sorry, but our was the best possible choice. Facing a new experience can be frightening, I know that and for this reason when I face new events I try to remain as rational as possible and not to get carried away by emotions.

Many miles ago, I was on my way back to the Mediterranean after spending two months in the Red Sea with the old Angelique. On board myself and my dear friend Mehmet Ozdas. We had left the coast of Egypt 36 hours earlier when a storm, with gusts over 40 knots, hit us in full.  I was really scared and when the worst passed, I felt totally empty inside, feeling which in few hours turned into a sense of deep anxiety: the fear that the experience could have get me away from my sea. But it was not so and, as you all know, I have never stopped sailing.

So every time I face a new situation I avoid giving way to emotions, I try to focus on what to do, on the possible options I have to face the new experience. Here people are used to sail in this conditions and they find it absolutely normal. In addition, Canal Wide is continually crossed by ships commuting between southern and northern Chile that do not change departure times depending on the presence of ice. And it is pure a myth that only steel boat can navigate these waters. For centuries here people have sailed on wooden boards.

Our boat is made of fiberglass, but in terms of resistance to a frontal impact our bows have nothing to envy to those of an aluminum boat. This does not mean that we can use Angelique II as an icebreaker, but sailing at 1 knot of speed pushing away small blocks of ice is absolutely fine.

After the deserved rest we obviously made an inspection to both hulls: no damage at all, even not a single scratch!!

Posted on Oct 8, 2015

September 18, 2015 - Puerto Eden

The history of Puerto Eden is linked to the Indians Alacaluf, one of the last ethnic groups somehow survived to the arrival of the "whites". In the 30s, the Chilean Air Force built in an area very close to the current Porto Eden a supply base for postal seaplanes operating on the route Puerto Montt - Punta Arenas.

The activities of the base attracted the last Alacaluf living in the area but, unfortunately, their culture could only succumb once exposed to a sedentary lifestyle, totally depending on the whites. The sanitary conditions began to worsen and there was a drastic drop in fertility and a significant increase in child mortality. The Alacaluf had lived for centuries in harmony with the environment in spite of the harsh climate, living especially on hunting and fishing. As in many other cases the contact between these cultures and our structured "civilization" was devastating. The "loberos”, the seal hunters mostly British or North Americans, were carriers of new business for the Alacaluf, exchanging precious skins with food, tools and especially alcohol but were at the same time the major cause of their genocide.

The Alacaluf began to exchange "nutria" and "coipo" skins with blankets and ponchos definitively not suitable for use in humid climates so pneumonia, before completely unknown, became a major cause of death. In 1969 a government project that aimed to revitalize the Southern region, gave birth to the current Puerto Eden and some houses were built to accommodate 43 Alacaluf survived.

Today Puerto Eden is undoubtedly the human settlement more isolated in the region. The ferry that goes 2 times a week is the only contact with the outside world which stopps only long enough to disembark / embark cargo or passengers.

We anchor 20 meters from the shore, right in front of the small village. Once launched the dinghy we reach the base of the Armada to present our documents. Located about a mile from the town, the base is made up of a series of white buildings with wooden blue roofs, very well kept and certainly recently built.

We approach the building used to serve the public, easily recognizable by the large flagpole a few meters away from the entrance. Inside we find a tropical temperature and a cute sailor welcoming us in short sleeves. Our "zarpe", which authorizes us to sail between Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Natales, clearly indicates that no other port is allowed except for reasons of force majeure. Our reason of force majeure for the unexpected stop is the purchase of fuel. The reason why we did not include Puerto Eden as a stop on our itinerary, is related to the request of the Port rights by the Chilean authorities. Strictly speaking, vessels above the 25 gross tons are subject to the "Reception y Despacio" charge, whenever docking at a Chilean port.

Foreign vessels, if below this size only pay once, which is the first landing in a Chilean port. Unfortunately for us, Angelique II makes 29 tons of gross tonnage. Fortunately not all the authorities remember this rule and very often besides their tonnage, to foreign yachts this tax is applied only once.

Upon our arrival on Easter Island, our first Chilean port, the authorities there ask payment of this fee and mistakenly told us it would be a one-time fee. As a matter of fact, in all other ports we visited such as Quellon and Puerto Montt the authorities did not ask any additional payment so we assumed that everything was in order.

On our second stop to Puerto Quellon, however, a zealous sailor of the administration of the Armada asked us to pay additional US$ 120 for the rights of “Reception Y Despacio”. I would like to underline that in all these ports, we have always remained at anchor and no service has never been provided by port authorities !!

Moreover, for various reasons, it was not possible to pay the fee before our departure from Quellon, so we were told to clear the bill at our next port, Puerto Chacabuco. But in Chacabuco, in the days before our departure, the computers of the Armada were not able to issue their invoices so we set off again without paying. Now we will see what will happen in Puerto Natales!!

After the formalities at the Armada we returned to the boat to take with us Valentina and finally land in Puerto Eden. The village, about thirty buildings, spread along the coast of a small bay enclosed by two promontories, where a walk on stilts made entirely by wooden boards, is the only street (pedestrian) of the village. ]At the main pier two Carabineros were intent on emptying a garbage bin which, however, did not stop them to welcome us with great courtesy. I asked them where I could buy fuel and readily they referred me to Don Juan Navero, living in the house with the red roof just ahead. Knocked on the door, a big man in his seventies of northern European origins opens us and, with the usual captivating smile, tells us that he would have served us straight  away.

In a shack a few meters away from his home, Don Juan store large 200-liter plastic drums that come from Puerto Natales. The fuel sells at 1,100 pesos per liter compared to an average price in the country of about 700.

He join us few minutes later, wearing two or three thick handmade wool sweaters, black pants with the zipper down, a pair of boots with loosed strings and a wool cap, strictly pandant with the top sweater. He has a lot of Mastro Geppetto (Pinocchio father), especially the nose, a little bulbous, totally red at the tip like the rest of his chubby cheeks and as Mastro Geppetto, despite his size, he oozes tenderness from every pore.

With a small electric pump he fills our eight 30 liters gerry cans, meanwhile reassuring us on the good quality of the fuel. Accomplished this mission we spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out, at least me and Ray because Valentina goes wild with her camera, hunting the local beautiful cats, apparently outnumbering the humans here in the only street of Puerto Eden.

Posted on Oct 8, 2015

September 17, 2015
We started at 6:00h with still pitch dark, we have more than 70 miles to sail today and forecasts give little wind and against us. However sky is clear and promises a beautiful sunny day.
We're heading to Puerto Eden, a tiny village in the middle of "Paso del Indio" which connects Canal Messier to Canal Wide.
At 10:30h we just left on out port side Seno Iceberg when Ray tells me that we have a coming ship in front of us.
It is about 4 miles from us and is the first boat that we spot in more than two weeks. We're a little excited.
But on a closer inspection the ship is not moving, probably at anchor. 
Damn, but she is at the center of the channel!
Checking the chart I realize that at that point the bottom is of only 4 meters and the chart reports the presence of a wreck.
As we get closer we appreciate the beautiful lines of what use to be a passengers/cargo steamer.
Canal Messier at that point is almost 8 km wide and the average depth is 150 meters.
What has led the captain to strand her nice hull on that shallow?
Was it a "schettinata" (Schettino is the sadly famous Italian Captain who run aground in Isola d’Elba his Costa Crociere cruise ship) or a brave meditated maneuver to save passengers and cargo from sinking?

<<Built as "Molda" in 1937 by Deschimag Weser, Bremen Capitan Leonidas MV went aground on rocks in 1963 in Canal Messier, Chile when the captain tried to sink it to claim insurance. The ´sinking´went wrong and he eventually went to prison and lost his captains licence for life>> 

Posted on Oct 7, 2015

15th and 16th September, 2015

Caleta Connor, despite offering just enough space for one boat, is one of the most renowned anchorage in Patagonia. Its fame is due to a sort of monument, "the Arbol Notable".

One day someone decided to hang to a tree in Caleta Connoron, a board with the name of his boat. So, through word of mouth to hang once’s “board” has become a tradition for those sailing south till Caleta Connor.

When this tradition began is not known (Joshua Slocum mentioned about it in is book “Sailing alone around the world” when at the end of the nineteen century he solo sailed these waters) however it is so well established that even the official marine charts list the name of the "Arbol Notable". And not only here in Caleta Connor. There are other 2 Arbol Notable in Patagonia!

We have prepared our boat board, made from a beautiful piece of seasoned pine, harvested in Laguna San Rafael. We have engraved the name of the boat, the crew and the date. So once landed to honor the tradition we had to struggle to find the famous tree, now totally covered by dense vegetation.

I must admit that the place exudes a certain spirituality. Reading the names of the boats on the tables, imagining the emotions of men and women while hunging their boards. Sailors, maybe like me, got so far after having dreamed it for a lifetime.

We found only a dozen boards, the oldest dating back to 1988, some almost illegible, others now on the ground.

The tree is obviously exposed to the weather and regardless how much the crews strive to think long-lasting materials and solutions, time and weather will always win. But what really matters is to have been here, leavinng Caleta Connor with all these emotions engraved in our hearts.

Posted on Oct 6, 2015

September 14, 2015

We set sail at 08:00, heading to Caleta Connor, 50 miles further south. We will still have light south winds so against us and being Canal Messier just 2/3 mile wide tacking is going to be an issue. So I expect to have to cover more than 70 miles. Therefore, we are certain to arrive after sunset.

During the day we experience all kind of weather. We go from Summer to Winter in the laps of 10 minutes. Switching to Spring and Autumn it takes a bit longer. A beautiful clear sky with warm sun gradually clouds over. Then black clouds begin to cover the entire channel, temperature drops and by the time we are totally swallowed by the black clouds it starts snowing horizontally and the wind goesup to 30 knots with a jump of 15 or 20°. The entire proces takes about 10 -15 minutes and then, suddenly, the sun comes back, the air warm up again as the bow head back to its original course, at least until the next "black clouds".

At 21:15h we are abeam of Caleta Connor, we take down the sails and turn on our bow and stern projectors that I have installe in Puerto Montt. I knew that sooner or later it would happen to anchor in the dark so I thought to provide Angelique II with projectors. Unfortunately marine projectors are very expensive and are designed to produce deep and very concentrated light, useful to detect an object at sea but not to illuminate a large area. What is needed is something that illuminate a wide and close area, also considering that the majority of the anchorages in Patagoinia requires lines ashore. So I bought 3, 220V, LED lamps for domestic use, which I paid just 40 USD each which I installed one in each bow and one oon the ster, all removable, which I install only when needed in few secods.

So this handy an cheap solution perfectly supported our first night anchorage and switch off the engines at 22:15h.

Posted on Oct 5, 2015

September 12, 2015

We waited a few days for its return, the wind from the North to allow an easier crossing of the Golfo de Penas, but unfortunately it seems that next week will be characterized by winds from the second and third quadrant.

So I decided to set sails. This is ironic, considering that we decided to reach Patagonia from the Pacific Ocean instead that from the Atlantic, to have favorable. Since we left Chacabuco we only experienced winds agains us!!

For today the forecast is 15 knots from south but from tomorrow around 03:00h it will swing to South / West and by 15:00h the wind will turn to the West, North/West reinforcing uo up to 30 knots.

While Golfo de Penas is characterized by strong winds, the ocean depth goes from several thousand meters of to less than 200, generating huge a waves. All made even more complicated by a constant current of about 2 knots that pushes towards the cost. It is a stretch of sea of only 80 miles, but all Chileans we met and who knew we were headed south commented: take quidado with el Golfo de Penas !!

From our anchorage till the entrance of Golfo de Penas I have 70 miles to go, so a total of 150 miles that, in view of the fact that they will all be against the wind, might easily become 220. So if we want to overcome the Gulf before 15:00 tomorrow (when bad weather is foreseen) we have to leave very early.

At 04:15h our anchor is up. 2 miles off the fjord we face 18 knots of wind. The autopilot set to 35° to the wind,  2 reefing lines on the main and 60% Genoa and we sail at 8 knots which takes the apparent wind up to 24/25 knots. We cross an area of ​​shallow waters so wave is a bit 'annoying, but by 8:00h we are over 20 miles from the coast and the navigation is much more comfortable.

By 18:00h we are 15 miles North West from Faro Raper, which is few miles from the entrance of the Gulf of Penas. We did over 130 miles but only 75 towards our goal. Not bad though. But the wind keeps turning south bringing our bow increasingly east. I decide to tack.

Two hours later we sailed over 15 miles but only to the West and the distance from our target has grown by 2 miles. We tack again, but after two hours later we plot our position one mile north of the one taken at 18:00h.

What the f##**, this is not possible.

I tack again and this time I set the autopilot to 30° to the wind, rmeanwhile I release one reef to the main and the open the genoa to 80%. Despite the narrower angle I have more power to the sails and the speed goes up to 9 knots.

September 13, 2015

02:00h we are 25 miles away from the coast but this time eight miles closer to the target. I tack again while the wind drops to 13 knots, allowing me to release also the first reef to the main reef and to open the entire Genoa. Speed goes up to 9.5 knots. It is Ray watch time so I go to rest leaving him instructions to stay on the same angle to the wind.

04:00h Ray wakes me up informing me that the wind is gone. He asks me if he can start the engines. So I tell him to turn on the engines and point a course straight to the target.

At 6:00h the alarm inform me that my watch time is arrived. Before going to his cabin Ray comment is: all  quiet, poor wind,  not enough for an acceptable speed. He looks very tired. In fact the wind, as expected, comes now from West. The anemometer marks 10 knots which added to our speed of 5 knots it means that the real wind is above 15 knots. The problem is that the mainsail is totally sheeted in exactly as I left when we were sailing 30° to the wind. So i realise the mainsail, I open the gennaker and we jump back to 9 knots straight to the lighthouse of Isla San Pedro which marks the end of the Gulf of Penas.

We head to Caleta Ideal, 4 miles south of the lighthouse, our anchorage for the night. The day is gray but no rain, waves are not overly formed and having the sea from our stern, they did not trouble even remotely Angelique II.

At 13:15h, two hours earlier than expected, in few minutes the wind turn north and breaks to nearly 40 knots. We roll the gennaker and take down the main sail, leaving up only 20% of our Genoa , which is more than enough to push us to 11 knots of speed.

At 14:20h we are abeam of Faro San Pedro which inevitably calls us on VHF channel 16. << Velero en navigacion rumbo sur en fruente Isla San Pedro esto es Radio San Pedro. Me recibe, cambio? >>

Once you have answered They would ask to identify boat and to comunicate port of departure and destination, number of passengers on board and they would always close the communication askinf if you need any help.

I keep telling myself that I love sailing in Chile. The Armanda de Chile, as far as I'm concerned, is the most customer-oriented military force on the planet.

At 15:15h we drop the anchor in Caleta Ideal. Our log confirms that we have covered 222 miles, 2 more than I have forecasted.

Also Golfo de Penas is done. Golfo yes, but Penas definitively not!