Previous Page




Southern Canales



Our crossing of the Golfo de Penas began well. We reckoned that if we left on the back of a front which had just passed we should make it into Canal Messier at San Pedro before the next front could get properly settled in. After a light beat out of Bahia Anna Pink, named after one of Anson's ships which took shelter there, we settled onto a delightful reach in brisk NWlies. There were clouds of albatross everywhere under the kind of bright blue skies, which we hadn't seen for some time. It didn't last. We rounded Cabo Raper (named for another of Anson's ships) before sunset, accompanied by a huge pod of dolphins. Some cloud was building to the SW but it was still quite pleasant. By an hour after dark, it was clear that we had been deluding ourselves that we would beat the front. We took down the main and were broad reaching in 35-40 knots under the jib alone.


This kept up for the rest of the night, with the wind increasing as we approached San Pedro in driving rain and visibility of only about one mile. Charging along at 8 knots, we were very thankful for our radar, which reassured us that we were avoiding the reefs near the entrance. However, we were concerned that it might be impossible to enter Caleta Francisco, where we hoped to anchor. The entrance is narrow and one of our guides spoke of tight turns. In the event, despite some hefty gusts we sped through the almost straight narrows and were grateful to find a calm spot in the lagoon where we could lick our wounds.





From Caleta Francisco onwards, we got used to using shore lines in virtually every anchorage. In fact, despite the time and inconvenience of the process of mooring and unmooring, we - like so many before us - became converts. We had used shorelines before in Fiordland in New Zealand and occasionally in BC and Alaska. However, in the Canales shore lines are not an occasional luxury, they are a necessary condition for a decent night's sleep - or even the survival of your boat. Sometimes the trees were a little harder to get at than others!



From Caleta Yvonne we visited the first of our Canales glaciers in Seno Iceberg. In this part of the Canales the snowfields that run the length of the top of the Andes send fingers of glaciers down toward the channels, where they occasionally descend to sea level. Many of the Chilean glaciers, including that in Seno Iceberg have a beautiful aquamarine colour. The ones we visited did not seem as active as many of the Alaskan glaciers and in general there was less ice from calving.



By the time we reached Caleta Lucas, just north of Puerto Eden, we were beginning to despair of getting any varnish on the starboard side of the hull before heading into the Atlantic. January had been a month of almost undiluted rain - not the occasional shower, but heavy and continuous. Suddenly the sun came out and so did the sandpaper and varnish. Despite a few light sprinkles during the last brush strokes , the job was done.




We had had mixed reports about Puerto Eden. It is the only community of any size (pop. 173) in the southern Canales, north of Puerto Natales, well to the east and Punta Arenas in the Straits of Magellan. Other cruisers had warned of dirty, expensive fuel, lack of any stores and unfriendly locals. Perhaps it was luck or the pleasant weather during our visit, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. The locals were friendly, welcoming and helpful, the village rough, but quite picturesque and set in spectacular scenery. We had timed our visit to coincide with the weekly Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt, which brings in fresh stores, as well as 200 or so tourists, who help to provide the locals with some cash income. As we wandered the boardwalk that is the village street, chatting to locals and generally enjoying life, we couldn't help but notice that the expressions on the faces of the vast majority of the tourists from the ferry ranged from the discontented to the sullen. Could they be having that bad a time?




From the sunshine of Puerto Eden, we plunged back into rain, but nevertheless enjoyed a series of delightful and well protected anchorages. At Caleta Dock, Vicky found an otter playmate on one of her explorations. In Bahia Tom, a flock steamer ducks paddled furiously away from us as we entered the anchorage. In Caleta Paroquet we just about coped with the challenge of a four point shore tie in gusty conditions and from Caleta Villarica we visited the Amalia glacier.



In the northern areas of the Canales the landscape is heavily wooded, not always with tall trees, but with very heavy ground cover. This makes hiking almost impossible without a troop of machete-wielding path-finders. However, in the harsher conditions further south, the landscape clears somewhat. At Puerto Bueno in Canal Sarmiento we finally managed to get ashore for a walk on the more open hills above the anchorage. As so often in the Canales, we wondered how early sailors had managed. The Spanish Admiral Sarmiento and his sailors survived months in the wet and cold and gales in Puerto Bueno, during their fruitless wait to attempt to intercept Drake before he broke into the Pacific via the Straits of Magellan to harry the Spanish possessions further north.


At the delightfully named Caleta Moonlight Shadow we managed an even longer hike in the company of the very experienced cruisers , Richard and Michelle aboard Theleme. They are some of the few cruisers we have met who have lived afloat for a similar length of time as we, but they have ranged much widely, including a lot of time in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. Having stopped at Bahia Tom, Caleta Victoria was also a must to ensure equal opportunity. The south tending Canales come to an end in the western part of the Estrecho de Magellanes, the WNW direction of which tends to funnel winds in from the regular fronts and depressions. Fortunately, Caleta Teokita, discovered by Ian and Maggy Staples, gives an beautifully sheltered spot in which to wait for suitable conditions for the challenges of the Strait.



Next Page