Shades of Spray

Andy’s send a couple of new updates. The longer one is written below the map (and also in the balloons). And you’ll see that it’s not only me struggling to plot them,- their own coordinates regularly end them up on theoretical land too. Well, I guess we have a rough idea of where they are anyway.

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-53¬∞ 22′ 60.00″, -72¬∞ 48′ 30.00″

Day three at Calata Notch. Estrecho De Magallanes, Peninsula Cordova

S 53.22.60

W 72.48.30

The past three days have been a great respite from the daily get up at 5.00am which Mags is far better than I at doing. As the boat is quite small I pretend its for the sake of movement and space (two fumbly bears wandering around waking up both wanting tea and porridge. Not good!) that I lie in whilst a pot of tea is boiled.

Our first days rest was of our own choosing we needed to walk, the mountains surrounding this cove are majestic and a high ridge was the aim. Within a few hours we were high enough to be given spectacular views of the anchorage; west and east of the Magellan channel and able to look south to the islands that bar the way to the Pacific.

Great sheets of ice extending down to the sea find us gazing in awe, the mist rose and fell creating an eerie atmosphere on the high pass. We descended to the lush valleys below. Populated with Antarctic beech and a prickly bush thats stabs you alot. Pink trumpet flowers that carpet the hillside and trees that resemble giant seqoias; only these are three feet tall.

The mosses and lichens grow in fantastic shapes and everywhere the sense of life clinging is in evidence, the winds here are master and the flora bow to it. The majority of trees grow no more than five foot and are bent like bushy question marks leaning dramatically away from the prevailing winds.

Up high on a rocky ridge we found rock pools filled with mud and tiny worms living in the bark of twigs that had fallen in the water. When you squeeze one end of the twig the worm would pop out the other, all tentacles and eyes looking indignant as though woken from a great dream. There were giant tadpoles too, I caught one and was able to see it in detail, its tiny mouth parts chewing on something and its eyes and gill slits etc. The nature here is just bursting out at every opportunity. As you walk through the forest you are in Lilliput, a Gulliver giant striding through a miniature land…(surely a rare feeling for me!)

There are no paths, no footprints, it is unlikley that anyone has ever trodden where you tread.

After a day spent walking in mist and rain we were keen to get back for hot chocolate.

The dinghy was moored in a little cove and to get back meant a traverse through a very ancient wood. Soon we were thrashing crawling sliding climbing sweating caving slipping and getting a lot of unwanted attention from the prickly bush. Mags went down a gully and called out that under no circumstance should I go down…I carried on, at times it was easier to crawl on my belly below fallen trees covered in shaggy moss and slime, and then I was twenty foot up in the air along branches and out into light.

As I sat catching my breath on one of these branches, one of the more magical moments in these channels presented itself, a wee humming bird no bigger than my thumb flew within a foot of my face beating its little wings, I could feel the air move. We both sat hovering and looking at one

another until one of us got bored and flew away…..A little bit of magic!

So now we are at day three two days ago after the walk we got up at our usual time of 5 AM, and headed out into the channel to continue our voyage. As we entered the outer bay we were hit by a terrific gust of wind (they call them williwaws) which laid the boat flat even though we had no sail up at the time. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour we hightailed it back to our anchorage with our tails firmly between our legs. Do you think it is possible to hightail it somewhere with your tail between your legs?

Anyway, we were safe and snug and no time at all had three loaves baking in the oven, the rain continues and we are treated regularly to Patagonian ‘Williwaws’. I digress, before we get to Williwaws I should explain…….

Our days are totally dependant on the weather, our worst day (but also great fun) was nine hours tacking into 35 knot wind up a narrow channel and making only 18 miles in that time. Pretty exhausting but we really felt like intrepid explorers by the end of it, cold and wet but dead brave.

Other days can be dead calm and either clear and bright or rainy and foggy. The problem here is that we are attempting to go into the prevailing winds. These are the famous winds of the southern ocean that go round and round the world with nothing to stop them. Eventually they bump into South America at about this latitude and get squeezed to the south becoming northwesterlies of great strength. As luck would have it, it’s North West that we wish to go!.

The problem is further compounded by the steep topography of the area. The winds are funnelled down these deep valleys making them even faster. The air that has crossed the pacific to get here is as moist as can be and as it hits the mountains and gets pushed up it lets go all its moisture in the form of rain and hail. One advantage is that they come from the north where it is warmer so at the moment it is not cold at all. On the whole though there is either no wind or too much in the wrong direction.

One further hazard here is the williwaws I mentioned before. What happens is the high winds push air up the mountainsides to where it is cold, so the air gets cold and heavy but it can’t run back down the same side “cos the winds are behind it pushing still. Eventually the air gets pushed right over the ridge line of the mountains and if the sun has been on the other side the air there is warmer and lighter. The cold heavy air is so much colder and heavier that it shoots down the mountainside at great speed, sometimes 70 or 80 miles an hour or more. Luckily these gusts usually last no more than 20 seconds but they can cause terrific destruction. It is possible to see them coming because they stir up the water in front of them, a bit like the mini tornadoes, often lifting flat water two or three feet in the air, in sunlight you are surrounded by spray and rainbows.

Like prarie dogs as we hear the wind start up one or both throws his head out of the hatch while the other usually grows eight arms and begins to juggle tea pots, bread knifes, pots of jam, books and anything else that has decided to launch itself across the boat.

On a boaty note; the anchor aboard Zephyrus is a 45kg Bruce…..As these winds howl and then, importantly, once over…. then, more importantly, that we are still in the same spot ‘relative’….the phrase ‘lovin the bruce’ is to be heard far and wide.

Today is day three of waiting, my mate Magnus Day, ‘Mags, is a professional sailor and there is not enough time in the day for him to be fiddling with bits of rope or at the moment sewing a new windlass cover. He has managed to break at least twenty needles in the past four hours and the other oft repeated phrase is followed shortly after a metallic twang!!! ‘oh for f***s sake!!

We have a good weather program aboard which allows us to download wind speed and direction up to five days in advance. A look an hour ago shows tomorrow and the following day that the mornings should be fairly steady winds. We are hoping to get a further sixty miles which will put us at the west end of the Magellan and ready to turn north into canal Smith.

will keep you posted, till then

lovin the Bruce

Andy and Mags