Like the Whales

The last time I wrote, I believe Mags and I had just rowed Zephyrus about eight hundred miles. “Well alright then, two!”, fashioned a spare pump from shoelaces and spittle then hobbled into Puerto Eden, where we spent several days trawling for water pump specialists and I was becoming very bored with the reply

“Si Senor un bomba de agua (Ill let you work that one out for yourselves) Yes I think I can help! But do you know how far away from anywhere! you are!”

After alerting the Chilean coastguard, along with the country’s combined armed services, and enlisting help from a chain drop of fishermen stretching two some thousand miles (we are now Toot-Tooted where ever we go by fishermen!), we located the pump on a dusty shelf in Santiago and had it sent to Puerto Natales.

I took a ferry back down the channels and whilst folk ran from one side and t”other calling out, “look a waterfall, over there a piece of ice!” I lay in my bunk grinning like a Cheshire cat, two days of travelling with out moving literally, apart from meal times where I could eat and look on with glee as rain lashed my window, and I warm and most importantly on the other side of it.

Once arrived in Natales I ran around like a fooligan with just five hours before the ferry sailed back north again, time enough to stock up with boxes of fresh provisions and not forgetting to pick up the pump! Then a few thankyou’s to some wonderful people, before returning to a further two days of “Look a waterfall, over there a piece of ice” and all from the by now familiar, horizontal position and firmly ensconced behind a book bliss.

And to the lovely girl from Dorset “Anna” thank you, have my heart if not my apologies……as she passed by my bunk on her way from one side or t”other (depending) she paused to ask, “if you”re feeling a bit sea sick I could get you a cup of tea”.

My reply, “That would be lovely thank you”.

All about twenty minuets before lazarus strolled into the dining room and sat down to steak, egg, and chips followed by two beers and a large bowl of ice cream.

A miraculous recovery indeed!

I arrived back to Pto Eden relaxed, refreshed, and most importantly well and truly showered. Tom and Magnus had scrubbed the boat, fuelled up, and pretty much got her all lashed down and ready for sea.

After ten days and eight hours, the pump was slapped into place the engine turned over, and as tons of lovely salt water coursed through the motor, we lifted the anchor and were off, Good bye Eden and god bless.

Our average day’s mileage till this point has been about the 50 mile mark and a really good days travel 70. From Eden we made around 260, this was obviously overnight but all timed to see us through the Gulfo de penas, our passage was fine we chose a good time to go, and apart from feeling a bit seasick all was well.

The passage was predominantly good weather and a big full moon to light our way, at one point I heard a pfffff in the water right next to the boat and looking into the moonlight reflection a slippery rubber skinned alien peered up with glowing green eyes, and then the sea lion barked; all indignant and covered in phosphorescence he dived swirling away in green light, before returning to planet deep.

We anchored late the following evening and spent the next day hunkered down as some strong north west winds blew, followed by a day of favourable west winds at 25 knots and perfect to see us the last sixty miles along the coast of Chile, and then back into the channels.

Since then, I think about three nights ago, we have made some more great mileage and a lot of it under sail alone, which is the very best way to travel through this land, no engine droning away, it is never completely quiet even with the sails up but there are certainly no complaints at the sound of old man wind and the gentle lapping of waves against the hull.

We headed South down into Laguna San Rafael and on into the Laguna itself, this filled with icebergs which run down to meet the sea from the ice cap; once again part of the ice cap of our earlier travels in “Estero Peel” though this time the northern section of it.

At latitude 46 degrees it is akin to sailing along say; Lake Como in Italy, surrounded by lumps of ice, I’m not sure the Italians would take too well to that at all.

Our anchorage in Laguna San Rafael has been one of the more curious and favourites of the journey for me thus far, a three mile trip up a tannin dark river no deeper than 4m from entrance to anchorage, the contrast from the previous day of Pacific Ocean rollers and an afternoon spent swerving around ice. And I was suddenly transported home and gently puttering up the Cam.


There has been a break in writing since I updated this; perhaps a further three nights or so, how easily the days have been blurring into a very pleasant and rhythmic motion of rising as the sun does, and working long days to get Tom into places that he can shoot pictures from.

Tom is working in coordination with the Chilean Blue whale research centre, though this trip his shots and story are for World Wildlife Fund. Tom has spent two years living and working in this area photographing Whales and dolphins.

The idea this season is that from Zephyrus he can explore further, and remain away and unsupported for longer periods from his base on Melinka Island, located on the west side of the Gulfo de Corcovado..

Part of his work with us has involved gathering information on the Salmon farms that seem to inhabit every deep water anchorage available; beginning from just north of the Gulfo de Penas and right up to Puerto Monnt. I believe there are some four thousand in total and the number is growing. The stocks are predominantly made up of Atlantic Salmon so the next time you tuck in to a Pacific salmon……Yep a fairly good chance he came from our side of the pond first….Crazy.

But for me the most special part of this project is whale research and photography today has been an incredible day for just that, we spent some time this morning following a big mama Blue whale and her calf.

Before she arrived on the surface, the waters would be still then gently part as her head and blow hole arrived, suddenly a small island with a twenty meter palm tree of steam would appear just in front of us! where previously no steaming island had been, then her back arching arching and arching onwards before her tiny dorsal fin would show. Then depending on depth of dive, for shallow, she will just drop under water and stay down for anywhere between 7 and 10 mins, and if deep, her tail flukes will lift up and down and down she will go! How deep does anybody know?

Each time she rose shouts of delight came from us all and what else do you say but “wow” a lot!

Later we sighted more blues and a pod of five humpbacks you can tell them apart from the direction of the blows a blue whale blow goes perfectly plum and is one great big vertical geyser, reaching twenty meters!!!! and a humpback two distinct spouts that go out in a V shape, but these boys and girls were all a bit to far away for us to spend any time with.

The weather apart from a really miserable day yesterday, has been incredible for us with lots of sunshine and perfect south winds, the seas have been generally calm making scouting the whales that much easier, and Tom has spent many hours of the last few days half way up the mast with a set of binoculars glued to his face.

This afternoon we arrived in an anchorage, a place I feel I could live in for the rest of my days. The bay filled with dolphins, the surrounding hills this far north quite tropical, with bright splashes of reds purples and yellows from strange looking flowers dotted along the shores, the red one looks just like a James bond style hidden camera on some arch rivals island hideaway.

There is a small community here growing vegetables and pretty much getting on with things, we arrived said hello, I found the biggest pile of wood and an axe and have been busy chopping all afternoon……Heaven is a bay called “Anyway”

East coast of the gulf of Corcovado

Bahia “Anyway”

S 43.52.241


Tomorrow North to a spot called “Tick Tock”, Then Melinka Island the following day.

Fair winds all

Zephyrus and crew x

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