From Puerto Montt to Chacabuco
Aggiornamento: 22 set
August 5, 2015
Today we finally set sail from Huelmo (P.to Montt). On the pier, to give up our lines, Hector and Tita the owners of the small marina which has hosted us in the last months. Other special people, as is increasingly the case, we happen to meet on our way.
In this period spent in their marina, we were treated like we were family. Countles cares, every day a special occasion to have lunch or dinner with them, or even with the whole family, like when we were invited to the baptism of their nephew.
Special people like Raul, an experienced sailor of the region, which for years has supported with his boat international scientific expeditions throughout Patagonia. We met him on the day of our arrival in Puerto Montt and since then he did miss a day calling us and offering his help.
I lost count of the number of times he came to pick us up to Huelmo, which is 25 km from Puerto Montt, or as often he has offered to buy spare parts in the city and get them till Huelmo. Without considering the treasures that gave us trough his tales. Tales of sea, of Courageous Captains, of mysterious disappearances of entire crews with alleged loads of gold. Of fantastic bays, of cemeteries for whales, of islands made entirely out of marble. Enough to write a book.
Our destination is Estero Cahuelmo, a small secondary fjord of Estero Comau that we could not visit in April and that everyone suggested not to lose.
We left the marina with 10/13 knots of wind which allow us to put ashore the only Gennaker reaching an average of 7 knots.
Around 17h we had already covered 36 miles and we are abeam of Estero Bonito, a small but well-protected harbor, where we decide to stop for the night.
August 6, 2015
At dawn (8:30 am !!) we continue our sailing to Cahuelmo, a three miles fiord which end up on the delta of a river that born a few miles upstream from a small lake in the Cordillera.
Waters are very deep and only few meters from the coast they reach acceptable depths for anchoring. For this reason it is very important to tie up at least two ropes ashore thus not allowing the boat to swing on her anchor and loosing the grip because of increasing depth.
We anchored in 25 meters of water about ten meters from the coast, on the northern shore of the fjord, ensuring the mooring with two lines ashore.
In the afternoon, we put the dinghy in the water, and we approached the river. 1 mile upstream we should find a path that leads up to a lake. Unfortunately we realize to be full low tide and the river was not navigable. We than decided to go back on board, although accompanied by a noisy family of seals.
August 7, 2015
The next day we woke up with a shyining sun and so we decided to take advantage of this rare condition enjoying the natural springs of Cahuelmo.
Right on the south bank of the river delta, we notice an area from which rises what might seem to be smoke, or rather, steam !!
We secured the dinghy we start walking. From the vegetation a small trickle of hot water slide down to the river through a large stone slab in which the time engraved (or someone has dug) three small pools, each with water at different temperatures, less warm as the water proceed downstream. The pools look towards the river delta and therefore the entire Fjord. We are alone and immersed in this wonderful spa bath, fascinated by the view overlooked by our pools, we release a little of the cold and moisture accumulated in this first winter in Patagonia.
August 8th, 2015
The idea was to set sail at 8:00, but again the tide surprised us. When we secured the lines ashore they were about 2 meters above sea level, this morning they were almost 1 meter underwater. So we had to wait for the tide to get down which occurred around 9:30.
Inside the fjord it was pretty calm, but already towards the exit I could see fringing waves on Estero Comau, a clear sign of pretty strong wind. So we hoist the mainsail with two reefs and in fact, just after having put our bow in Estero Cahuelmo, 27 knots of wind pushed us close hauled towards the tip of the Northern Peninsula of Huequi, where to head back to the Gulf of Ancud and continuing our journey toward south.
We were heading to Dalcahue, a village on the eastern coast of Chiloè. Every Sunday (tomorrow) in the early hours of the morning in the small port they organize a "feira" (market). It’s a market where you can find any type of products from food to crafts, clothing ("made in Chiloe") and people come from all over the island to sell or buy.
At about 11:00 we were near the Peninsula of Huequi and totally sheltered from the wind coming from NW. We decide to turn on the starboard engine which was running till one hour earlier but the engine wan’tl start, actually even the starter motor was not moving, a clear sign of an electrical problem.
So we run the port engine to overcome the Capethus catching a new wind, this time of just 16 knots which with 2 reefs on the main sail was still allowing us to proceed at about 7 knots.
The engine is practically new, completely redone. The problem is certainly electric and therefore I thought the problem has anything to do with the mechanical work we did in Puerto Montt, but ... .. what the Hell !!
I started checking the battery charge and was ok ('I just replaced the battery in Puerto Mont), checking battery connections and they were ok. So I begin to fear that the problem was on the starter. I decide to take it apart. After about 20 minutes the patient was on the table in the cockpit. I open it. It was very dirty, but windings, charcoals, gear all look ok. I took the opportunity to clean it with a deep brushed with gasoline and then greased with marine grease. 1 hour later it was again reassembled but the engine would not start.
You know this is a sailboat but the idea of venturing for months between fjords and channels with anchorage that require to get as much as possible near the coast to seek shelter from the wind, with only one engine properly working is not a great idea. So I decide to skip the visit to Dalcahue and to bow directly on Puerto Quellon , south of the island of Chiloè.
It is an important fishing center and last April I met a very nice electrical mechanic who fixed a pump water pump for us. But I would not travel at night, so we decided to stop in Muchuquè, a small island with a super protected bay.
Around 16:30 we were less than two miles from the entrance of the bay of Muchuquè.
We turn on the port engine and prepare to take down the mainsail.
We still have 17/18 knots of wind, always close hauledl.
We are on the deck, ready to tension the lazy bag when ....... buff, buff, buf, bu, b ... .. the port engine goes off.
We are now almost half a mile from the coast proceeding at 6 knots. Valeeeeeeeeee let’s taaaackkkkkkk .
We run in the cockpit and with the skill of a seasoned crew of the America's Cup in just one minute we are on the new tack, moving away from the coast of Muchuque.
Without engines, unless absolutely necessary, I would avoid to slip in small bays where in addition to the problem of tack and put the bow into the wind must also consider the current accompanying the alternation of high and low tide.
So we decide to sail to Quellon which has a large bay and especially a relatively easy access. The forecast gives good wind up to 7/8 am tomorrow morning and then a day of very light winds, just the perfect conditions for us.
We just have to be careful to get trough the Desertores Islands. Because of the wind angle we will need consecutive tacks.
Having set the auto pilot on a 40 ° angle to the wind, Vale take the watch and I dive myself into the engine room.
It is clearly a fuel problem and having all the fuel tanks full, the problem must be linked to a malfunction of the pump or impurities. I changed all the filters before leaving Puerto Montt, but I do not exclude that moisture condensation has been generated in the tanks !!.
So I do the first check on the fuel pump and luckily it works perfectly. There is no fuel getting to the pump. It is definitively an issue related with impurities and I will need to clean the entire system, all pipes and filters ranging from tanks to the fuel pump.
In the meantime it was already 20h, it started raining and getting colder. We decide to prepare us something warm, get some rest and get back on duty in few hours.
However we still have to solve this mess before reaching Quellon. It would be better to access to the bay with the availability of the motor. We will arrive in lite wind conditions with a current going against us.
A nice hot soup and a nice cigarette, enjoyed in the warmth of our heating system put me back in a good mood and by 10h I’m back in the engine room.
I come out at around 02h am, with the engine puffing buff, buff again.
Meanwhile, the rain have stopped, the wind dropped to 15 knots and we saling close aule at about 7 knots.
Vale is finally resting. I stay on watch.
The only boats we have crossed are either cargo or fishing boats and behavior at sea is impeccable, with the utmost respect not only for the rules but also with a respectable etiquette. For example the boats with favorable current, besides the right of water, if necessary give way to vessels which proceed against the current. If course are supposed to be convegni you always contact on VHF channel 16 and the conversations are always extremely friendly and make you feel less alone. You know that at sea, on that night, here at the end of the world, there is someone like you at sea.
To us it happens to be contacted.
Vessel: << Imbarcation Estrella Austral llama velero con rumbo Sur en el Canal Apiao, me recibe, cambio?>>
Angelique: << Hola esto es el Velero Angelique II, adelante, cambio>>
Vessel: << Buenas noche Capitan, la llamo por seguridad de rumbo. Estas bien por ustedes si mantenemos rojo con rojo, cambio?>> (He is refering to the keeping a course that will take the two vessel to pass each other on the port side, characterized at night by a red light)
Angelique: << Para mi es perfecto. Muchísima gracias. Cambio>>
Vessel: <<Recibido, Mucha gracias a usted Capitan. Buenas Noche y buena navigation. Vuelvo en escucha en el Canal 16>>
As stated in the forecast, at 8h am the wind dropped to5 knots. The dawn announces a sunny morning, and I enjoy the buff, buff my port engine that pushes me through the channel between Chiloe and Cailin, giving access to the large bay of Puerto Quellon where we anchor at 12:30h.