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The Icebreaker

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 arrived 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 collapsed 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!!

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