Towards Last Hope
26 September 2015
I always look at the bright side of things. My bottle is always half full. Having had to give up the exploration of Estero Peel’s glaciers, it opens the opportunity to get to Puerto Natales by September 30, in time to celebrate Vale’s birthday in a “civilized” way, after a month of absolute solitude.
There are only a little over 100 miles to go and weather forecast shows very little wind all week, meaning we have to motor all the way to Puerto Natales. We also have to overcome Angostura Kirke, one of the most difficult straits in Patagonia. So this morning we set sail very early with the aim of reaching Puerto Bueno, a well-protected anchorage at the beginning of Canal Sarmiento, about 30 miles away from here. The sky has been overcasted for the entire day, but no rain and temperatures much more pleasant than the ones we experienced in Estero Peel.
Puerto Bueno is a mile long bay, which stretches along the North / South axel of the mainland coast, access to which is bordered by a passage between two islands off just 150 meters. The anchorage we choose is on the caleta which opens on the northwestern coast of the bay, protected from all four quadrants.
Its dimensions do not allow to swing on the anchor, making it necessary to secure the boat with two stern lines ashore. North East of our anchorage the coast draws another more sheltered cove, but the shallowness prevents access even with boats with little draft as ours. In return west of the second cove, the map we noticed the presence of a lake, a great chance to collect a bit 'of fresh water.
It is now many months that we no longer use the desalinator to produce our water, practically since our arrival in Chile. Thanks to the rain, rivers and lakes, the water is certainly not a constraint here. The lake is just a few meters above sea level, and feeds a stream of water which flows into the small cove.
We reached the stream with the tender and then we continued by foot along its choir until we reach the lake. Despite less than optimal lighting conditions of the day, this afternoon walk was like plunging into a palette of colors.
Those used by mother nature for painting over this piece of land dwarfs the best Van Gogh.
27 Settembre 2015
Today we can say with certainty that spring is arrived in Patagonia. A day which over of the hours has given us a clear blue sky, completely clear of clouds.
The east coast of Canal Sarmiento surrounded by the perpetually snow-covered peaks of the Campo de Ielo, provided us with a set for the exceptional advertising campaign “Altre Svolte“.
As a matter of fact “Altre Svolte” has just been released, a collection of life stories published by GiveMeAChance" (www.givemeachance.it) opening with a story written by Vale.
While you can by online the book trough GiveMeAChance website, all revenues from the sale of the book are donated to the Mamma Trovalavoro Association (mammatrovalavoro.com).
The anchorage for the night, Caleta Monnlight, provided the icing on the cake to this exceptional day.
After having sailed almost 4 miles upstream a narrow fjord on the northwestern coast of Isla Piazzi, we reached this small cove by the amply deserved magic name.
The water around us became a "mirror on the wall" reflecting landscapes that, with the passing of hours, turned more and more in fairy tale colors.
28 September 2015
Another sunny day on our way to the Region de Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Region).
Another evocative name and other 1,000 stories lying behind it.
This vast province of Chilean Patagonia belonging to the Magallanes y Antarctica Chilena region, takes its name from one of its fjords, “Estero Ultima Esperanza", so named in 1557 by the navigator Juan Ladrillero who on his way back to the Atlantic from the north of Chile was desperately looking for a way to the Strait of Magellan, their "last hope" of finding the Strait.
As a matter of fact this fjord leads nowhere, as anywhere lead all the other fjords and channels that wash the shores of this province, whose access by sea is provided by two narrows, Angostura Kirke and Canal Santa Maria, respectively north and south of Isla Diego Portales.
Both, only fifty meters wide (Ladrillero really had to be desperate to think that one of these tiny straits could provide access to the Strait), these straits are considered the most challenge to navigate in entire Patagonia, due to currents exceeding abundantly 10 knots which creates eddies and rips.
The reason for this massive power resides in the fact that all the great mass of water contained in the fjords and channels of the province, has to go through these "needle eyes" to join the Great Waltz tide of Patagonia.
Not to mention that in Estero de Ultima Esperanza pours all the water generated by one of the largest complex of glaciers in Chile, those of the famous Campo de Ielo.
In addition, this region is home to the only town in more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline, Puerto Natales, gateway to the Tower of Paine and an endless series of glaciers, lakes and rivers that make up the largest and most visited national park of Chile.
So, if you wonder why are we going to shove in this hell, here you will find the answer.
We have chosen to access it from Angostura Kirke which we reached in the late afternoon anchoring few hundred meters before the strait in a small indentation of the coast, big enough to shelter our bows from the current.
We will wait here until tomorrow to face the strait at slack (change of current) which should be at 11.45 as reported by the "Table of Tides" published annually by the Oceanography Institute of the Armada de Chile.
Today just in front of Isla Middle Canal which provides access to Angostura Kirke with 2 engines running at 3,200 rpm were struggling to advance despite the log would mark 9.5 knots !
30 September 2015
At 12h we were comfortably at anchor in Puerto Laforest, an anchorage in Canal Senoret, right opposite the Armanda offices in Puerto Natales, so once landed we went immediately to cope with formalities and then we walked towards the center of the town.
Puerto Natales is now one of the busiest tourist centers of Patagonia.
Not all shops are open, the tourist season has just opened, and the city is still awakening from winter hibernation.
The atmosphere is totally different from anything we've experienced in recent months in Chile.
For the first time I feel in a less true environment.
The landscape is obviously the same, everything just as dramatically wild as Patagonia can be, but people, houses, cars, shops are so looked after, incontestable sign that Puerto Natales is now a showcase of Turism World Industry.
We want to celebrate Valentina’s birthday with a nice lunch so as we usually do, we asked for suggestions to a young local who directed us to a restaurant very popular among locals, where he told us they prepare an outstanding asado (grilled lamb).
So after an hour from landing we were already with ou legs under a table ready to order our asado.
The birthday cake was instead celebrated on board, baked by my lovely 34-year old wife.