Chile 2 (2014)
Chile 2, Patagonia 2
The return trip from Puerto Williams to Puerto Montt was quite different from the trip south, because the weather was warmer and all the lower mountain sides were greener and looked friendlier than on our way south. The winds were unfortunately mostly against us and grew stronger during the daytime, and in the Magdalena and the Magellan Straits the strong winds reinforced the prevailing south going current and made a short choppy sea, which sometimes was quite impossible to sail / motor through. We made many stops on the way in some of the many anchorages which were skipped on the south trip. It was necessary to wait a few days for good weather to pass Golfo De Penas. Stops were later made in Puerto Eden, Marina Quinched, and the main town, Castro on the island of Chiloe before reaching Puerto Montt late February 2014. The whole trip between Puerto Williams and Puerto Montt was done in 34 days and covered 1297 Nm. We motored in total 191 hours. The boat was docked in Puerto Montt for a couple of months so overseas trips and crew change could be made. With the good assistance of Marina Del Sur a much needed new anti-fouling paint was put on here and some minor repairs made before leaving for the South Pacific Passage.
Robinson Crusoe Island
The passage between Puerto Montt and the Juan Fernández Islands was quite uneventful; however Canal Chacao between Chiloe and the mainland has, due to the very strong tidal currents, to be passed at the right time and wind conditions. We anchored one night to get the right timing and experienced more than 7 kts current. Apart from some confused sea over the shallow water outside the channel, we had a fair westerly and south westerly wind of 10 – 15 kts. A couple of days out at sea, we were overtaken by 3 whales the size of the boat. They stayed with us for half an hour and then put up speed and left. The total trip took 5 days after having sailed 671 Nm with 15 hours of motoring.
Robinson Crusoe Island is part of the Juan Fernández Islands and is famous for having housed Alexander Selkirk from 1704 – 1708, where he was marooned by a British ship. He lived there alone and survived until rescued and taken back to his homeland Scotland. Daniel Defoe’s novel “Robinson Crusoe” is based on Selkirk’s story. The island is now named after the novel. It was interesting to see the few stone remains of his hut and also to walk up the 580 m to the lookout which he used to do daily, and from where the other side of the island with its anchorage could be watched. To be marooned at that time most often meant death by slow starvation or dehydration; however Selkirk was lucky because the island offered plenty of water, many edible plants, and fruits plus a lot of wild goats, descendants from domesticated ones left there by earlier visiting sailors.
The island has a long history and has sheltered many pirates and whalers during the centuries. There are remains of a fort with old cannons built to keep pirates away, and it also has a number of caves used by earlier inhabitants. It is a beautiful mountainous island which now basically is a national park with many endemic plants and birds. Among them the world’s largest hummingbird, which is 11 cm long, and which we were lucky to watch feeding in the village trees.
The village is built on the slope down to the north side at Cumberland Bay. A severe 15 m tsunami wave hit the island in 2010 and destroyed many houses and killed quite a few of the approx 600 inhabitants. New buildings are underway; however the remains and foundations of many of the old houses clearly tell how far into the village the tsunami went. The majority of the population lives from fishing lobster in open whaler boats. The Chilean Armada has a station and a vessel here.
A German warship “Dresden” was sunk in the bay at 65 m depth. It took part in a navy battle with the British at the Falkland Islands during WW1, escaped and hid in Cumberland Bay for repairs, but was found by the British and was scuttled here a few months later.
It is expensive to enter the island by airplane, because only small craft can use the airfield, and since there are no road connection to the village, transportation must be done in an open whaler boat, which can only operate in good weather. This trip takes around 45 min. The ship connection to Valparaiso approx every second month secures fresh supplies and brings the caught and frozen lobsters to the mainland.
Passage between Robinson Crusoe Island and Easter Island
The best way to make this passage is to try to avoid the south Pacific high which is mostly located at approx Lat. 30 degr. south and somewhere between Easter Island and the South American mainland. Consequently one must go north quite a bit before heading west. As always reality turns out differently from the downloaded grib files. Unfortunately the high moved with us north, and we ended up at Lat. 23 degr. before we could aim at Easter Island at Lat. 27 degr. Most of the time we had light winds 8 -15 kts and occasionally up to 23 kts from the east or south east. In the low end of this wind span it was, due to the swell, necessary to motor more than we liked. On the way we managed to sail close by the small island of Isla Sala Y Gomez which is approx 215 Nm to the east of Easter Island. It is a barren rocky islet belonging to Chile and only inhabited by lots of seabirds.
The total passage of 2154 Nm was made in 13 days with 92 hours of motoring.