I write as we cruise away from the Beagle Channel, heading west into the setting sun, with 270 degree views of rocky islands, round mossy hills and the snow covered Cordellera Darwin with glacial valleys squeezing between each dramatic peak. Just a quarter of the view is a clear channel of water that allows us to enter the Pacific Ocean and fortunately for us, the weather is so far calm, just the usual ocean swell rolling in. This is our first time out of the Beagle through Bahia Cook and it couldn't be a better evening for it. Our plan is to sail overnight into the Pacific, round to the south and then east towards Cape Horn. We hope that the 120 mile journey will culminate in us seeing the sunrise behind the horn and if we are very lucky, another landing on the island to visit the lighthouse keeper and stamp the passports.
We've had a wonderful week with a fantastic bunch of antipodeans. 5 Australians and 2 New Zealanders though it seems that most of them have deserted their home country for either Hong Kong or America. The total booze consumption is too shocking to report at this stage, and I doubt whether today being dry (for the offshore passage) will have any real impact on the daily average. Amazingly however, there is still plenty going on during the day - big hikes up steep grassy ridges to get another view of the Beagle, kayaking up to the front of tidewater glaciers, fishing, crabbing and some hanging out with a cup of coffee reading a book and watching the stunning scenery from the comfort of the pilot house.
Today has been indescribably beautiful. We were in our favorite anchorage, which we know as Caleta Wow, a round inlet, with a narrow entrance, completely encircled by vast hills, mountains, cliffs and a glacier that snakes its way almost to sea level. The sun came out halfway through the morning providing us with the sort of warmth we've been missing all week, and we were really able to appreciate the beauty of this phenomenal spot. The afternoon saw Miles and I with Bruce and Bill - the trekking team - head up a very steep ridge behind the boat. It was a hot climb, but we gained height so quickly that each time we stopped and looked around us, the view almost took what was left of our breath away. We had said we'd leave the anchorage at 4, so our turn around time was 3 and luckily we just managed to reach the top and to see over the other side with 5 minutes to spare. A much needed water rest and an opportunity to take some photos. From the top, we could see that three, maybe even 4 extra glaciers tumble down towards the bay from the heights stopping at various levels and creating a natural lake of the most vibrant turquoise water, and then at the other end of the lake, a waterfall pours down the cliffs, through the trees and into the sea below.
Earlier in the week Bruce, Bill and I had a somewhat less hot experience at Caleta Olla, climbing a similarly steep ridge, but in what started as rain, and soon turned to heavy snow. It was quite beautiful at the top huddling under a tree (Arboroles bandera that are so windswept that the tiny strong branches grow out horizontally - to the east of course!) watching the snow falling in huge gentle flakes meandering down and sitting on anything and everything. Our thermos of hot tea was much appreciated that day, as was the slice of fruitcake I made earlier in the charter.
As I have been typing this, the blissful sound of the engine being turned off has distracted me. We have enough wind now from the northeast to sail under full main and full yankee and we're making 7 and a half knots towards our destination. My watch starts in a few minutes so I better sign off and get dressed appropriately for a night watch under clear skies in the southern ocean. The temperature has plummeted since the sun went down but we are used to it and wise to it now!
So, Cape Horn, here we come!
All the best,
Laura, (Miles and Dave!)
Pelagic Australis rounds Cape Horn in gale force winds.
Stormy weather greets boat and crew’s South Georgia expedition.
A winter crossing from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope, in a boat that’s built for just this kind of duty.