My wife and I were extremely fortunate when friends of ours invited us to join them on their 41-foot sloop
in Patagonia for 6 weeks. We jumped at the invitation and didn't even consider the fact that we'd be sleeping on the settees in the main saloon
a minor drawback. They met us in Ushuaia and we cleared out of Argentina
and into Puerto Williams, Chile
, after just a couple of days. Once our provisioning
was completed and my friend had secured a zarpe
for sailing around Cape Horn, it was just a matter of waiting for a weather
window before we took off. Luckily for us, a perfect window appeared to be opening so we made our way to Puerto Toro and sat there for a few days while we kept a keen eye on what systems were coming our way. Once our skipper
was confident that we had a green light, we left Puerto Toro at 0300 (just as it was getting light) and 12 hours later we were rounding Cape Horn from the west. The weather
was calm enough that we were able to take a dinghy
ashore, my wife and I going first, climbing the 10 flights of stairs in our expedition suits and making our way to the lighthouse where we were warmly greeted by the lighthouse keeper and his wife. I felt myself getting emotional, which I hadn't expected. We signed the log book, had our passports and the boat's log book stamped and took dozens of photos. But we knew that our friends were eager to come ashore as well and it's not wise to linger at Cape Horn in a small boat
as the weather can change at a moments notice, regardless of the forecast
and at hurricane
force. Our friends were just as much overwhelmed when they returned to their boat
after their visit ashore as I had been. It was an unforgettable experience.
We returned to Puerto Williams, topped up our provisions and headed out to the glaciers and fjords of Patagonia, which were nothing short of spectacular. Because the winds cans blow hard from any direction at any time, an over-sized anchor
, heavy chain and thick bow and stern lines are necessary. As we would pull into an anchorage, my wife and I would jump into the dinghy
and take each of the long 5/8" lines ashore and tie them to stout trees. Sometimes we'd only do the stern lines if we backed into an anchorage but most of the time we'd run all four lines and once our skipper
even had us run five.
We saw wildlife in the form of whales, dolphins
, albatross, ducks, penguins, fox and condors but virtually no fish
. While we were at one anchorage, a Chilean fishing boat
pulled in and rafted up to us for the sole purpose of giving us almost a dozen huge [I]centolla[I] crab. They refused payment so we gave them a bag of goodies we had aboard that we thought they might appreciate. It was a remarkable gesture and we had crab cakes, crab bisque, pasta with crab sauce, crab omlettes, even crab biryani.
While I wouldn't recommend cruising in that area for novice
sailors, I did learn that with the right equipment
and lots of patience it can be one of the most pristine cruising grounds in the world. We met several other cruising boats while there, some who had been there for years. Granted, the weather was cold and even though we were there in the middle of 'summer' but after spending the last 6 years in the tropics, I found it to be a welcome change.
My wife and I are now on our way back to our own boat which is on the hard
in Trinidad. We plan to continue our circumnavigation
but when we'll complete it is still unknown.
Fair winds and calm seas.