Keeping the feet dry is top of the agenda trecking through the caves

Day 291: Exploring ice caves

Position: Bahia de los Pescaderos, Isla Gordon, Chile

Scott and Mary Flanders left Gibraltar bound for New Zealand on 16 September 2006, and we’ll be following their journey every step of the way, thanks to this unique online “blog”.

Fri 29th June PM. Well, things have changed since this morning and our last VofE posting. From this morning’s half ice free bay and little wind have come the expected SW winds. There are several changes. The bay is now ice free; the ice disappearing in the waves and rain. The wimperwaws have turned into williwaws. Egret is surrounded on three sides by nearly sheer mountains. The open side faces south. We are on the WNW corner of the bay. When the southwesterlies rocket in (accelerated venturi like between two tall snow covered mountains with the lower glacier in between) they sweep around the bowl in front, to the left then into our little ship. We can see them coming. They start with a fog like rising of swirling water lifting straight up then moving inevitably closer and closer until slammo. Whack city. Egret’s bow swings to starboard tugging against a VERY stubborn anchor and chain. No problema. If we had a fourth polypro line we would lead it the 75 yards to port to the first tree giving a proper angle. If it gets REAL bad we’ll dig out one of the 250′ braided nylon anchor ropes and take that to the tree.

A second interesting situation is our elusive #%@$&^*! crab trap. In between rain showers yours truly suited up and prepared to drag for the trap. Wallah!! Just in front of the anchor chain was the submersed trap float just under water. It was within minutes of sinking entirely. Well, the trap wouldn’t budge. After cleating the line to CIB and giving it a 30hp tug it still wouldn’t budge, however the anchor chain moved each time we used the dink pulling on the line. Grande clue. Now the float is in the dink and the line is tied to the chain. When we leave perhaps we’ll recover the trap full of dinner. We’ll see. Another lesson learned. Heavy ice – no trapee PLUS we’ll add a second float.

We are surrounded by even more waterfalls on the steep mountains since the rain. Oh yes, there is a second glacier, high and directly in front of our little ship.

Sat 30th June. Where has the month gone?? Oh well, another great one with time and memories that can never be taken away. It is early morning. My sweetie is still in her warm bed with her first cuppa while the generator gives new life to the batteries. The glacier out the pilothouse windows is getting bluer by the moment. The waterfall across the way has grown. There is no ice in the bay. The wind has quit for the moment. What will today bring? We’ll see. It looks like another good’un.

Yup, another good’un. Yours truly and my sweetie took the CIB across the way to the trail up to a hidden lake. After a near vertical start we trekked in the 8″ or so of snow towards the glacier. Like in many things two minds are better than one. Mary picked up a hiking stick from a beaver dam as did I. Boy did they come in handy. Next she tried the shallow stream mud bottom (glacier silt) and found it supported her weight so off we went on a much easier trek. Pretty cool. We hiked right up to the glacier. THEN we forded a little stream jumping from rock to rock and worked our way around to an ice cave in the face of the glacier. Here is where the hiking sticks came in VERY handy. The glacier was a steep angle of what looked like rock but was ice with black dirt mixed in. Yes it was slippery. With the stick on the downhill side stuck into the stream we carefully worked our way to where we were able to take pictures. Then, for just a flash the sun came out and illuminated the cave and its chimney to the sky making the thin edges translucent blue and white. Wow!!! Pictures 1 & 2 (Could this be the home of the abominable snowman… or something like that?)

We made it away from the glacier without slipping and filling our boots with ice water. Next it was off to another three waterfalls forming into one. After it was a dinghy tour around the bay. We found two more glaciers up high where we couldn’t see them from the boat. Back to our little home. On going by the anchor chain and tied off crab trap line we could see in the calm water the line had but a single twist. A few minutes later the trap was up and guess what?! One more crab. Finally. We added more table scraps to the now stinking mess and fired her back down a little further away with TWO floats. We’ll see.

Tonight it’s a batch of spaghetti and fresh baked corn bread. So there you have it, another day in The Life.

Sun 1st July. Wow, July 1st and a holiday week. Enjoy your time off. You UK readers, shame on you for picking on the colonials. Got your butts kicked, didn’t ya?? Oh well, all’s well that ends well. Now ALL we colonies are like first cousins.

Early this morning while enjoying the first cuppa I was re-reading some articles in our Chile file, magazine articles collected since 1994. This is where our Deep South inspiration and early specialized equipment knowledge came from. We in turn are passing along what we have learned knowing very few of you have access to the same information. We agree with most everything written but will include three items of interest. 1. One article said they put the line ashore bag in the dinghy leaving one end fixed to the boat using reverse to take the line ashore. Aboard Egret we leave the bag IN the boat with the line streaming easily over the cap rail and not through the hawse hole. For girl boats with beautiful varnish this wouldn’t work unless you were willing to give up some chafe for high latitudes. After the line is secure ashore we feed the line back through the hawse hole and cleat it off. 2. In both dinks we installed an oversize cleat INSIDE the transom for tying off a stern anchor and taking a wrap of the line ashore freeing your hands. 3. This next item, anchor chain and attachments, is the most important item and applicable to ALL boats from coastal cruisers to ocean crossing voyagers. We will use Egret’s chain for an example. Egret has 3/8″ system 4 or HT4 high-test chain. These are universal ratings. The largest shackle pin that will fit through the links are 9/16″ or 14.25mm. In US size shackles, a 7/16″ galvanized forged steel shackle is the largest that will fit. A 7/16″ shackle has a 1/2″ pin (a 1/2″ shackle has a 5/8″ pin). A 7/16″ shackle has a safe working load of 2000lbs. Three eights HT4 chain has a working load of 5400lbs. The weak link is obvious. To expand a bit you should have a swivel attached to the anchor, not just a shackle. Egret started with barrel shaped stainless steel swivels but nearly came to grief when the two halves separated enough to expose the bearings. We went with the tried and true galvanized forged steel jaw and eye swivel, (3/4″ safe working load 4 3/4 tons!!!). Notice the discrepancy in a 7/16″ shackle and a proper HD swivel.

Before ordering Egret’s anchor chain we had known it could be specially ordered with elongated links on both ends (Egret has American Chain and Cable Company – ACCO, chain). We ordered a full barrel of chain (400′) keeping 300′ for the main rode. The remaining 100′ we had cut in half giving us manageable weight pieces (3/8″ HT weights 1 1/2lbs per ft) ALSO with elongated links on both ends. We store those two pieces under the main engine for weight distribution and an out of the way place. With elongated link ends on the two pieces we can couple them together with a proper size shackle.

If you have an existing boat all isn’t lost. The French manufacturer Wichard makes an extra strength stainless steel shackle that will couple your existing chain with a proper swivel before the anchor. The Wichard shackle number is 11206. It has a pin diameter of 15/32 or about a 1/2″ (12mm). Its safe working load is 9920lbs (4509kg). This will fit 3/8″ HT chain.

Geesh, sorry for the sidetrack but it’s important (Yes, we used to be in the boat parts business).

Today could well be a copy and paste of yesterday… except even nicer. What will today bring? We’ll see. Sun PM – Ho hum, what a day. We climbed our highest yet. Almost needed oxygen. Just another day hiking in the snow and looking out over Isla Hoste’s vistas, glaciers, etc. and across the Beagle to Isla Gordon. Returning we pulled the crab trap and wallah, again we had another crab! This time however it was a MUCHO GRANDE crab. Between this big guy and the last one we’ll have leftovers after tonight’s dinner. Not bad. If weather cooperates we’ll leave tomorrow and tour nearby Estero de las 1000 Cascadas (Bay – Estuary of 1000 waterfalls) before heading across the Beagle to Bahia de los Pescadores (Bay of the Fishermen). We have been to Pescadores before. It has a mean hike high up to two inland lakes we named after our long time dog and cat, Jake and Dusty.

Mon 2nd July. What a difference a day makes! What a difference a mile makes!! Last night we pulled up the gribs (weather report) and found Mon through Wed to have VERY high W, WSW winds. There is a 953.7 low going to pass just south of Cape Horn and a few miles to our south (we are west of the Cape). Great. Well before daylight we were doing our generator burn and preparing to leave at first light. As the glacier was slowly turning blue we removed the bowline to the islet, port sternline then the starboard. There was little wind. Just as we were leaving the wind started puffing a bit as we departed through a thin skim of ice forming. When we hit the Beagle things REALLY changed. Gusts to over 50 knots shooting down the Beagle from the west. Yours truly was in the flybridge. Love that venturi windshield. The Beagle has high mountains on both sides capturing the wind and sending it funneling on its way. Bahia Pescadores is directly across the Beagle on Isla Gordon. Once inside the winds diminished. On reaching the protected anchorage it was STILL. TK down, two lines ashore, crab trap down, all is well. Ms Ocean is letting everyone know SHE is still in charge in the Deep South. When she decides to behave we’ll move on.