Day 270: Into the wilderness

Winter cruising in the Chilean Channels

Day 270: Into the wilderness

Position: Caleta Olla, Canal Beagle, 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”. For a complete listing of their diary entries, click here.

Well, mi amigos, we are going to do something a little different in writing these updates. We are on our winter cruise here in the Chilean Channels. Most every day we stumble across something at the time that is inspiring or noteworthy to Mary and I and we would like to pass it on as well. So, instead of writing daily reports as we did on passage we’ll give daily thumbprints as they occur and post them every so often as a single update. The only downside of this format is we can only send two pictures that represent a LOT of discoveries. We’ll do the best we can.

Picture 1 was taken when we hiked on Thur 6-8, west under the cliffs to our twin waterfalls, about a mile or so. The picture is of Caleta Olla taken from the west looking east. You can see Egret tucked up to the western shore facing east. Isla Diablo (Devil Island) is in the background. You can see how we are protected by the trees from the westerlies and also from easterlies by the peninsula. On other occasions we have been here in the summer and would get late afternoon williwaws that would blast down from the mountains a few hundred yards to the north and rock our little fiberglass world. Devil Island in the background is at the entrance to Brazo Noroeste with Isla Gordon to the south. DI got its name when in 1830 Capt Fitzroy, (Capt of the Beagle) was camped with a survey crew. The guard one evening saw a pair of eyes reflecting in the campfire and shot at the eyes scared witless. In the morning they discovered a dead owl. Fitzroy gave the island its name after that bit of trauma.

The ground was near perfect for hiking. It was partially frozen giving us good traction and sinking into the bog in just a few places. After visiting the waterfall we hiked WAY up. Along the cliff face we discovered what we named the crystal palace. Tiny rivulets of water had formed ice around plants giving them a clear coating of ice perhaps twenty times their size. Beautiful. Picture 2. (It’s really difficult to pick pictures. Now we can’t show any of today’s photos or coming day’s… rats). At the top we had terrific views both east and west up and down Brazo Noroeste. After a quick sandwich and hot tea we returned in the falling light. Another great day in The Life.

(Whoops!! The ice picture was scrapped for a picture taken by Mary on today’s hike up to the inland glacier east of Caleta Olla)

Friday, 6-9, we got up early to hike to the glacier east and north of our anchorage, however it was raining so we hung out for a bit before leaving in the dink in a light rainfall. Incidentally, we haven’t had ice in the anchorage except glacier ice that came in on this morning’s tide (glacier ice with tonight’s cocktails). We beached the CIB (Catamaran Ice Breaker) on a falling tide but leaving just a bit of extra line because the tide was way down. We tromped a couple of miles down the beach as far as the lighthouse (faro) to the east. We discovered gunaco (llama type critter) mama and wee one’s tracks leading in the same direction but we never got to see them. It was another camera day with both of us taking artsy-fartsy ice shots, kelp geese, landscape, etc. Mary’s photos are quickly getting better. She’s ‘seeing’ better shots. Another great but short day. We caught our first centolla (southern king crab) in our new trap. We reset the trap with another can of tuna and some table scraps. We’ll pull it sometime Sat. Who knows what will be inside? Almost forgot. The tide REALLY did fall. We’re on a moon and the tide left the CIB high and dry. It slides well. Wasn’t the first time stranded and won’t be the last. Oh well.

Early Sat AM we heard what sounded like ice scraping down the side except the only ice in the anchorage was glacier ice in chunks that don’t scrape. To make the story short yours truly had left the boom winch controller outside since offloading the CIB (buttons up). We have had two days of light rain. Rain or condensation shorted out one of the four micro switches inside the controller intermittently engaging the winch motor making the noise we heard. Of course it had to be an UP button AND the button with a double purchase block (twice the lifting power). The lifting block and snap was snapped into a pad eye screwed into the boat deck. By the time I had figured what was happening it ripped out the pad eye with a terrible pop. I had figured out what was going on while still in the boat and shut off the circuit breakers. Sooo, now we have put a piece of duct tape over the two holes where the pad eye was screwed in (thankfully no other damage like major fiberglass repair, etc) and the controller has been taken apart and dried over the diesel heater all night. Now, IF the rain will stop we’ll get out the epoxy and do the repair. The controller SHOULD be OK. We’ll see. Another lesson learned on Egret’s nickel. Geesh, will lessons never end? You know that answer.

On a happier note there is NO noise here except for birds, dripping water and in the far distance the occasional day and night booming of calving ice from the nearby glacier.

Sunday was still and warm. Today we took a hike up to the inland glacier. We followed the trail for a bit then struck out on our own climbing to the top of the low mountain. You can’t imagine how special this place is. I know, we sound like a broken record, but we can’t help ourselves. In addition to the vista treats we saw three gunaco’s along the beach before turning north following the trail. We saw them twice more along the way. The third time the male silhouetted himself on a high ridge and was calling. He was drawing attention to himself allowing the other two to escape the red clad, camera toting monsters. This is the same behaviour we observed in Caleta Hornos on the Argentine coast on Egret’s trip south. A while later we had a male condor fly very close by and about fifteen feet below us (Camera in the backpack… groan).

After reaching the summit we climbed down to a vantage point for pictures of the glacier and lunch. PB&J, Chilean Pringles copies and a thermos of hot tea. Life is good for the Egret crew. It’s even better now that the boom winch controller if functioning again since drying and reassembly.

So there you have it. Ciao.


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