Puttering in Patagonia


Following their ice adventures in March, Commitment completed a 4-week expedition heading north through the famed Patagonian Canals of Chile and Tierra del Fuego. Tony Mobray reports the boat is now berthed at Puerto Mont in Chile, at roughly the same latitude as Hobart.

Team Mowbray Update #48
Saturday March 3, 2007 – 3.30pm LDT
(Sunday March 4, 2007 – 5.30am AEDST)
Position 54 33 S, 71 55 W
Anchored in the unbelievably beautiful Caleta (Cove), Brecknock
On the Brecknock Peninsula
92 nautical miles south of Punta Arenas as the crow flies

Our first day “on the road again” saw us grind out a hard won 45 miles of progress into the teeth of a quite strong headwind arriving late in the day at our first magnificent anchorage in these famed Patagonian cruising grounds. Calleta Olla has to be seen to be believed. Protected from just about all wind directions it provided us with a windless cove with the waters surface being as smooth as a billiard table.

Each day since has been a carbon copy of the previous … rise early, hungry with anticipation for what lay ahead for the day … grind out the miles into strong headwinds to the next majestic stop for the night … along the way what has to be seen to be believed are the waterfalls that cascade incredible distances down sheer rock faces to relentlessly dump their contents into the canals. Monstrous glaciers that imperceptibly forge their way to the waters edge and every now and then calve off a portion of their icy body for the calved piece to then continue the cycle … eventually melt back to water … be sucked up to the sky … fall again as snow on the glacier and start its trip again … colonies of fur seals that all of a sudden appear beside us diving, leaping and darting their way alongside us … pods of dolphins … the great albatross … the snow capped peaks that Charles Darwin saw so many years ago.

A popular addition to the list of provisions in this part of the world is to buy one or two whole lambs and hang them in the rigging!!! … it is so bloody cold here that it is just like being in the refrigerator and they last for weeks. I've been threatening to buy one and I finally did in Ushuaia … so our lamb is the newest (if not temporary) member of “Team Mowbray”.

Another Chilean delicacy is the “Centolla King Crab”. They are huge compared to the blue swimmer crabs that abound in the area I live. There are many professional fishermen who fish for nothing but Centollas. When we were in Puerto Williams Alex suggested we acquire a crab pot to have some fun with so we spent a very enjoyable few hours knocking on the doors of some fishermen's house until we found one who would sell us a pot … so we are now expert crab fisherman even though we have only caught two!!! We cooked them a couple of days ago and found the meat really beautiful. Tomorrow we will make for the “Straits of Magellan”

Team Mowbray Update #50
Friday March 9, 2007 – 5.45pm LDT
(Saturday March 10, 2007 – 7.45am AEDST)
Position 49 52 S, 74 27 W

The weather forecast that we received this morning for today and tomorrow said:

Tomorrow: North West to North 20-30 knots (40-60 km/h) increasing by the end of the day to 50-60 knots (100-120 km/h) gusting to 80 knots (160 km/h)

In the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht we experienced 80 knots and above which is cyclone strength!!! 80 knots is not pretty!

As per the forecast, today was quite reasonable and we made some good progress. We have just arrived at an incredible fjord that runs for about 4 miles into the heart of “Wellington Island” which is just 50 miles from Puerto Eden. We have found a cove we think will be well protected from the imminent strong winds and have just spent 1.5 hours “tying” “William Henry” to the shore with no less then 7 really thick ropes in a spider web pattern plus we have our anchor deployed along with 70 metres of chain … we think we are ready. It will be “interesting” to see what happens tomorrow.

Today we passed a couple of fisherman and did some horse trading … for a bottle of wine, a packet of sweet biscuits and two blocks of chocolate we received a couple of small fish plus a big barracuda. At least that's what we think it is! I'm sure my brother Trevor, who is an expert fisherman, will be able to identify it for us? I have attached a photo of the “Barra” and one of the fishermen. The guys in the boat tell us they live in Puerto Natales which is about 200 miles by water from where we came across them! Alex says with his Welsh accent … “They are hardy b..s down here!” … and he's right!

Team Mowbray Update #52
Tuesday March 13, 2007 LDT
(Wednesday March 14, 2007 AEDST)

Negotiating the Patagonian Channels has been chock full of one great experience after another for all of us on board and a great learning process about this part of the world. Most people seem to
In the first part of this leg of the expedition we encountered some very strong headwinds, short sharp choppy waves with intense cold, snow, sleet, sago ice pellets etc. For one four day period we were without any shade of blue whatsoever in the sky, just grey, grey and more grey and then more grey … incessant rain and then more incessant rain … and then it turned. Almost as if we sailed through a checkpoint. We have slowly and incrementally eked out the miles in a northerly direction … every mile gets us closer to sustainable warmth. Last Saturday was indeed a milestone for “William Henry” and I in that we crossed out of the “Furious Fifties” of latitude into the “Roaring Forties”. It might not sound much but “Bill” and I entered the “Furious Fifties” in very early November after leaving New Zealand and of course have spent considerable time in the “Screaming Sixties” as well with the two ice expeditions so it is a welcome change to see the read out on the GPS Chart Plotter say “Forty something” degrees …

In 1896 Joshua Slocum in his boat “Spray” became the first man to sail around the world and he spent considerable time negotiating the tricky and dangerous waters of this area. His log records that he was storm bound at the anchorage of Puerto Angosto for over a month in which time he had to fend off the local Indians intent on doing him harm. Late on the afternoon of 5th March we probed our way up the very same inlet right to the head where (like Slocum over 100 years ago) we found a magnificent waterfall dumping its load into the waterway. Splintering off the main body of water to one side was a incredible crescent shaped lagoon which bleeds off the side of the waterfall. Paul, “Admiral Wally”, Alan, Alex and I spent a very memorable ¾ hour in the dinghy drifting around and exploring this beautiful cove with water so crystal clear that every detail of the bottom could be seen. By 5.00pm we had “Commitment” in place and then Alex, Doc (Alan) and I scrambled/climbed a small mountain to discover an amazing high level lake feeding the waterfall … the scenery was indeed spectacular.

The next night saw us moored in a beautiful natural harbour about ½ mile square entered by a very narrow, shallow and rock strewn entrance. The boat is nearly 5 metres wide and I reckon in places we had just another 5 metres either side of us as we nosed our way in … calm and serene would be two words to describe the inner sanctum. A most memorable evening was had … I cooked some huge pork steaks on the barbie whilst Alex banged out a packet Risotto!! Alex, Paul and I jumped in the dinghy to check the crab pot. I secretly took along a bottle of red wine and we three sat there in the dinghy drifting around marvelling at the star packed sky and knocking over the red, taking a swig and passing it on … unbelievably relaxing … then off to bed suitably anaesthetised.

Team Mowbray Update #53
Wednesday March 14, 2007 – 6.15pm LDT
(Thursday March 15, 2007 – 9.15am AEDST)
Position 45 58 S, 74 59 W

Well here we are anchored in another magnificent anchorage. We are deeply embedded within another incredible fjord about 4 miles from the entrance and surrounded such natural beauty that neither words nor photos would do it justice.

Recently I spoke of being “holed up” whilst the barometer was in freefall … the upshot of that day was that it rained ALL day and from where we were tied in to the trees it felt as if the wind didn't get much above 40-50 knots … in the end all of our preparation in mooring the boat the previous afternoon paid dividends and we enjoyed a nice day of rest. The day after the blow we headed for Puerto Eden … what an interesting place. Established in the late 1960's by the Chilean government it has a tiny population and could be best described as an “outpost” … fishing is a major occupation for the village. Bob, Alex and I were walking along the timber boardwalk (not a concrete footpath in sight) and we were greeted by out new friend “Juan” who is a local fisherman … what a thrill to be invited in to his home for a hot drink and a chat. There was lots of smiling and pointing as he can't speak English. I was going fairly well though as my Spanish has improved out of sight lately … I can now count to four!!! We sampled some of his wife's home made cheese … as good as you will find in any deli!!

Yesterday morning as we departed Puerto Eden to make our way towards open ocean waters of “Golfo de Penas” (I am trying to keep a straight face for the young children's benefit) … the Golf has to be crossed in order to access the northern section of the Patagonian canal system. Our run from Puerto Eden to where we are now moored has been non stop taking 36 hours so we are happy to put our feet up for tonight before the adventure continues tomorrow. Currently we have a huge high pressure system that has settled upon us and provided us with a stunning star filled clear sky last night and a warm sun drenched day today. As I type, I have a tee shirt and shorts on for the second time in the last 5 ½ months and I am having a beer … life is pretty good!!

Yacht Commitment specifications

How to join the expedition
I will return there in October this year to ready her for 5 months of expedition work heading back south through the canals and on to the southern tip of South America including Cape Horn, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Jeanneau JY60
Selden Asymetric Rib Technology
Jeanneau JY60
Selden Asymetric Rib Technology
Race Yachts