We’re bypassing Puerto Natales, so Puerto Eden (pop 140) is our last human contact before Puerto Williams. It is a poor, lonely outpost. But when the current sweeps you round the point out of the Inglese Narrows, the settlement comes as a nice surprise. Especially when you had decided you were absolutely the only people on the planet. Cheerful, brightly-painted little houses cluster around the bay, with tide-stranded fishing boats and friendly Mapuche locals. The colours, set against a grand backdrop of snow-covered mountains, have come as something of a shock after the soft shades of grey to which we’ve grown accustomed.
Puerto Eden is apparently named after a British warship but details are scant. I am sure some military historian will be able to fill in the details for us. The bay is well protected from prevailing nasties from the north, but I could imagine south-westerlies being miserable here in winter. The barometer is high and I don’t expect terrible weather in the next 12 hours, although the weather systems cycle through very rapidly it seems.
We rowed our 10 jerrycans ashore and someone has promised to fill them. Tomorrow we will ferry them back out to the boat. A local lad has agreed to dive and inspect Tainui’s forefoot – we shook keels with Chile in an intimate and unexpected way a few days ago and would like to know where and how much of a mark the rochas left.
We dieselled, watered and had a cheerful diver check the effects of our brush with terra firma – scratches but no structural damage. Tainui’s heavy hull was laid up nearly 40 years old, before they knew how light you could build in fibreglass. I think age hardens the glass, too. Anyway, she”s as tough as old boots.
Perhaps with an excess of caution we’re using two 60lb ploughs on a single 180′ rode of 3/8″ chain. We’re in 30′ of water and the bottom is mud. The first down anchor is buoyed and we can let the whole lot go if we have to get out in a hurry. The experts in Patagonia tell me this is the best setup – 2 anchors 30′ apart, on one rode. Separate rodes are not recommended because of variability in williwaw direction. You tend only to be hanging on one anchor at a time. I am more than happy to take their advice.
Let me tell you about tying the boat in among the trees in small caletas. Another adventure entirely. I am indebted to our Canadian friend Tony Gooch for guidance in this, by the way. I have found the learning curve as steep and slippery as the shoreline. This is what happens:- first you launch the dinghy, get all your lines ready, take a deep breath and survey the scene. Then, after dropping and setting the anchor, you back the boat into the chosen slot. Tainui doesn’t reverse in docile fashion, so there’s lots of filling, backing and cursing till she has been lined up. Well, sort of. Then one of us (usually me) jumps into the dinghy, ties the a shoreline round his waist and the dinghy painter round one ankle, and rows like buggery. Speed is of the essence because by the time you reach your chosen tree the the breeze will have taken charge and Tainui will be moving in an unsavoury direction. You scramble and stumble ashore up slippery rocks or steep banks and tie the line round a stout tree. It us usual for me to fill at least one gumboot with icy water during this bit, but I heave a sigh of relief when Dave takes in the slack and the boat swings back round. Once the first shoreline is attached, the other 2 or 3 can be laid at a more leisurely pace. Finally, you let out more anchor chain and winch all 3 lines in, till the boat is in the desired position. Then you go below for just rewards. The whole exercise takes us a good hour, though we’re getting a bit quicker at it. It is very good exercise.