18.12.07 – Bill Tilman and Angostura Mischief

After a windy night at Steamer Duck Lagoon, yesterday we entered Estero Peel. This is a grand fjord which sweeps east and then north into the heart of the Andes. I have been here many times in my dreams, following the footsteps of a great hero. We took a side trip into Estero Amalia to Caleta Tilman, before anchoring at Caleta Valdivia, a lovely cove on the north side of the channel. With 3 lines ashore we pulled the stern to within 30 feet of an icy stream bubbling out of the rainforest. There was no longer any good reason to ignore personal hygiene. Dave cooked an excellent potato omlette. By the way, Chilean spuds are absolutely the best – better even than those little Tasmanian spuds we took down to Macquarie Island.

Caleta Valdivia, Estero Peel

Today we motored up to Bahia Calvo, where Bill Tilman left Mischief to cross the great Patagonian ice cap into Argentina. It was a soft, benign day. No wind. Occasional showers but only light, with dazzling bits of blue sky. Steep mountains rise high above us on both sides, draped with chunky hanging glaciers and waterfalls like cotton threads. Abeam of a stunningly beautiful glacier named Nigel (true), we saw ahead what looked like broken water right across the channel. It was ice however, and after another 3 miles it was clear that we would not be getting into Bahia Calvo, whose 3 glaciers have been calving eponymously and vigorously. At Isla Ian, where Tilman tried to anchor, we turned back.

Ice in Estero Peel

 

We were only 5 miles from Angostura Mischief, the narrows where Tilman’s boat ran aground and was so nearly lost. The thought of ice floes rushing at 6 knots through that very tight channel between shoals was not attractive, now that we were so close. Perhaps a thick hulled steel boat could have kept going, but we were already down to 0.5 kts, fending off ice constantly and with no apparent clear leads ahead.

So we turned round, accompanied by our 6 dolphins. Where we go tonight will depend on the breeze down at the main junction. We’re at 50 something south now, and it is light till 11pm. so with a good northerly and a south going flood we might make some miles down Canal Sarmiento.

[Later] Hereabouts the anchorages described in our guide books constitute a veritable list of famous vessels which have preceded us – Mischief, Wanderer, Pelagic, Damien, Greenpeace and BiribiB,  to name but a few. As it turned out, tonight we have anchored at Caleta Damien. A nasty, wet night with unpleasant  squalls.

And for the first time, we are not alone! An Alaskan yacht “Faraway” is also anchored here. Like us, John and Dina have come down from Puerto Montt in their picturesque home-built Hanna ketch and we must have been leap-frogging ports and anchorages with one another for months. John has done this Patagonian journey a number of times and is a mine of obscure and useful information.

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