08.02.07 – Bahia Sesquelan and San Rafael

Sesquelan007This part of Chile is wild, bold and beautiful beyond measure. Tainui is anchored in Bahia Sesquelan, waiting for good weather before going down into Laguna san Rafael. There is thick rainforest right to the water’s edge and a quaint timber fishermen’s hut in a clearing. Thick strands of kelp stretch like banners across the water. It is cold, windy and wet, but my little heater and Tales of Hoffman have the cabin cheerful and warm. Between rain showers, mysterious snowy peaks appear through the clouds.

In Chile, everyone is friendly. In Puerto Montt a group of youngsters stopped by with a bottle of wine to teach me espagnol and sing Chilote music. Here in Golfo des Elephantes fishermen loom out of the mist with gifts of live crabs or salmon. Coming through Pasa Quesahuen even the dolphins seemed to want to help me navigate through the tide races.

Sesquelan is a small bay tucked out of the tide behind a cluster of small islands. We are ten miles from our destination, a big glacier in San Rafael Lagoon. The shore is covered with dense rainforest and looks like a Rousseau painting. It’s misty and chilly out, but down below the little diesel heater and Apollon Musagette warm the cabin.

The Bahia Sesquelan anchorage is very picturesque. The usual temperate rainforest, champagne cork islets and snow-covered peaks across the channel. There is a little wooden hut presumably originally a timberman’s dwelling, where Romilio has lived for 9 years with his border collie. The sawmill has closed and its steam powered milling saws are rusting back into the forest. He lives alone cheerfully, purposefully. Sesquelan052

At 3 am we took the ground on a small cluster of rocks off the point (at low tide, thank god). I rowed out another anchor and we sat anxiously waiting the grind-off. In 24 hours this was the second inelegant eye-opener for Chris, to whom I had until now given the impression of granite-like invincibility. Fortunately there was very little swell. We were aground on the aft end of the keel, skeg and rudder. Soundings showed 8m of water everywhere but for the 1.8m shoal aft. We sent the GPS coordinates to Mariolina and Giorgio, whose excellent cruising guide (“Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego – Nautical Guide”) is absolutely essential reading for anyone sailing in these waters.

We’re having a lay day because of the sleet and poor visibility; because the glacier should only be seen in sunny weather; and because we were up all night tending to the boat, which chose low tide to sit herself down on an uncharted rock.

It is wonderful to have Chris on board. We mooch, read, eat, talk, explore and listen to music. No distractions, huis clos.

We shared beers at Romilio’s. The ordered, orderly house of a person living alone. Shouted conversations, avoiding perro’s fleas, politely refusing boiled dumplings. Then a row and a walk through the forest to the old sawmill. Sedate, elderly hulks of steam-driven saws.Sesquelan031


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