30.11.07 – San Rafael glacier again

After his protracted bout of pneumonia poor Dave has at last stopped sleeping all day. He is still lumpen and non-contributory but he’s on the mend I think. Martin is a real asset – a fine seaman, amusing raconteur, a good cook and general Mr Fixit. I will miss him when he leaves next week.

We spent last night tucked into Caleta Lynch, a gorgeous, quiet little nook of an anchorage, with rainforest 10 feet from the stern of the boat, glassy water and wind howling in the trees above. An absolutely bulletproof hidey-hole.


Now, rugged up to the nines, we’re roaring south down Golfo des Elephantes in 40 knots of squally wetness. I have promised Martin a glacier and we are headed for Laguna San Rafael. The forested mountains on each side are drenched and dripping. We’ve twin headsails up and the engine running, so the bus heater under the stairs is on, turning the saloon into a cosy place indeed.

In the channels the breeze is always dead on the nose or square up the tail. After our run down Golfo des Elephantes we poke our way into Rio Tempanos to visit the glacier at Laguna San Rafael. Last time, with Chris, the river was full of tumbling icebergs, but that was after a warm summer. Now the channel is clear and a 5 knot flood makes for a fast, easy river trip south into the huge lagoon.

Laguna San Rafael itself is relatively free of ice. A 35 knot northerly sends flurries of spume over the bow until we tuck into a bit of a lee at the head of the bay.

Gloomy day at San Rafael glacier

Gloomy day at San Rafael glacier

The blue translucent glacier, softened by swirling mists, takes our breath away. It sits between towering, rocky buttresses – a huge, brooding thing, hanging over us. It is hard to believe the distance off by radar is still over a mile. We creep in, keeping a wary eye out for those transparent blocks of ice which sit just at water level. This time I notice the silence. No labour pains – none of the groanings, creakings and calving crashes of last time. Suspended animation.

We sit in silence. Humbled, awed by the majesty of it. 

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