Anchoring in Patagonia

Anchoring in Patagonian waters is problematic. The fjords are often very deep and the bottom tends to be rocky except right in close to creek outflows. Hal Roth discovered this to his cost. Fishing boats almost never anchor out. Until Puerto Eden we have rarely relied on our ground tackle as the primary method of staying in one place, but here we are hanging on 2 anchors with one rode. The bottom is mud for once, but our anchorage is wide open to the south, so I have to be cautious. Our 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.

We have been anchoring primarily as an aid to setting up the boat with shore lines. Often the anchor doesn’t even touch the bottom until we are settled right back into the notch. But it is useful for hauling yourself out again. 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 the anchor (which may not even touch the bottom until you get close in to the shore), 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.

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