29.12.07 – Caleta Brecknock, Jewel of a Spot


In Canal Cockburn we felt big ocean swells again as we came around the SE tip of Tierra del Fuego into Canal Occasion. We were lucky though, because there wasn’t much wind and the current was favourable. The Beagle Channel and Puerto Williams are now only a couple of days away.

Now we have come to a jewel of a spot – Caleta Brecknock. Our friend Mani said we mustn’t miss it. So we didn’t. It is shaped like the theatre at Covent Garden but instead of circles and gods there are huge piles of bald wet granite rising steeply on all sides. Wrought by heaven knows what geotectonic upheaval. Mist and rain give the scene Wagnerian focus and the mountains, which appear out of nowhere and are gone just as quickly, are draped with waterfalls like dental floss. The rainforest trees all grow away from the direction of the wind but they hold all their foliage parallel and horizontal, like the hands of Indian dancers. Where did they learn geometry?


I scrambled up the dizzying heights. Well, that’s my story. I returned unbloodied but bowed, lungs clean, nose dripping, cheeks flushed. Clinging to those huge granite bluffs is a diverse collection of robust little expressions of life. Darwin would go ape (in fact I’m sure he did). It is amazing how nature works so hard at staying alive in the face of all odds – the tiniest little moss tufts, daisies so small you need a magnifying glass to see them, forests of bonsai beeches and gnarled old trees about 6″ high, creeping horizontal across cold flat granite, hanging on by their fingernails and looking for shelter. None of them is even sentient. I wonder why they bother.


Today we left that most magical anchorage, sailing east along the south side of Tierra del Fuego, headed for Canal O’Brien and Beagle Channel. The barometer fell steeply last night to 994, but it is sunny-ish, with 35 favourable knots in our long-suffering yankee’s bodice. Isla Londonderry breaks the Southern Ocean swells. We’ve passed Islas Basket and Isla Burnt – you should Google “Patagonia” and “Basket” for a good yarn about poor Fuegina Basket.

A lonely kelp goose on the fairway rocks welcomes us into Canal O’Brien. The wind has freshened and we run fast to yet another peaceful anchorage. Tonight there is clear sky and the barometer is rising. The water is glassy and a couple of steamer ducks circle the boat.

Tainui’s galley twitches with excitement as fresh bread is contemplated.

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