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.

2 thoughts on “29.12.07 – Caleta Brecknock, Jewel of a Spot

  1. April 1, 2013 at 08:38

    Hi John,

    I just read about your upcoming Russian journey in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. It sounds fantastic. My Fiancé Jess Taunton and I just sailed through the Northwest Passage last year in our little 29-foot, wooden junk-rigged yacht ‘Teleport’ (www.YachtTeleport.com) which is currently wintering over in Nome, Alaska. We’re heading back to her in early June to sail her down the coast of Alaska, but the following year (or the year after) we’d love to sail back up the coast and along the Aleutians to Russia’s Kamchatka and down the peninsula to Japan etc and eventually back to Oz. Initial research and contacts seem to imply we need 5 permits, one signed by Putin himself, and a cost of $20k as the bureaucrats we spoke to at least don’t recognise the diference between a 290m cruise ship and a 29 foot sailing boat, it’s the same permit/fee structure…? haha. Anyway, Jess and I would dearly love to hear how you go with sorting out your permits…

    Best of luck with your preps – it’ll be an amazing voyage!

    P.S. – did you hear of the Russian ‘Vikings’ who sailed their viking boat down to Oz recenty? Their boat is now in Tassie. http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2011/11/16/272881_ntnews.html



    1. April 17, 2013 at 11:00

      Hello Chris. Always good to hear from other high latitude nomads. I am jealous of your Kamchatka plans – I’ve been looking longingly at that part of the world for years, though I believe in Okhotsk Sea there’s fog and no wind in summer and solid ice in winter. In Hopedale we thought hard about the NW Passage but opted for Greenland-Iceland-Faroes-Svalbard instead. Did you come across our friend Richard Hudson in a big red steel boat? He should have been doing the passage about when you were there.

      From all I hear, the NE passage is still a bureaucratic nightmare. Last spring a well-equipped French yacht sat in Archangel’sk for months waiting in vain for final clearance before giving up and going home. But as always, odd yachts get permission, for seemingly capricious reasons. Same with our inland waterways trip.

      Re permits, I have used Rusarc for an invitation for my business visa. They are good with Barents Sea and White Sea permissions and may be worth contacting about NE passage. They are charging me 2000 euros for the Volga Don work although it is far from certain that the necessary permits will be forthcoming in time. If all else fails, the shorter trip down from Archangel’sk to St Petersburg is slightly more reliably open for foreign vessels (3 yachts in an ARC rally did the passage last year). The other benefit of the short trip is that you can leave the mast in. I am dreading pulling mine out and doing all those miles with 15 feet of stick protruding front and back.

      Just out of interest, how did your email reach me? I am putting together a wordpress website but I thought it was not yet public. But your email got through and I wonder how.

      fair winds

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