Progress Report #3
I had an exchange with Howard today, he departed from the Nao Victoria museum around 4 pm yesterday local time on a weather forecast that told of a moderate southerly breeze.
From the museo through to just past Punta Arenas the coastline is almost directly south before it bends to the west, so he was heading straight upwind, and there is no natural shelter anywhere short of half an hours drive to the west.
The water is shallow for a long way out, and the Straits are over 20 miles wide at that point so there is plenty of room for a strong wind to build up some wicked short spaced waves.
Here’s what happened.
“Everything ok, 10 miles yesterday after 4pm start. Blew up from 10k wsw to 25 straight out of the south, wave heights as I passed Punta easily ten feet, Southern Cross would crest slam deep in the trough in time to meet the next, all breaking, only one option for possible safe anchorage 6 miles to weather. I made it, what a sail. I am south of Punta and forced to wait out today’s south strong wind. Tomorrow it turns west and I will push as far south as far as I can go. Tough slog last night, spent a very tenuous rolling night, slept in dry suit on the ready. I am anchored in the lee of the CH wrecks and hiked into town, blowing cold and grey out of the south. Yesterdays sail was a great test of my boat, tough, went to weather under staysail, mizzen and main.”
Second communication a few minutes later.
“The shore from south of the ferries past Zona Franca and on to the bay off downtown Punta was amazingly rough, I mean really rough. 10 ft standing breakers far out past the surf line, breakers everywhere, I would sail port tack until I felt the waves were slightly different and then tack back east to gain ground off shore. On port tack I took many breaking waves into the cockpit. She pumped away and I kept moving. When I made the sea buoy off Punta I tacked on to port and struck the main feeling I was well enough out of the long beach break. I could see the main pier far ahead and knew it would offer no protection so I set a course on to the Cape Horner wrecks, what a piece of work as darkness fell. I never felt afraid until I went jib and mizzen and realized I couldn’t hold course out of the surf break so I hoisted main again and tacked offshore. The surf break was easily a quarter mile out and hard to discern it from all the others breaking waves. I hoisted the main again muttering to myself, “you better get this right.”
On the hoist I tacked on to starboard and beat off the lee shore, it was a tense moment and the little boat dug in and we cleared. The next long legs were to the ship wrecks and it took until dark. When I arrived (it’s an Armada property) they were scrambling to move their rescue ship to tie it up to one of the wrecks as it was getting pounded by the southerly. I hailed them on vhf and asked permission to anchor, no problem was the answer. The captain came on deck and yelled to me an invitation to raft up for protection. I thanked him but declined. I felt like I needed to swing free. It was one long, cold, rolling night. I stayed in my dry suit in case.
She held fast and this morning the Strait is again wild out of the south so I await tomorrow. I hiked north into Punta. Tonight will be another rolling experience but I will try to set up for sleeping out of the dry suit.
I feel quite satisfied I was able to be steadfast and make the fight to weather, a piece of work and one of the more challenging sails I have had in my life, not to exaggerate but it was. I kept thinking of hot Centolla empanadas as I sailed so I had two for lunch at the public market.
Tomorrow looks like sun and a 10-12k westerly. I’ll be gone at first light and will put Cape Froward within striking distance if it holds. Cape Froward as you well know is one of the biggest challenges of this voyage making even Cape Horn look inviting. I need to get close, staged and then use the weather window to cross the straits (both arms) and enter the SW islands.
Third communication from Howard:
“You would have been proud of me. It was a piece of work for sure. Damn the boat goes. I was on the hiking seat most of the way hiking stick in hand, main sheet free hand, staysail boiler plate tight and sheeted hard. Working the main was the secret. I didn’t reef it and was satisfied with the power, I really needed it as at times Southern Cross’s hull was 75% or so airborn as she crested wave tops, down in the trough she drop and then immediately begin the next climb. I worked the main and kept her powered up. Big work and no time to get gloves on, next time gloves.”
Check out his location here, he’s anchored just above the innermost of the three wrecked steel Cape Horn sailing ships, right in close to the beach where it’s sheltered from the south. Moving on in the morning.