"The" Iron Lady "in stormy seas
Night drive in the Estrecho de Magallanes. Hardly any light. In Europe there would be a ton on every corner. It's new moon, pitch black outside, we're relying on maps, radar, and a track from another boat that went through here. A line on the screen that gives us the feeling of security as if we had been here before.
On starboard is the mainland, the South American continent, on port the island world of Tierra del Fuego, through which we have crossed the last three months. Starting from the last great Atlantic strike from Puerto Deseado to our first landfall on the Islas Estados, over the crossing of the Lemaire Strait, the rounding of Cape Horn to our visit to the spectacular glacier of the Darwin Cordilliera. Moments that are among the highlights of every cruising sailor.
Our photos are our most vivid memories, and the camera is always in the cockpit. The light here changes every moment. Still autumn, half an hour later there is sun and spring.
And now? Our new course is north-north-west. The destination is Valdivian on the Chilean coast, 1,300 miles further north. The prevailing wind direction is also north-north-west. So exactly opposite. Only rarely interrupted by something west or south-west.
The "Iron Lady" has become a motor sailor. In addition to the 500 liters of diesel in the tank, we drive 250 liters in canisters in the locker and on deck. Standard equipment of a yacht in the Chilean canals is also a fixed deckhouse or a large sprayhood, long land lines and the said diesel canisters.
After three weeks of sailing on the canal, we know why. The ride in the canals is unlike anything we've experienced before. In day trips we shimmy from protective bay to protected bay. The scenery is impressive, high mountains to the right and left, which send equally impressive downwinds, called Williwaws, across the water.
The wind always comes from the front, the wave from the canal. It rarely helps to go to the other side of the canal, because the wind is still coming from the front, the wave now only from the other side. In the middle, wind and waves come from the front, which is not an alternative.
Again and again you have to cross open bays that are only separated from the roaring expanse of the South Pacific by a few boulders. The air seems salty, the ocean within reach. The waves break on the rocks.
In the first few days we feel discouraged, we are moored like a spider in a web in a small anchor bay at the western end of the Beagle Channel and we cannot make up our minds to predict a wind of 25 to 30 knots with gusts of 40. But after two days of storm with 40 knots, in which the "Lady" tugs at her lines and the wind howls in the shrouds, we have to state that 25 knots of wind on the nose is a good forecast.
Photo gallery: "Iron Lady" on course for Cape Horn
We're running out. Made up 15 miles north-west, sailed 25 miles, weathered three squalls an hour. Same thing the next day. Our new routine: in the morning the land lines pulled in, everything moored, in the afternoon anchored, land lines deployed. Every day anew. In the evenings, the whole family eats huge pots of lentil stew or chili con carne and liters of hot tea.
Our energy consumption is high, Johann, our engine, just as hungry as we are. In the morning the windows are not only wet from the rain outside, but also from the condensation inside. The heater runs every day to get some dry warmth into the ship.
The vegetation is also changing. Instead of the dense deciduous forests and gently overgrown hills of the Beagle Channel, there are only windswept, crooked bushes on the otherwise bare-swept hills. Every now and then the children find calafate berries, little more than a coffee cup full, that are processed into jam.
The rocks are covered with a thick layer of moss. With every step on land you sink in, like walking on air mattresses. No animals on land, no insects, no mammals. Life down here takes place in the water. Sea lions, albatrosses, dolphins, whales, cormorants, penguins are our constant companions and always remind us at the right moment why we are not lying under a coconut palm in the Caribbean with a rum punch and a colorful umbrella.
It took us almost three weeks to travel 160 nautical miles as the crow flies, a distance that we cover in 36 hours on the open sea, but one of the toughest sections of the journey north is behind us. We use the weak wind phase to cross the Estrecho de Magallanes in one go. Night drive. Tomorrow morning we will reach the Paso del Mar, the mouth of the canal into the Pacific. Then it is time to turn into the canal world of the continent and "Farewell, Tierra del Fuego!"
It is said that whoever eats calafate berries comes back. Does that also apply to the jam?