Please select your home edition
Marine Resources 2019 - Leaderboard

Sailing in Chile: Part 2 - Sailing in the White

by Karina McQueen & Gary Peacock 9 Jan 16:57 UTC
Sea Rover II docked at Marina Austral in the lovely town of Puerto Aguirre in the heart of northern Patagonia. © Karina McQueen & Gary Peacock

Every sailor has a comfort zone. For most of us, this zone is a moving target that expands a little bit each time we push ourselves to experience something new. I remember the first time we crossed Georgia Strait - even though it was calm and we motored almost the whole way across, there was an underlying current of anxiety. What if the engine fails? What if there is no wind and we can't sail across? How will we get into our slip in the marina? Of course none of those worries came to pass - on that particular crossing, anyway.

Each time we ventured out on the boat, we encountered a new situation that pushed our comfort zone a little bit further. Whether it was sailing downwind in our first gale while trying to get our spinnaker pole down, making that hard left turn at Neah Bay, or dealing with our first major 'issue' at sea when our forestay came undone our first night out, we learned from each experience and moved forward feeling a bit more comfortable and confident.

As our sailing experience increased, so did our comfort zone. We survived our first overnight passage, our first really rough weather, our first engine problem offshore, our first big ocean crossing, and then our first gale (of six) in 30 foot seas in the southern ocean. I wouldn't necessarily want to repeat some of those experiences, but we learned to trust ourselves and the boat and I know I can now handle situations I couldn't have dreamed of 10 years ago when we started sailing.

Adventure is all about traveling outside your comfort level, but being 'in that zone' for long periods of time can wear you down. Sailing in Chile with the winds, inclement weather and the general remoteness of the area put us out of our comfort zone numerous times last season.

A few months ago, en route to the glacier at Laguna San Rafael, we had one of our typical sailing days moving from one unknown anchorage to the next, aka: STRESSFUL. After three days of traveling south in strong winds from varying directions, fighting contrary currents that were predicted to be with us, and trying to decipher the cryptic language nuances of the two cruising guidebooks we use for this area, we were starting to get a little tired. So imagine how we felt when we were forced to add "Sailing in the White" to our daily routine. This is a term that strikes fear into the most hardened, crusty cruiser, as it means you are now sailing without a map to tell you what is below the surface of the water.

Chile's charts have improved dramatically over the past 10 years and their Chart Atlas, which contains every marine chart for the entire coast, is a model that should be followed by every country in the world. However, there are still areas where the underlying depth information was determined by a guy in a row boat with a lead line in 1720.

In planning our next day of travel to the small town of Puerto Aguirre, we realized that to get to the anchorage in a timely manner (ie, before the big forecasted afternoon blow, the current switching and darkness), we would have to travel through a minefield of uncharted reefs, unnamed islets and narrow passes, with no depth information indicated on the charts. How could we possibly not run aground?

The night before this passage was spent pouring over the charts, both electronic and paper, comparing them with our cached electronic google satellite images to check for any differences along our planned route. We studied the guidebooks for any hints of what to avoid and read the long trip reports of all those who had passed before us. Our fear was dampened a little by the knowledge we gleaned and eventually transformed itself into a healthy caution. We were as ready as we could be and it was time to move on.

The next morning we set off "Into the White" with a feeling of mild anxiety. Of course the contrary wind picked up earlier than anticipated and the currents were, as usual, not from the direction we expected. The depth sounder jumped dramatically from 200 m to 2 m and then back to 200 m. Were there fish below? Rocks? A thermocline? Was the depth sounder having a seizure? We began to question what we knew. Were we really prepared? The answer was a resounding YES. We reefed to make the boat comfortable, realized the current wasn't slowing forward progress to a halt, and learned to ignore the erratic readings on the depth sounder (well, sort of). We followed our planned course and nothing went 'bump'. Dolphins leaped, Albatross soared, and Penguins bobbed around us. We made it to Puerto Aguirre with no paint missing off the bottom. Our comfort zone had creeped another inch forward.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Bluewater Cruising Association.

Related Articles

Mbtiles for OpenCPN
A huge step forward for satellite charting Around 2005, mariners who were also computer geeks, began to realize the potential to use satellite imagery alongside nautical charts in poorly charted areas of the world, using (free) services like Google Earthâ„¢. Posted on 16 Jan
Passage Making two day seminar
From the psychology of leaving to living in cramped quarters Passage Making is a multi topic two day seminar. From the psychology of leaving to living in cramped quarters, the Gillstroms bring deep knowledge and experience into this conversation. Over the two days, they will cover broad and relevant subjects. Posted on 11 Jan
What makes a cruiser?
We hunted and searched until we found a fabulous boat Some years ago, Laurie saw an ad for the Bluewater Cruising Association's Ocean Cruising Adventures speakers series in Pacific Yachting magazine, which was a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle. Posted on 10 Jan
What comes around goes around
We joined the Vancouver Rowing Club and volunteered to do committee boat I met my husband volunteering. I had just graduated with a Master's in Psychology, but the degree was in social research, not clinical or counseling, and I wanted to help people one-on-one and not just watch it all from an office in a university somewhere Posted on 9 Jan
The best of 9 years, 9 months and 9 days
Jordan and Judy return to VI Mid-Island Jordan and Judy Mills left Victoria in September, 2009 on their 35 ft. cutter, Sea Turtle IV, for what they expected to be a five year west-about circumnavigation. Posted on 8 Jan
Preparing your sails for a long journey
There is a lot to consider when planning a long trip In this informal evening, the presenter will outline what you need to do to prepare your sails for a long journey. This course is being offered by Evolution Sails in a three hour interactive session. Posted on 7 Jan
Down the Rivers of the Great Loop
Calgary Club Night: The Great Loop is a great compromise Rowland and Alexandra Harrison, Calgary's first presenters of 2020, will tell us about a unique way of journeying on your own boat through virtually all of the states of the eastern US, the Great Lakes and the heartland of the US. Posted on 28 Dec 2019
Psychology of Voyaging
This course puts people back into the centre of the voyage As we prepare for offshore cruising, our focus is so often on the boat and its equipment, that we tend to forget that the most important piece of equipment aboard is the crew. Posted on 26 Dec 2019
Abandon Ship! How to Stay Alive in Your Life Raft
If your boat went down today, would you be ready and know what to do? If you plan on going offshore and have answered "no" to any of these questions, then the Abandon Ship! How to Stay Alive in Your Life Raft course is for you. Posted on 23 Dec 2019
Drama on the Columbia River Bar
The Columbia River Bar is not some sleazy joint on a river side street Any mariner who plies the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest knows how wild that coast can often be. Chances are they also know the entrance to the Columbia River and the Bar that protects it from any dubious vessel Posted on 13 Dec 2019
Marine Resources 2019 - FooterYalikavak Marina FooterSailing Holidays 2019 - BOTTOM