Please select your home edition
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

Calgary Club Night: A South Pacific Odyssey
Escape the Calgary winter and head back to the South Pacific Escape the Calgary winter and head back to the South Pacific with Pam and Ted Simper as they continue their exploration of tropical islands on their 40' Moody, Roundabout II. Posted on 22 Feb
Docking Skills
Learn how to manage docking Improve your docking skills whether you are single-handing or have help, on a sailboat, or a powerboat. Posted on 21 Feb
Electronic Systems: Simplifying Choices
Jeff will provide an overview of the most essential electronics In this informal two-hour presentation, Jeff will provide an overview of the most essential electronics for today's boaters and cruisers. Posted on 16 Feb
Sailing in Chile: Part 3
Interpreting the Guidebook Guidebook writers must be a curious breed. While they provide incredibly useful information in terms of what to expect in an anchorage or in a general area, they don't always give that information in a straightforward manner. Posted on 5 Feb
Victoria to the Sea of Cortez: The Journey Within
The places we journey to within ourselves while cruising Stefa Katamay and Jürgen Harding spent three years preparing themselves and their Tayana 37 Mazu for an offshore voyage from Victoria to San Francisco and then the coastal hop to the Sea of Cortez. Posted on 4 Feb
Rigging Essentials for Smooth Sailing course
Steve White to share years of experience at Jericho Sailing Centre Steve, owner of Steve White Rigging, shares years of experience in this day long course. He will cover preparing your vessel for leaving, maintenance and repairs. As well, he will take an in-depth look at standing and running rigging and winches. Posted on 31 Jan
Calgary Club Night: Buy a boat and sail the Med
Garry and Linda Orme were motor boat owners for over 25 years Garry and Linda Orme were motor boat owners for over 25 years before they took up sailing in 2015. They took their ISPA certifications on the west coast of Canada, then began the journey of buying a sailboat. Posted on 25 Jan
The Eastern Mediterranean - Egypt to Turkey
Cruising through countries often in the throes of unrest Near the end of an 8000 NM one year odyssey from Australia, we continued via countries often in the throes of unrest: Israel, Palestine and Cyprus. In spring 2003 we felt there was a window of opportunity to visit despite traditional conflicts. Posted on 21 Jan
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 Earth™. 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
GJW Direct - Yacht 2019 - FooteriSails 2020 - February - FOOTERMarine Resources 2019 - Footer