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Antarctic Adventure
Antarctic Adventure
Few boats are capable of making the long, dangerous passage around Cape Horn but two FPB owners battled storms and icebergs to experience this magical cruising ground
Pete Rossin

It​ was blowing 35 to 40 knots yesterday when we arrived at this beautiful little anchorage in the Beagle Channel at the extreme southern tip of South America. Shore lines are in order, like most anchorages here. Our procedure is to unship and launch the large dinghy with two sets of 3/4in poly shore lines, shackles and rigging strops to tie around trees or rocks on shore. On the way in, Jim runs a 5m depth contour in the tender while we set up a track on him using ARPA so we have a safe working depth contour. The charts down here are mostly inaccurate or lack depth information.

While Jim is running to shore in the dinghy to set up the first and most important shoreline, we drop our big 150kg Manson anchor and back down toward shore against the wind as we let out chain, all while watching our scanning sonar for obstacles. By the time we have 60m out in 15m of water, Jim has tied off the first shoreline and run back to the boat. Once cleated off, we are secure, so the pace is more leisurely as we set the second shoreline at a 30° angle to the first.

In some of the anchorages around here we have had as many as six lines out in addition to the anchor. When it’s blowing with gusts of up to 60 knots you sleep much better at night knowing you are sitting in a little V-shaped notch in the shoreline with just 10m between you and the shore on three sides.

We are watching the weather and planning our passage down the Beagle Channel, Canal O’ Brien and Canal Ballenero that includes a couple of long runs where we are exposed to the Southern Ocean before reaching safe harbour at Brecknock. Strong prevailing westerlies and rachas (katabatics) can make this stretch quite rough. Once we set off there will be few, if any, good anchorages where we can find protection.​ Our destination is Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia.

High mountains and glaciers surround us, extending down from the Cordillera Darwin ice field. Fortunately none of them reach the anchorage. There are several other boats in the anchorage and they join us aboard Iron Lady for the evening. One of the great pleasures of cruising is spending time with other cruising folk.

These are accomplished sailors all. Some have done both the Northeast and Northwest Passages, spent 18 seasons going to Antarctica and have even over-wintered in the ice. They are currently hauling scientists around doing various research projects. The other yacht is French and they currently only have reverse gear, but that hasn’t slowed their journey down. You have to stand in awe of such people.

The talk inevitably turns to Antarctica. While we laugh and compare notes about the anchorages and our experiences down there, there is a shared sense of community that only comes from those who have been and know it firsthand.

It​ was blowing 35 to 40 knots yesterday when we arrived at this beautiful little anchorage in the Beagle Channel at the extreme southern tip of South America. Shore lines are in order, like most anchorages here. Our procedure is to unship and launch the large dinghy with two sets of 3/4in poly shore lines, shackles and rigging strops to tie around trees or rocks on shore. On the way in, Jim runs a 5m depth contour in the tender while we set up a track on him using ARPA so we have a safe working depth contour. The charts down here are mostly inaccurate or lack depth information.

While Jim is running to shore in the dinghy to set up the first and most important shoreline, we drop our big 150kg Manson anchor and back down toward shore against the wind as we let out chain, all while watching our scanning sonar for obstacles. By the time we have 60m out in 15m of water, Jim has tied off the first shoreline and run back to the boat. Once cleated off, we are secure, so the pace is more leisurely as we set the second shoreline at a 30° angle to the first.

In some of the anchorages around here we have had as many as six lines out in addition to the anchor. When it’s blowing with gusts of up to 60 knots you sleep much better at night knowing you are sitting in a little V-shaped notch in the shoreline with just 10m between you and the shore on three sides.

We are watching the weather and planning our passage down the Beagle Channel, Canal O’ Brien and Canal Ballenero that includes a couple of long runs where we are exposed to the Southern Ocean before reaching safe harbour at Brecknock. Strong prevailing westerlies and rachas (katabatics) can make this stretch quite rough. Once we set off there will be few, if any, good anchorages where we can find protection.​ Our destination is Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia.

High mountains and glaciers surround us, extending down from the Cordillera Darwin ice field. Fortunately none of them reach the anchorage. There are several other boats in the anchorage and they join us aboard Iron Lady for the evening. One of the great pleasures of cruising is spending time with other cruising folk.

These are accomplished sailors all. Some have done both the Northeast and Northwest Passages, spent 18 seasons going to Antarctica and have even over-wintered in the ice. They are currently hauling scientists around doing various research projects. The other yacht is French and they currently only have reverse gear, but that hasn’t slowed their journey down. You have to stand in awe of such people.

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January 2020