When I left Tony in Ushuaia earlier in the year to fly home he continued up the Chilean Fjords to Puerto Mont. He left the boat there for the winter with the aim to sail it back to Ushuaia for the summer season taking trips back to Antarctica.
I flew back with Tony to Puerto Mont to restock the boat and sail it down to Punta Arenas and then onto Ushuaia. There were 7 of us on the boat this trip including Tony’s new skipper who was to take this summer’s trips back to Antarctica. We set out in relatively calm and protected waters and stopped each night in a protected bay which there are many travelling down through the fjords. We stopped at many of the isolated fishing villages and we had great fun trying to communicate with the locals. At one point we had run out of bread, going into the little village we expected there to be bread on the shelves. We felt stupid when it occurred to us they make all of their own bread daily but only for their families. We found someone who would make bread rolls for us thinking individual lunchtime size rolls. When we went to pick them up we realised our language skills weren’t that good instead they had a dozen large sized cob loaf bread. They didn’t go to waste as we finished them off in very quick time. Boredom is a terrible thing on a boat as food almost becomes an obsession. The scenery down through the fjords is spectacular, we followed snow capped mountains on both sides as day after day we sailed on. Tony had befriended a number of locals in different villages and we stopped off on our way back down to visit them, most were fisherman and many times they were still out trying to make a living.
We stopped at a little village and heard about a home that had their front room as a restaurant. Arriving early at our port we organised to have dinner there that night, we pre ordered the local Centolla crab. We arrived and we were warmly welcomed by the house owner and showed to a very small room where we all just fitted in. The crab was served and eaten but we were still hungry. She them made some pizzas for us which again was devoured. They had some friends coming for dinner and they were hoping we would be gone by the time they arrived as room was of a premium. They had their own dinner cooking on the stove. By this time we were almost best friends and we aware now invited to stay when their friends arrived and also stay for more food if we wanted to. We did stay and had the best night you could possible image, their traditional food was cooked in a big pot with different layers separated by calico sheets. We helped them eat that as well but there was so much food I think they had enough for the rest of the week. They put music on and show us how to Salsa dance and other Latin dances. Wendy was in love, our male host was handsome and a dance instructor who swept Wendy off her feet. It was one of those ten out of ten evenings with generous fun people along with great food.
Next day we continued every now and then turning up into a fjord and staying the night secured away in a protected bay and the only disturbance was the creak and grown of the glazier calving. We put on our dry suites and went swimming in the freezing water. We had some great times on kayaks and climbing up onto large pieces of floating ice.
After two weeks we arrived into Punta Arenas. A few years earlier we were in Commonwealth Bay known as the windiest place on earth, I think they meant after Punta Arenas. The wind blew so hard we were not able to get off the boat for three days. The only reason we had to make an effort was that some of our crew had flights to catch while others were flying in to sail down to Ushuaia. My wife Sue and Tony’s two children, Holy and Jorden were joining us for the last leg. Sue just had to find out the attraction of sailing.
Tony finally was able to get us to shore but was washed out of the dingy as he approached the yacht, thankfully he was brought safely back onto the yacht and the dingy salvaged. As I was onshore It was up to me to go to the airport to drop off our departing crew and pick up our family. The windy welcome was not what they expected. We were stranded onshore for another 3 days before we were able to restock and get onto the boat.
Torres Del Paine – Puerto Natales.
Unable to get back on the boat Sue and I headed for Torres del Paine for a couple of nights. This is a very beautiful part of Patagonia and is a haven for trekkers. We did some hiking through the mountains, visited beautiful chalets by the rivers and just took in the breathtaking scenery.
Back to the yacht, finally and we headed off in still very windy conditions. Each night we would pull into small bays for protection from the wind. The scenery was still very beautiful but spoiled by the continuing strong winds. Many times we had to stay in the bays as it was too dangerous to venture back into the channel. The terrain was so rugged you couldn’t get off the boat so we stayed cooped up in the boat for days at a time. It wasn’t a pleasant time. I thought I would break the monotony by baking some bread, I have never done this before but what the heck lets give it a go. I made two perfect loaves, warm and inviting I cut it up for lunch. I was distracted doing something on the boat and when I got back below deck to make my sandwich all of the bread was gone. I got one little crusty end. What annoyed me was one of the other guest made two sandwiches and only ate one the other went in the bin. I never made bread again.
Finally we escaped and made our way down to Ushuaia where I booked into a hotel for a weeks. By this time it is almost Christmas. We were invited by one of Tony’s NZ friends to join them on their yacht for Christmas Day. When we arrived there were a number of other yacht members there as well, we counted 8 different nationalities for lunch. Each talked about how they celebrate in their own countries. To this day this was one of the most unique Christmas days ever.
Tony and his two children Sue and I did a lot of touring around Ushuaia and had a great time visiting and staying at a sheep station for a night. We were shown how the beaver being imported from Canada had destroyed the countryside. They were brought down to bead think they would harvest their pelts but the temperatures were not cold enough and the pelts were useless so the beavers were let go and with no known predators they multiplied profusely. We were intrigued by the way the trees are cut down and then cut up. Surprisingly they remove large chunks of timber with each bite and they do horrendous damage to the natural bushland.
Like all good things we had to head home and just before new year’s eve we boarded our plane back to Santiago for a nights stopover before flying home. In 2017 I spent four and a half months in South America and Antarctica. It was a great adventure and one I would recommend to anyone. Oh, did Sue like the sailing – her answer – never again.