Loc: Cabo Espritu Santo
Dist: 35,2 km
Start: 8:55 End: 13:45
I almost stepped back again today from a crossing…sure it was forecast 20-25 kn north wind, and seas from 1,30 m to 3 m…conditions really not for beginners!
As usual, I stuck my head out of my tent at 4 am, and noticed it was blowing already the 20 knots from the north…quite early! The sea looked roughish already, it can only get worse! I decided again this is not the day yet…though the wind direction was perfect. Bu the sea state…and the landing…it may be too much!
But tomorrow is really strong westerly wind again over 25 kn, so at least another two days in this noisy oil refinery infested spot? Ok, another reason to stay was to wait for the parcel Peter sent to Kiko in Punta Arenas, as Kiko would be happy to drive it out to me…but nothing arrived yet!
I gave it another turn around in my sleeping bag, pulled my scarf over my eyes and tried to be patiently looking forward of another two days of reading…
At 8 am I eventually walked out of my tent to find a bush, watched the sea again being reasonable calm in the lee of the steep beach for a good launch, but having quite some white caps further out. I felt the wind was strong, but the helicopters to the many oil platforms out there in the Magellan Strait were flying again, and I thought then it would be just about all right for me as well…and decided to just go NOW!
High tide had been at 6.30 am, so actually I was a bit late, but I calculated for those 32 km I’d be landing about an hour after low tide with this pushing wind and tide, so this should be still ok.
I packed as quickly as possible, hopped on the water with no problem, and paddled off into the direction my GPS told me. Yesterday I could see the other side, this morning I could perfectly use an oil platfom for my first navigation direction, slightly more west from my actual direction, to avoid getting blown off course by the wind.
So waves and wind came from my right shoulder, becoming bigger once away from the lee of the beach very soon! Nothing for the faint hearted…I kept my PFD on, and had myself hooked to the boat. Not that I planned to swim, but swimming after my boat after a possible bail out would be even worse!
The first 10 km I was constantly holding to the west to stay on my course of 207 degrees, and I didn’t lose any degree! Good. They were big seas, but I had been paddling in bigger ones…and much more violent ones…breakers were there, but possible to handle well with some attention.
Around 20 km were left, and the sea and wind calmed a little bit down that I now could head a bit less west and more south west, almost to my actual direction. I left the oil platform behind, and could see the coast coming nearer and nearer…almost there! What are 30 something km on such a big sea crossing… 🙂
I enjoyed actually now the wind and waves directly from behind, which is only enjoyable if you can enjoy being surfed…up to 20 km/h, sometimes a bit scary..but faster again as well.
Coming closer to the last 5 km, I couldn’t really decide where to aim for – for the Cape with the two light houses of the boarder of Chile and Argentina on a high cliff, or about 3,5 km to the right, where the cliffs were down and a few houses were to be seen – a perfect safe landing spot, just before the big reef would start on my chart.
But this was already Chile…the border was on the cliff between the two light houses…the right red and white one was Chile, the left blue house was Argentine Prefectura with a wiry lighthouse a bit further south. I thought I spotted a lower gap in the cliff to the left of the light houses as well, but rather aimed for the obvious low entrance, probably a wide river mouth. Safety first, Chile or Argentina, I didn’t really mind and was just happy to reach the coast safely and on the closest spot very soon.
But my real treat came then, 5 km before the coast…my chart showed me that I was reaching the reef line, and amazingly one hour after low tide there seemed to be exposed reefs everywhere…and it seemed like I had to cross a heavily breaking outer reef!
I was still aiming for the low spot in the cliffs in Chile, knowing that such a wide river mouth usually creates a gap in the reef where the water is calmer and goes closer to the beach as well on low tide…and it was right! The reef gap was maybe only 50-100 m wide, to the right and left it was heavily breaking…not the greatest feeling to go through such stuff, and you are just praying “Please don’t get me, and please stay free of breakers here in my path!”
Paddling fast as hell, constantly watching over my shoulder, I made it through that breaker gap into the shallow quiet water without catching one, constantly following the line into the cliff opening.
I became obvious that one hour after low tide the reef here was still widely exposed and sandy, and I soon reached the shallows where I either had to get out of my boat and to start dragging it in, or where I would simply to stay in my boat and to wait for the tide, slowly but surely pushing me in…
I opted for the latter. I was quite chilly after heavy paddling in big seas in a PFD, sweating more than usual. But I tried to at least get my hands warm, and had now time for a few snacks. It was amazing how fast the tide came in and floated me along…it was some times some kind of hopping sideways if I didn’t steer bow first. Getting lifted by a wash, stuck on the sand again, lifted again…I just had to watch a few rocks.
At least this landing proved to be easy, as the dangerous reef breaker line lay behind me now! It just took it’s time to get in, but rather waiting, being a bit chilly, than dragging…
I decided to paddle along the shallow water line back into Argentina, past the two light houses on the cliff. Easy to sneak from one country to the other…you may think there are people up there on the watch? Well, I could have called on the radio: “Prefectura, Prefectura, just have a look out of your warm window down the cliffs, the crazy German kayak lady has just been crossing Magellan Strait where no boat has been out there! Please come down to see me!”
But I rather liked to do it all myself, eventually getting out of the boat and to decide to drag the last maybe 300 m in.
Then the usual procedure, unloading the heavy stern first, walking to the beach with the heavy bag and some water bags, coming back, unloading the rest, walking to the beach…but STOP! Don’t do the same mistake again and leave the now light weight boat out there alone…though the wind seemed to be way less, maybe 15 knots now from the north, rather than over 30 knots from the west offshore last time when my boat started to fly…so I may be still take the last bag first, as here it is quite wet and my bag would be soaking…
I felt all right, but didn’t dare to walk fully back to the beach with the last bag!
I did so well…I walked out, turning frequently back to my kayak…all ok. But I dropped my bag on a reasonable dry sandy spot in the middle between my boat and the beach with even a metal pole stuck solidly into the sand where I could best attach my bag to be on the safe side.
I walked back to my boat, and it was just NOW when the wind turned…offshore, west, strong, gusty…hurry, girl, your kayak! As if it wanted to complain I dared again to leave it light weight alone out there, it just rolled over slowly one half time, one more half time up again…just as I could reach it and apologize…sorry, baby, I really didn’t expect the wind would be turning and breezing up just NOW! But don’t expect anything here regarding the wind…all can happen, and it can happen RIGHT NOW!
Glad I got off with only with another “warning”, I dragged my kayak fully in first, before I picked my bags out there, now with a fat strong offshore west wind! I felt like a dejá vue…but all went all right this time. How I’d love to get out of this tidal area very soon!!!
Putting up tent in a merely protected beach spot was a piece of artwork again, I secured it with rocks all around on the pegs and flaps, knowing tomorrow would be another day off…but I’ve crossed Magellan Strait, in conditions probably not many people have crossed it, and I am on Tierra del Fuego – Fireland – Feuerland!
The long term forecast says tomorrow 25-30 kn west, nothing really inviting! I may pay the two light houses a visit. But Thursday will be friendly 15-18 knots west north west all day, where I’ll be aiming to reach Faro Páramo on this long, jutting peninsula across Bahia de San Sebastián, 60 km away. Friday is supposed to be friendly low wind, and I’ll paddle another 60 km down the coast, and for Saturday, probably at least ok wind in the morning, there would be about 30 km left to reach Rio Grande! Well, all sounds great, if the forecast stays as planned…