Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Like a bat out of hell

As if the gates of heaven opened, the chains that held us to Tierra del Fuego broke into dust and the sweet air of the ocean started to fill our lungs.

From when we left the anchorage of the Straits of Magellan four and a half days ago we have travelled 596 nautical miles, which makes an average speed of 5.5 knots, now to any sailor, that is not very fast for a 67 foot yacht !

The route which we travelled was not straight by a long shot, it had twists and turns, some round parts and some curved but the actual distance that we should of taken was 402 nautical miles, so one might ask is the skipper deranged or was there another factor that brought this about?

The slip out of the straits through the centre of the low did work well, the weather system that we had after that was not that well.

Out of the 4 nights we had to hove too for 3 of them (to stop the boat whilst at sea) . The counter currents along the Chilean coast made the seas even well off shore where we were like a washing machine, so even when we had boat speed, we were stopped dead by the continual hobby horsing and gyrations that Xplore made each time as we came over a wave crest.

A few technical, mechanical and sails issues also kept the speed down, and the atmosphere cool along with the temperature, the team on board was also settling into their own rhythm and routines along with their sea legs.

But like all sailors know, ever day and ever watch can be so totally different, and we at last saw what we wanted in the prognostic weather charts....... the re-emergence of the South Pacific High Pressure Cell!!

From late morning yesterday we have seen the back of the South, hell has been closed and heaven awaits those who are patient.

Our mileage that we have travelled in less than 24 hours, in the right direction has changed the faces of everyone on board.

So like a bat out of hell, we'll be coming on back to you


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fasten your seat belts !

Fasten your seat belts !

The southern ocean will always have a mystique and awe about it.

The sea faring stories that have been written about the roaring forties,
furious fifties and the screaming sixties in the past only have changed in
that the type and style of the boats are hopefully a lot better... we hope.

Our departure from the shores of Tierra Del Fuego and the western reaches of
the Straits of Magellan was something of a feat, long hours mulling over the
possibility to sail direct into open ocean or to use the inside channels 400
nautical miles up the coast and then to exit further north from the Gulf De

I was happy with either way, but with each of these options there were draw
backs, pluses and minuses.

The prevailing winds are from the NW to SW, and here in this part of the
world you NEVER try to fight against the winds.

The inside channel route is some what protected, but as we found out on the
day before departure that our Cmap electronic chart package that we had just
installed on the boat navigation computer had some serious flaws in their
coverage. These were to compliment our collection of paper charts on board
and play an important part of the total navigation safety picture.

After paying $200USD for just this Chilean section, I was furrious with what
they had supplied us, it was virging on the case of suicide to only navigate
these twisting channels with them alone. I wasnt happy !

The option to sail direct into open ocean, and then north made a lot of
sense, BUT you need to right conditions and wind direction to be able to do
this, as this western side of Tierra Del Fuego is as ferocious as Cape Horn.

The night of the 20th we sat in our anchorage off the side of Magellan, and
I had my head deep in mixed thoughts. We had known for over 4 days that a
substantial low pressure system was going to come across from the Pacific
and take its normal path track around Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, the
prognosis was for extreme winds on the front reaching higher than 60 knots.

If the low didnt track too much to the SE then we may have a small window to
exit Magellan and cross through the centre and then take the Southerly winds
north on the western side of the low, lots of ifff's and But's about this.

I slept with mixed dreams and woke early as any anxious skipper does, down
loaded some new weather information and looked at the satelite image, hmmm
this low is just about stationary and coming right across the top of us.

To not take this oportunity (and many would say that there is nothing
opportunistic about sailing through the centre of a big low prressure cell)
but here in the south you also learn that some of the calmest conditions
happen in the centre of a low, well thats untill you get out from the

Many coffee's and reflective thinking I saw that this chance to move was the
best, to not take could mean that we would be stuck there in the south for
another 4 to 5 days potentially, not a great thought as autum and winter is
drawing closer, the days already cut substantially.

The howling winds from the eastern side of the low started to ease early
afternoon, we made our break, but didnt really know what the Straits would
be like untill we exited our hiddy hole ?

What we found and what we saw was amazing, flat smooth seas, low wind, and a
clear passage North West, Xplore was prepared and ready for the Pacific.

In the 2 days since leaving the Straites of Magellan we have had some tough
but fast sailing, winds into the mid 40's have kept everyone on their toes,
rough starts arent the best for settling the stomaches of people but overall
the team has survived in a sterling fashion.

As we tear along 65 miles miles off the coast steering due north we all long
for the warmth of some sun and calmer conditions

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blow and Go

Well, the life of a sailor is very much about patience, waiting for everything, the winds to turn, the seas to ease, the crew to arrive, the passengers to leave.

We are waiting at the moment in the very western reaches of the Straits of Magellan, much further west than I have ever been before in Tierra Del Fuego, and our waiting plan is all about a low pressure system.

In my years down here I have seen many a low blow through, some small and many very large, and this one that we wait for has to be classified as one of those large ones !

With the Grib files showing average wind strengths in the 60 knot range we know that gusts could be much higher. So in our travels out to this location we needed to find a good bolt hole that would give us protection.

As the name of the yacht is Xplore, we once again did just that, explored and found another new anchorage to hide away in.

If you have that chance Google this Latitude and Longitude and you can see where we are, and named it "Caleta Julie" as it was crew member Julie's birthday the day that we found this place.

53 07.995 South 73 36.250 West

The blow should last for 2 days, but indication have it easing on the morning of the 22nd where we may be able to sail out of Magellan and then head north to more temperate climates and the start of our Pacific crossing.