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From calm to storm!

Monday 14th March 2011
Up before dawn to raise the mains'l and get away from Harberton in good time ... flat calm, motoring, no one else around.... but had to clear away kelp caught around the Hydrovane rudder before I could leave - used the boat hook.

A beautiful morning and I made good use of the calm conditions to sort the boat out as we passed down the deserted Beagle Channel - there had been so many things to remember to do before leaving Ushuaia very early on Sunday .... found the staysail sheets had to be re-run - but a good time to do it!

It felt supremely good to be at sea at last, in 'sailing mode', not 'shoreside mode', making the boat tidy and shipshape ready for the passage to the Falklands - and on to Cape Town.

But by afternoon, as we cleared the end of the Beagle channel, the wind got up gradually more strongly from the NNE so that eventually, even with motor-sailing quite hard, I was unable to make my course. With gusts of apparent wind up to 38kn from NNE, and more N-NEwinds forecast, it was clear that my passage to and through Estrecho Le Maire and on was untenable. We were due S of Bahia Aguirre at the time, in rough seas - short, steep waves knocking us about a lot, even though not very large - so I decided to make for Puerto Espanol - had to tack to make the bay, with P. Espanol (one of the few anchorages in this area) lying in its NW corner - nicely protected from N winds... good to drop anchor in flat water, with a large fishing boat sheltering some distance away, well away from the hazards in the bay further to the S - some rocks and an unnamed obstruction 'always under water, submerged, depth unknown'... - I'd previously marked that spot with a skull&crossbones!

Had to unwind some more staysail furling line from drum - had put too many turns on origianlly so now the line was a bit too short. Then had lovely meal of lamb shank, potatoes and broccoli - a delayed Sunday dinner!

Tuesday 15th March

Grey again, with rain and a lot of mist and low-lying cloud earlier.

Had an excellent, clearly much-needed , sleep last night - finally up at midday today!! (Was on radio last night to PacSeaNet after 0330Z, 12:30am LT, and Saturday night before leaving Ushuaia finally, Michael & I stayed up way too late on 'Drina' chatting, after Alex had cooked a welcome stew (I was frozen from working on deck earlier, trying to sort out the *?!@** reef lines...) so got to sleep v. late both nights and got up two days running before dawn to move away)

Keeping a constant eye now on wind strength and depth - wind switched direction at some point and got up to 15kn from SE earlier (not N, as was). We clearly dragged a distance with anchorage exposed to SE and some swell getting in..... My Delta, which I thought I'd set well yesterday, with change of wind direction from N to SE looked to have come undug - when I checked, we were 80m from where I set anchor on 35m of chain in 8.5m depth .... The wind then died and veered to the W more and has now gusted up to 20kn from SSW (- just let out 10m more chain but keeping good eye on position and boat motion). Might need to re-set the anchort to sleep well tonight!! I've set 'track' mode on display, as usual, to see how we do at anchor.... Depth is fine - still the same - so that gives no indication of movement... If wind strong from W, the valley at the NW head of the bay wouldn't give much protection.... Just checked route to next anchorage (Bon Successo) - 30 mls from here... Wind keeps gusting - from occasional 7 to frequent 20 knots...

Hoping for weather window to move on tomorrow. I've enjoyed having time to catch my breath, relax & catch up on sleep and make sure everything is well-stowed (had rough seas yesterday afternoon to show me not all was!) after more than two busy mths in Ushuaia. But wind strength and direction now is nothing like what the grib files are showing - just sent off for more to see what they say .... Problem is that wind is probably being accelerated by this peninsula - we're right at the very end of Tierra del Fuego and land affects local wind a lot.

Puerto Espanol, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Written by : Mike

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