Week 5 - Forget about all this rain—we are here to explore & thoughts of Puerto Williams

D: Exploring and the ghost glacier
R: Hiking from Caleta de Bosque
Jon: Glacial ghosts, hiking from CdB, and SAILING
Megan: Hiking and SAILING

We started this week with a new resolve to make the most of things. Sure it was still raining, but it had lightened to a fairly consistent soaking drizzle and there were no breaks from it in the forecast—so if we were here to hike, we had better get to hiking. We put on full rain gear and set off to explore the low lying areas on a quest to see more beavers. There is reportedly also a very nice, but steep hike that allows you to see across the channel and the ice cap, but the clouds and gray remained, so that particular hike didn't hold much interest for any of us. However, there are two glaciers in the bay of Estero Coloane that we could hike somewhat close to and there are lots of places that the beavers seemed to be busily working, ensuring there was plenty to check out and explore. Wednesday and Friday we did just that. We stayed in the lower areas, though we did go up a bit to get views of the glaciers in two different areas. We found numerous beaver dams, lodges and saw a lot of fresh tree cuttings. The beaver created bogs were extensive as were their lumber yards. Every time you thought you were beyond their range, you would find another random cutting. Their trails did make for fairly easy walking through varied terrain, but they also go straight up and down some very steep slopes. We were surprised that on these adventures we never saw any beavers. We all hoped to catch one cutting down a tree or dragging a tree on one of their many trails. But no such luck. We were now even happier that we were able to watch them up close last week. These two hikes were both made in the misty, soaking drizzle and we returned quite wet to the boat, but at least we were out exploring and stretching our legs!

The humidity and dampness began to also bother Zephyros. We have a system that monitors for Carbon Monoxide and to ensure we don't have a propane leak. We can turn this system on and off with a switch, though we typically leave it on. There are two sensors, one for the CO (up high) and one for the LPG (down low). These sensors are tied to a remote solenoid that allows the propane to flow to the stove or shut off at the tanks. Well, apparently while these sensor should last for 10 years they can be affected by high humidity and cold. Well, guess what we have been living in and what started to act up!?! Our alarm system. Ugh, with boats its always something and you are left to figure it out and fix it; no repairmen to call. At first we were able to reset it or warm up the boat but the sensor(s) seemed to be dying. This led to a bunch of frustration and strange antics - like running the engine in order to run the hair dryer to try to get the sensors to work again. Because if the sensor(s) are tripping the alarm then we get no gas for cooking or baking! Initial efforts were to fix the system and to figure out how we would get warm meals if the stove wasn't an option. We can use our Reflex heater to boil water and / or as a stove top burner (hob). Of course, this is easier when the Reflex heater is working well, which, of course, it currently was not (air bubble stuck in the fuel supply line). It was working, but required tending to keep it going as desired. We also carry plenty of food that we can eat cold so it certainly wasn't like we were going to starve!

Friday, after our hike, we considered moving as there was no rain or wind. We decided against it, but that set the tone that we were done with Estero Coloane and ready to move on.

Saturday we had a slow start to the day. Apparently, not being able to use the stove to heat water for oatmeal, coffee or tea, or to make eggs or toast does not motivate any of us to get out of our warm cocoons on a chilly morning. We couldn't get the alarm system to allow us to get propane flowing so, being in no particular hurry, we stayed in bed a bit longer. We were happy to warmly check emails and see Jon's emails answered with advice from the alarm system company about how to disable the sensors but open the solenoid. Eventually we got up and moving. The bay was calm and we were going to take down an extra shore line to the bow that we had put up for the gusty winds. Suddenly, we started seeing gusts again! We checked weather (again) to make sure moving still made sense and saw that a wind shift was forecasted for noon - well, guess that was what we just experienced. Things soon settled down again and we cleaned the shore lines and got moving. 10 days in one anchorage seemed long enough. Upon leaving Estero Coloane we saw blue sky to the east! Maybe there was still sun out there after all; we had been beginning to wonder. We had a nice downwind sail over to Seno Foque. This is a long and interesting seno. We traveled to the end last February and enjoyed the spot. There is an interesting glacier and a blown out lake. We even were able to get to the side of that glacier and touch it, which was cool. This time we didn't feel a need to go the whole length of the seno to see the glacier, but there is another glacier midway down the seno. We decided to take a look as the weather was nice with occasional sun. This glacier has a lot of melt and the pillars of ice look like ghosts to all of us. There was even some that made both Jon and Megan think of "The Scream". The sun came out a little, here and there, and we got to see some of the glacier in the sun - the blue ice is always more intense in the sunlight. This glacier wasn't especially exciting as there was no calving ice or ice in the seno to harvest, so the boys quickly lost interest and we decided to return north to the planned anchorage, Caleta de Bosque. Megan continued to fight with the propane system trying to bake a loaf of bread. We secured ourselves into the anchorage and the boys went to shore to explore. What freedom a new spot with beaches to play on in non-raining weather is after 10 days in a spot with no real shore behind the boat and a whole lot of rain! At dinner time we were cooking our last fresh meat (steak) and trying to roast potatoes. The fight with the alarm system continued. Eventually, Jon decided to stop trying to cook and to focus on disabling the faulty sensor(s). We had avoided this move for a few days as we weren't sure how big the project might quickly become, but when we were dealing with the 6th shutdown in an hour, it seemed time to consider. He had the sensors disconnected and the system working within minutes! Funny how the things that you expect will take hours to sort take a short while and the things that will "just be a minute" take all day! Also, the thought of not being able to use the stove top or oven gave new life and appeal to our dwindling food choices. A hot meal is better than endless cans of tuna and crackers—Poseidon's vote not withstanding. After dinner, the propane leak detector was quickly reconnected, and the faulty CO sensor left isolated for future troubleshooting or replacement. It seemed like it had been a week of suffering, but it had really only been about 48 hours.

Sunday, the sun was out and we were all anxious to get out and explore. (Well, maybe not R, he's typically in grumbly, sleepy teenager mode these days.) D went to the shore to play while Megan made pancakes. We then got ready to hike. As soon as we were all set to depart the boat, it was raining again! We waited to see if it would quickly pass, it didn't really, but it became pretty light so off we went anyway. We first hiked through a dense, but interesting temperate rainforest. When we got out on the other side, the sun was out and it was like it was actually spring or even summer. We took off layers; got out sunglasses; scoped out a high point and a mostly gradual ascent path; and off we went. The boys thought we meant a shorter hike, but Megan got R talking and the complaining was minimal. The last bit was steep and a bit slippery but we got to an amazing view point, played in a little snow and could see over the Southern Branch of the Beagle Channel. And we could see a down pour on its way! So the stop was a quick one—Megan didn't even get pictures before the rain started as she was putting layers back on first and by the time they were on, the rain was on us. It made for a bit of a wet decent. The worst of the rain seemed to continue west so it was mostly just the soaking drizzle. We all longingly discussed hot chocolates and hot teas on the way down when we had been wishing we had ice for afternoon drinks on the way up. We made it back to the boat and there was a good bit of rain for the rest of the afternoon into evening. Though it did clear again for an actual sunset which was a pleasant treat after 10 or 11 days with no real sunset.

Monday was spent planning, doing homework and chores and catching up on the previous blog post. It looked promising to sail eastward on Tuesday and Thursday. So, our thoughts quickly turned to Thanksgiving and our return to Puerto Williams. Well, everyone had been discussing the "plan" for both of these for days with different opinions being voiced. The pull of civilization, grocery stores, fresh fruit and the internet was ramping up, as well as the need to take care of a couple of things that we just cannot manage through email. We were ready to return and yet not at all ready to return!

Tuesday was spent sailing 40nm east in some gusty winds. It was a pleasant, fast sail. It is pleasant enough to go downwind, even if the winds are higher than expected. We did have a short period where we considered blowing past our intended stop and continuing on to Puerto Williams as we were moving at an impressive pace. However, that storm cell passed and things settled out. Also, when we arrived at the entrance to the bay we intended to go up to anchor in, the seas were pretty flat and it was all inviting. We had thought the entrance into the bay might be an issue since other bays that we passed that were similarly open to the north were full of wind, chop and didn't look particularly inviting. We took the 5nm trip up the bay and anchored off of an old ranch. There were horses corralled and running around. We enjoyed the ease of simply dropping the anchor with no need to use shore lines. The boys even kayaked to a low island to play.

That closes out week 5! We should have 2 days of a 6th week and some Thanksgiving notes to post, to wrap up the trip. Then there will be the project of posting pictures… Thanks for reading!

Sidenote on the beavers: They are not a native animal to Chile or Argentina. The story of how beaver's came to be in Tierra del Fuego is an interesting one and the current challenges are nuanced and complicated. They originally brought 20 beavers here to start a fur trade that never took hold. The population grew over the years and there were reportedly more than 200,000 before they decided to start aggressively hunting and culling them. Now Argentina and Chile seem less sure of the correct path forward. After all there were only 20 to begin, meaning you have to kill them all or risk another population boom. They have no natural predators in the region, and we noted that some of their lodges are right on the edge of the lakes which would never be the case in their natural homes with predators. We enjoyed our hikes searching to see them and remained fascinated and curious about them. They have taken down many, many trees. They have killed whole portions of forest. They have re-routed a lot of water. We saw at least 5 lodges spread over the huge estero. We will be doing more research and learning more about them when we next have internet and a bit of time. They are certainly making a significant environmental impact where they are established, and they clearly swim and climb extensive distances as they look for new areas to reside.

No comments:

Post a Comment