Patriotic Crew Flying Their Flags
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The short nights and longer days...
Lumpy seas. Breathtaking scenery. Seals and penguins. Jaw-dropping glaciers. Big Fish has seen it all!
More tales to tell and photos to share that chronicle our journey to Ushuaia.
The quiet and sleepy streets of downtown Puerto Montt, Chile received a sudden wake-up call when Big Fish dropped anchor. Once Port Authorities gave us the green light, lifejackets were on and pocket money counted for a brief visit to shore.
Known as one of the fastest growing cities in Southern Chile (not for almost getting mugged), Puerto Montt is more famous for providing excellent transport to surrounding tourist destinations than local attractions on its front doorstep. Salmon farming in the outer islands and fjords is the driving force behind the economy and main form of employment.
Our first pit-stop wasn't to buy hand-knitted woollen booties or locally carved wooden artefacts. Instead a few of us had coffee on the brain. Noses twitching left and right for a scent of roasting beans, we steered ourselves towards downtown.
The locals had us in stitches during our search for coffee. Men throwing themselves in front of our path declaring; "Usted es hermosa. ¿De dónde eres?" "You are beautiful. Where are you from?" Our first response was to watch our bags. Then quickly changing heart and realising the practical joke. Ruby red cherries, juicy strawberries and chicken kebabs made the staple of road side stalls. Coffee downed and pocket money spent, our quick glimpse of this industrial blue-collar city was over.
Common sights in the canals
Next stop on the fjord highway, Punta Arenas. The overnight trip was not made easy thanks to severe weather warnings. 5 m swells and 30 knot squalls were reported. Not what we wanted to hear, when we were going to have to beat into it. There was no time to spare for an overnight anchorage in Canal Williams, we had to keep on our journey. As Susie Sunshine declared, "It’s rocking and rolling tonight!" Winston’s situation report to ‘Rappa Light’ early the next morning confirmed Big Fish’s status over conquering Mother Nature. "We are just cruising past your station. To confirm we are 5 minutes earlier than our scheduled ETA." A small achievement, but something to be reckoned with.
Back into exploring mode, the opportunity to see the boat towered over by one of the world’s biggest glaciers was not to be missed. Canal Messier slowly winding its way through narrow passes and long twists built up our excitement over who could be the first to spot the glacier, Ventisquero Pio XI.
Everyone took to their chosen positions, spots that would offer the best lookout and photo opportunity. When we stepped outside the sudden drop in temperature signalled something with a chill factor and the extreme enormity of what lies ahead of us. It’s churned up top, a mass meringue with no burnt brown tips instantly had you mesmerised. Icy blue colours splattering through the deeper trenches and then the mass expanse of this formation was a jaw dropping sight. You immediately wanted to get up close and marvel at its creation. Icebergs greeted us before we were even within a 2 mile range. Just like transforming clouds into human or object formations the same was down with each iceberg floating past us.
Everyone donned there warmest gear minus a few feeling confident and huddled together in the tender for a close-up view. Cameras clicked away and everyone gasped aloud. The force from a surge of ice tearing its way down the mountain then hitting the water created a roar through the bay. It’s impact on water rippling small waves towards the tender.
Bare-foot glacier jumping
The sound of Big Fish’s horn blasting (Please note, this was not an attempt to encourage more ice to break away and hit the water), we signalled it was time to venture back into the comforts of warm socks and hot chocolate.
Navigating our way through the narrow straits, Shelley conveyed her aptitude in steering us safely through whilst admiring the scenery. Thanks to the team of helpful watches made up of plotters, binocular spotters and photographers.
Another calm day on Big Fish
Our biggest challenge yet was to cross the Magallanes Strait. More famous for its interchangeable weather than the traffic that crosses through. Everyone was armed and ready for the worse. The strapping around the water toys was tightened and the interior given another sweep through with bungee cords. Two records were made the night we crossed this famous stretch of water. Winds initially reaching 40, soon clocking 50 then in the early hours of the morning climaxing at 71.9 knots. Swells reached more than 4m in height and everyone held onto something to keep them up and their smiles.
71.9 knots- Estrecho de Magallanes
Each day is beginning to become longer. The sun only sets at 10.30pm. Then 15 minutes later the next night.
Arriving in Punta Arenas the winds stayed with us. But fortunately we were forced to anchor for the evening as Mother Nature had won her first battle. No venturing back out. Instead a night of rest and listening to the wind howling around us.
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