Southern Cross Update #2

by · February 8, 2017

Received the following from John Welsford:

Progress report 7 Feb.DebraColvin_20161023_7500

Photo by Debra Colvin from sea trails in Washington.

Howard rang this morning, 4:30 am. I was a bit slow waking and missed the call, but he has sent me his position and track so I can describe where he is and what he’s up to.

He’s sailed across the Straits from just north of Puerto Hambre to Isla Dawson, the big island at the western end of Estrecho de Magellanes, which forms one side of the entrance to the Magdalena Channel. That channel runs south and west out to the Pacific ocean.

I’ve just this moment had a call on the satphone, so good to hear from him. Its about 6 pm there right now, and he’s about to cook a good hot supper.

The passage across from the mainland to Isla Dawson is considered to be one of the more risky crossings on Howards voyage, and he’s done the right thing in waiting in a sheltered spot for an appropriate weather window.

Looking at his track and the weather on the day, he’s had moderate quartering tailwinds most of the way across, conditions about as good as one could wish for. And winds on the beam as he ran down the coast of Isla Dawson to a little harbour on a little island called “Isla San Juan”.

On the way across he encountered two very large whales and “hundreds” of penguins, very interesting wildlife and not a concern. It was brisk sailing most of the way, but once across to Isla Dawson he sat becalmed for a little while, then as the wind picked up again he sailed down the coast to Isla San Juan. This is actually two very small islands with a narrow drying channel between them.

On his way though, a very large bull sea lion took an interest in him, following Southern Cross alongside only a few feet away, then coming up under the boats little boomkin and looking at him. He followed for a good half an hour. After a moment of concern that this creature, which was as long as the boat, was taking such an interest; Howard became intrigued and almost welcoming of the company.

He threaded the needle between the two very small islands known as Isla San Juan in pitch darkness using the GPS and that instinctive feel for the looming land that only comes when there is no engine running. He found a sheltered patch of water and put his anchor down.

When he woke in the morning he found himself in an incredibly beautiful little harbour. There are snow capped mountains all around him, forest, lots of birdlife, and colour. It’s a stunningly beautiful place and he’s captured a lot of video. The harbour is off a narrow channel which in itself reduces any wave action, is only about 120 yards across and 400 yards long. He’s tucked up against the weather shore and pulled up on a very small, stony beach. It’s sheltered from all directions, so he’s decided to rest up for today, make a couple of small repairs to damage on the rudder downhaul caused by running through heavy kelp. He’ll have a really good sleep after an 18 hour day at the helm yesterday, and be ready to be away at first light tomorrow.

One of the aims of this voyage is to explore the remains left by the now extinct indigenous peoples of the area. This would have been the area of the Kawesca peoples, a branch of the Yaghan who moved around their area by canoe, carrying their precious fire with them. Hence the name Tierra del Fuego, “the Land of Fires.”

There are a lot of whalebones and other signs of occupation. The spot where Southern Cross is anchored looks like a very good place for an encampment.

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Discussion1 Comment

  1. Larry Williams says:

    Appreciate the update! John, you have a knack for description–felt like I was there. Look forward to hearing more.

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