Cape Horn & Glaciers of Tierra del Fuego 12 days
Puerto Williams 🠖 Cape Horn 🠖 Glaciers 🠖 Puerto Williams
Season 2021/22 – 2022/23
Yacht: SY AL FIN
Skipper: Osvaldo E. Escobar Torres
This unique sailing trip starts and ends in Puerto Williams, Chile’s southernmost town, located on the island of Navarino. SY AL FIN has its berth here at the Micalvi Yacht Club, which also happens to be the world’s southernmost yacht club. Osvaldo E. Escobar Torres is the ship’s owner, and the skipper on all tours. He is Chilean, and besides Spanish speaks fluent German as well as English and Portuguese. The fact that Osvaldo is Chilean and has spent more than 15 years living in this region means he will offer his crew a truly unique sailing experience. Apart from his sailing skills and knowledge of the region, Osvaldo is committed to acquainting his guests with the flora and fauna, as well as the history and the people of Tierra del Fuego.
By 10.00 am on the first day, all crew members (the maximum is five) should be aboard SY Al Fin. The skipper, Osvaldo, will greet the crew and take them on a thorough introduction to the boat. There will be plenty of time for the crew to unpack and settle in. Once all are settled in, Osvaldo will go through the safety instructions which of course are particularly important for this sailing region.
The group will study the maps and the skipper will explain the route. The forecast for the following days will also be taken into account since more than anything it is the weather that dictates the routing.
In the afternoon there will be time for a walk through Puerto Williams. The town has about 3000 inhabitants, most of which are members of the Chilean navy with their families. The small settlement of Ukika nearby is inhabited by descendants of the Yamana Indians, the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego. One can learn more about the Yamana in Puerto Williams’ Martin-Gusinde-Museum. Puerto Williams provides the last possibility to provision before leaving for Cape Horn. This is also where the skipper must obtain the permission for the trip from the Chilean maritime authorities. Without this permission, the primary objective of which is to ensure safety, no ship is allowed to approach Cape Horn.
The first night on board is spent in Micalvi. The little bar there is the traditional meeting spot for Cape Horn sailors, where those who wish can try the typical Pisco Sour.
The first leg of the journey leads 22 miles eastward through the Beagle Channel to Puerto Toro, a small fishing village with about 20 houses and only reachable by boat. The SY AL FIN will moor for the night on the fishing wharf. If the season is right and with a bit of luck it may be possible to enjoy the regional delicacy of king crab – or in Spanish “centolla” -- for dinner. A walk around the village will allow the crew the opportunity to meet the “Alcamar”, the local representative of the Chilean navy, stationed in the village with his family and who manages the outpost. He is responsible for the local maritime weather report, and will be in a position to determine, whether it will be possible to proceed via Nassau Bay towards Cape Horn the next day, or if it will be necessary to stay put in Puerto Toro until weather conditions improve.
Weather permitting, SY AL FIN will set sail southwards over Nassau Bay. 47 nautical miles lie between Puerto Toro and the Wollaston archipelago. Leaving Puerto Toro, the SY AL FIN first passes through the “Goree-Channel” and then over to Nassau Bay. Now it is not far to Cape Horn, only 13 miles! The night will be spent anchored in a protected bay, in “Caleta Martial” by “Herschell Island”, or in “Caleta Maxwell”. Now the crew must wait for the right opportunity to safely round the legendary Cape. With luck it could be the next day, but with severe weather there will be no choice but to wait it out. The naval station Islas Wollaston is responsible for us here, i.e. we have to notify them of our location and receive the local weather report from them.
Course: Cape Horn! The rounding of this famous Cape is one of the highlights of the trip. Normally, the cape will be rounded from West to East. If the weather cooperates and we obtain the permission of the Maritime authority, the crew will visit the station on Cape Horn. Along with the lighthouse there is also a small chapel, Stella Maris, and the famous Cape Horn monument, both certainly worth a visit. The Chilean navy operates the station and the family stationed here are happy to have visitors. Osvaldo also spent time manning the lighthouse and can share some interesting stories with the crew.
After leaving Cape Horn we will sail another 15 miles to Martial Bay where we will anchor for the night, and celebrate our day’s success with a good dinner on board.
The next leg of the trip brings us back to Puerto Williams. Along the way we will pass the wreck of the LOGOS, which in 1982 ran aground on a sand bank five miles off “Picton Island”. SY AL FIN will sail carefully into the narrow passage of the Holger archipelago, where at one time the Yamana Indians lived and travelled the waters by canoe. On many of the rocks one can observe seal colonies, as well as water birds on and around the cliffs. Excellent knowledge of the area is a must in order to travel safely through this archipelago, so, though one may come across a local fisher or two, it is seldom to encounter other sailboats in the area. The voyage then continues further westwards through the Beagle Channel and back to Puerto Williams.
In Puerto Williams a new permit must be obtained from the Chilean navy for the second half of the trip. Skipper and crew will also take the opportunity to stock up on supplies such as fresh bread, before heading out the next day towards the glaciers of Tierra del Fuego.
SY AL FIN will sail along the north side of Navarino Island and pass the northern end of the Murray Channel, a waterway of particular importance to the Yamana Indians. Many small anchorages can be found in the 33 miles between Puerto Williams and the “Campamento Islands”. SY AL FIN will anchor in one of these nameless bays, which we like to call “Caleta Polarwind”, securing the boat with long landlines to the trees along the shore. This bay offers very good protection from winds from the west and the southwest that are so common for this area. A hike through the pristine woods of the island will take us to what once was a Yamana Indian settlement. A little further along one comes across a large beaver damn, where Osvaldo will take the opportunity to tell the crew a bit about the life of these animals, as well as the damage that they have caused on the island.
The Beagle Channel narrows, and tall snow-covered peaks emerge on both sides of the channel. The SY AL FIN will sail on into the northwest arm of the channel. Twenty-four miles after leaving the anchorage that morning we will reach the larger bay, “Caleta Olla”. With the anchor and two landlines the boat will lie secure for the night. On the opposite side of the bay it’s possible to hike up to a lookout to get a good view of the first glacier “Hollanda”. From the anchorage Osvaldo takes up radio contact with the Chilean maritime station “Yamana”, to let them know the boat and crew’s present position, and to get the latest weather report. Osvaldo also worked at this station during his time in the navy.
Our course continues westward through the „Glacier Channel“. The peaks of Monte Frances, Monte Italia and Monte Boye lie starboard. Then comes a clear view of a series of glaciers, one after the other: Italia, Francia, Alemania and Romance. They flow directly into the Beagle Channel and with a bit of luck we may see some calving. A few hours later, SY AL FIN will approach the highlight of the glacier world. 22 miles from “Caleta Olla” we will enter the Pia Fjord. Sailing the entrance to the fjord is tricky and requires Osvaldo’s full concentration. The SY AL FIN will approach the ice floes from the glacier in the east arm of the fjord. The boat will anchor, together with three landlines, in a small bay for the night. Nearby there is a small waterfall. It’s a tradition for the skipper to take a shower here in the glacial water – crewmembers are welcome to join if they like!
In the morning, we will sail into the western arm of the fjord. Because of the ice it is only possible to proceed very slowly under motor. At the base of the glacier, but still at a safe distance from any falling chunks of ice, it’s time to kill the motor and savour not only the breath-taking view, but also a true “whiskey on the rocks”. The remainder of the day will be used to travel back out of the fjord and back through the north-west arm of the Beagle Channel. Depending on the weather, the anchorage for the night may be in the little bay called “Borracho”, which literally translated means “drunk”. This bay offers particularly good protection from strong west winds and the resulting swell in the channel.
Depending on the weather conditions, we may arrive either at the cove just mentioned or else at "Caleta Ferrari" in “Yendegaia Bay”.
The last leg of the trip brings us back to Puerto Williams, again sailing along the north side of Navarino Island. SY AL FIN will dock at Micalvi, and after a good dinner on board, the crew can retreat to the local bar and celebrate their last evening together over a Pisco Sour or a beer.
The sailing adventure in Tierra del Fuego will have come to an end. After breakfast, it’s time to pack and say goodbye at 10:00 hrs.
End of services
Due to the particular weather conditions in the Cape Horn region or due to force majeure, which especially affect the safety of the navigation or the crew - the route described above may be subject to change. In order to ensure the safety of each member of the crew and the ship at all times, the routing will be decided by the skipper at his sole discretion.