JUST KIDDING!!! It’s totally and completely gorgeous and awe-inspiring!
I pulled out of Puerto Montt a few hours before dawn and pointed the Rascal south. By the time the sun was setting, we were navigating into the heart of the Andes with thousand foot cliffs on either side and snow capped peaks glimmering in the distance. A glorious sunset ushered me into a snug anchorage between two islands.
Chile’s predominately volcanic geology means that there are lots of hot springs bubbling up out of the ground. One such place is at the very end of a beautiful isolated fjord, with the nearest town dozens of miles away. It was one of the first places I visited and I immediately fell in love.
After a particularly sketchy night (with bad weather and a mediocre anchorage), I decided to take refuge in a cove that was a few miles away. There are lots of salmon farms (they are like big net cages that’re floating on the surface, but anchored to the bottom) around this part of Chile and this cove happened to have a big one. I anchored near the outlet to a river and decided to cook some lunch. A man in an old leaky wooden boat rowed up to say hello and I got into a good conversation with him.
I was surprised to find that even without a job, he still had enough money for a cell phone and satellite TV. It’s interesting to see the amenities and possessions that people choose to spend their money on. It’s also quite interesting to see just how far American culture spreads throughout the world – when I mentioned I was from Utah, he had the same response that I always got while I was living in China. "KARL MALONNEEEEE!!!" (From the Utah Jazz).
There are a couple dozen islands south of Puerto Montt that're protected from ocean swell by the huge island of Chiloe. These islands are primarily inhabited by fisherman and ranchers / farmers that've lived there for hundreds of years. Most of the land has been logged out, but there are beautiful pastures, lots of good protected harbors, and some small towns that have a really unique, beautiful character about them.
Before I started sailing, I always used to see pictures of dolphins and sailboats and think, “Wow, that must be a once in a lifetime experience!” Ever since I hit the waters off of California, I’ve found that there are dolphins absolutely everywhere. Despite their prevalence, I still squeal like a little kid when I see them coming and their beauty and grace is nothing short of astonishing. I’ve had a couple of really tremendous dolphin experiences lately.
One day, I was headed for a river that was about 10 miles away to see if I could manage some fishing. As I skittered across a big bay and into the fjord, I heard a big splash off to my right. A big pod was about a hundred yards away and closing fast. They seemed really energetic, and they were obviously moving much quicker than they normally do to catch up with the Rascal. It was like I was at the Running of the Bulls and I was in the middle of the pack. They were splashing on all sides of me and they were clearly charging for all they were worth!
The first species was the fin whale, which I’ve spotted before up off the Oregon and Washington coasts. They’re the second biggest whale species and they’re a very long, graceful animal.
There is an excerpt I really love from a book about Antarctic exploration.
Spotting a seal, the creatures would dive to great depths and then smash through the ice, seizing the seal in it's mouth. The expedition found a hole 25 feet in diameter that had been created by a killer whale. As photographer Frank Hurley took a dog team over the thin ice, he would hear whales blowing behind him. He would quickly dash for solid, thick ice with "No need to shout 'mush' and swing the lash. The whip of terror had cracked over their heads and they flew before it. The whales behind...broke through the thin ice as though it were tissue paper, and, I fancy, were so staggered by the strange sight that met their eyes, that for a moment they hesitated. Had they gone ahead and attacked us in front, our chances of escape would have been slim indeed...Never in my life have I looked upon more loathsome creatures".
If you’ve ever seen the movie 180 Degrees South, you might remember the private park that Doug Tompkins (former owner of The North Face) started down here in Patagonia. It’s called Parque Pumalin and I’ve gotten to explore a couple of different parts of it now. All of the land is absolutely beautiful and it’s nice to know that it will be protected.
You can hardly look up in this country without seening a volcano. They're all exceptionally majestic, ringed with snow, and just begging to be skied.
While the people and scenery have been absolutely awesome, the weather has been exactly the opposite. This seems to be one of the universal truths of winter in Patagonia. Cold. Rainy. Windy. The weather in this part of the world is all dictated by an endless procession of low pressure systems that march across the southern ocean from west to east. At this time of year, the wind is nearly always out of the north (or NW or NE) and occasionally it’ll fall dead calm after the passage of a front.