About the time North Americans are hunkering down for the long winter months, basting turkeys and hanging holiday ornaments, the magical spring sailing season has begun in Patagonia.
Want to be there? If so, start your planning now, in September, so you can be boating in Patagonia at the start of the spring sailing season in November. You’ll find yourself off the southern tip of South America, taking your bearings by the Summer Cross, gliding across the clean and deep waters from Puerto Natales to points north or south, along the western spine of Chile and among the thousands of islands of Patagonia.
Start your planning with a navigational chart
OceanGrafix has nautical charts covering both coasts of South America. The Patagonia chart includes a big chunk of the west coast of Chile.
Here are some pointers about sailing these waters:
Due to Patagonia’s underdeveloped yachting industry, marinas can’t handle vessels longer than 50 to 80 ft.
Most channels and fjords are navigable. In the South American summer, they’re unfrozen and deep (328 ft. or more).
Welcome to paradise, where you’ll find literally thousands of unexplored coves and fjords, calm water and safe anchorage. However, as in any coastal area with mountains, sudden squalls are frequent. Don’t get too close to the glaciers abutting the water. If they calve, tidal-size waves could swamp your craft.
The rewards are breathtaking
Where else but in Patagonia can you cruise the inlets or even Magellan Straight to Cape Horn, guided by warm sea breezes as you gaze up at lush green meadows capped by glaciers and mountains. It’s all there in one place, waiting to be discovered.
No matter which path you take, you can’t go wrong. Travel north from Puerto Natales for a glance at the rugged mountains of the Chilean Andes and Torres del Paine. Travel south of Puerto Natales to either Puerto Williams or Ushuaia. There you’ll see the lush forests and tidewater glaciers of the southern tip of South America.
At anchor, you can explore the coast in a kayak among the company of sea lions, blue whales and black dolphins. Trails lead into rain forests and up to waterfalls, where tropical vegetation carpets the path to a series of hot springs.
Depending on your level of adventure, you can navigate you own craft, or you can crew on a fully outfitted sailboat from Puerto Williams to Cape Horn and the Darwin Range.
Meticulous preparation is a must for a safe journey. While full of alluring beauty, Patagonia is also full of surprises (weather, navigation, etc.) and dangers. A safe journey begins with lots of discussions with local boaters who know the waters and know best how to navigate them.
If you’re looking for an unconventional experience during the fall and winter holidays, start planning that Patagonia adventure now.