As the weather forecast for the Drake Passage predicts a full-blown storm, we have two days in Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino.
We are moored at a mooring buoy, well protected from the strong westerly wind, and take the dinghy to the jetty of the local yacht club, Micalvi, to go ashore. This is housed on a former German Rhine steamer and also serves as a jetty for sailing boats. Countless flags and pennants from previous boats adorn the walls and ceiling, and we also leave our mark in the form of a Sailing SOUTH 2024 sticker.
Even though Puerto Williams, like Ushuaia, claims the title of the southernmost city in the world, the city is perhaps a little overstated. A good 2,300 inhabitants live here, compared to around 67,000 in Ushuaia. The center of Puerto Williams is manageable, the central square and the buildings are rather small.
Just as inconspicuous as the town center is a small monument in the immediate vicinity, which we almost overlook: Here stands part of the bow of the Yelcho, the Chilean naval vessel with which Shackleton, under the command of Luis Pardo, finally rescued his 22 remaining men from Elephant Island on August 30, 1916 after several failed attempts.
Day 1 – Cerro Bandera
The weather is kind to us, and some of us decide to hike up the Cerro Bandera, on whose summit the eponymous Chilean flag flies and a magnificent view rewards the steep climb. Initially, we search for the right path through wild jungle, and not just once, but we work up quite a sweat, especially on the extremely steep terrain above the tree line, which is overgrown with bushes, berries and lichen – who would have thought that we’d still be too warm even in our undershirts … but once we reach the top, the flag is blowing strongly in the strong wind. Sweaters, jackets and hats are quickly put back on. The view of the Beagle Channel, Puerto Williams and as far as Ushuaia in the west is breathtakingly beautiful, with the Dentes de Navarino towering majestically over the island. The fresh snow of the previous night has already disappeared again.
The next morning we have a detailed briefing in and around the boat, safety on board, sails etc. We have already assigned the watches the evening before over beer and pisco sour in the local bar..
For the rest of the day, some of us explore the river and the bay by dinghy, while the mountaineering team digs out all the mountaineering equipment from the depths of the benches and spaces in the mess hall and sorts out harnesses, carabiners, slings, etc. We prepare suitable Prusik slings for each of us. We prepare suitable Prusik slings for each of us and have a lot of fun practicing self-rescue, the ascent on the rope, up on deck and Prusiking ourselves up and down two free halyards.
We all spend the evening together in the bar before the planned departure for the next day – it’s a wonderful, long evening, with lots of dancing, laughing and singing. Who would have thought that all crew members love to dance? It’s not until late at night that we return to our bunks on board the dinghy.
Before our departure on Monday, we have to go through the official authorities again – the same procedure as when we entered the country, this time in reverse order. So once again we go to the prefectura to prove that we have nothing to declare, are not smuggling any goods and still look like the photos in our passports after two days. In the afternoon, Michael, the previous skipper, flies to Ushuaia in a helicopter and says goodbye to the Selma with a heavy heart.
We take a last shower on the Micalvi, stock up on fresh water, stow the dinghy back in the forepeak and are ready for the final start south.