Faith in the Bible
“Put on your thermal underwear, it’s really cold outside”, Ivar advises when he wakes up Floris for his watch. The closer we approach Staten Island, the more the temperature drops. With some 100 nautical miles to go, it’s around five degrees Celsius and raining, quite a contrast to the weather further north. Through the drizzle we can hardly see the difference between the clouds and the grey sea water. It’s not until the morning of our fifth day at sea that we see Staten Island, at first only on the radar. When we are near the entrance to our bay, Puerto Hoppner, the rocky coastline finally becomes visible.
“A very narrow entrance leads to the inner bay of Puerto Hoppner. There should be at least two meters of water”, Floris reads from the Patagonia bible. Ivar look at the rocks in front of him. “Ok, let’s do it”, he says more confidently than he feels. He puts his complete faith in the pilot book while carefully steering Luci towards the narrow opening between the rocks. The bible proves to be right, and our faith is rewarded by the most stunning lagoon we have ever seen. Amidst overwhelming natural beauty we anchor in a sheltered corner and tie long lines to the surrounding trees. Bright green, dense forests team-up with mosses to cover the rugged, mountainous landscape. Only the steepest granite rocks remain exposed. Snow covers the highest mountain peaks. Countless cormorants and penguins try to catch food underwater close to our boat.
Silence on Staten Island
Not much later Pazzo arrives and together we explore the island that was named by our countrymen in the 17thcentury. It feels like not much has changed since. There is no airport, no ferry service, not even a harbor. There are no roads, no homes, no mobile phone network, not even hiking trails. As we make our way through the forests and thick layers of wet moss, we realize how very remote this place is. The Argentinian navy has four people stationed in the next bay, but without any infrastructure even that is far away. All we hear is the wind rustling through the trees and the songs of an occasional bird. The silence is peaceful.
Chief Crab Officer
The day after our arrival, the furious fifties live up to their reputation in the form of dark red grib files, indicating very strong winds. They are predicted for a full week, and they turn out to be correct. The wind gusts in the mountains are so strong that on hikes we have trouble staying upright. On the horizon we can see the waves breaking against the tide in the Le Maire Strait, the notorious passage between Staten Island and mainland Argentina that we still need to cross to reach Ushuaia. But while it blows southwest way-too-much at sea, our anchorage is remarkably calm. Perhaps we are overdoing it a bit with anchor and seven shorelines, but it helps to sleep well.
A week flies by. During our hiking expeditions we not only discover stunning lakes, waterfalls, forests, condors and countless types of moss, we also start to recognize our own trails. Mussels the size of avocados grow on every rock and although they look tempting, eating them is dangerous due to the red tide disease. The king crabs (centollas) are not affected by this, so Lars goes on a mission. He constructs a crab trap from the plastic crates he collected close to Caleta Horno. Using opened mussels as bait, he indeed manages to catch them. Although the thorny red crabs look big from a Dutch perspective, they don’t seem to be very meaty. So Lars goes on setting his crab cage until he has caught seven. Their legs make a nice salad. “Delicious! You’re our Chief Crab Officer now”, Ivar compliments him.