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Puerto Eden

Sailing the Channels to Golfo de Penas 

Puerto Eden (49°08'S., 74°25’W), considered one of the remotest settlements in Chile, just paired with Easter Island and Villa de Las Estrellas at King George Island (South Shetlands, Antarctica). The destination that we intend to pay a visit to this morning. 

The few houses and small constructions lay on a peninsula of Wellington Island at the W side of Paso del Indio, the waterway that separates Wellington from the mainland, and is the continuation of the charted route northwards from the junction of the channels we left behind during the night (Escape and Grappler). It extends for 17 miles North to the entrance of Angostura Inglesa. 

The anchor goes down just after the Pilots acquire permission from the Navy Officers settled here. They had no objections to our visit.  

Ashore, all buildings are located on a boardwalk along the coast, surrounded by the astonishing scenery of the temperate rainforest.  

Not many locals are around, well, in fact not many locals live here. The last census (made in 2002) counted 176 inhabitants, many of whom have left the village since then. 

Here live the last descendants of the Kaweskar ethnical group, who have inhabited the Chilean Channels from here to the Magellan Straits for about 6000 years.  

Nowadays, Puerto Eden residents, fishermen as most of them are, depending on the catch of several species, but the most important ones are the shellfish they call “choros” and “cholgas”, but the red tide high toxins concentration on them have been a recurrent problem for months in a row for several years, spoiling the fisheries. 

Nevertheless, during the last years, the Chilean Government has been trying to attract more inhabitants, improving the local quality of life. There is now a relatively new school for the kids with free internet connection and since the year 2000, they also have a hydroelectric power plant supplying Puerto Eden. Phone and Wi-Fi access is been provided too. The ferry connecting Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales stops here for a little while twice a week, delivering fresh food and special orders from locals on request. 

Some of the town’s facilities are small grocery stores offering basic provisions, refueling facilities for the fishing boats and visiting yachts, a first aid station, and a post office. 

Not at all as a surprise, the rain keeps pouring down during our visit. Puerto Eden region is actually considered one of the (if not the most) rainy places on Earth. Past meteorological registers tell us about up to 347 rainy days a year. Thanks to that, the lush vegetation surrounds the boardwalk that connects all the constructions in the village, which offers a couple of viewpoints over the bay too.  

Buzzing around over our heads and feeding on the large amount of flowers, many Green-backed Firecrowns can be seen. Thorn-tailed Rayaditos and Fire-eyed Diucones also live in the surroundings of the town.  

Riding next to the zodiacs when they were driving us back on board, a handful of the rare Chilean dolphins, endemic to these inner waters of Chilean Patagonia. 

An interesting visit to such a peculiar village that ended by lunchtime. When back aboard, the Europa keeps on going northwards. Winds and sea state in the remaining time in the channels and over the soon-to-come open sea will dictate our speed and progress. And with that will come the chances for further landings and activities off the ship or a straight sailing to our final destination.  

But for the moment the waterways we follow are narrowing for a bit at the so-called Angostura Inglesa, which links Paso del Indio with the straight and wider Canal Messier.  

Even though the navigation takes part mostly from the wheelhouse following predetermined tracks on the GPS system, we sort of experience the outlandish navigational maze where we are immersed. We can barely imagine how the first explorers to come here managed to chart and map the area. Let alone in sailing ships without the aid of the engines or the technology we have nowadays, or the waterproof and warm clothing, equipment, and well-assorted stores and galley. 

For us, a trip of a few weeks, for them an adventure into the unknown that could last for years. 

For instance, the baffling labyrinth of channels, islets, islands, bays, fjords, and inlets that characterize this region, certainly represented a great challenge for the HMS Beagle Expedition all the way back in 1830It was then and right where we sail this afternoon when FitzRoy’s first Mate was on board their support vessel, the schooner Adelaide, and during its search for a South-bound passage along the Chilean Channels he first navigated those English Narrows (Angostura Inglesa). 

Meandering narrows that still today have to be navigated carefully, planning the passage preferably at slack tide.  

From about a couple of days ago our Pilots have forethought this crossing by a proper time that should be around 16:00h, and like that, there we were right on time winding our way through it. 

About halfway through we pass a white statue of the Virgin (la Virgencita) erected on one of the small islands of the pass, Islote Clío. The locals worship her fervently.

It just takes about 45 minutes to leave behind these narrows and get into the Canal Messier.  

Yet another of the main and important channels along 72nm is leading us to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean in the southern part of Golfo de Penas. The coastline is mountainous, with lofty snow-capped peaks on either side. The stretch of water is open and free from dangers, except for the Cotopaxi Shoal, where a rock with a depth of 4m, lies near mid-channel on its West side. 

As evidence of that, there lays the rusty hull of M/V Capitán Leónidas. Build in Germany in 1937 sailing under the Panama flag. She was heading from Punta Arenas to Valparaiso with a cargo of bagged sugar when she ran aground on the 7th of April 1968, just right on the same spot where in 1889 the ship “Cotopaxi” sunk. 

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader



Thanks again for your log! Its making up missing this trip. (tried to join this trip before, but then covid 19 spoiled it and it was canceld)

Saskia Dokman   |  29-03-2024 22:17 uur

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