THE SEA HOBBITS OF PATAGONIA

Sailing Patagonia – Part 2

Viewing the Andes Mountains from sea level is spectacular. The height and scale of these behemoths dwarf all living things by comparison. Clouds fail in their efforts to conceal. Glacier-covered peaks pierce through the layer of gray to sparkle and glisten from above, mirroring the morning sun and tricking the sailor that glides beneath the cloud cover. East appears to be everywhere.

I’m surrounded by tiny dolphins

There must be at least a dozen hobbit-sized dolphins flanking the boat. They greeted us like a welcoming committee as soon as we entered the channel. I wonder if this narrow gauntlet is their home? I wonder where their parents are? These dolphins all look like kids. They’re so small and they’re having so much fun racing the boat and each other. They leap out of the water, performing flips and somersaults, crashing back into the water in an effort to out-do each other’s splashes. Perhaps this is Neverland and I’ve just found the lost boys.

A quote from Blondie regarding the tide would be appropriate here…

Shore beacons at Kirke Channel ChilePassage through Kirke Channel, an infinitesimally small waterway that connects the Gulf of Montt to the fjords of Patagonia, is not at all harrowing but does require a bit of planning. The channel is so narrow that the large container and ferry ships have to navigate it at high tide or there isn’t enough water to keep them from running aground. Large beacons that look like set-props from Star Wars dot the shore, providing the big ships with coordinates to thread the needle. We are navigating the channel at slack tide — just enough water to float but not so much that the large boulders dotting the edges of the channel submerge and become invisible.

I have wandered into a wildlife wonderland. The water is calm, the sun has finally burned off the morning fog, and everyone has come out to play. The large boulders we need to avoid are easy to spot as they are covered with cormorants and seagulls. My heart skipped a beat when I mistook the cormorants for penguins at first, they look so similar from a distance. I’m keeping my eyes peeled. Penguins are definitely a possibility at this latitude.

A herd of seals is swimming by, heading in the opposite direction. They’re paying no mind to any of us but my dolphin entourage has suddenly subdued their boisterous play and have fallen into flanking positions around the boat. I wonder if dolphins and seals are like the Sharks and the Jets? I can’t help but snap my fingers.

This is what I signed up for

Kirke Channel - Chile

The perils of a poorly managed boat have not abated but if the stretches in between continue to be like this, it just might be enough to offset the stress of pending calamity.

Kirke Channel - Chile

— A note about Chilean dolphins

Chilean Dolphins are small, averaging one to one and a half meters in length, and are only found in the southern Pacific waters of Chile from Valdivia to the eastern entrance of the Magellan Straights. The channels and fjords of Patagonia are full of these half-pint sea mammals.

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