Cruising notes on Chile and Argentina

A comprehensive report from Miles Thompson of SV Lonestar on cruising Chile and Argentina.

Published 15 years ago, updated 6 years ago

Note – Reference numbers are to cruising guides published by Andrew O’Grady “Arica Desert to Tierra Del Fuego” (listed first) and Mariolina Rolfo and Giorgoi Ardrizzi “Patagonia & Tierra Del Fuego (listed second).

1.1 Arica

Very welcoming and friendly Club de Deportes Nauticos. Anchor outside of yacht club with bow and stern anchor. There is considerable swell in the harbour under certain conditions. Rates were US $20.00 per day with first three days free. Yacht Club launch will provide water taxi services. Clean fuel is available by truck, however, vessels over 35 feet will need to shuttle with launch. Laundry in town, but a little pricey. Excellent provisioning at Lider Super centre. Authorities will take all fresh produce upon arrival. The Armada and other authorities will come to vessel to clear. We had ten authorities and a Labrador Retriever. Entrance papers required another trip to Aduana for Admission Temporal. ZARPE from Armada in town. Both are a short taxi or 30-minute walk.

1.8 Antofagasta

Welcoming Club de Yates de Antofagasta. Tie fore and aft to mooring buoys just inside of breakwater off from the yacht club dock. Non-potable water available from long hose from yacht club. Yacht club has a launch, but your own dinghy would be better. Clean fuel available from stations in town, we arranged a small truck with the yacht club to take tanks to town and then shuttle to boat. Laundry, excellent provisioning, and Sodimac Home Center in nearby mall. Check-in and ZARPE with the Armada, a 15-minute walk along the main waterfront road. Upon arrival, had an inspector visit us from the Armada, and found two flares out of date. We were required to purchase replacements.

1.22 Coquimbo

Friendly Club de Yates Herradura, tie to large mooring buoy. Yacht Club has a launch service and WI-FI available. Clean fuel available by tanks from station in town. Good restaurants and beach life in nearby La Serena. ZARPE processed at yacht club.

1.26 Higuerillas (Concon, Vina del Mar)

Very welcoming and full-service Club de Yates Higuerillas. Travelift to 40 metric tons. Call on channel 68 and tie to mooring buoy to await slip assignment. There is considerable swell in the harbour, and we burned up many dock lines during our winter stay. Water and electricity available on pontoons, as well as WI-FI. For a long stay (winter) I would suggest hauling and dry storage. Marina staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. Rates were US $800.00 per month for a sixty-foot yacht, first week free.

Climb the 150 steps and enjoy a 30-minute walk to a Santa Isabel Supermarket with excellent meats, laundry service, video rental. Bus every 20 minutes until 2100 to nearby Vina del Mar. Restaurants, Sodimac Home Center and various supermarkets available there. Yacht Club can call Hector LaBibbe to provide excellent and reasonable taxi services including drop off and pick up at the airport in Santiago. Other radio taxis are expensive.

Sailmakers Quantum and NarciSails can help with sailmaking and canvas needs. In Nearby Valparaiso, liferafts can be serviced, and dive bottles filled at El Faro. Clean fuel available at COPEC station in town, east of Vina del Mar along subway track near Hospital and University. Pay in advance with Visa Card. Delivered by a truck with 30-meter hose. Propane bottles (US valve) filled at propane company in Concon. Chilean charts available at Armada agent, as well as tide tables.

Aduana is located on waterfront beyond the last stop of the metro subway. Here your Admission Temporal can be extended. Allow two weeks or more before expiration. These must be processed in Arica and this process is sometimes slow. Aduana Officer was very helpful in this process. ZARPE handled at a yacht club. Armada Museum well worth a visit. Take the local bus, metro subway and finally the Ascensor Artilleria (rail car, up the hill).

1.28 Algarrobo

First class marina protected from all winds and swell. Rates were US $2800.00 per month for a 60-foot yacht. Very quiet during winter, a rental car almost a necessity. Far from the main city. Restaurant and bar at the club. Travelift available up to approximately 20 metric tons.

1.34-1.2 Valdivia

Alwoplast Marina is very welcoming and helpful. Floating pontoons with potable water and electricity. A 40 ton, very wide for catamarans Travelift is available. All forms of repairs can be carried out including fibreglass repairs. Mooring cost was US $30.00 per day for a sixty-foot yacht. Clean fuel available at YPF station in town, pay in advance with Visa Card. Delivered by a truck with 30-meter hose. Laundry service available next to YPF station. Armada in town for ZARPE. Excellent provisioning at Lider. Sodimac Home Center in town. Bus every 30 minutes in front of the marina. Radio taxis are reasonable.

We met Wolfgang Kirsten who operates a cruising net at 0900 every morning on 8164.0 MHz. His call sign is Wildemathilde, and email is [email protected]. Very helpful, and he arranged fuel for us in Puerto Eden. Many boats in this area and further south to Ushuaia check in daily.

Canal Chacao From seaward, time the entrance with a flood tide. Call Faro Corona on VHF 16 to check in, and get current conditions. Channel is well marked, however, there are power lines near the end of unknown height, we passed under with a 67-foot vertical clearance.

2.8-2.32 Puerto Montt

Well marked channel into the south entrance between Isla Tenglo and the mainland. Marina Del Sur is very welcoming and has floating pontoons and electricity on a dock. They are the last marina on left. Call upon arrival on VHF 16. Mooring cost was US $ 50.00 per day for a sixty-foot yacht. A 40-ton pontoon lift is available on site with no hard standing. Self-service laundry on site as well as laundry service. Both were expensive. Staff very helpful and WI-FI available in office/restaurant area. Armada is located along the main waterfront road towards town. Chilean Chart Agent located across the road from Armada. Marina can arrange for US propane bottles to be filled. Excellent provisioning, spare parts and repairs (alternator/mechanical) from shops in town. Club de Yates Reloncavi is welcoming and has Travelift available. Clean fuel is available at Marina Oxxean. After making arrangements, tie alongside a commercial dock. Pay with Visa Card on site. Bus to town every ten minutes, radio taxi or collectivos are reasonable.

Golfo de Ancud and Golfo Corcovado

These wide bodies of water join Canal Moraleda to points south. There are fishing buoys located all along this route and care must be taken to avoid them. We transited this area at night to make up time and found it very hard to see the buoys under a calm condition under the RADAR. We often passed within 60 feet of buoys, and never caught one. Currents were 1 knot, flowing both north and south. Minimal traffic once south of Canal Chacau.

3.28-3.37 Puerto Aguirre

We were required to stop here by the Armada to renew our ZARPE for points further south to Puerto Eden. Entrance is well marked and we anchored Caleta Poza. In heavy weather, anchor in close and tie lines ashore. Dingy to town and check in with Armada. We were able to clear in and out in one visit. Minimal provisions, and no telephones or internet available except local calls. Fuel might be available from fishermen, fuel station was closed when we were there.

Canal Darwin – This well-marked channel heads you towards the Pacific. We encountered two knots of current at the narrows, during mid-tide. Minimal traffic.

4.9 Isla Marcacci

This is a great anchorage and you tuck in close with lines ashore. We enjoyed a campfire ashore. Easy entrance.

4.14 Canal Williams and Angostura Garrido

This canal heads you south at the end of the Canal Darwin. Anchorage Puerto Yates located three miles south appeared a little open for heavy conditions. The Narrows at Angostura Garrido we easy to pass, although narrow. There is a cove within the narrows that looked good for an under 40-foot boat.

4.18-4.15 Puerto Millabu

Located up Estero Clemente, entrance is easy but pay attention to well-marked shoals, once inside the Estero it is deep to the head. Anchor at the head of Estero in front of the beach with waterfall behind. It shoals up quickly and we set two anchors. You can dinghy and walk in ankle deep water to the waterfall, here you can follow the creek on slippery rocks to the base.

4.23-4.18 Peninsula Skyring, Seno Pico-Paico

We anchored in the east arm and found it quiet in Southwest winds of 20 knots. Easy entrance.

4.26-4.12 Bahia San Andres, Caleta Cliff

This is a great spot to wait for weather condition for crossing the Golfo de Penas. This is a tine cove about 100 meters wide and there is a stream at the head to collect water. This anchorage was reported to be used by fisherman during heavy northwest storms. There are lines ashore, and they tie up 50-ton fishing vessels. You can walk along the shoreline to the entrance marked by Mt.Cono. Entrance is easy and deep.

Golfo de Penas – We cross this notoriously rough body of water under 20 knots south winds and found it no problem. We departed Caleta Suarez late that evening and arrived at the entrance to Canal Messier mid-afternoon. It was a slow slog to windward under power to Cabo Raper lighthouse which we passed well offshore of. Contact on VHF 16 once within range. They broadcast daily weather information at 0800 and 2000-2015 on 4168.0 MHz. Once pass Cabo Rapier we continued on a course south before altering and beam reaching to the Canal Messier entrance where we arrived just before high tide and experienced no uncomfortable currents.

5.13-5.11 Isla Zealous, Caleta Arevora

The entrance is tiny, very narrow, but clear. Located at 47 49.1S: 74 37.5W. It is marked by kelp both port and starboard. Once inside there is a magnificent basin. We anchored at the head in calm conditions with lines tied ashore. There is a small cove at the narrows for an under 35-foot yacht.

5.18-5.14 Isla Farquhar, Caleta Conner

This is a popular stopping spot off the Canal Messier and is wide and clear of any dangers. We anchored at the head with lines ashore. There is a tree with signs from visiting yachts dating back to 1973 located on the point southwest of the inner cove, where we anchored with lines ashore. Walk around the point, and find an overgrown trail leading to the tree. The signs are visible while entering from the southwest, but not from the inner cove anchorage.

5.25-5.18 Angostura Inglesa

We passed these well marked, including range markers, narrows with only minimal current. We approached at near slack water and found it very deep throughout. Contact Puerto Eden Radio on VHF 16 prior to entrance. There is a pass for smaller boats between a red buoy and Isla Medio Canal, but it looked quite small compared to the main channel.

6.1-5.20 Puerto Eden

Check in with the friendly and helpful Armada on VHF 16 upon arrival. There is a large buoy to tie to; however, we were instructed to anchor in the main harbour. Entrance is easy and shoaled gradually towards the piers. There was a new construction of a pier; however, we do not know the depths. The other two piers were completely exposed at low tide. Dinghy to the Armada to check in and apply for ZARPE for further south. There are a few small groceries with frozen meats and other provisions. There is also a market located around the southeastern point of the village. Follow the wooden boardwalk to find it. Here we found the best selection of provisions.

Fuel is available, both diesel and gasoline through Don Jose by drum, delivered to your boat. We used our own pump. Price was about 40 percent that in Puerto Montt. It was clean of debris; however, it was brown in colour. We have had no problems and our 2-micron filters have remained clear. We arranged for this fuel two weeks prior arrival with the Patagonia Cruisers Net (see Valdivia comments). Don Jose also has phone service overseas, a small inn for travellers with home cooked meals, and his wife does great laundry service. He can also arrange transport on the Navimag Ferry that runs twice weekly from Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt. There is a small first aid building and emergency helicopter service to Puerto Natales. We were allowed to use the schools computers for internet service. We have a moderate donation for this service. We collected our new ZARPE at the very efficient Armada Station and were granted to pass through the Canal Acwalisnan. It was written on the ZARPE.

6.4-6.23 Estero Amalia, Caleta Amalia

There were bits of ice, shopping cart size, about three miles from the glacier face, the wind was calm. Later we visited in the dinghy and the wind was blowing 20 from the north and the ice was packed up against the sandy base of the glacier, making it impossible to get to. There were several creeks draining from the glacier and they were too deep to walk across.

The Anchorage is easy to find and the rock south of Isla Salvador was awash at mid tide. It was difficult to find a place for our stern lines with the boat in an east-west configuration, so we anchored and tied to shore in a north-south. When the wind did fill it was from the west and our on beam. One of our favourite stops, the glacier was magnificent.

7.2-6.28 Puerto Mayne

We made a heavy weather approach with 30 plus knots of wind from the north. Once close to the entrance it settled down and we made an easy approach. It is a bit tight getting to the first anchorage; however, once past Punta Lecky, it opened up and our spot was easy to find. We anchored and secured with two bow and two stern lines. There was a stream running to take water if desired. Very secure, and no problem with gusts with 20 – 30 knots in the canal.

7.4-6.31 Isla Piazzi, Caleta Balandra

We anchored in Caleta Balandra with stern lines. The shoal on the south side is always awash and marked by kelp. There is quite a bit of kelp at the entrance and in the Caleta. We found 6 meters of water right up to the north shore at the entrance to Caleta Balandra. Gusts are common in this Caleta, but once secured to shore, you can find protection.

7.27-6.36 Puerto Mardon, Bahia Welcome

We anchored in Bahia Welcome and found shelter from the 30 knots winds outside. There is a small cut at the head, and we secured with both bow and stern lines. Very protected. It is easy to pass the entrance to Bahia Welcome, it is very similar to the bay just south, but to a smaller scale.

7.33-6.43 Puerto Profundo

We anchored in the Caleta due east of the entrance and found it very secure. You did have to climb up a bit to find a large tree to secure stern lines to. We also attached bow lines just in case. The Armada Buoy was nowhere to be found. We were not able to reach Islote Fairway once inside the Caleta; however, we had a clear signal near the entrance. Once contacted, we were able to get current conditions on the Straits.

8.7-8.6 Caleta Playa Parda

We anchored in the large basin and were exposed to gusts during the night. We found that is shoaled up quite quickly at the north end, making long stern lines necessary. Next time we would secure with stern lines. There were 30 to 40 knots winds in the Straits. Entrance was clear and we favoured the west side to avoid Roca Svetland. Caleta Playa Parta Chica looked very secure; however, at 20 meters we were too big.

8.15-8.12 Isla Carlos III

We found the detail chart confusing and not matching the shape of the land. We anchored with stern lines at the head near a stream. There was a lot of current and wind making a stern tie up with just two on board quite a chore. Selection was limited on what to tie to, but all trees and rocks held with a 30-ton boat pulling on them, in gusty conditions.

8.21 Canal Acwalisnan, Seno Pedro, Caleta Felix

We found a nice break from the winds conditions of the Straits once inside Seno Pedro. We anchored at Caleta Felix and did not stay. It was too wide to run stern lines and still keep your stern into the west wind, and we did not want to swing free. There was a line rigged ashore at a fish camp. One end was anchored and the other tied to a tree. It was in use with the dinghy of the fishing boat that was fishing just outside in Seno Pedro.

We found a great spot in Ensenada Elsa, three miles south of Caleta Felix. You will come to a large rock and it lies just before on the north shore. A perfect little Caleta and we were very secure with stern lines and anchor. Bowlines could be rigged if necessary. A group of six dolphins led us in.

8.12–9.4 Canal Acwalisnan, Paso O’Ryan

We had the canal written on our ZARPE to use. It was easy and the details are very accurate. We passed Roca Esmeralda at one hour past high tide in Bahia Wood and found minimal flood current until Paso O’Ryan where we had three knots behind us as we headed south. It shoals up quite a bit, but we had no problem at high tide with a 2.3-meter draft.

9.9-10.3 Isla Clarence, Caleta Parmelia

We entered here when conditions were 30 knots from the northwest. It was choppy heading along Isla Clarence after leaving Canal Cockburn. We passed to the south of the large rock and never saw less than 30 meters of water. Once inside Caleta Parmelia we anchored at the head in 12 meters, it is quite deep all the way to the shore. We tied with long stern lines and had to adjust lines over the next two days as it blew hard from the North. It was quite gusty but secure.

9.12-10.7 Peninsula Occasion, Caleta Brecknock

It can get quite rough as you sail Canal Cockburn before entering Seno Occasion. Once inside is calms down considerably. This well-marked pass is easy, however, watch for cruise ship traffic. We encountered one entering and one leaving the next day. Caleta Brecknock is a good place in all weather. We secured with four lines, two bow and two sterns. One bow and one stern line were secured to existing lines of good quality that were attached to trees further up the near vertical slope. We endured 35 knots of west wind without any problem.

10.17 Canal O’Brien, Caleta Lagunas

Easy entrance and easy to tie up in this cozy little cove. Well protected from west winds and you can get close to shore. Excellent view if you climb up towards the lake, towards the north.

10.4-10.33 Brazo Noroeste, Caleta Olla

A very popular anchorage and easy entrance. We anchored and tied two stern lines ashore to trees. There were six other boats secured here after the days end, and there was plenty of room. There are several walks available.

10.10–10.70 Puerto Williams, Micalvi Yacht Club

The Southernmost Yacht Club in the World.

Here you will raft up to other boats, often five deep, with the larger yachts moored at the first available spot. It is first come first served, and there are some boats secured to the inland side that are longer term. Good fenders and long dock lines are a must. The club is well protected from all winds, but there is lost of traffic and moving of boats. A ten-minute walk toward town and you will find the Armada Port Captains office. Look for a large pair of binoculars. When arriving from another country, wait for officials after checking in on channel 16 (most likely they will call you when you approach).

There is a bank in town with an ATM, and cash advances are available. Everything we purchased was in cash, no credit cards accepted. Fuel can be ordered from the petrol station, the best time to catch him is in the morning. They can bring a fuel truck to the yacht club and you transfer using fuel jugs, or you can arrange to go alongside the Armada pier. The yacht club is open every night at 11 pm and sometimes serves food. The Irish Coffee House is a good place to eat and great information available from Lorena, the owner/operator. Water and electricity are also available at the yacht club.

10.19–10.81 Isla Herschel, Caleta Martial

Easy and straightforward anchorage. No stern lines needed, anchor in close to get out of the wind. Great place to overnight to and from Cape Horn.

10.19–10.82 Isla Hermite, Puerto Maxwell

Tight entrance and lots of kelp marking rocks. Anchor and secure close with stern lines. We were not able to contact Isla Hornos for conditions while anchored. Plan on extra time to clean off kelp from anchor. Good place to stage for sail to Cape Horn, a ten-mile beam reach in prevailing west winds.

10.23-11.7 Ushuaia, Argentina

Big city and good provisioning. Good place to pick up and drop off crew with good airlines connections. We anchored and stayed off of the AFASYN dock, which was full of charter boats. We did not purchase fuel there but is available by a drum. A small anchoring fee was asked for at the marina office. Many shops and internet cafes and well as many good restaurants available in town. You must go to the Prefecture with all crew when checking in and out, as well as a visit to Customs at the main dock.

Mar Del Plata, Argentina

We tied up to the Yacht Club Argentino for one free week. Very friendly staff, and after a tricky entrance through a narrow breakwater entrance we found a long floating pier with yellow stripes. We called them on the VHF and were led in. The dock is to your left after clearing the entrance. Fuel was available by truck. The basin has a shallow entrance at low tide, and we passed at high tide with our seven-foot draft with three feet to spare. Good provisioning and internet cafes in town. Many nice hotels and restaurants.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

We moored at the Yacht Club Argentina, downtown. Call on VHF 16 to enter the basin. At 60 feet we were limited to where we could moor. We were provided with a five-day free stay. Good location to visit downtown Buenos Aires. This is a private club and guests are limited.

San Fernando, Buenos Aires, Argentina

We moored at the Yacht Club Argentino, San Fernando to a floating pier. This very exclusive and private yacht club is wonderful. We were invited to stay after visiting the club beforehand. The club is located up a river and navigation was tricky, we had a local Captain on board to avoid the shoals. All services are available there.

Miles Thompson


17 April 2009

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