Patagonia – Recommended Boat Equipment and Improvements for Cruising

Published 15 years ago, updated 6 years ago

Sent by Miles Thompson


17 April 2009

See Cruising Notes produced by Lone Star for this area.

I would like to suggest some additions or improvements needed to a sturdy, ocean-going vessel, capable of staying away from the dock for weeks at a time. Adequate medical supplies, diesel fuel, propane fuel, water tank capacity, and food storage must be taken into consideration. You must also be very self-reliant, and capable of making repairs on board. Tools, manuals, and spares for all essential systems must be carried on board.


Anchors and Chain – I list this first because it is of utmost importance. You will need heavy anchors, long lengths of chain, and the windlass to handle it. Most production boats I feel would be lacking in this area. On LONE STAR we carry a 75-pound yachtsman with a 210-foot length of 7/16″ chain often set in tandem with a 30 pound Danforth utility anchor joined with a 20-foot piece of 3/8″ chain. In addition, we have a 60-pound CQR Plow with a 30-foot length of 7/16″ chain and 240 feet of 7/8″ 12 plait nylon rode. Some of the anchorages are deep, and at times I wish we had more chain on the yachtsman. The Danforth 30 pound utility anchor is very handy to have for setting in tandem, or a stern hook to limit your swing when you can not attach to trees. Whatever your choice is, just make sure it is very heavy and very strong.

Stern lines – We have four 300 foot 5/8″ polypropylene lines and that seems to be adequate. This line is inexpensive and available locally. We like polypropylene because it is very abrasion resistant and it floats – making towing it ashore with the dinghy easier than towing water logged nylon rode. In some locations, you anchor and back towards shore to attach lines. This allows you to tuck in close and out of the violent wind. Often it is quite deep until close to shore and you are anchoring on a slope, pulling uphill. We also carry two nylon heavy duty tow straps, for when we have to tie to sharp rocks. Many boats have spools to help handle the lines. We did not have room, so we coiled the lines in figure eight fashion, and hand fed them out. We are fortunate to have a large aft deck. I could see potential problems with an aft cockpit boat, with 600 feet of line piled in it. If you have the room, I would suggest spools. It will also make it easier and faster to run, send and retrieve the lines.

Kelp knife – We have so far not encountered any problems with kelp; however, we can see the need for a means to remove it from the anchor. We have a machete, as well as a tree saw mounted on a long pole for this. Note – This became a very useful tool once we entered more areas with kelp. We used the very sharp tree saw with a flexible blade attached to a long pole. We wished our pole was a bit longer to reach the anchor and chain while lifting. You will need this tool.


Charts – US is available for the area north of the Canal Darwin; however, they do not cover areas further south until you reach the Straits of Magellan. We found the Chilean Armada Charts to be excellent and very detailed. They are available in major ports from agents. Budget for this, we purchased over 50 charts and at US $20.00 each, it adds up. We did find the prices slightly higher in Puerto Montt versus Valparaiso.

Guides – We are using two and both are excellent, accurate, and compliment each other with information. “Chile – Arica Desert to Tierra Del Fuego” published by Imray and “Patagonia & Tierra Del Fuego Nautical Guide” also known as the “Blue Book, or Italian Guide.” We have also found tourist guides such as “The Lonely Planet” very helpful once ashore.

Spanish/English Dictionary – You will find yourself using this quite often, and a working knowledge of basic Spanish is also very helpful, and respectful.

Tide Tables – We are using the Chilean Armada Publication “Tables De Marea,” and they are available where you purchase charts.

Zip Lock Bags – We found some extra large ziplock bags, 2.5 gallons, and poster size, while in the states. These are invaluable for placing the guides, in an open book position, to expose the detail charts. We were able to fit a full-size chart folded in half in the poster size. Our guides and charts would have been mush after the first week, or safe and dry below where we could not reference while entering.


Navigation We are using C-Map NT Max electronic charts in addition to our paper charts, and have found them to be very accurate until we reached south of the Canal Darwin. RADAR is essential, and using it in the overlay mode with the chart works well while navigating the narrow canals. A good depth sounder is also essential. Beware of erroneous, shallow readings while in some areas due to water temperature and current. Kelp also affects accurate readings. We have two and I like the redundancy, and ability to compare.

Weather We get most of our weather information from GRIB files downloaded via IRIDIUM Sat phone. This is a subscription service available from Global Marine Networks and is excellent data. Local weather is also broadcast on VHF and HI-FI frequencies; however it is in Spanish, and very quickly. Weather Fax charts are broadcast and are known to be very accurate. We have also asked for a weather prognosis when checking in and the Armada seemed to be happy to recite it to us. A calibrated barometer is also necessary to monitor the atmospheric pressure.

Communication VHF is required by the Armada, and you are required to check in with position and ETA to next port where there is an Armada post, twice daily while underway or at anchor at 0800 and 2000 hrs. Often you are out of VHF range, but we have spoken with other ships and lighthouses to forward our position. You can also check in using the HI-FI radio on channel 4146.0 kHz. We have tried to check in via email from our Sat phone, but all our emails have been returned. We keep a daily Radio Log of all attempts and contacts. A local cell phone with purchased phone cards is very useful while ashore. There are also many call centres and internet cafes in the major ports for easy and cost-effective communication abroad.


Clothing – You will need good “non-tropical” foul-weather gear, boots, gloves and headgear for this area. It is often wet and nasty while underway. Undergarments will need to be layered on, and we have found that cotton only holds moisture and that you are warmer and more comfortable with wicking type layers. Climbers have a saying “cotton kills.” One of our favourite articles of clothing is waterproof, insulated socks made by “Sealskins.” These are great for lounging around, and when you take off your boots and step on the wet cabin sole, your feet remain dry. Wool is also a great insulator, and a hand towel worn around your neck under you foul-weather jacket will help keep the rain out. Neoprene diving gloves work great, as do rubber fishing gloves with glove liners.

Enclosure – We modified our dodger to a half fixed and half soft type. It is great for hiding from the wind and spray, however, there is only room for two and you are still exposed while at the helm. If possible a fixed dodger, covering a good portion of the cockpit would be great, allowing you to stand to watch out of the elements.

Cabin Heater – We have a Dickinson diesel cabin stove and it works very well. A longer, removable chimney would help in windy conditions. It has a fan assist which makes for faster lighting and good flow. We have mounted hooks near it to hang wet gloves etc.

Bunks – We have placed grids made by Dri-Deck under all our mattresses to allow air to circulate and dry the moisture introduced while sleeping. We also recommend that you open and dry the boat at every warm, sunny, opportunity.


Engine – A high proportion of the cruising in the south is under power, and a strong and dependable engine is a must for fighting current and headwinds.

Sails – We have found that our Storm-Trysail is our favourite sail for this area. This boomless mainsail, flown like a jib from the main mast, is easy to handle and provides a great steadying effect while underway. If caught in a gust, we don’t have the fight to reef that we would have with a full-size mainsail. We also have a working jib and staysail mounted on roller furlers. Needless to say, all sails need to be in excellent condition, and tougher than a night in jail.

Diesel fuel – It can be a long time between fuel stops and it gets more expensive as you head south. We carry 275 gallons giving us an 800-mile range. We have found the fuel available in major ports, often by truck from the station to be very clean. We have heard that fuel further south may not be as clean so plenty of filters are a must. Fuel may also be available from local fisherman. We have six, six-gallon jerry cans lashed on deck that are useful for transferring fuel by dinghy from the service stations. High-quality engine oil is available in major ports; however, I would carry plenty of filters on board.

Propane – We have been able to fill US type bottles at all major ports. In some cases, you might need to gravity transfer from a local bottle to your bottle, and adapters and connections will be necessary. [BROKEN LINK]

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