Sea Kayak Tierra del Fuego

Hike Patagonia: the W route in Torres del Paine, and Laguna Tres below Cerro Fitzroy

January 5, 2009

San Francisco to Miami to Santiago to Punta Arenas.

Click on any inage to enlarge.

The weather in Punta Arenas is the same as it was in San Francisco, themperature around 50 F windy and wet.

But the trees show us we are not in California anymore!

trees and kids

I met Paul Morgan then Martin and Morresa Meyer joined us for three great adventures.

The first adventure is a sea kayak trip to Tierra del Fuego.

The night before the trip we met Alejandro, the captain of the Cabo Tamar, the 48 foot long ship that will be our home for the next 6 days.

He has been on the ship for 30 years, I am pleased to note that we will be in the hands of a captain who understands these dangerous waters.

Day 1

We await our ride to the fishing port of Bahia Mansa. It is due at 8 AM but no one comes.
Eventually, Alejandro comes in person to pick us up at 9:30 AM, the person who was supposed to pick us up never came.

We get out first look at our ship, and it looks small. But when we get onboard it is well cared for!

Cabo Tamar
The Cabo Tamar, a 48 foot long converted fishing boat.


Alejandro our Captain with 30 years experience cruising these waters.

The well-cared-for engine


The Engineer Jose.

We moved our gear below decks to our berths.
They were comfortable but the headroom was low...we all hit our heads on the beams.

We spent most of the time above decks watching the scenery.

Paul Doherty
Paul Doherty in the Straits of Magellan

As we cruised along the Straits of Magellan we saw wind blasted trees.

wind blasted trees
Wind blasted trees.

We ducked into the main dining room for hot chocolate and to look at the map.

team map

route map

We drove from Punta Arenas to Bahia Mansa, a fishing port next to Punto Hambre, Point Famine.

At this point n the trip we had no idea just how well we were going to eat on this adventure.

route closeup

We motored all day long at 10 knots, acropss the Straits of Magellan where we saw large ships, through Cacsade Channel to Parry Fjord at the end of Admiralty Sound.

We were going to sea kayak into the fjords that penetrated into the Darwin Cardillera, south of Almirantazgo sound.

Our first stop was to be Bahia Parry, shown at the bottom right of the map.


After crossing the Straits of Magellan we cruised down the narrow Cascade Channel where a melting glacial ice cap created hundreds of cascades.

cascade Enlarge


I'll compress all 6 days of the trip inro a tale of one average day.

Parry Fjord

During the day we would paddle down the fjord to the glacier and return. The mountains of the Darwin Cordillera gather snow into glaciers which flow down under gravity to calve into the fjords.

Morresa in Kayak

Morresa demonstrates how we started the day, fitting out and adjusting our kayaks.

calm paddling

Then we went padling, here Paul and Paul paddle the calmest water we saw all week.

team glacier
Usually we would make a mid morning stop to visit an interesting place like this grounded glacier. Here is the whole team, Morresa, Martin Paul and Paul.

floe riders

We went floe walking, moving from ice floe to ice floe in our slippery kayaking boots. Here Martin is shown using his knee to climb!

PM narrows
Every day we would beach the kayaks, some days in narrow channels.

Then as Morresa shows we would climb a local hill for lunch and views.

Everyone in Patagonia is fond of the Calafate berries.


pd eats berry

When ripe they have a fine sweet taste. Dry suits sure help in the rain.


Alejandro always led us to a hilltop with a view of glaciers for lunch.

When the glaciers would calve we could watch from a safe location. The sound was the sound of thunder.

Some calving events were huge. They produced large waves that resonanted in the fjords.

The waves would produce tsunamis. The water in the fjord would rush onto the shore and keep on coming. We always tied our kayaks to something permanent.


Some of the climbs up steepo vegetated slopes were exciting.

leopard seal
Every day we saw wildlife. Here Alejandro helps us keep our distance from a leopard seal.


An albatross soars near us.


flightless duck
Jose the engineer also knew about birds. One day he excitedly pointed out a Patagonian Flightless Duck. It runs across the water using its wings for propulsion.

elephant seals
There is a colony of southern elephant seals in Almirantazgo Bay. Here two males engage in practice fighting as Morresa watches from a safe distance.

coming aboard
At the end of the day we would return to the boat, transfering from kayak to zodiac to boat.

We were definitely in South America, every afternoon we were served a snack named "Onces" a nickname for the actual name of the meal which is an 11 letter word in Spanish, this mini-dinner helped hold off the hunger of the Norte Americanos until dinner was served sometine between 8 PM and midnight.

While we were kayaking the crew would meet with loca fishing boats and procure fresh seafood.

scallop cleaner
This fellow could shuck a scallop in two seconds.

scallop diver
Alejandro bartered with the scallop diver, he traded hot dogs, Coke, and wine for scallops.

Alejandro was a superb ships Captain and a great chef. One night he roasted an entire lamb near an open fire.
The lamb dinner was served at midnight and was worth the wait.

lamb roastEnlarge

A skewer holds three haunches of lamb near the fire.

While we were on land I saw that the trees and the ground were loaded with fungi. This fungus is known as indian bread and was eaten by the local indians.

 king crab     king crab dinner
King crab was turned into a fantastically tasty king crab salad. The price of this salad in the local restaurants in Punta Arenas was astronomical.

scallop dinner
The scllops in herb butter and melted chees were the best scallops I have ever eaten. The servings were huge and even so I helped others eat their portions.


We were on a converted fishing boat, so we were not surprised when the crew caught fish for dinner, these are Roballo a type of blenny.


scenic sunset
The lanscape was magical. Here is the soft light of sunset to end the day.

After the Sea Kayak portion of our adventure we set off to hike the W route in Torres del Paine National Park.

Pm PD rainy waterfall

Martinmoressa rainy waterfall



W west start camp

team in cook hut

team trail sign

PM Martin Trail start

PD waterfall

Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty


31 January 2009