“Dear passengers! Your attention please! We would like to inform you that now is the right moment to take the seasickness pill. In about 2 hours the Evangelistas will reach the open waters of the Pacific Ocean!” The loudspeaker announcement interrupts a documentary about the Patagonian fauna. Instantly, about half the audience on the Navimag Ferry Evangelistas starts to queue at the water dispensers in order to take the seasickness medicine they brought. “You can also buy the pills at the bar on the Upper Deck for 500 Chilean Pesos,” the announcement continues.
In 1520, when Hernando de Magellan discovered a passage to the west through the Patagonian fjords, he found the sea on the other side pleasantly calm. After crossing through the scarily stormy fjords that he called All Saints Straits (but which were later called Magellan straits), he inaptly named the new ocean the Pacific – or calm – Ocean.
We in turn had not heard about the rough open water passage on the second day of the cruise before we boarded the Navimag ferry Evangelistas from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. Even now we decide against taking pills in order to test our seaworthiness.
The rough part
About an hour after the announcement a gentle movement sets in, soon developing into an unmistakable billowing. More and more passengers retreat to their bunks. “Nothing special,” Daniel, the officer on duty on the bridge, assures us. “Waves of 3 to 4 meters and a wind force of about 30 knots!” We hold onto a rail while the ship hops forward, its bow dipping into the sea with a noisy white splash.
This evening in the dining room, crew members assist the few hungry passengers to carry their laden food trays to the tables. When we ask for a second helping of pasta with pesto, the woman at the counter gives us a surprised look and a generous heap of pasta. Today there would have been more dessert, too.
The next morning we enter the Messier Channel and the sea calms down again. “I did not feel all that well, despite the seasickness pills, but at least I could sleep,” Karin confides over breakfast. Karin and Erich are on a 3-week Patagonia tour with Chameleon travel, a German tour agency. “Only 12 people,” they enthuse.
Besides the Chameleon group there are two other German tour groups as well as dozens of individual German travellers on the boat. The Navimag ferry company even decided to employ a German passenger attendant for the summer. “On this trip, one third of the 200 passengers are Germans,” Lina tells us before going on to explain in German the history of the Cotopaxi shallow. It is named for the English ship Cotopaxi, which hit a rock here in the 1880s – but the shipwreck we are going to see today on the very same spot is the Greek cargo vessel Capitan de Unidas that sunk only in 1963. It looks quite forlorn in these waters, where we have only passed one other ship so far.
An excursion to the Glacier, by Navimag Ferry …
A few hours later we visit the Pius XI Glacier, the largest glacier in Patagonia with a length of about 15 kilometres. The glacier drops directly into the sea, spreading out over several kilometres at its end. As we approach, the wind becomes icy. Tiny raindrops feel like pelt in spite of an outside temperature of 11 °C. The glacier was explored, presumably by a devout Catholic, during the pontificate of Pope Pius XI.
From the deck, we watch the Evangelistas running into the harbour of Puerto Natales in the afternoon of the next day. “Dear passengers! Your attention please…” crackles the loudspeaker. The rest of the announcement is lost in a gush of wind. Apparently it was the signal to disembark the Navimag Ferry. We leave the Evangelistas and hurry to a bus that will bring us even further to the south. Our next goal is Tierra del Fuego.