FRIDAY-MONDAY, DECEMBER 8-11, 2006. CATCHING THE NAVIMAG FERRY MAGALLANES FROM PUERTO NATALES TO PUERTO MONTT, CHILE. I decided to return from El Calafate, Argentina, back to Puerto Natales, Chile, in order to catch the Navimag ferry, Magallanes, north to Puerto Montt. The ferry departs every Friday morning for the three day, four night sail north through the Chilean fjords to Puerto Montt. For a class A, quad interior cabin, I paid US$420, an upgrade from class C bunks. It's expensive for transportation, but at least I had the quad and outside private bathroom to myself. This is a ferry, not a cruise, so you essentially entertain yourself. We boarded Thursday night, but did not depart until Friday at morning at 06:00 hours. Prior to boarding, I met Sander, a Dutch guy, for dinner at Mesita Grande, a pizza restaurant in Puerto Natales. I originally met Sander at Milhouse Hostel when I first arrived in Buenos Aires. We ran into each other again in El Calafate at an Internet café. Sander came with Christian, a German. We sat next to Richard and Judith from London. We were all taking the Navimag. It's one of the main transportation options for traveling between Patagonian Chile and the Lakes District (the alternatives are flying or going by bus via Argentina).
Unfortunately, the weather was wet, windy, and cold for almost the entire sail north. Thus, our time was spent mostly inside the ship's lounge or bridge. I hung out with Sander, Christian, Richard, Judith, Martin (Austria), and Uli (Austria). Passengers were all permitted on the bridge during the day. Due to the bad weather, what there was to see outside was obscured by clouds, mist, and rain.
One scary moment occurred during the first full day. While I was in my cabin, the ship pulled a U-turn. There was commotion throughout the ship, with everyone looking outside. An announcement in Spanish indicated that a passenger may have fallen overboard. The ship continued to perform a circular maneuver. After many tense minutes, another announcement stated that the earlier announcement was a mistake. Nevertheless, all passengers were told to go to the dining hall for a passenger count. All passengers were eventually accounted for. Apparently, a German's cap fell overboard and, during the communication of this to the crew, it was misinterpreted as a person going overboard. After the ship performed the man overboard maneuver, the German informed the Captain that, if the ship was going back for his cap, not to worry about it.
On the morning of the second day, Saturday, we anchored at Puerto Eden and could to go ashore to visit this tiny remote village inhabited by a small indigenous population.
The only major animal sighting was a pod of killer whales (Upon hearing the announcement, I grabbed my camera and ran topside, only to see the whitewater of the pod diving beneath the surface.) Due to the bad weather, the ferry trip ended up becoming essentially transportation. The trip does offer a glimpse of this very remote and unpopulated area of Chile, but overall was a bit boring and, save for the man overboard incident, uneventful.