Saturday (Navigation – Punta Arenas/Ainsworth Bay 90 Nm)

Stella Day 2 sea bird flight copy

The sky is clear, there is a fresh breeze whipping at the flags and the reception desk is a flurry of passports and boarding documents.

AAA Superior Cabin 422 on the bridge deck, Pisco Sours, a welcome toast in the Darwin Lounge (5th deck), meet and greet the captain and the expedition crew and then we are sailing into Estrecho de Magellenes! Everyone wants to be outside on the rails until the very last moment of the sunset before dinner is served in the Patagonia Dining Room (1st deck).

Stella crab copy

We embrace the shipboard rhythm of briefings, drinks and fine food  – and anticipation of what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday (Navigation Ainsworth Bay/Tuckers Islets/Pia Glacier 208 Nm)

The Sky Lounge (4th deck) offers early coffee and fresh, gourmet pastries for those who are keen to photograph the sunrise or work out in the gym.

Stella sunrise 2DSCF copy

Today’s disembarkations are not testing physically but it is the first time wearing all the gear and following procedure for leaving the ship and returning in the zodiacs.

Stella Ainsworth zodiac 2 copy

There is a shore excursion in the morning – we see our first condors of the trip, walk through an Antarctic beech forest, examine delicate marsh plants, mosses, lichens and mussel beds with our guide Javiera in the National Park Alberto de Agostini.

Stella Ainsworth flora 1 copy


Stella Ainsworth 6

I could have stayed longer at the imposing rock face – no cathedral, no matter how soaring or ornate can possibly match the sense of ‘awesome’ as this remote, silent, natural place.

Prior to the afternoon disembarkation to view penguins and cormorants at Tuckers Islet, there is some trepidation about the sea conditions but the crew ensures that the expedition (although thrilling) is quite safe despite the 30 knot westerly wind. AND we see another condor. BUT there are fewer penguins than usual – fewer each year.

Stella Tuckers zodiac

The evening lecture is Glaciology in Patagonia and after the briefing for the next day, there is very little energy for the other entertainments provided.

Monday (Navigation – Pia Glacier/Cape Horn 142 Nm)

There is high excitement as we sail in Ballerno Channel as the clear, early morning weather deteriorates. Snow flurries! The disembarkation for Pia Glacier goes ahead although there are a few modifications to the excursion on land because of the snow. It is quite amazing to be so close to the ice and very satisfying to experience this chilly place while drinking whisky and hot chocolate.

Stella Day 2 Pia landing NK2 copy

We are anticipating a perfect sail through Glacier Alley and are keen to capture all five glaciers on film. It is not to be. The snow increases and there is almost complete white out. Disappointment is put aside as we anticipate the itinerary for the next day and the bar provides drinks and snacks and opportunities for interesting talk with new acquaintances.

33_Stella Day 2 ice on deck copy

Late in the afternoon there is a briefing for the next day’s morning excursion – Wulaia Bay. And in the evening, the Captain’s dinner.

Tuesday (Navigation – Wulaia Bay/Cape Horn 78Nm; Cape Horn/Pto Navarino 94 Nm; Pto Navarinot/Ushuaia 20 Nm)

This place is steeped in history and legend. Captain Fitz Roy, naturalist Charles Darwin, Yaghan aborigines….the stories are wonderfully and meticulously curated in an old naval station. However, as we disembark for the hill hike in Wulaia Bay, our thoughts are on the viewpoints far above us which we will strive to reach. There was fresh snow overnight but now the forest is a winter wonderland (even though it is October and officially Spring).

13_Stella Day 3 wulaia stream 2 copy

The track is muddy and the climb long and steep but well worth the effort as we reach the viewpoint and see Stella as a tiny toy on the bay below. There are photos and a minute’s silence to appreciate the pristine environment and breathe the clear, cool air. No sound except the rushing water of an icy stream.

18_Stella Day 3 Hill view 4 copy

This day yields another excitement late in the afternoon. The captain and crew keep us in suspense as they assess the sea and landing conditions on Isla Hornos – the ultimate experience for most on this expedition is to reach Cape Horn AND go ashore to the monument. After the satisfaction of the morning climb in Wulaia Bay, I am feeling that Cape Horn would be an extra bonus.

The disembarkation begins. I am on the second boat to land and push myself to climb to the monument – then race to the lighthouse and back down to the landing spot in the fading light for the first zodiac back to the boat.

36_Stella Day 3 navchart Cape Horn 6.59 copy

It is time for the farewell toast all too soon. I really wanted a very special keepsake for us to take home – there was a raffle for the 150th voyage flag (the Jack) and an auction of the nautical chart too. But I am happy with the Cape Horn stamp in my Passport and the memory of an unforgettable expedition cruise. The Stella Australis is a beautiful boat with an exceptional crew. I am forever spoiled – cruising for me can only be on a small ship like the Stella – preferably with a barman who understands that champagne is my first love but Pisco Sours come a close second.

Wednesday – Cruise destination – Ushuaia

The voyage destination is Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina – a stepping stone to El Calafate and the next part of our journey in Patagonia.

Stella Day 4 Ushuaia morning 4

We have sailed and walked in this  remote area of legends, pristine waters, the albatross and the ancient ice of the Darwin Range glaciers….we think we have been especially privileged to  have had the opportunity to be here.

Our next destination is back in Chile in the Torres del Paine National Park. Another very special place on earth.

Stella Ainsworth flora calafate copy 2









Fin del Mundo – beginning a journey to the end of the earth

Punta Arenas, Southern Chilesome history, a view across the Straits, a bar and a boat

Our arrival on a delayed flight from Santiago is at 1.25 am. Anticipation of what we will see in daylight is high. This town is the gateway to our expedition cruise to Cape Horn.

The next morning the interior detailing in Hotel Cabo de Hornes gives a sense of the history of this place.

In the following week we are to learn a little of those who were here long before us. Before the Europeans, Indian nomads hunted on land and sea – Aonikenk, Onao, Yamanas, Qanasqar. Only a handful survived the subsequent arrival and colonisation by Europeans.

Early history

Art detail at Hotel Cabos de Hornes

A sunny, morning stroll across the central square reveals an obvious hero, Hernando de Magellanes. Also on the statue is a native Indian. Rub his foot and you will be sure to return – or so the story goes.

Sunny morning stroll

Central square, Punta Arenas

Central square Punta Arenas

Plaza de Armas, Punta Arenas

A short drive along the Pan American Highway to the south is Fuerte Bulnes. This fort was established when the Chilean government sent an expedition in 1843.

Commanding position

Commanding position

Bulnes Fort

Bulnes Fort araucaria

View across the Staits

Windswept view across the Straits

The site was unsuitable and Governor Jose Santos Mardones founded the city in its present location as a penitentiary colony in 1848. Punta Arenas flourished. Sheep “white gold” were introduced; immigrants from Europe came in search of gold.  Then, a large part of the city was destroyed in terrible mutiny in 1877 but by the end of the century with a reduction in the number of prisoners, the city became safe for enterprise to flourish. Wool and timber generated wealth.  Palaces and estancias, mansions and other significant buildings such as the opera theatre were testimony to this prosperity.


Colonial elegance around the central square

Until 1920 when the Panama Canal was opened, Punta Arenas thrived due to its proximity to the Straits of Magellan and the trade that passed between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Coal, gas and oil (in addition to livestock industries), have ensured that this province continues to prosper.

Rusty pieces

Rusty pieces

On a night with a cool, fresh breeze and a clear, moonlit sky we found Punta Arenas historical centre to be a lovely place to walk, find a bar, have a drink and sample the spicy, flakiness of empanadas.

Drinks and tapas

Drinks and tapas

There is the boat!  The first view of her from Cerro de la Cruz, a viewpoint above the town, brings home to us how far we are away from everything we know and how much we are looking forward to the voyage.

Stella is waiting

Stella Australis is waiting

We have checked in. There was a heart pounding moment when I fumbled through the folder looking for the Argentinian visa papers – after 3 days and 4 nights sailing, Stella would take us to Ushuaia, Argentina – the most southerly town in the world.

At the dock

At the dock; not long now

Tug power

Tug power – departure imminent

The adventure begins

The adventure begins!

Ready to sail

Gold braid and pisco sours! Buen viaje!