26 November 2013 | 60 15.9'S:065 54.7'W, Drake Passage
Our Drake Passage crossing so far has been rather typical, quite windy, very grey and a bit damp. We're not complaining though, the sailing so far has been pretty good even if we are now bouncing upwind for a few hours, we seem to be making good progress. We know there is a bit of a blow coming in the next few days, but for now we are happily trucking along.
The whole thing got off to rather a false start though, as we attempted to leave round the South of Anvers Island, only to find that the Southerly breeze that had made us scarper from Lockroy a few hours early had left this exit route completely full of ice. Rather depressingly we had to retrace our steps, and found ourselves passing by Port Lockroy, exactly where we had started but only 8 hours later. Despite trying to console the skipper by telling him all the information we'd gleaned over the past week pointed to this exit route being open, the delay did not make for a happy skipper, and he took himself to bed. No to worry though, by this stage the 30kts blizzard that we'd left in had completely vanished, and Andrew and I had a lovely sail up the Neumayer Channel (also known as Kodak corner) under brilliant blue skies. Both the Neumayer and the Northern Gerlache were mostly free of ice, leaving just the larger icebergs for us to dodge and take photos of. Skipper was in a m uch better mood when he woke up.
Around dinner time we made it to Dallman Bay and eventually out into the Drake. We encountered only a few bands of brash ice, each time managing to find a corridor through. The most challenging has to be the final one, where having found a corridor through the denser brash, we then had to dodge bergy bits for a further 3 or 4 miles. Its quite unnerving to be in a large rolly sea with large lumps of ice all around, as they go up in a wave you find yourself staring up at a car sized bit of ice above you, only to be staring down at it a few seconds later. I did wonder at one point if this minefield would ever end, but eventually we broke out into open ocean once more. It was quite a relief. So much time had been devoted to the planning of getting round ice into Antarctica, that I must admit the idea that getting out would be challenging as well hadn't really occurred to me. But its seems to have been a very icy year, according to the cruise ship staff and other people in the kno w, and as we passed Port Lockroy it was all iced in again with various cruise ships once more cancelling visits, so I guess we were lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) to get out when we did.
And so we keep trucking on. Andrew, who seems to have found his sea legs, is running his own watch as part of team Pelagic, so it's a rare treat for me and Dave to have twice as much time off watch as we do on watch. We don't really know what to do with ourselves, so in all honesty, we seem to mostly be catching up on sleep. Not a huge amount of wildlife to report on, we've had a grey-headed albatross and a sooty albatross follow us for a few hours, which has been a rare treat, but nearing the convergence I'm looking forward to being able to hum Ã"Flight of the Valkyries' again every time a big Wandering Albatross swoops past. Just checking the log for last night to check we haven't missed anything and I see from 1am local time I wrote "Its almost dark(ish). How exciting." Last night's sky was indeed dark enough to see our first star for a few weeks. It was lovely, but the boys slept straight through it, which I guess is the point of night time.