Wednesday, March 10, 2010
March 10th, Day 11 Salisbury Plain
For those of you following my progress on the tracker you have probably noticed that I have gone backwards. Yep - the wrong way.
Today is the day for me to finally come to terms with the fact that I am not able to complete what I originally set out to do, my 10 year dream and 3+ years of a 'work in progress'....To solo sea kayak around South Georgia Island.
This morning, Keri informed me that she needs everyone ready to depart for our open ocean crossing to Stanley by March 12th/13th for our flights leaving Stanley March 27th.
For that we need to:
1.Be in a safe anchorage for all weather types and wind conditions which is a little limited around this lovely island.
2.I need to be in a position to be retrievable when it is time to depart. If I continue around the North end and over to the less predictable and wilder west coast, the weather window for the Northanger to come and get me will be limited. The weather this year has been unuaslly bad...high winds daily, very little sun, lots of snow and rain....All ships visitors and KEP base folk, all sailboats that have visited, all comment on the bad summer it has been.
It is time I accept whole heartedly the entire situation which has led to this extremely disappointing circumstance.
We were 20 days late in departing due to: Gregs injury, time it took to find another crew person, rotten weather which slowed us down sailing to Sth G and finally, my badly bruised and beaten kayak which needed a few 'touch ups'.
Aswell, due to the earthquake in Chile our international flights have been extremely difficult to change. We have been forced to change our routing which means we now need to find a way from Stanley to Buenos Aries which isn't as straight forward as it sounds.
Keri has done a marvelous job at skippering the Northanger in this challenging region. It has been necessary for her to be extremely cautious due to the lack of Greg's expertise onboard which has caused limitations to the expedition.
Now as far as the crew goes:
Beth-Anne has a job she needs to get back to, Magnus is needed to sail his dads boat back to New Zealand, Brian needs to be returned to his dear wife Lin and Keri....
It's time for her to be re-united with her husband Greg who has recently had more of his finger amputated due to an infection and tragically his father suddenly past away back in New Zealand. Greg has been trying to get home for weeks now and the earthquake in Chile has caused the airport in Santiago to be closed and passengers waiting to fly out have been camping in tents in the surrounding airport area.
And finally, Dean is probably more than ready to dis-connect himself from his computer which he has been bound to for nearly 2 months.
Knowing what Greg must be going through with his unfortunate and terrible circumstances, makes my loss seem so little.
However I am experiencing a struggle in accepting the disappointment of not achieving my established goal and fulfilling this 10 year dream.
Part of it is the fact that now having been here, paddling, camping, navigating, weather interpreting etc I have come to realise that if all the circumstances did not occur, I would have been successful, I could have done it! However we can not go down the 'What if' road. It is what it is and it is no longer in my power to change things. For now I need to let my ego rest under the pebbles I am sitting upon as I write this, rise up to the new challenges of turning this 'not how I planned' expedition into an entertaining film, fabulous book and an inspirational presentation.
And so the adventure continues. Today I paddled back into the Bay of Isles and kayaked along the absolutely mesmerizing, 'cosmic mind blowing' beach of Salisbury Plain which I previously missed due to heavy fog and wanting to make some miles the day before yesterday.
Thousands of King penguins roam this stretch of beach, trumpeting their flirtatious calls into the vast open tussock plains, Zillions of Fur seals and Ellies lolly-gag about on the fine pebbles, surf crashes rhythmically along the sandy shores and the back drop of glaciers sweeping into the dramatically scenic valley makes this entire bay seem like an amphitheater of vivacious activity.
Tomorrow I will land on Prion Island and spend some time with the animal which inspired me to take on such a journey. A creature I admire and am continually drawn to and intrigued by....the Wandering Albatross.
Numbers of nesting pairs of Albatross in this area are declining rapidly. Some islands have been made into sanctuaries where no landing is possible, Prion is open to limited visitation. I am extremely honored and privileged to be able to land and encounter these magnificent birds on their very own turf, as they raise their chick as a pair and watch it fledge an entire year later. Upon fledging, that chick will return to its birthing island 5 years later when it is sexually mature, spending all those years at sea.
After a day in Salisbury and Prion making the most of being in this vicinity and getting a chance to film all this spectacular drama, if a 2 day weather window opens up, I will attempt to round the North tip of the island. I'm busting to paddle that stretch and to simply go from the east coast to the west coast will feel like a mini achievement.
Early this morning I received an email from Dean, perfectly timed due to the 'just heard' disappointing news. Although he has been a few thousand miles away, throughout this journey his support from afar has made me feel that I have not been alone. He has kindly posted blog comments and forwarded emails to me from all those following my dream...words of comfort, inspiration, courage and kindness go a long way.
Deans recent eloquent words struck a chord in me this morning and it played on my mind all day which in the end helped me to move forward and finally accept this situation.".......
"It seems as if everything thus far has brought nothing but delays and challenges. So what are we to glean from all of this? The regular cliches of patience? of perserverance? You may not be able to percieve the greater lessons or the bigger picture until some time has passed. This could be a lesson in, "despite your greatest efforts in life, some things just dont pan out the way we want them to". Im not really sure what this is all about, or what to say. Im just happy for you, for being able to have at least felt with your five senses, or more, your dream! It didnt go down the way you had envisioned, but you gave it your best and most noble attempt. Hayls, im proud of you and what you have accomplished, Im proud of the way you have conducted yourself in the face of huge dissapointments. Im proud of you for your determination and grit. In my eyes ( and many others) you have conquered so much more than just a physical island, Heck at this point...South Georgia is a mere technicallity! You have endured the crashing waves of dissapointment, the fierce winds of change, and the rocky outcrops of comprimise. You have successfully completed the South Georgia of the mind and spirit. Hayley...you have encompassed the true essence and spirit of your hero Shackelton and you did it with just as much grace and integrity. That in itself is a journey like no other".
A moment in Paradise is a moment well-lived and I am forever grateful for this opportunity despite the changes and unexpected outcome. That is a true adventure after all and it can be nothing less.
Keep in touch and I'll keep you posted.
03/10/2010, Rosita Harbour
March 9th, Day 10 - Rosita Harbour
I'm sitting here in my tent with howling SW winds smacking my tent agressively. Rain is falling, the white caps in the harbour look wickedly dramatic and the thousands of Fur seals who have adopted this bay as their home continue doing their frolicking and scratching, swimming and snoozing as though the wind changes nothing for them. For me, after making some good miles yesterday am chomping at the bit, wanting more of that forward momentum.
I spent the morning rigging MY kayak, found the back hatch combing wasn't connected in some parts, therefore not water-tight, so the mending continues on this beaten up boat.
I plan to be on the water bright and early tomorrow morning, hoping this wind dies down. I will attempt to make my way to Eleshul, to be near the Northern end of the island. If I get a weather window I want to round and finally be on the west side of the island.
The long range forecast looks really average, it seems this particularly bad summer South Georgia is having is not bowing down, even for a week. That's all I need, 7 days of good weather, covering 25 nautical miles a day and I would be around South Georgia in no time. Oh how free it is to dream.
03/09/2010, Rosita Harbour
March 8th - Day 9, Rosita Harbour.
It felt good to be on the water most of the day, gaining miles and covering some familiar ground It was the calmest day since setting off from Grytviken 9 days ago and I utilized it fully by not getting out of the kayak or stopping for 8 hours. I island hopped in the Bay of Isles, relying on compass bearings while I experienced pea-soup fog for most of the crossings. I was delighted to pass by islands familiar to me, where we often land with the ships, particularly Prion Island. It is this area, amongst this scattering of islands where the Wandering Albatross nest and due to the calm Easterly winds that blew gently, I did not see one flying Wanderer, only Blackbrows and the odd Light Mantled Sooty Albatross passed over my head as I paddled. At one stage in the near distance with my foggy eyes, I thought I saw an area of Brash Ice, settled on the water just off from an islands I soon realized it was four or five pure white Wanderers, waiting out the calm, perhaps unable to take off due to the windless conditions. When you see them still and wading on the water, they look big and can be seen from miles away.
Throughout the day I was constantly escorted by Fur seals who porpoised next to me and on occasion swam right beneath my kayak. The huge giant kelp that laced the rocky outcrops, seemed alive as the incoming surge from wind swell, made them sway vigorously in the water like bundles of sea snakes. Although after 5 hours of paddling, my back stiffened and my left leg went numb, I ignored the discomfort and continued on happy to know that today I was making progress. I will sleep well tonight
It was good to finally touch base with Northanger on VHF radio, to touch base and make a plan to rendezvous. Due to the wind and sea conditions, Rosita Harbour was an ideal spot for them to anchor safely. It was time to meet up, pick up Week twos food bag, get all my equipment charged, download video footage and most importantly switch kayaks. I felt eager and excited to be packing my gear in my kayak, it looking - once bruised and battered, now mended and strong. Magnus with help from Brian and Beth-Anne did a fabulous job. They ended up working on it for another 3 days after I departed from Grytviken, so I was thankful that I decided to begin the trip, even though it was in the less desired spare kayak. However, now as I look at my kayak, I see a kayak that has a story, like the scars we wear after years of adventures and mishaps. Beth-Anne past on one of the 'name' suggestions the King Edward Point staff gave us and I like it.
And so my 17 foot Necky 'Looksha IV' YELLOW kayak will be named...'Banana Split'. Thanks Jane, a perfect fit.
Meeting up with the Northanger also gave us the opportunity to discuss the big picture for the coming week. Keri looked at the 5 day forecast coming up and again it looks as though I will continue to be tormented by winds that may make it difficult to gain efficient ground. There are a few windows of calm here and there, which I will take, even if it gets me only a few miles further.
I also found out that we finally have new flights, however it has been quite the chore for Sally and Dean. Our original international flight left from Santiago taking us to Victoria BC and due to the earthquake Chile suffered only a few weeks ago, that airport has been closed and flights are backed up for over 2 weeks. The airport building as been marked as unsafe so people are sleeping in tents in the surrounding area waiting for their flights. And so we have had to re-route our flight which made options very limited. Sally was able to find after calling every day, only one departure date with no more openings for months afterwards. April 2 we have to be in Buenos Aries and our next challenge is trying to get from Stanley to B.A.
Due to the 7-10 day sail back, already we are looking at the likeliest departure date for leaving South Georgia, a subject I am not ready to discuss or contemplate at this stage. I feel like I have only just got started and the last thing I want to think about is having to leave.
My stomach churns at the thought.
Now that I am here, seeing South Georgia as intimately as I am, seeing the varied wind and sea conditions, becoming familiar with the land , it's contours and opportunities for landing, experiencing the sudden changes in temperatures, sharing this gorgeous place with wildlife who seem rather tolerant. With all of this - I have come to realize that I can do this, I can succeed with my goal and accomplish what I have originally set out to do. All it requires is time which myself and the Northanger are unfortunately running out of. This thought is tormenting me a little, so right now I am putting it out of my mind and trying to be present. South Georgia is good for that. It is one place that forces you to be in the present, otherwise you miss things, or if not paying attention you may make a mistake that could be lethal.
At this moment it is all what I dreamed - kayaking and camping alone in South Georgia, although backed with constant challenges, is absolute bliss and I am grateful.
Sunday morning at 11am I recieved a wonderful surprise when Hayley called me directly from South Georgia via her SAT phone. It was fantastic to hear her energetic voice even through the static and distortion. How amazing to think of the technology that enables a conversation between 2 people on opposite ends of the world.
It was a short conversation as her battery only had 1 bar left but she was able to tell me that she was in good spirits despite being beach bound. She had just finished dancing with king penguins on the beach (WoW) and has been reading lots to pass the time.
I asked her if she was keeping warm and sleeping ok. She said that the outdoor clothing from Kokatat is amazing and that she is staying cozy, and that she sleeps well except for the high winds that distort her tent and wake her.
Other than that Hayley wants to send out a hello and thank you to everyone. She will be getting fresh batteries when she meets up with the Northanger and will have more updates then.The weather looks fair for tomorrow and she hopes to be on the water then. The weather reports are not always accurate to the real time conditions, and she said that she has struggled every inch of the way so far. I think that once she turns the top of the island and the wind is at her back that she will make up lots of time hopefully.
Thanks to Sally who has been working hard at finding new flights for Hayley and Beth-Anne, you ROCK!