Lockroy, the social hotspot of Antarctic yachting
04 March 2014 | 64 49.7'S:063 29.6'W, Lockroy
Pelagic is back in Port Lockroy. The little boat has spent the best part of 4 months here now, so it practically knows its way home. We didn't just abandon Pleaneau because our leopard seal search was proving fruitless (where have all the little blighters gone?!), Andrew had to be back in order to film the penguin chicks taking to the water, climax of the film. As well as this, as leopard seal hunting was taking a back seat for the Penguin Post Office production, we had to honour an agreement to lend Doug to another film crew for a few days. As it turns out, the crew of the CBBC program Deadly Sixty (apparently if you have boys under the age of 12 you will know what this is) had already, almost by chance, happened across some playful, curious leopard seals and had all the footage they needed. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound, but at least we got to keep Doug.
The trip up from Pleneau was, frankly, beyond bracing. Brass Monkeys in fact. It definitely feels like Austral summer is drawing to a close. A very still day with low cloud/fog made for a rather surreal trip through the iceberg graveyard as huge icebergs loomed out of the penumbra on either side of us. As we passed Port Charcot a leopard seal popped his head up to mock us. Dave and I thought it best we kept that one to ourselves. The still day built into a completely un-forecast, but rather welcome 15-20kt southerly as we fed into the top of the Lemaire, and we actually had sailing weather. It felt like Pelagic had been cooped up too long and was enjoying a bit of sailing at last, as I think we all were, apart from the skipper, who had his head in the engine bilge, changing filters, trying to sort our perennial dirty South American fuel problem. Still at least there was enough wind for sailing, and we weren't just drifting into icebergs. Although it was still very low cloud, a weak sun was desperately trying to break through, and the day felt incredibly crisp. It was nice to blow the cobwebs out, and as I said coming back to Lockroy felt a bit like coming home.
Generally when we are at Lockroy and Andrew and Ruth are ashore filming, Dave and I find that cooking, cleaning, general maintenance, zodiac driving to and fro, water collecting and ice dodging takes up the bulk of our time on the boat. It doesn't leave a lot of time for expeditions, and even though you are surrounded by Antarctica, which never stops being breathtaking, I often worry that we'll descend into monotony. The nice thing about Port Lockroy being an Antarctic Ã"must do', as well as one of the safest anchorages, is that there are always new boats coming through, inviting you on for drinks, and breaking any semblance of routine. It can be quite a social spot in fact. Networking hub of Antarctic yachting, rather like an Austral Antibes.
When we arrived back, we were greeted by the rather impressive sight of the three masted Jubilee Sailing Trust barque (or is it a brig? We're not sure the difference), the Lord Nelson, anchored in the bay. Our very own Skip Novak was onboard as ice pilot, so it was not long before we had an official invite from the Captain to drinks onboard. It was rather strange to talk to Skip on the radio though, as every time I hailed "Lord Nelson, Lord Nelson, this is Pelagic", I felt like I was addressing Skip himself as Ã"Lord Nelson' like we'd invented some strange deferential nickname for him. Small thingsÃ‰
Lord Nelson is run on strict Navy principles, with tea at 6.30 and our invite for drinks clearly between 7.30-9.30 sharp. Being slightly more used to South American timings, Doug and Ruth took to the galley to prepare a meal that could simmer on the refleks, ready for when we got back. Having had an extensive Ã"furkle' (Doug's word, not mine) in the tins cupboard, they produced a cross between a chilli and a risotto, comprising, but not limited to: sweetcorn, bulgar wheat, chickpeas, rice, a tin of baked beans, ham, peas, corned beef and a few tins of tomatoes for good measure. The result wasÃ‰ eclectic. Despite any misgivings, even I had to admit that it was not as bad as it looked, even pretty palatable, which was lucky as there was enough to feed us for 3 days, and it only got better as it matured.
We did our best to scrub up and brush our hair and presented ourselves at the Nelson at 7.30 sharp. It was a great evening where we were made to feel very welcome, all of us making it up and down the ladder to our dinghy without incident, and I even managed to get some knitting tips off a lovely lady called Barbara, who promised to send me a pattern for a new tea cosy. Thank you to the Lord Nelson.