Hello again blog fans...
21 March 2014 | 53 54.7'S:067 45.9'W, Beagle Channel
Hello once again blog fans. First and foremost, apologies for the radio silence, at first it was due to a rather stressful few days and sleepless few nights in Antarctica, then it was because I hadn't managed to catch up on the blog with the events over that period of time, then we were on the Drake and, eventually, it was due to the distractions that come with returning to land, namely unlimited beer, the bad influence of other yachties and access to Facebook.
For those that want the concise version, Pelagic made it back across the Drake to Puerto Williams a week ago today. (God was it only week? It feels like a lifetime...) We spent a day in decompression in the quiet surrounds of Williams, adjusting to seeing other people, the smell of anything that wasn't penguin poo (although there was still a slight wiff of it around Pelagic) and trees, before heading back to the big city lights of Ushuaia from where the gang were due to fly. Andrew, Doug and Ruth moved off that same day, which was very surreal, and were on their way home the next day, probably an even more surreal experience. Dave and I, following what we reckon was a well deserved day off, have been busy little bees, carrying out maintenance and doing all the things you have to do after a long time at sea. A lot of things you might not think about, like having to re-wash every pot and pan in fresh water after months of saltwater and finally dealing with the nearly 40kgs of l aundry that we'd accumulated and was gently festering in the corner. After almost a week in Ushuaia we are, as I write, on our way back to Williams, for a few quiet days in the reassuring shelter of Seno Lauta, where we hope we will no longer be buffeted by the 40-60kts that has been ripping through Ushuaia and we might be able to get a bit more done. Our charter season is officially now over and Pelagic is heading for a well-deserved refit this winter (northern summer). Unfortunately before she can be pulled out of the water and pampered, Dave and I need to get her to Cape Town, which being over three and half thousand straight line miles away is no mean feat. It does however give us a very good excuse to head to the Falklands, so as soon as we are ready to go, we will be Stanley bound and Ã"don't spare the horses'.
For anyone that wants to read a few more details of what we got up to, here goes. The slightly stressful time I mentioned earlier came as the result of typical Antarctic unpredictable weather. Our last few days in Lockroy we were almost confined to the boat as it as too rotten to go out. We thought the worst of it had blown through, and possibly spurred on by cabin fever, we made a break for it and left Lockroy in search of more cooperative leopard seals to film, headed for Cuverille Island. I thought there would be a certain amount of nostalgia as we left Lockroy but I think with everyone having spent quite so much time there they were ready to put the place behind them. I personally took a few minutes to stare wistfully at Bransfield House, I love that view, and every time I've left, I've never been certain I'll be back.
We might have jumped the gun somewhat in leaving, as bad weather filled in again, and having left the relative security of good anchor holding ground at Port Lockroy, we spent a few restless nights on anchor watch. Our first was at Waterboat Point, having bailed on the original plan of heading to Cuverville and encountering 40 knot north-easterlies in the Gerache, and then again at Cuverville itself. I lost count of how many times we dragged and re-set in the night, I just know that from the relative warmth of 10degrees in the Beagle Channel, it is hard to remember the biting cold of a blizzard as you stepped out of the doghouse in the middle of the night. Even once you have got the anchor to bite, you lie awake in your bunk, listening intently to every gusts, to see if it accompanied by the telltale rumble of the anchor chain dragging along the sea bed, hoping desperately that it holds and you don't have to go back out into the night. It's a horrible feeling. Still, we had s ome good days as well, including flat water and windless days ideal for looking for leopard seals.
Ruth has asked me not to write too much about the success or failure of the hunt for leopard seal footage itself, I think she is worried that people will mind if the leopard seals in the film didn't come from Lockroy itself. Personally I think few people can identify individual leopard seals, and the background seabed well enough to tell whether it is Lockroy or not, but I'll keep shtum anyhow. Saves me rambling too much on the blog. You'll have to watch the film in the autumn to see if they played ball, and remember to write some strongly worded emails to Points of View if you suspect that the leopard seal in question came from other parts of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Drake Passage was exceedingly kind to us on the way back, barring a few hours on the first afternoon we barely saw more than 30kts and rarely sailed upwind, enjoying 25kts SW most of the way. Although we hoped we'd catch a break at some point, we really couldn't have asked for better. It almost felt like cheating.
As an added bonus, when we got back to Ushuaia we managed to meet up with Helen, Lockroy's base leader, who'd spent a few days there. We felt rather guilty that we'd jealously coveted their hot showers on the cruise ship Ocean Diamond, when we discovered that the boiler onboard had been broken the first day, and they'd had no heating or hot water. What terribly timing.
So Dave and I will try and keep the blogs up on our way to the Falklands, and as we head Transatlantic, but they might not be quite so regular. In all honesty, less interesting stuff happens to us when we are not in Antarctica. Beware the Transatlantic ones, long periods at sea tend to lead to random ramblings. But to everyone that has kept up with us this season, thanks for reading.