|Vessel Name:||Pelagic Australis|
|Crew:||Miles, Laura and Dave|
|About:||Miles hails from Yorkshire farming stock, Laura is from Kent and competed in the 2000 BT Global Challenge, and Dave is a dinghy sailor from Devon|
It is difficult to know what to write to you about without repeating myself, but as this whole Pelagic adventure nears its end, we are appreciating more and more the places we visit, the people we meet, and the things we do. Yesterday we were in our favourite anchorage, Estero Coloane (otherwise known as Caleta Wow), which I know I have written about before, but it really is spectacular. A circular bay, maybe as much as a mile in diameter, is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. All around there are waterfalls cascading down from hidden lakes high up in the mountains. In one corner, there is a small island and a little nook under the trees. We reverse in with the yacht, so the stern is under the overhanging branches, and we tie a shore line from each corner of the boat, to the trees. When we arrived a couple of days ago, the wind was strong out in the Beagle Channel and swirling around the bay. Williwaws (katabatic winds) raced in different directions sometimes catching our bow, and sometimes leaving us be. We could see them coming down the hanging glacier high above us, and follow their progress to the water and then across the bay. Miles looked nervously at the tiny tree on the island that was holding our starboard bow line as it bowed under our weight, but there are no bigger trees and it held firm. [p] Yesterday it was calm and clear and we split into two groups. Dave and I took Andy and Sue up to the ridge behind the boat for a fabulous view of the bay, the glaciers and then, when we were high enough, the Beagle Channel. It is a hard climb but every time you turn around the view gets better. There was an easterly wind blowing when we got to the top, and the sky was dark dark dark - full of snow. By the time we'd had a a cup of tea and a biscuit it was snowing heavily, so we carefully picked our way down and joined the others on board. The other group had gone on a shorter adventure, but no less magnificent. They climbed up to a lake on the other side of the bay maybe 250m high. The lake was formed by a hanging glacier and the water still poured in from above. However, it has also been heavily affected by beavers. They are a real pest in this part of the world as they dam rivers and create huge areas of flooded land. Miles, Jarrod and Jeremy had a good look at the beaver dams, slides they use to get down to the waterline, the trees that have been recently gnawed and the mass of dead trees in the middle of the lake. They came back buzzing.[p] In the afternoon, we took the kayaks and the zodiac over to the far corner of the bay and made our way over the moraine to the glacier. This one is slowly retreating and for various reasons I haven't been over to it since our very first time in the bay 3 years ago. It has moved back quite some way since then, but just melting - no chunks of ice falling from it. It was so amazing to get up close, and actually walk on the ice. We had a hilarious photoshoot with all of us trying to stay in place without sliding back down, or falling into a crevasse. Then it started snowing again and so we walked down the valley bottom towards the boats. On our way down, despite the snow we decided to go and look at another beaver lake. They really are incredible creatures - collecting their wood and stockpiling it, then chopping it down into sensible size sticks to make a beautifully constructed dam. Then in the middle their lodge - an igloo made of stick and wood - amazing! It was almost dark and still heavily snowing when we returned to the kayaks, but so beautiful and still that we decided not to have a ride back. It was a stunning paddle back with that absolute silence that comes with falling snow and snowflakes so huge they could have been on steroids. We got back and Dave had started the bar b q. It was a special request from our South Africans on board - Andy and Sue lived in Botswana for 22 years, they are not used to snow and it was so fun to see them playing around in it. "I promise I'll cook, but we must have a bri in the snow!" - "Once is enough" he said afterwards! A great evening ensued with lots of wine, music and chat. Everyone on a high from such a fantastic day. As always, it feels as if we have known these guys for our whole lives, but just 10 days ago, they were strangers to us. What other job or environment pushes relationships so fast? [p] It is becoming more difficult to imagine leaving this world, but we are excited about setting up a home in Yorkshire and being able to welcome some of our guests - or new friends - to stay when they are in the area. This has been an extraordinary way to live - out of range for the media, and in the company of people that are on holiday, and therefore enjoying themselves and relaxing. We don't hear the doom and gloom, and melodrama of the worlds press, just the oohs and ahhs as we move through some of the most stunning countryside on the planet.[p] More soon, [p] Lots of love[p] Laura and Miles[p]
It's been a difficult charter so far - starting with a delay for the guests, some 'essential' equipment that didn't make it through customs in Buenos Aires, a four and a half day up wind Drake passage crossing, and then continuing with rain and snow and grey days, and so much ice in the channels down [...]
A successful week in Puerto Williams, with all 5 students qualifying as theoretical yachtmasters, was followed by an absolutely stunning week in the Beagle channel. It was an opportunity to have some fun, see some beautiful scenery, and to practise some of the skills learnt in the classroom, but also to see the practical side of navigating in these waters. With such limited information the most useful tools available are radar, depth sounder and what you can see with your eyes. When it¬'s dark, or foggy, the radar and the depth sounder become all the more important. Throw into that, the unpredictable and volatile weather, seemingly endless incoherent radio calls from the Chilean Armada checking on our progress, and huge discrepancies between the chart plotter, paper charts, and the radar as to the position of the boat and the lay of the land, and it all becomes quite interesting. All the students rose to the challenge and safely navigated us around Isla Gordon, into the va rious bays and through various channels that require sometimes more nerve than sense. At one point Miles did look slightly nervous as we crossed a moraine field and the depth dropped from 100m, to 50, then 30, 20, 18, 14,12,10,9,7... We draw 4m so leaving only 3 under the keel doesn¬'t give much room for error, and it was with an audible sigh of relief that the navigator of the day decided to reverse and try crossing slightly further over. This time with plenty of water underneath us.
In Coleta Coloane ¬- the one we call Coleta Wow for its beauty, the snow was falling as we arrived and amazingly, it was settling on the water, creating quite a slushy effect and starting to freeze the fresher water on the surface. We left a clear strip in our wake, making us feel like an icebreaker, but it didn¬'t take long for the snow to settle again, and the slush to close in behind us. Overnight it snowed heavily and the next morning it was clear and bright, and really quite indescribably beautiful. We had a great walk up to the top of the hill next to the boat, wading through thick snow and a quick descent (maybe slightly quicker than is safe!), before setting off for another anchorage.
Now we are in Stanley. We had a good sail here, with some strong breeze from behind on the first night ¬- force 8-9. We sailed fast through the Straits de la Maire, an infamous stretch of water between Isla Grande Tierra Del Fuego and Staten Island. More ships have been wrecked in this area than at Cape Horn. Huge overfalls, standing waves, and up to 8 knot currents at the edges, add to the bad weather, narrow channel and difficult navigation and even today it is a feared channel that requires respect and good planning.
Once through, the weather calmed down, allowing us to sail safely under full main and Genoa for much of the way (with a little help from the engine unfortunately for some of it!)
The plan is to set off from here on Monday morning, heading out into the Atlantic. This is what the guys have come for; an offshore passage, crossing an ocean, experiencing life at sea and reacting to whatever nature throws at us. We¬'ll be heading north, so it should get warmer, and the days will get longer, and once we have our sea legs, we should be getting into the offshore routine. Eat, sleep, eat, watch, eat, sleep, eat, watch... day after day.
Others will write and introduce themselves as we go along (I hope!), and keep you in touch with how life is on board. But in the mean time, next stop for the good ship Pelagic Australis is (all being well) Tristan De Cunha.