|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 [...]
It isn¬'t an easy place to get to, and even if you are prepared to make the boat journey, you are not guaranteed a landing. The open ocean even at this latitude, which we¬'ve named the ¬'tropical thirties¬', has a permanent rolling swell, in general from the west, but dependent otherwise on the wind direction. There is a small harbour, made of volcanic rock and concrete (imported from South Africa I guess), on the north side just below the settlement, which provides some shelter to launch a rib and a rowing boat. There are also some fishing boats on the island, but everything is lifted out of the water when it isn¬'t being used due to the waves and surging water even in the harbour.
The island is part of a trio of volcanic islands ¬- the others being Nightingale, and Inaccessible Islands. We spotted these other two first, a brief shadow in the mist, and passed them in awed silence ¬- the wildlife is reputed to be amazing, but how you would actually land on the cliff edge was beyond us. And then Tristan itself reared up in the distance. We were sailing in a near perfect force 5 from the north. Pelagic Australis trucking along at almost 10 knots but even so, we weren¬'t able to reach Tristan until they had shut down for the day. Their working hours are 7.30 to 3.30 and it would be a challenge to anyone to change that. The immigration officer, who doubles as the chief policeman, called us on the radio before close of business and let us know that we would be welcome in the morning.
We held our breath as the forecast was for very light or non-existent wind overnight, then filling in from the north again the following day.
With some residual swell and breeze from the north, we cautiously dropped the anchor just off the coast and hoped it would hold. It is never ideal to anchor with the wind and water pushing you towards the rocks, but in this case, we had no choice. There is only one place around the island, where it is shallow enough to drop anchor at all, and that is just below the settlement on the north side. We took turns to monitor the position of the boat over night, and with the wind dying off altogether, had a relatively quiet time, being gently rocked by the waves. It was Dave¬'s birthday and he was more than happy to have the chance to drink an ¬'anchor beer¬' to celebrate. We run a dry boat at sea, so the chance for a drink after 10 days was well received by everyone.
Once ashore the next day, we found the islanders to be really happy, really normal, friendly people. I suppose this shouldn¬'t be a surprise, but somehow, you imagine that a community with a population of 270, just 5 different family names, and no immigration, might not be!
They have a simple life, farming the land for potatoes. Dry stone, sorry, lava walls separate the plots which all have cool names based on something from history ¬- like Bill¬'s Hill (Bill used to sit there and smoke his pipe), or Twitty Patch (where twit grass grows in abundance). There is a small amount of livestock ¬- cattle and sheep, and they are distributed amongst the islanders.
There are also some weekend cottages, so that the Islanders can ¬'get away from it all¬' and spend their weekends 2 miles from the settlement at the potato patches!
We all decided that this was a really super stop and it was great fun to visit somewhere so remote and just such a shame that we couldn¬'t stay longer. I think we have all vowed to return one way or another.
The extra passenger that we had expected to collect from Tristan turns out to have got a lift with the supply vessel that happened to be in just before we were. It¬'s a shame as I was looking forward to some female company but hey, home soon!
Now we are just 700 miles from Cape Town. We have had 4 days of superb sailing, with north westerly winds, no need for the tin topsail (engine), and calm enough seas to make good progress. Today though, as forecast, the wind has dropped completely and we are once again being propelled by diesel power. Hopefully not for long as the wind should fill in from the south west giving us the push we need to see us to Cape Town.
We should be there by the weekend... yippeeeee!