|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 [...]
There was plenty of work to be done, so the non-paid crew were quick to remove themselves from the boat, and find accommodation ashore - baths, beds, news, television, and internet were calling, but Dave, Mag, Kali and Chris stayed on to help clean up and get the boat ready for the next trip. We have till tomorrow to turn the boat around, and prepare her for the invasion of 10 climbers complete with pulks, skis, crampons, helmets, ropes, tents and any other camping and climbing gear, not to mention the necessary sailing kit, and food for so many. It will be the most crew we have ever had on Pelagic Australis with 13 in total, and Dave was not relishing the prospect of sharing our cabin with us on what is effectively our honeymoon! Maybe it was for that reason (though we are pretty sure his regret is genuine!), that Dave decided to head up to the hospital yesterday to check out an eye injury he sustained on the way across the Atlantic. After 3 weeks his vision is still blurred and the ache has never really diminished so he thought it was probably for the best to see the doctor. After a short consultation with the most experienced eye medic in the Falklands, it was decided that he needs to head home to have it checked and tested properly. In no way was it going to be sensible for him to continue with us on this first charter to South Georgia. Eyes and eyesight after all are not worth risking, and any opportunity of preventing long term damage must be taken.
So, having exhausted the list of potential crew available to join us on this trip, it seems we may have the honeymoon suite to ourselves after all. I think we'll be ok running the boat between two of us, though as I write this in the middle of the night, I keep thinking of all the work that Dave does on a charter, and slightly wondering how we will fare without him. Who will climb the rig to check for a path through ice or kelp? What about all those delicious roast dinners? Who will be the semelier and ensure that the red wine is brought out of the freezing bilges and warmed in time for supper every day? Am I going to have to drive the zodiac through the surf? What happens when South Georgia throws its best at us and we have to overcome some drama without him?
At least Skip will be on this trip, and a few others that have been on board before, and we feel sure that the guests will muck in to make it all happen. They will be attempting to follow Ernest Shackletons footsteps across South Georgia from the south side to the north so we will drop them off for anything up to a week. It is during that time that we'll be properly short handed. It may be that we have to hang out at Grytviken where there is a dock, and a small community of British Antarctic Survey scientists, as well as the South Georgia Government, rather than, as we had hoped, explore some of the parts of South Georgia that we haven't seen much of before. I probably should get back to bed - I can hear my husband rolling over and wondering where I am, but we will keep you posted on our progress.
It is good to be back, and writing on here again despite our current dilemma.
All the best
Laura, Miles and the Nipper (soon to be back in blightly)