|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 [...]
Sometime around 6am: We hear the telltale sound of the heads being pumped, and realise that the day is about to start. It has no doubt been a restless night as we are in South Georgia, at anchor, the wind will be gusting into the 30's as it is almost every night and Pelagic Australis will be yawing from side to side desperate to escape from her leash.
One of us gets up. The early birds have made themselves tea so that is one thing done, but the kettle has been left off the stove and is no longer full of simmering water. Fill up and start making coffee - this group can drink several cups each by 8 and it is a tough job to keep on top of demand.
Put out the breakfast things; take the yoghurt from the yoghurt maker and into the bilge to chill. Decide on fruit salad, bacon and eggs, or just a plain simple cereal and toast breakfast - and prepare!
By 8am: Breakfast is finished and two of these guys are washing up. The wind has changed and the anchor needs resetting so we go outside and spend half an hour trying it to get to hold. It is bitterly cold.
Back inside and the guests want to know what is on for today - a climb up this hill behind us and a lovely long walk the other side to see if we can find a colony of Macaroni penguins - they are supposed to be arriving and nesting this week so we are hopeful that some will be in.
Unlash the dinghy, use the halyard to get the outboard out of the forepeak, fill up the petrol tank, clip all the emergency barrels, launch the dinghy from the foredeck over the guard rails and into the sea. Twenty minutes, and we are ready.
Back to the pilot house, the guys are almost dressed and waiting for a lift ashore. I find out from Miles where the Macaronis are likely to be, and take the first group - thinking they were all listening to directions too. Back to the boat: Two of the guests have decided there is enough snow to try and ski - they have boots, crampons, ice axes, avalanche probes and transponders all ready in their backpacks, and Ski's in their ski bags of course. The second load goes ashore and we pull the dinghy up the beach a bit and make sure it is well tied on. The fur seals growl at us but it is not their breeding season yet so they let us go without a charge. We head up the very steep scree hill and begin our quest to find the Macaroni penguins. It's a tough walk, cold, windy and poor visibility and when we get to the top and aren't too sure where to go, two of the group decide to head back to the boat, they can't face a wild goose chase today. Miles will be disappointed - this is his chance to be alone and get on with some of the chores without anyone on board. He doesn't hear the radio call because he is hoovering. [It takes about two hours to properly hoover through the boat. It still astonishes me how much dust, hair and fluff and mud and everything else seems to gather on the floors and walls, and particularly on the steps and it all has to be removed on a daily basis just to have a chance of keeping on top of it.] Eventually he hears and agrees that the guys can drive the dinghy back to the boat without me and those two set off back down the hill.
I look over the other way. The two skiers have disappeared up the mountain to the left, and the other five are scattered all across the back of the hillside looking for a safe way down. We are much too far to the right and end up descending mostly on our bums, down the tussock covered cliffs. At the bottom we have a wonderful walk. The wind is still howling, but the sky clears a little, and it isn't raining. We see dozens of nesting Giant Petrels, with their huge webbed feet and enormous wing span, and a Light Mantled Sooty Skyrise: four nests, vertically above one another each have an Albatross sitting on their eggs.
After a few hours walking, we get to a place where there have undoubtedly been penguins in the past. There is a carpet of penguin feathers, and everywhere are little mounds of grass and stones. This is where there will be several thousand Macaroni Penguins breeding in the next few months. At the moment, they are all empty and we are a little disappointed. I look up however, and see that there are 6, no 7 standing in a group at the top of the cliff, just a few metres from us! They must have just arrived from their winter at sea and will spend the next 5 months on land, laying the eggs, sitting on them, watching them hatch, and then raising their young. We have a mission accomplished! It is a great feeling to actually spot these guys, and see them close up - I haven't really seen them before as I didn't get ashore here last year, and it is so funny to see their funky orange coloured eyebrows and to wonder whatever they are for!
We head back triumphunt, and this time spot the easy way up - a gentle ridge that takes up high up to the top to overlook Pelagic Australis in her cosy anchorage. A quick call to Miles to check all is ok on board and we'll need collecting in about 15minutes please. Just as I finish on the radio, we notice that the skiers are just 50m below us and skiing back to the beach. It is 1pm - maybe we are all led by our stomachs and decided it was time for lunch.
Miles has been busy. He has hoovered through, cleaned both the heads, wiped the surfaces in the pilot house, and made a huge pot of minestrone soup for lunch - I knew there was a reason I married him! All the same, lunch isn't quite ready and I quickly make the salad and put out some salamis and cheese so the guys can be revived.
After lunch, we need to head off north west to Cumberland Bay where we can fill up with water. The forecast was for light winds (not our experience that morning but hey!) and we set off hoping it would be a quick motor round. 30knot head winds and quite a swell was not what we had expected and we quickly had to restow everything below and make fast everything on deck -- it was a 3 hour slog, pounding into a big sea but eventually we were tied up alongside at Grytviken. What a change. Here there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and we had 0.3knots of wind!!
Christopher has organised dinner -- what a star. And Miles went out with the butchering knife to chop two shoulders off the remaining whole mutton we have hanging from the backstay.
Quick preparation of canapés, drinks, warm up the red wine, provide white wine etc and everyone is relaxed and happy. I go forward and start filling the water tanks -- the pressure is low and we need about 1000 litres so we know it'll take a while, but we have all night so that's ok!
After the delicious dinner of roast lamb and roasted vegetables, there is a call for poker -- oh dear, this could end up in a late night and we have an early start in the morning. None the less, it is my turn to stay up and entertain, so poker it is! Actually it was really fun and not such a late night but even once they were all in bed, there is stuff to do -- wash up all the glasses, make sure everything is clean and tidy for the morning, fill the kettle and put on the stove, prepare the coffee pot, ensure all lights are off and finally fall in to bed exhausted.
We are a good team Miles and I, and tomorrow we'll take the opposite roles: some time out on my own for me, a good walk ashore for Miles, and then the long upwind slog back towards Stanley. Let's hope the wind and weather are kind to us -- 750 miles upwind in the Southern Ocean is something I have done before, but am not keen on repeating too often!
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