Adventures aboard Pelagic Australis

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
14 June 2012 | Cape Town, South Africa
21 April 2012 | Beagle Channel
20 April 2012 | Estero Coloane, Beagle Channel South West arm
04 April 2012 | Puerto Williams, Chile
15 February 2012 | Port Lockroy, Antarctica
20 January 2012 | Antarctica
27 November 2011 | South end of South Georgia
18 November 2011 | Grytviken, South Georgia
28 October 2011 | Grytviken, South Georgia
19 October 2011 | Grytviken, South Georgia
14 October 2011 | Elsehul, South Georgia
07 October 2011 | Stanley
14 June 2011 | 36 25'S:4 10'E, South Atlantic
02 June 2011 | 48 32'S:42 32'W, South Atlantic
29 May 2011 | Stanley, Falkland Islands
07 May 2011 | Puerto Wililams
28 April 2011 | Cape Horn
27 April 2011 | Cape Horn
21 April 2011 | Ushuaia
14 March 2011 | Beagle Channel
Recent Blog Posts
14 June 2012 | Cape Town, South Africa

The final chapter

And so we have arrived in Cape Town. Our final journey across the

21 April 2012 | Beagle Channel

Caleta Wow

Some pictures to go with yesterdays blog!

20 April 2012 | Estero Coloane, Beagle Channel South West arm

Caleta Wow

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]

04 April 2012 | Puerto Williams, Chile

An exciting rounding

It seems ages since I wrote my last update. It was probably when we

15 February 2012 | Port Lockroy, Antarctica

Is our Antarctic luck running out?

We have around 10 days left in Antarctica for this group, and our final

20 January 2012 | Antarctica

A fabulous day

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 [...]

An exciting rounding

04 April 2012 | Puerto Williams, Chile
Laura
It seems ages since I wrote my last update. It was probably when we
were in Antarctica in February, hauling the boat off the rocks and
waiting for our guests to come back down off the mountain. Once they
were back on board, we had an AMAZING time! The sun shone almost every
day and the wind stayed at bay so we had the pick of places to go and
took full advantage of such fantastic weather. The guys skied almost
every day - day skis from the boat while we drifted at sea amongst the
icebergs enjoying the balmy weather. Every day they got back in
fantastic form, raving about the conditions of the snow and marvelling
at the opportunities that they had.
We returned safely across the drake, and even managed a few days seeing
the Argentinian side of the Beagle Channel. It was really sad to see
them leave when we eventually tied up in Ushuaia and sent them on their
way.
After a couple of much needed weeks without a charter, enjoying the
company of friends in Ushuaia and doing some routine maintenance and
cleaning jobs at a leisurely pace, we collected a group of 8 Australian
men, had an emotional departure from Ushuaia and headed to Puerto
Williams. This is a much smaller town than Ushuaia, just 25 miles away,
but on the south side of the Beagle Channel and therefore in Chile.
This is our base for the next month or so before we set off back to the
Falklands, then to Cape Town to hand the boat over to Skip.
We had a brilliant trip with the Australians - they wanted wind and
weather and they got it! It was a slow start with 2 days sitting in
Puerto Williams as it was too windy to leave, but once we were off it
was great. After a week or so cruising the western end of the Beagle
Channel where we can see endless glaciers, mountains and unbelievable
scenery, we set off through Bahia Cook, and into the Pacific Ocean. The
forecast for 25 to 30 knots of wind was clearly wildly underestimated,
and though the barometric pressure remained completely steady for 24hrs,
we had severe gale force winds with gusts into the 50's for the whole
journey round Cape Horn and into the anchorage behind. I suppose we
should be used to the weather being a little crazy despite a reasonable
forecast, but it still surprises us how often we are living in gale
force winds - almost every day at some point.
My watch was on at 6am, in the dark, and just 20 miles from the horn.
There was a real sense of excitement on board, this is what they had
come here for and so far nothing was disappointing. At about half past
six, we needed to gybe off to avoid some rocks. It went smoothly until
I realised that the running backstay (an essential part of the rig) was
caught on the front of the mast and the only way to clear it was to
climb up to the first spreaders and flick the rope off. I was on watch
with 3 of the guests and much as they wanted excitement, it isn't fair
to send them up the mast at Cape Horn in 50knots of wind. I had no
choice and so I clipped on and went forward. The guys watched me from
the cockpit with their torches showing me the way and I slowly climbed
up the ladder. It isn't difficult to climb the mast, but it is my least
favourite job on board and only 12hrs earlier I had mentioned to Dave
that it was pretty much the only thing I wouldn't be able to do in
strong winds. I suppose there is nothing like a sense of urgency and
need to overcome fear and in the end it wasn't so bad. The rope was
freed and wound on tight and the rig was strong again. I was safely
back in the cockpit and everyone was happy to be back on course, clear
of the rocks and with the faintest shadow of the horn appearing through
the gloomy light. The actual rounding of the horn was fantastic. With
the wind from the west, we had to gybe again but this time with plenty
of crew on deck and no mistakes. I have been round Cape Horn several
times, but this was pretty spectacular and I couldn't help smiling to
myself and feeling so lucky to be here. The dramas weren't over
however, and as we approached a narrow gap between two islands, with the
engine running and just a small amount of mainsail up, the engine
started to overheat. We were still in very strong winds but now with
islands all around us and we had to quickly turn around and run off down
wind into clearer water while Miles had a look at it. There was an
airlock in the engine cooling system caused by the rough seas, and the
smell was horrendous but after an inspection of the impeller Miles
confirmed that it was just a matter of bleeding the air out and sealing
the system again. Phew, engine back on and back round to the anchorage.
The following day it was calm and so we had a chance to land on the
horn. How lucky we were that the weather turned out as it did, with an
exciting rounding and then nice calm conditions to land. We visited the
lighthouse keeper who lives there with his wife and 2 children (age 13
and 8), and a 4month old poodle!
As chance would have it, just as we reached the lighthouse, the two
leading boats on the Volvo Round the World Race were sailing round so we
were able to watch from to top of the hill and discuss their progress
(in my very broken Spanish). Another boat - Telefonica - had been
leading but they had fallen off a wave at 25knots in our storm and
delaminated some part of the hull. They would be coming into Caleta
Martial to try and make some repairs - a maintenance team were on their
way. He also said that as we had rounded the day before up at the top
of the hill he had recorded 110knots - no wonder I hadn't been so happy
to climb the mast!
We were invited into the house for coffee and I have now officially seen
the kitchen with the best view for the washing up EVER! Their kitchen
sink overlooks Cape Horn and the southern ocean behind it. Today was
calm but she said that when we sailed round a day earlier it all looked
pretty wild - we could agree with that.
A couple more days and we were back in Puerto Williams preparing to say
goodbye to another wonderful group. They set off home for their wives
in Australia with pickled livers (147 bottles of wine and 14 bottles of
spirits in 2 weeks), gold rings in their left ears and beaming smiles on
their faces. It's sometimes a strange and difficult job to share such
intense experiences with a group, make friends with them, trust them
with your lifeline, or down wind helming in a big boat in a big sea, and
then just to say goodbye, wave as they go off round the corner and start
again with the turnaround jobs. I know on balance it is time for this
all to come to an end for us, but with just 10 weeks till we get home,
the reality of 'normal' life is looming large.
Lots of love to all of you and enjoy your wonderful weather (if it
hasn't turned yet). Any news as always, welcome.
All the best
Laura and Miles
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