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 [...]

Is our Antarctic luck running out?

15 February 2012 | Port Lockroy, Antarctica
We have around 10 days left in Antarctica for this group, and our final
expedition this far south with Pelagic Australis. At last we have some
fantastic weather and the Swiss Italian skiers and climbers left the
boat last Sunday for an 8 day traverse and attempt at Mt Francais. This
is one of the highest mountains on the Peninsula and though it has been
climbed many times before, it is not every year that people have an
opportunity to attempt it. Skip has taken 7 of them, 2 of them Alpine
guides in their own right, and the others very experienced mountaineers.

It was a hard crossing from Ushuaia, very windy and quite big seas for
the first 48hrs, leaving 5 of the 7 horizontal in their bunks making
really horrendous noises as they tried to throw up the linings of their
stomachs. Eventually, as the wind eased and the seas calmed down they
came back upright one by one, until we had a full compliment again, and
no real damage done. They are a really nice group: great fun, much
hilarity and plenty of discussions about all sorts of things. The only
slight complication is that there is no one common language. 2 speak
only Italian, 4 speak excellent French, one or two speak Spanish, and
two can speak pretty good English. It is amazing though, how you can
get by and how quickly we have got used to flicking between English,
French and Spanish. None of us can claim in any small way to be
linguists, but apparently those French lessons at school did have some
use after all!

After a quick and rather wet and windy stop at Deception Island (no
swimming this time), we headed south to Port Lockroy. The cloud was
low, it was raining and very cold and there was little incentive for
anyone to start preparing for their traverse, so we had a lovely, very
relaxed day or 2 with some playing cards, others reading, and others
catching up on some study of the back of their eyelids. It was hard for
them I think to be so inactive when ahead is a hugely challenging
expedition, but they coped well and managed to stay focused. Eventually
the sun came out, and the wind died down and we took them round to the
south side of Anvers Island to a roly poly anchorage from which they
were to depart. They were quiet when we dropped them off, but organised
and well prepared and they were quickly on their way. From the top of
the first climb, Skip called on the radio - they had everything they
needed and we were free to leave that spot for somewhere safer and more
secure whenever we were ready.

Back to Port Lockroy and let the party begin!! Actually we did return
to Port Lockroy - a British Antarctic Heritage site, with a museum, and
a souvenir shop, and a good secure anchorage, but we didn't party.
There are usually plenty of boats here to socialise with, but we were
exhausted and ready for a quiet evening alone. Also, as a result of
something that happened earlier in the week, we were very nervous about
putting the dinghy in the water for any length of time. On one of the
rainy days when we arrived here, we had used the dinghy to take people
ashore to the museum. After they got back, I went for a spin round the
bay, and sought out some good clear ice to put in the Gin and Tonics
later on. When I returned it was raining harder than ever and so Miles
and I decided to leave the dinghy tied to the back of the boat rather
than lifting it up onto the deck. A couple of hours later, Skip
happened to look out and notice a lot of water in the dinghy. He also
saw a Leopard seal - huge, snake like, and with layer upon layer of very
very sharp teeth. When he looked closer, he noticed that the inflatable
tubes were flat and on closer inspection, had actually been completely
destroyed by the seal - not just one, but both. He must have enjoyed
the rush of air as he pierced the rubber and gone to the second one for
another go. Unbelievable! We have always heard a rumour that leopard
seals would chew the dinghy if it was left in the water, but having
never met anyone to whom this has happened we were starting to think it
was an urban myth. Now we know! We carefully took the engine off the
back and emptied the contents before lifting it up from the bow onto the
boat. Both of the stern tubes were slit and slashed and there is no way
we could repair it in the cold damp air of Antarctica. Without a dinghy
we are completely stumped here, we can't get ashore, but more
importantly, we need it to tie shore lines to the rocks in most places
we go. Luckily we carry a spare, and so this is not at this time a show
stopper, but it has left us more than a little on edge. If this one
goes, we really don't have an alternative - other than an inflatable
kayak which the leopard seal would no doubt enjoy too!

The next day, after a morning of maintenance including trying to mend
the heating system which has inexplicably decided to stop producing any
heat (moderately unsuccessful!), we set off with Pelagic Australis for a
bit of an explore. There is an anchorage on the Peltier Channel, not
far from Port Lockroy which we have always wanted to try out, but
somehow have never made the opportunity. We headed down there in
beautiful sunshine, found the crack in the cliffs, dropped the anchor
and reversed in. Dave found decent rocks to tie the shore lines to and
we were settled for the evening. As it was so sunny, we went ashore and
for a stroll up the hill to check out the view and it was a lovely free
moment to be up in the snow in glorious sunshine feeling like
mountaineers ourselves. Back to the boat for the 8pm satellite phone
call with Skip to be told everything is good and they are at the base of
the climb. They would go up the next day if the weather was good, but
the forecast promised strong winds and snow so we told them to wait for
another day in the hope it would improve. We (and they as it happens)
spent the next 24hrs hunkered up inside - it was indeed windy, snowing,
and very very cold. We put extra layers on inside the boat and fiddled
more with the heating, to no avail!

This morning was sunny again and so we hope that Skip and co. have gone
for their summit. We went for a climb of our own this morning, but
while we were out, the wind got stronger and stronger and eventually
Miles expressed concern about the boat. The wind was swirling from all
directions but predominantly from the north east, which was our most
exposed corner, as well as the weakest rock. As we came over the
summit of the hill back towards the boat, I noticed that the bow seemed
to be pointing a different way, and in fact, she was no longer square in
the middle of the little bay, but sitting across the corner, listing
heavily to starboard, and evidently hard on the rocks!!! This is one of
the few times we have ever left the boat unattended in our whole time
down here, and now we know why! We ran back down to the dinghy (which
luckily hadn't been eaten by another leopard seal), and rushed back to
the boat. By now it was very windy and there was quite some chop
swamping the dinghy, adding to the excitement. The boat was being blown
against rocks on the bottom, the keel making the most awful noises, and
the rudder slamming up and down on the rocks as the swell and wind
pushed us around. It was a terrifying time. Losing the rudder would be
disastrous, as would breaking the keel. Allowing the boat further onto
the rocks and creating opportunity for damage to the hull would also be
catastrophic. We had to be calm, and work out how to get ourselves
clear into deeper water. We saw that the port bow line had broken away
and the anchor had not held us in position. Dave found a new place to
tie the port bow line, and then moved the port stern line to a more
useful spot too. Miles and I somehow managed to lift the rudder without
causing further damage and so we knew that it was safe - that had been
our most serious concern. Next we had to try and pull ourselves off the
rocks with the ropes, but against strong winds that weren't happy to let
us go that easily. The keel was still thumping and clumping and the
boat was over at an awful angle, so we decided to lift the keel and wind
the boat to port at the same time. In the end, it was not such a
drama. The new electric keel winch easily lifted the keel and with the
help of Dave in the dinghy pushing from the starboard side, we slowly
but surely managed to pull ourselves clear of the rocks. As soon as we
were free, the wind eased to nothing as if to say - 'OK, you passed, now
I can stop blowing!' We decided that although it is a nice little
anchorage with a bit of an opportunity for a leg stretch, and lots of
penguins, it maybe wouldn't go down on our list of favourite spots here
on the Antarctic peninsula!

Anyway, we are now safely back in Port Lockroy! Maybe tomorrow we will
venture further away from this sociable, very beautiful and relatively
safe anchorage but maybe we'll just hang out here, collect some fresh
water to fill up the tanks (glacial melt water which tastes delicious
but is hard work to collect!, relax and enjoy the view.
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