Antarctica Yacht Trip #1

Hi Everyone, Bruce is currently in Antarctica and out of contact. However, he’s able to occasionally send email via their sat-phone data link. Here’s a blog from one of his team outlining the beginning of their trip on the yacht ‘The Spirit of Sydney’ and their first ski on the Antarctic continent #haglofs Dynastar #beattheelements :
 
‘The most inefficient way on the planet to go skiing!’ said Neil as we dropped off the thousandth green mountainous wave still 150 miles out from the South Shetland Islands. Three days earlier our journey began uneventfully enough as we motor sailed down the Beagle Chanel and headed out towards Cape Horn. Just south of Isla Nuevo the overfalls threw up a confused, steep sea which soon wiped the smiles off our faces and kept us having to concentrate on keeping Magdalena’s delicious dinner where it belonged.
 
The next few days merged into a blur of unmitigated misery for most of the visitor crew. The Drake has a reputation to keep and whilst we dodged a major storm, we drove our way south through 5m swells and two days of 25 to 30 knot headwinds. Bruce, Darrell and Matt devoured Maggie’s amazing meals whilst the rest of us clung on through our 3 hour grim watch, only to crawl back to our bunks and try, desperately, to sleep.
 
To describe a ‘watch’ will give you just a sense of what it is like to sail across the Drake Passage in a small yacht. Our watch rotation was 3 hours on and 5 hours off. One person rotating on and off watch each hour. Let us start with one hour before you are on watch. You are lying in your sleeping bag, cold, miserable, and nauseous as our vessel crashes through wave after wave. 30 minutes before your watch starts you’re gently roused by a crew mate and you begin the balancing act of getting your immersion suit, life-jacket, boots, gloves etc donned all whilst keeping your last meal down. The next, and critical stage of watch change, is the transition: a 2 minute crawl from your bunk to the cockpit. You struggle past Maggie who is strapped into the galley creating some otherwise delicious concoction for Bruce, which to you smells like a Friday night in the university rugby club lavatories after too much beer. Into the cockpit, your try to look cheery and utter a few pleasantries, but in truth, all you want is to be at home, in bed with a nice book.
 
Rinse, repeat.
 
Four days later Livingston Island came into view. Massive, broad, low snow capped islands with huge glaciers calving into the now gentle sea. At the same time we saw our first iceberg. We headed through Nelson Straight making for our anchorage on Half Moon Island just off the small Argentinian base Camarra.
 
With the anchor dropped, a celebratory evening was had by all…. the 23rd November started late. Not a movement until 9am.The rain fell, the wind blew and one felt quite at home. After a delicious breakfast of porridge and a thorough clean up from the previous nights celebrations, we commenced the retrieval of all our ski gear from the bowels of the yacht.
 
With the Zodiac inflated we offloaded to shore. Sadly Andy had to rest his twisted ankle for the day so the rest of us set off to summit the legendary peak on Half Moon Island. It was so good to step foot on Antarctica. We were greeted by a gaggle of Gentoo penguins who waddled over to greet us. On with the skis. Bruce, Mark C, John, Louise, Neil and I headed off on a shake out mini-tour. For a few brief moments the clouds parted to reveal the astonishing scenery of Livingston Island and its 1800m peaks. After a brief visit to the Camarra base we headed to the southeast end of the island and the large Chinstrap penguin colony there. These cute little penguins seemed utterly oblivious to our presence. They busied themselves waddling to and from the sea and their hatchery at the top of the headland. Always waddling, sometimes tobogganing these little characters kept us engrossed for over an hour. However, in their midst was an imposter! A Macaroni penguin, some 500 miles too far south, but according to Darrell our skipper a well known resident on the island.
 
All in all a great visit and shakeout tour. A thorough disinfect getting on board to stop any risk of cross contamination between penguin populations, and a magnificent dinner courtesy of Maggie. The good news is that Andy’s ankle is making good progress after some intense cold water and massage treatment.
 
As I sign off the clouds are lifting and the beauty of our surroundings is breathtaking. We are off tomorrow at 5am to sail for Deception Island some 45 miles to our south. The adventure continues.screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-12-03-50