Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Reminder of Why Most People Don't Sail Here - Part Two

January 1, 2022

We are hoping that how our year started is not an indication of how the rest of the year will go…


For our short trip this year we had hoped to loop around Isla Gordon and visit the glaciers in the North and South arms that lead into the Beagle Channel.  By January 1st it was clear that the weather was not going to cooperate with this plan as a series of strong lows were forecast to come through for the remainder of the week.  The first system was predicted to be a 961 millibar low. For those of you who are non-sailors, that is VERY big low and usually means you can expect very strong winds.  Our barometer was kind enough to tell us that a Cyclone was coming… The storm was expected to hit Tierra del Fuego on January 2nd.  The winds on January 1st were supposed to be light from the NE.  As Caleta Olla is not all that protected from the E, we decided we’d move 25 miles west to a small hurricane-hole anchorage called Caleta Cinco Estrellas. 

We woke up on January 1st to the bump of us running aground in Caleta Olla when the wind switched  to the NE.  Oops.  Luckily it was a soft bump and pulling in 10 feet of anchor chain solved the issue.  But, feeling that this was a harbinger of things to come, we decided we’d pull anchor and head to Cinco Estrellas.  As I pulled the lines from shore, Gary pulled in some more of the anchor chain.  While we were sorting out the lines on deck, a big NE gust came and blew the boat sideways.  The anchor dragged and we found ourselves beam-to on the shore.  Crap.  Luckily the mud was soft and we were able to back off without difficulty.  But still.  It wasn't yet 7am in the new year and we’d already run aground.  Twice.

We finally got sorted and motored out of the cove. The channel just outside the cove was a sea of white.  Hmmm, this was kind of unexpected based on the wind forecast (NE 10 knots).  But on we went.  Once out in the channel, the wind started off from the NE, but we were immediately bucking into 3-4 foot seas on the nose.  Wind against current?  We continued on. Another 0.5 nm further along and suddenly the wind was 20 knots from the W, so directly on the nose.  OK, at least this explained the seas.  Regardless of the wind and waves, we were actually making decent speed (4-5 knots) so we decided to continue on.  

Then the conversation in the cockpit went something like this:

Gary: Do you see that weird water thing over by the shore? What do you think it is?

Karina: It looks like a water spout.  

Pause.

Karina: No, I think it’s a waterfall spraying up in the wind. 

Long pause.

Karina: No, it’s definitely a water spout.

And so it was.  For the next 2 hours we were hit by no less than 20 violent ‘rachas’ (ie, VERY strong 50+ knot wind gusts) in the form of visible water spouts.  If we’d stopped to really think about it beforehand we would have realized that NE winds would funnel down the glaciers on the north side of the channel and hit the water as violent wind gusts, aka rachas.  Rachas are a common phenomenon in Chile given the topography and typical wind strengths. We have spent our entire time in Chile so far avoiding anchorages reported in the guidebook to experience rachas.  And up until January 1st, we’d been mostly successful.  After January 1st though, I think we have experienced more rachas than most people in the world.  

GPS track through the Racha area - each arrow was a 'hit'
We had to pass three major glaciers over a 10 mile section of the channel, Francia, Italia and Allemande.  At the Italia glacier we went through a 15-20 minute stretch of being hit by 3-4 50 knot rachas, then got a bit of a break while we motored towards the next glacier.  At the Francia glacier, we experienced another 15-20 minute section of 4-5 50 knot rachas, then had another stretch of relative calm.  Not awesome, but manageable. Things cranked up a notch when we came the Allemande glacier, which is the biggest of them all.   The seas built to 7-9 feet and were coming off the north shore (versus from the expected direction of west) and hitting us directly on the beam.  The rachas were no longer showing up as water spouts on the water, but as huge curtains of flying foam.  Gary did his best to drive into them as much as he could, but we still got laid over on our side over and over and over again.  I counted 13 ‘squiggles’ on our GPS track while we passed this glacier, each representing a separate racha hit.  And most of them were in the 60+ range (our wind gauge doesn’t go any higher) and lasted a good 30-40 seconds.  It felt like it would never end.  Miraculously we didn’t lose anything off the deck, although our huge fenders were blown up from the water side of the rail and deposited on deck, and the BBQ was upside down.  And no, we don’t have any photos of the event.  We were too busy steering the boat, hanging on, and trying to calmly think through the series of things we’d have to do if (a) the steering failed at any point, (b) the engine failed, (c) the hard dodger and cockpit enclosure got ripped off.  All of these felt like very real possibilities while it was happening. 
Allemande glacier - it looks nasty, doesn't it?

And then, just like that, we were through it and the seas were calm with a gentle breeze against us. It felt like we’d just run a gauntlet of dragons… but, we survived.  While the crew were shaken, Sea Rover was no worse for wear.

Caleta Cinco Estrellas

We made it into Caleta Cinco Estrella, our chosen hurricane hole and prepared for the storm expected the next day.  We anchored and tied 5 lines to shore (after the morning we’d had, we weren’t taking any chances).  I went for a small hike and explored, then we hunkered down for the ‘storm’.  As advertised, the cove really was bomb-proof.  We had the occasional gust during the storm, but nothing menacing.  It snowed, hailed and freezing rained most of the storm day so we hibernated on board.



Entry to Caleta Cinco Estrellas after the storm deposited fresh snow

The next day we decided it was time to head back towards Puerto Williams.  The wind was from the traditional direction (ie, W) so we were pretty sure that the dragons would keep to themselves through the now-dreaded glacier stretch, but we were wary of any thing moving on the water, ie, sun beams, mist etc.  Thankfully our passage was smooth.  We had a very fast sail in 30 knot winds (from behind) so we had at least 1 day to remember that we were a sailboat.  We ended the day in an anchorage on the Chilean coast across from Ushuaia that we were hoping would give us some protection from the strong winds.  Although the cove was protected from the big seas, it didn’t offer any protection from the wind and so we spent the next 48 hours being blasted by 40 knot winds to the point where neither of us could hear ourselves think.  Luckily we were able to get poor internet from Ushuaia so we could entertain ourselves by working or finding the end of the internet.  And thank god for noise cancelling headphones.  They were a last minute purchase on this trip but were sanity savers.

I made Gary get up early (4am) on day 3 in the anchorage as the wind had calmed down and I didn't want to miss the opportunity to go.  The entrance to the anchorage is very narrow, with pointy rocks on and kelp on both sides so it is easiest to navigate in calm weather.  It took us an hour to remove all the kelp from the anchor, but we were on our way back to Puerto Williams by 5am.  And wouldn’t you know it, we had wind on the nose the whole way here.  East winds are very rare in this part of the Beagle Channel, but this is the second E wind we’ve had in this stretch of water… Regardless, we made it back into Port in time to see our friends on Zephyros off on their Antarctic adventure. 

Overall it was a good trip, but it has reminded us both how difficult it is to sail here, especially if you are trying to go west, which is of course the direction we have to go to get back north to Puerto Montt.  On the plus side, we’ve also been reminded how solid our boat is and know that she can handle whatever we are given.  We think we made the right choice not go north this year with such a short time window.  Our ‘plan’ is to sail north in the late winter/early spring next Sept-December, when the W winds typically
aren’t quite as strong. 

Happy New Year to all.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Reminder of Why Most People Don't Sail Here - Part One

 

Parasitic Darwin's fungus on a beech tree
After making the decision not to sail to Puerto Montt this year, we slowly started preparing Sea Rover for a short trip in the waterways of Tierra del Fuego.  We were pleasantly surprised that most of the boat systems seemed to be operating as expected.  We ran into an issue with our solar controller, but switching to new controllers solved the issue.  Even the watermaker seems to have come back to life.  We filled up with diesel, water, propane and food, and departed for a two week trip on December 23rd

It took 10 people and two dinghies to extricate Sea Rover from her spot deep in the boat raft at the Micalvi.  Unfortunately we don’t have any photos or video of the event as we were busy driving or fending our way out, but it was surprisingly undramatic.  It was a calm morning and so we expected to have a nice motor up the Beagle Channel.  Alas, as soon as we got out of the harbour the wind cranked up to 20 knots on the nose.  And so began our slow journey west…


Our first stop was 35 nm to the west of Puerto Williams at a pretty anchorage called Caleta Liwaia, more commonly known in the sailing community as ‘Eugenio’, named for the sole resident of the large island called Isla Hosta where the anchorage is located.  Eugenio’s Estancia (ranch) is located a few miles to the west of the anchorage and we saw his cows and sheep grazing the lands around the anchorage daily.  We even had a sighting of Eugenio himself on horseback surveying his territory one afternoon.  The cove is beautiful.  It has a nice, protected spot to anchor and secure the boat (2 lines to shore), and has easy hiking.  We enjoyed poking around the ancient forests and looking for beaver dams, which were not difficult to find.  The beaver was introduced to this area in the 1946 as a source for the fur trade and they have wreaked havoc ever since. 

We saw evidence of them everywhere, although the only two we actually saw were being separated from their pelts on the deck of a neighbouring sailboat.  It is legal (and encouraged) to hunt beaver in southern Chile and one of the locals is an expert.  He offered us some meat, but we said no.  I’m not sure we, as Canadians, are allowed to eat our national animal… What surprised us the most was the size of the trees the beavers were working on.  Some of the holes they were had made were the size of Gary’s head!

After spending Christmas enjoying the solitude of the anchorage, we started looking for a weather window to move to the next anchorage 25 miles west.  On what we thought was a suitable day, we got up at 4am, untied the lines, pulled up the anchor and hacked off the kelp in calm winds and seas, and motored out of the cove.  Within five minutes we were beating into 15 knots on the nose.  Then it was 20 knots.  Then it was 25 knots.  Then the seas started to build and our speed dropped to 2 knots while motor sailing.  After making it 5 miles in 2 hours we decided to turn around and go back to the anchorage.  It was still calm in the caleta when we arrived, but no sooner had we dropped the hook than the wind started to gust to 30 knots – and continued to do so for the next 30 hours without stop.  We did a few more boat jobs, including rigging the staysail as we realized that we were going to need a different sail plan this year compared to previously. 

Caleta Olla

The wind finally died down at about 4pm the next day so we decided to make a run for the next anchorage.  What a difference a day can make!  The channel was smooth and we had a nice evening motor, arriving in Caleta Olla just before dusk. Not surprisingly, we were greeted by a beaver while dropping the hook (2 lines to shore). We spent the next 5 days in Olla waiting for the next break in the weather systems which would allow us to continue west.  Despite being fairly open, the cove is surprisingly protected in strong (30+ knot) west winds.  There is a thin band of trees just off the beach that give an amazing amount of protection to the boats anchored just off the shore.  You can hear the wind in the rigging and you can see it hit the water in front of the boat, but no wind seems to hit the deck.  It was lovely.  

Guanaco on the beach at Caleta Olla

While we were there we took the dinghy over to the far shore of the bay and hiked up the hills for a view of the Hollanda glacier and lake.  It’s mostly open marshy field and pretty muddy going, but we saw a guanaco (llama-like thing), had a close encounter with a Caracara (hawk-like thing), and watched three Condors soar in the thermals.  It was a lovely day.


Hiking to the Hollanda Glacier

As it was calm on deck, we decided to set up our sea kayaks in the hopes that we’d have a few opportunities to use them at some of the glaciers.  Our last day in Olla started off sunny and warm (in our cockpit enclosure) so we decided to take the boats for a spin.  It took us half an hour to find all our gear (gortex paddling jackets, wetsuit pieces, kayaking boots, paddles etc) and get organized.  In our preoccupation with getting on the water, we didn’t really notice the weather.  No sooner had we paddled 100 metres from the boat when a squall hit with 40 knot winds that literally drove us into the river mouth across the bay.  It was like a big hand just lifted us up and pushed us along.  I’ve never experienced anything like it.  One minute all was calm, the next (literally) I’m back-paddling for all its worth trying to keep my kayak pointed downwind in 2 foot chop with spray coming off the top.  Crazy.  Thankfully it was pushing us into shore (albeit shore with a steep sided mountain that separated us from the boat) instead of out to sea.  We surfed into the river and paddled up as far as we could go before the current was against us, then slid the kayaks into some reeds to wait it out.  There was nothing else we could do.  I was wearing wetsuit bottoms and a long underwear top under my paddling jacket and had at least brought a wool hat, but Gary was only wearing fleece pants and a t-shirt under his paddling top.  It wasn’t long before we were both wet and cold. After a half hour or so it seemed that the wind was down a bit so we paddled to the river mouth to check the conditions.  Nope.  Back to the bed of reeds.  At that point we decided we needed to get off the water and start looking for shelter as it didn’t look like the weather was going to improve.  We found a small divet in the field behind a small tree and started to take stock of what we had with us (a camera – sorry, no pics!).  It was at this point that Gary mentioned that we had forgotten our lifejackets… Agggghhhh!  Things were not going well.  After getting reasonably settled, we realized that the wind had dropped a bit.  Should we make a run for Sea Rover?  We felt we had to try.  We dragged the boats back into the river, Gary took me under tow (he paddles faster and didn’t want to wait for me), and we paddled for our lives.  It was still windy, but the waves were down and it was probably only blowing 20 knots vs 40.  We slowly inched our way up the steep sided mountain shore and finally reached the lee of the trees and the safety of the sailboat.  We dragged the kayaks on board, changed into warm clothes and drank a lot of hot liquid.  By the time we’d warmed up the sun was out (of course).  But, 30 minutes later, the same type of squall came out of nowhere and hit the boat again.  Happily this time we experienced it from the safety and comfort of our cockpit!

And so ended the tumultuous year of 2021.

Caleta Olla and beyond.  River mouth on the right.  

Monday, December 13, 2021

Fin del Mundo - Puerto Williams

Can you spot the Bonhomie de Nieve?
We actually started this blog post about Puerto Williams in March 2020 when we were preparing Sea Rover II for a winter at the bottom of the world.  When it became clear that 'a winter' might mean 'forever', we both felt less inclined to write about our this unique little town and our experience here.  But we should have.  

Our route through Chile.
 Puerto Williams 
is at the end of the red line









To set the stage, Puerto Williams is at 54o55'S, only 60 nautical miles from Cape Horn.  It is the town that is furthest south in the whole world (despite the fact that Ushuaia in Argentina makes this same claim, it is technically 5 nm further north!) It is located on the south side of the Beagle Channel, on an island called Navarino, 25 miles east of Ushuaia.  

Sea Rover spent the last 21 months at the Club de Yates, Micalvi, which is essentially a beached navy vessel (the Micalvi) that was turned into a club house for yachties about 20 years ago. Different from a typical yacht club that most of us are familiar with in North America, there are no docks here.  Instead, boats tie up 3 abreast to the side of the ship, and other boats tie up along side.  You end up with 3 'rows' of  boats, 7-8 boats deep.  As we draw 7 feet fully loaded, we needed to be in the deepest part of the inlet, which turned out to be right next to the Micalvi.  Before we left, we tied our 6 thick shore lines to the Micalvi, with enough slack to accommodate both high and low tides (as the Micalvi does not move with the tide).  Sometimes Sea Rover is 4 feet below the deck of the ship, and sometimes we can step off our deck onto the Micalvi's roof, depending on the tide.  Regardless, we are the anchor point for the 6 other boats rafted to the outside of us.  

No sailor here ever trusts someone else's lines!
As Puerto Williams is difficult to get to (by all means of transportation!) the sailors that make it here tend to be the cream of the crop (present company excluded). The benefit of being around such seasoned sailors here at the sunken Navy vessel is that even with 3 rows of 7 boats rafted outside of us, all lines are tied and boats are put to bed in a very seamanship manner. There is no need to suggest to any of the boats that they should add additional lines to shore... It's already done. When the wind picks up to 40+ knots there is no drama with boats swinging around wildly or sails coming unfurled. 


Micalvi in all her glory
We've been back on the boat for almost 2 weeks now.  Miraculously the engine seems to run and all other systems are operating normally.  The climate here is quite dry, and so the mold on the boat was kept to a minimum and for once there was not water in the bilges.  Our original plan was to take the boat 1200 nm north up to Puerto Montt this season so that we could pull her out on the hard.  We had two main concerns with this plan: 1) we only have 6-7 weeks to make it all the way north, which isn't quite enough time to do it comfortably; 2) our boat visa, which expires in February.  One of the reasons for coming to Puerto Williams in 2020 was that our original boat visa for Chile, which was issued in Easter Island, was expiring.  Foreign boats are allowed to say in the country for 1 year + a 1 year extension (usually).  At that time, you can re-start the clock on the visa by clearing out of the country, and checking into another country.  Once you've done that, you can return to Chile and clear into the country again for another 2 years.  The easiest place to do this is down here, where Ushuaia, Argentina and Puerto Williams, Chile are only 25 nm apart.  So when we arrived in Puerto Williams in 2020, we immediately cleared out and went to Argentina for a week.  We then returned to Puerto Williams and re-started the visa clock.  This is very straight forward when the ports are open.  This is not so straight forward when the ports are closed.  While Ushuaia is open, Puerto Williams is closed to foreign vessels entering the country. So we could go to Argentina but we would not be allowed back into Chile.  In our opinion, Ushuaia is not an ideal place to leave the boat for the winter as the docks and anchorage are extremely exposed.  Puerto Williams is much more protected and therefore a much better option.  As such, we have made the decision to keep the boat here for another winter instead of trying to take it to Puerto Montt where it would likely be more difficult to get a visa renewal.  If the port opens to foreign boats, we'll go to Ushuaia to reset the clock, and if it doesn't, we'll apply for an extension and see how it goes.   

We got lucky with our spot for the pandemic!
So we have some time on our hands.  We've been slowly putting the boat back together and recuperating from a very busy few weeks in Canada before we left.  We have been catching up with Cruising friends who lived here during the pandemic and meeting some new people.  And I've been working (I start vacation later today!!).









The end of the world.... literally.
Across the way from where we are berthed is a small sailing school where kids of all ages from Puerto Williams head out into the bay in Opti's, Lasers and J24's. The water temperature is 9 °C. The air temp is typically 14 °C at the height of summer.  The kids go out year round despite the snow and ice here in the winter. Obviously we were coddled too much as children...  Yesterday the club held a fundraiser for a regatta in Monaco in early 2022.  Our friends on s/v Zephyros, who lived here during the pandemic, invited us to lunch at the club to support the kids.  While chowing down on Pizza Centolla (crab pizza) and Choripan (chorizo sausage in a bun) we watched our Swiss friend Rene treat dozens of people who'd never set foot in a boat to an exhilarating 30 minutes of open ocean sailing in a 24-foot J-boat in 40 knots of wind.  I think it was entertaining for all! The day summed up our observations of the town perfectly.  Despite the fact that conditions here are often tough, everyone comes together and supports each other.

Our new "plan" for the season is to get the bottom cleaned to make sure we still have a prop, and then extricate the boat from the spider web of lines that is the Micalvi.  Assuming that we are successful, we'll then take the boat out into the Beagle Channel for a few weeks over Christmas/New Years to give her a bit of a shake down and to see how the engine holds up.  Then we'll bring her back here and work our way back into the Micalvi 'nest' and prepare her for winter - properly this time!  Assuming the pandemic cooperates this year, Gary will come down later in the season to fix a few things and hopefully restart the clock on the visa.  We'll then come down in the fall and start the trek north through the channels to Puerto Montt.  

But you know what they way about sailing 'plans' - they are written in the sand at low tide.  We'll see what the year brings.  






Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Return to Sea Rover II – Part One

 

Four days, four flights, two PCR tests, eight serious document checks, many hours of lining up, thousands and thousands of encounters with people.  But we are in Puerto Williams, Chile, on our sailboat!!

It has been a long time since we’ve updated this blog – 21 months, in fact.  As with many people around the world, in March 2020 we found ourselves away from home and away from our boat.  We’d taken a Cruise to the Falklands/South Georgia/Antarctica at the beginning of the month, sailing in and out of Ushuaia, Argentina.  Due to the imminent locking down of all the countries in the world, the Cruise was cut short as they raced to get us back to Ushuaia before the world shut down.  We arrived back in Ushuaia on March 16th – unfortunately the Chilean border shut on March 15th.  So despite being only 25 miles away from our boat, we had no way to get back to her.  Once we realized that COVID wasn’t going to go away any time soon, we pivoted from trying to get back to the boat and concentrated on getting home to Canada.  After a few tense days with borders closing and flights being cancelled, we caught the 2nd last Air Canada flight out of South America on March 20th.  And then the wait began...

Like a number of countries in the world, Chile closed their borders to all foreigners.  The border opened for about a month in early 2021, only to quickly close when cases began to rise in the country.  Fast forward to November 1st, 2021 when Chile finally announced opening of the borders to fully vaccinated foreigners.  With conditions.  We booked air tickets and started the process of getting permission to enter the country.  We had to first apply for what the government calls a “Mobility Pass”, where we had to send proof of our vaccinations and proof of medical insurance.  After two weeks of scrutinizing the documents, we received our Passes from the government, conditional on having a negative PCR test upon arrival in the country.  The trip south was a “go”. 

After closing up our house, we boarded the red-eye to Mexico City on November 26th.  We had no trouble clearing into Mexico as they have no COVID restrictions.  The 2.5 hour wait to clear into the country at Immigration was just like any other year. People are clearly travelling again!  After a 12 hour layover (and a very stressful negotiation with the airline staff regarding our documentation – they didn’t think that the fact that my health insurance says that we are covered for “all diseases” included COVID…) we boarded the 8 hour overnight flight to Santiago.  After arriving in Santiago, we blearily stumbled off the plane Sunday morning and got in the first of many lines we would stand in that day.  Chile has very strict entry requirements and as such, have had to set up the infrastructure to support it at the airport.  The first line was to have our documentation checked (ie, PCR tests, affidavit stating where we would quarantine, Mobility Pass, proof of health insurance).  There were 100 kiosks set up (85 of which were staffed).  We made our way down the line and were eventually sent to one of the kiosks to undergo interrogation #1.  We got lucky and the person we dealt with was friendly and helpful.  It turns out we had filled our affidavit out incorrectly, but she just updated it with our hotel address with no fuss.  She then explained the quarantine system to us and sent us on our way.  One down.  Next we got in line for our PCR tests.  We eventually made our way to a set of electronic kiosks where we entered our info and were issued a sheet with the information required for our PCR test.  Back into another line.  We finally made it to the end of the line where our document for the PCR test was examined before sending us off to one of 60 individual testing rooms set up in the entry hall.  After the PCR test, we moved on to the Immigration line.  Since foreign travel is difficult, that line was relatively short.  After getting our 90-day tourist visas, we were finally allowed to collect our luggage and go through customs.  Happily the two Labradors patrolling the customs line did not target our stack of granola bars and we did not have to go through secondary inspection (another spot of luck).  So, 2.5 hours after we landed we were out of the airport!  We caught the free shuttle to our hotel to complete our quarantine.  We had showers and then slept for the next 7 hours. By the time we woke up, our PCR results had come back negative, meaning the end of quarantine and the activation of our Mobility Passes – just in time for dinner!

Flying over Tierra del Fuego on the way to Puerto Williams
We stayed at the hotel on Monday as we couldn’t get a flight down to Puerto Williams that day.  At 4am Tuesday morning, we arrived at the airport and were astounded to find 3000 other people all trying to check into their flights.  It was nothing short of a gong show.  After an initial panic thinking we had to stand in a lineup that was literally 500 people long, we found the correct (and much shorter) line and waited to check in.  We made it to the front of the line in an hour and successfully checked in with our Mobility Pass and Sunday’s PCR test.  As it was the first test of the validity of the Mobility Pass, we were relieved that the check in was smooth.  We had a bumpy flight to Punta Arenas, then had to show our PCR results to get off the plane.  We checked in for our flight to Puerto Williams. We had to show the Mobility Pass and PCR results while standing in line to check in, at the check in desk, and to get on the plane – no one says the Chilean’s aren’t thorough!  The flight into Puerto Williams was awesome.  The plane is a 19-seater Twin Otter.  We sat right up at the front and enjoyed the views of Tierra del Fuego.  
The Otter Awaits!

The Beagle Channel - Looking West
We had a great view of the Micalvi, where Sea Rover has spent the last 21 months, while landing.  We were hoping to catch a taxi at the airport, but I don’t think Puerto Williams is big enough to have one.  While we were standing outside trying to figure out whether someone could pick us up by boat (the airport is directly across the inlet where the marina is located), a couple of the airline employees came out and offered us a ride.  So, we met a couple of the locals. 



On Approach Into Puerto Williams
















The Micalvi, Sea Rover's Home For the Last 2 Years, on the Left

We made it!  With some trepidation we got on board the boat…and were pleasantly surprised.  She actually looks pretty much how we left her.  More dirt, the dinghy was deflated, our gear tarp was pretty threadbare, but the canvas cockpit enclosure looked good and everything was right where we left it.  There was a bit of mold and things definitely smell musty, but so far so good.  We plugged in, got some water in the tanks, hooked up the propane and started to unpack.  So far we’ve sorted out the internet, bought a bit of food and sorted some of our clothes.  We haven’t looked at the batteries yet or tried to start the engine, so there are still a LOT of unknowns, and we really don't know what we are in for.  The next few days will determine what our future looks like...  Stay tuned for Part Two.

 




 

 


Monday, March 23, 2020

We've made it to Vancouver and are home!

Hmmm, it seems our last point was talking about just making it to Antarctica and all of the sudden we are at the other end of the world in Vancouver?  What happened?  Well as everyone knows, things are changing in the world and for once we aren't talking about climate change.

After a week long ordeal of pretty significant stress we are back in our home country.  We left Antarctica a day early but still arrived in Ushuaia unable to return to our boat in Chile.  Over the next few days we quickly learned the big disadvantage of being a foreign national in a country during a crisis. Our plans changed from going to the boat via ferry to via bus to via air to not at all.  Then they changed to staying in Ushuaia to needing to get out of Argentina to holy cow, will we actually get out or be forced to become a refugee in a make shift camp.

Something you never want to see in an airport when you are trying to get home
Everyone should perform heroic measures to get to their home country.
On a happy note, we are under Q flag for the next 14 days so we'll be able to put some pretty good posts together with good quality pictures that will clearly show how spectacular Falklands/South Georgia/Antarctica are.

Stay tuned

Thursday, March 12, 2020

We've made it to Antarctica!

We've been in Antarctica for the past couple of days but today we were finally able to actually stand on the continent. It's a pretty good feeling when you get to hold up the flag of the continent and have your picture taken surrounded by a bit of rock but mostly ice and snow. Yes, today we are now able to say 5 down and 2 to go.
Having said that, the zodiac excursions are what stole the show today. There certainly are not many days when I can say we had to stop taking pictures of the whales because we had to wipe the humpback snot off the camera lens. Both this morning's and this afternoon's excursions have been filled with so many whale encounters that some people on the boat are now calling them boring. I doubt we will ever get enough interactions with them to feel that way. Like some of the guides on board... We could spend years down here and never feel that we'd had too much.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Zodiac trip next to A-68

Today we did something that probably nobody has ever done.
In calm seas we approached A-68, the largest iceberg ever recorded. It calved off the mainland in 2017. Drifting about 150 NM from the Antarctic peninsula and at 100 NM long and 10 NM wide, it's really a slowly moving island. We arrived just before lunch and after a rushed 4 course meal we went up to the observation deck to have a look at the massive ice in front of us. Then we started seeing whales. Right, Fin and Humpbacks were all around the ship. The expedition leader figured this wasn't personal enough so he ordered the zodiacs launched and within minutes we had a very unexpected 2 hour dinghy cruise amongst the ice, whales and fur seals. At one point we had 3 humpbacks cruising slowly under the zodiac, at another we had a Right whale in between two humpback tails.
Its pretty hard to really describe how we felt, cruising beside an iceberg bigger than South Georgia with 2 KM of ocean below us and the unbelievable number of whales all around us. This is all before we have even reached Antarctica. We hope this trip's namesake wont be a let down but we really can't fathom how it can get better.