Day 70 / 18 Feb DRAKE PASSAGE
In the early morning we are leaving behind Isla Nueva and entrance to Beagle Channel and entering famous Drake Passage. And this is incredible! It is flat calm! After lunch people sitting on deck enjoying warm sunny weather.
But I have a chance to get a sense of the adventure already. At 10 30 there is Skip’s talk about cold weather survival and general introduction to Antarctica.
Otherwise I have fascinating chats with Pierce and Skip about ice and navigation in ice. It was chance for me to verify knowledge from my readings and other than that one massive learning session. Amazing stuff!
The wind started to blow in the evening and increasing. By midnight we are under sails only.
Day 69 / 17 Feb departure from Ushuaia
This cloudy and wet morning started from evacuation training for all crew. We tried and check our immersion suits and life jackets one more. Then hands aloft. Pilot boarded the ship at 13 05 and 40 minutes later we were steaming down Beagle Canal. So this is this day, we are underway to Antarctica. First we need to cross 440 miles wide Drake Passage notorious of it’s bad weather. Although so far wind is light and variable, sea slight and westerly swell low and we are heading south with speed of 7 knots using both engines full ahead.
During this voyage we have on board two extra bodies: expedition leader Skip Novak who is famous sailor, used to run Whitbread Round the World campaign on the boat called Drum in 1980-ties now is running expedition boats to Antarctica. Pierce is supernumerary captain and ice pilot, his day job Chief Mate on the small expedition vessel, he used to sail on Nellie as a bosun and 2nd mate.
SATELLITE E-MAIL UPDATE
Satellite e-mail seems to be in agony and doesn’t send anything big.
Therefore all blog updates are suspended until arrival in Ushuaia.
ETA Ushuaia 09 Feb 1800 LT
As soon as I will have internet access all posts will be uploaded along with the photos.
I am sorry for this brake in posting. Stay with me please and watch ship’s arrival in Fin Del Mundo on Yellow Brick:
DAY 53 / 01 Feb (Day 35 on the Southern Ocean)
Ship’s position @2000 UTC 01 Feb 56º14,7’S 067º45.1’W
Speed: 1.5 kn
Weather: wind 1°B,
Distance to Cape Horn: 23 Nm
Logged distance last 24h: 129 Nm
00 30 Drizzle and cold. Islas Diego Ramirez are clearly visible on the radar 16 miles S of our track. About 60 miles to Cape Horn. Wind is blowing with force 4 from NE so we can maintain about 105° over the ground which is taking as away from the Cape Horn at the moment.
Although weather forecast is saying that wind should drop and back.
04 00 As forecasted wind start backing and decreasing.
05 00 Sun is rising and warm light is reflecting from the ship. Everything become alive. Islands on the port side, 34 miles away, stepping out from the shadow.
08 00 I wake up for breakfast first time since December 2013 and too keep an eye on Cape Horn, But we are almost becalmed. Anyway the wind is very light and sails are flapping when ship occasionally rolls. Clouds are creating confused configurations and fantastic shapes on an overcast sky. On the port side on the horizon there are black peaks of Fuegan hills and mountains. Far away on the beam I can see mountain range all snow-capped.That is probably Cordillera Darwin. I gone to bed again.
10 15 I wake up properly this time. Grab my morning coffee. Ship is becalmed! That is just unbelievable! 24Nm SW from the Cape.
The islands surrounding Tierra del Fuego are clearly visible as well as the very one: Isla Hornos with conspicuous hill. Ocean has navy blue, is colour smooth like a silk. There are numerous sea birds: albatrosses, petrels, skuas. We have also seen one seal and penguin.
About 11 00 o’clock we are lunching the boat to conduct man overboard drill and thenphotography session. Pictures of Lord Nelson under steel coloured skies, rolling on remaining swell, comes out really well.
14 00 There is some breeze which allow, after bracing, set the ship on course 090°.
16 00After my watch we are close enough to Cape Horn that I can take good pictures. Sun is bringing out colours and features of the land.
20 00 Sun is setting. The colours on the clouds are amazing. Everything from gold to copper, from red to grey - blue. Skies remain very bright. Cape Horn is covered by big cloud.
23:48:05 (03:48:05 UTC 02 Feb) Passed Cape Horn @ 56°07.21S 067°16.30’W
Wind SW 3°B, smooth sea, low swell, partly cloudy, dry, ship’s speed 3kn, steering 080°
Sails: outer jib, fore (braced sharp to port): course, topsail, t-gallant, royal, main (braced square): topsail, t-gallant, royal.
This is my second time around Cape Horn. First was on 21 January 1999 on Polish brig Fryderyk Chopin. I was 16 years old and I was sailing as trienee crew. 15 years ago we had sunny weather and 3°B.
I realised also that this second Cape Horn crossing marks my 15 years at sea. In various capacities on various ships, unpaid to start with I spent a lot of time “out there” sailing.
DAY 52 / 31 Jan (Day 34 on the Southern Ocean)
Ship’s position @2000 UTC 31 Jan 56º03.3’S 070º37.2’W
Speed: 8 - 10.1 (!) kn
Course: 100° then 090°
Weather: wind NbyW 5°B, overcast, rain, moderate seas and medium swell
Distance to Cape Horn: 114 Nm
Logged distance last 24h: 134 Nm
All sails set, handed royals at 1550 ship’s time
Ship’s heading is leading between Isla Ildefonso (to the N) 44 miles away and Islas Diego Ramirez (to the S) 68 miles away.
Initially calm and peaceful night turn in to night-mare about 0200 when suddenly swell came. It’s frequency and period was rocking the ship in the way so it was hard to stand behind the chart table. We also, as the wind started to shift toward the N, square the main yards and handed main course. 1 hour latter we braced round the fore mast and add main stay sail to try to damp the roll. It didn’t help. Horrible nuisance!
Morning is grey but wind is blowing steadily from the N. All squares set, and ship’s motion is just hassle less. Both masts are this time braced sharp to starboard. When it started gusting 25 knots Nellie speed p to 10 knots!
For some reason we have about 20 black umbrellas in the chartroom. At some pint rain become hazier and I handed this umbrellas to my watch. Apart from picture we also shot “I am singing in the rain” video!
I put new chart on the table BA1373 South Eastern Part of Tierra Del Fuego. This is the chart we need to get round the Cape Horn.
1700 We clocked in 5500 nautical miles since ship left Auckland.
1843 Land ahoy in front of port beam. On the misty and rainy horizon I can sea faint shape of grey rocks. It is possibly one of the islands in the group of small islands called Islas Wood. And yes, it is Tierra del Fuego and the southern most tip of South America. It is also exciting to see the land first from 29th of December last year!
WATCH US PASSING CAPE HORN:
DAY 51 / 30 Jan (Day 33 on the Southern Ocean)
Ship’s position @2000 UTC 30 Jan 55º29,5’S 074º36.2’W
Speed: 4 kn
Weather: wind SSW 4 - 5°B, overcast, partly cloudy with squalls, very sunny but cold
Distance to Cape Horn: 259 Nm
Logged distance last 24h: 168 Nm
Night is cold, clear and beautiful.
Wind is blowing with force 7/8°B, Swell is high and long, sea rough.
Nellie is surfing up to 8,5 kn. rolling and shaking a bit when rushing with the waves.
When I am siting on the bridge wearing my one-pice storm suit and many more layers under it I am really glad I took with me my snowboard gloves. Robust goretex long gloves with fleece lining are essential. Same time I am trying to remember that real cold is yet to come.
Wind moderated slighlity in the morning and glorious day begun. That allowed me a good session with Go Pro camera on the bowsprit first and then on the bridge. I also captured setting the spanker and interviewed Captain Chris. Well, good day I suppose.
I am reading now Patric Van God’s book “Trismus in Antarctica”. This book was recommended to me by my friend and mentor Captain Jurek Jaszczuk, who met Van God in the South when he was on s/y Gedania during the expedition to the polar circle. This is the story from 1975 - 6. The book is brilliant: first of all it contains author’s optimism and joy of sailing and traveling. All the stories are told in very light way which makes reading easy but not trivial. There are a lot of sailory observations and some geographical / navigational knowledge which I find interesting. “Trismus” is visiting places I’ve been to already. It is always nice to recall memories. And I will also read about places we are heading to. I will know more.
It’s good to have a good book as a companion in a long journey. It also helps to appreciate the magic of travelling and sense of discovering when the day-to-day jobs eclipses it.
DAY 50 / 29 Jan (Day 32 on the Southern Ocean)
Ship’s position @2359 UTC 29 Jan 54º58,2’S 079º11.6’W
Speed: 7 kn
Weather: wind WbyN 4 - 5°B, overcast, occasional rain
Distance to Cape Horn: 412 Nm
Logged distance last 24h: 151 Nm
Very cold night with clear skies. All stars are visible. Magellan clouds above masts’ heads. Many shooting stars all around.
0200 ship’s time: 500 miles to cape Horn.
Day is grey and sometimes rainy. But sailing is beautiful. We have all sails set and making up to 8.5 knots!
When Lord Nelson was visiting Napier in NZ in November I met an elder gentleman:
- I am George Gunn. I went to sea on Pamir in 1944 when I was 16(…) I was there for four years. I was a deck boy, an ordinary seamen, an able seamen, a sail maker and third mate.
I asked him if he would like to sit on the bridge and have an interview. He agreed to that and we started our conversation. I was interested in the routes he used to sail.
- We have done Wellington - London. It was Cape Horn.
But George Gunn sail this route once. I asked him what was the weather like.
- Like this!
He said and point at sunny port if Napier.
Then I heard many more stories about first days aboard 4 masted bark, voyages to San Francisco and Vancouver and his life latter as Pilot and Harbour master in Napier. Amazing meeting!
DAY 49 / 28 Jan (Day 31 on the Southern Ocean)
Ship’s position @2359 UTC 28 Jan 54º09,9’S 082º30.2’W
Speed: 6.5 kn
Weather: wind WSW 5 - 6°B, partly cloudy, squalls with rain, rough seas and medium swell
Distance to Cape Horn: 567 Nm
Logged distance last 24h: 149 Nm
Night watch soaked with rain. 4 hours of staring at the darkness.
The whole day, for a change, glorious. Intense blue ocean, shapely cumulus on the deep blue skies. Strong wind, air crisp. Although from time to time there is grey cloud passing bringing rain, gusts and backing the wind.
It is long voyage and I feel growing tiredness. Sometimes small things make me unnecessary nervous. Sleep is in demand.
Different things are discussed in the chartroom. We are looking at the chart with Islas Diego Ramirez. We are talking about the weather around the Isla Hornos. I am preparing charts for the Argentinian coast up to 50°S where we are planing to sail to fulfil official conditions of around Cape Horn passage.
Dinner is served everyday at 1800. It’s main meal and pudding. I think, by now, it’s hard task for cookie Dave to maintain diverse diet and variety of meals once he is already missing fresh products on board. But galley team doing very well. Today there was a little positive shock: I was served meringue on top of tinned apple slices on biscuit base with abundant chocolate sauce. How dessert may change your evening :) !!!
Picture of the day (there is one!): Sailor’s strainer is called this green net. We have them set all around the ship above the bulwarks. They are to protect the crew from being washed over the side in severe weather or in case of unfortunate incident.