Monday, November 30, 2009

From Beagle Channel to Drake Passage & Beyond

Ship Log

2nd day. Third of way across Drake. Last night very rough. On watch today at 04h00-08h00. Sea sick: added lots of colour to the ocean. Recovered quickly. Sailing instruction today. Watch at midnight. Arrive Wednesday at 14h00. All well.

Sunday 29 November, Drake Passage
  • 04h00: 56°11.8 South / 065°46.6 West
  • 08h00: 56°30.2 South / 065°24.2 West
  • 12h00: 56°49.1 South / 065°09.7 West
  • 16h00: 57°14.7 South / 064°47.7 West
  • 20h00: 57°37.5 South / 064°27.3 West
  • 24h00: 57°58.0 South / 064°10.2 West

19h00: Just began to write and the call for dinner came up. Such is the routine of a tallship in the southern seas. The last 24 hours has seen us all settle into ship’s life, getting to know our other crew members and the professional crew. Leaving the Channel pilot yesterday morning, we were quickly taken on a series of briefings about ship safety and a guide of the ship. Much of it was pretty straightforward, but the routine on abandoning ship was presented in such an orderly fashion on the video that one could wonder if we would ever come across such conditions in these seas!

In a similar way to the Soren Larsen we are organised in a series of watches. The difference with the Soren, though, is that the watches are slightly rotated each day so one is not working, say, a 12-4 slot over a period of several days. We had briefings on setting the sails, look-out and taking the helm. Memories of the Soren quickly came back as I remembered many of the sail and rope names, though remembering how to coil ropes exactly proved another matter entirely: I blame the Dutch – they have a slightly different system.

Our first watch was at 16h00 running through to 20h00. We were leaving the Beagle Channel and heading south – as far as the wind would allow us – around the remaining islands of the continent, with Cape Horn and its infamous seas ahead of us.

After dinner and the first two episodes of an Attenborough programme on Antarctica to get us in the mood, if more were needed, I retired to my cabin to get some shut-eye. However this proved something of a challenge as we finally arrived in the seas around Cape Horn in late evening. I didn’t actually see the scale of the waves being below deck, but people on the other watches say it was pretty bad. It certainly felt bad in bed. I swear the boat was tipping from side to side to the tune of 45 degree angles. I was concerned about the possibility of falling out of the bunk – especially since I’m in the top one!

But sleep in the end was achieved, and I felt relatively ready when the call came for our 4am. Blinking out into the cold pre-dawn morning, the wind blowing a gale and the seas still looking on the rough side, the next four hours suddenly looked a long way in the distance! Unfortunately for me, my combination of tablets and wrist bands to combat sea sickness let me down and soon I was feeling distinctly queasy. Thankfully, I didn’t go for too long before being sick and accordingly added some of my own colour to the Southern Oceans. Three times. But recovery came relatively quickly, following some attempt at breakfast and a surprising solid three hours sleep before a sail instruction lesson at midday. I had managed to recall all the names of the sails so rattled through them when our group was asked by the crew member – not in an attempt to impress you understand, but rather being more than conscious of the time I could handle being inside and not lying down!

And so the rest of the day has meandered along. Another short watch after lunch so that the watches end up rotated. And now, sailing along calmly in the early evening: it is 22h30 now and the view outside the deckhouse is truly magical. The sky is still light and I’m looking out at the remains of the sunset on the starboard side.

The sea is rapidly taking on a grey hue, but it is a lot calmer than it was this time yesterday. One unfortunate thing is that we don’t have a lot of wind so we’re being assisted by the motor engine. But there is not a lot you can do about the wind! Our arrival in Antarctica is scheduled for 14h00 on Wednesday.

Saturday 28 November, Beagle Channel

  • 08h00: 54°54.9 South / 067°20.0 West
  • 12h00: 55°22.9 South / 066°29.2 West
  • 16h00: 55°22.9 South / 066°27.4 West
  • 20h00: 55°35.5 South / 066°12.1 West
  • 24h00: 55°57.6 South / 066°02.5 West

9h40: On board Europa. Embarked yesterday afternoon at 17h00 and departed the port at 4am this morning.

Currently sailing along the Beagle Channel in an easterly direction heading towards the Drake Passage and the crossing to Antarctica.

Weather so far is good, cloudy and windy, but no rain. The sea is calm. The ship is a lot bigger than the Soren Larsen, I’d say twice the length and with three masts instead of two. The cabins are also a lot bigger and the plus point is that we have a spare bunk so more room to spread out in. Sharing the cabin with Daniel, a Belgian from Leuven, and Nicolas, a Scot from Inverness. Seem like good guys. A good mix of people on board, well balanced between Dutch and English-speaking, with the odd German, Swiss and Spaniard thrown in for good measure. This morning we are having a series of briefings on safety and various aspects of the ship. We hit the Drake Passage at around midday – the pilot has just left the ship: we’re on our own...

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