Posted on Feb 21, 2016
Lat 64 ° 54.12; Long 062 ° 51.90'W
Back at sea, for a day full of adventures.
We set sail at 07:30h, calling the Ukrainian station by radio and still thanking the whole crew not only for their hospitality, but above all for the human warmth that, in the difficult moments we experienced, was of great comfort.
For the first time since we left Rio Dulce in Guatemala, our compass indicates a corner that does not have a Southern component and if you add to this that we have sailed for over 11,000 miles, over 20,000 kilometers, you will have an idea of how far south is the South Pole!
We are heading to Paradise Harbor, a large basin enclosed between the Antarctic Peninsula and the Bryde and Lemaire Islands, universally described as one of the most beautiful areas of this side of the Peninsula.
It is only 40 miles away but to reach it we must cross the Lemaire Channel, which is always an unknown factor due to the constant presence of ice. We are immersed in a blue-gray world, in a soft light, almost as if the sun had placed a gigantic filter to make everything we have around us fabulous.
We do the usual slalom between giant Icebergs, but 4 miles from the north entrance of the canal, a stretch of small and large blocks of ice blocks the road. We have no alternative, we must try to continue.
Theoretically there is the option to circumnavigate the Canal, passing west of Booth Island through the Dannebrog archipelago, but the map states "UNSURVEYED" and after the experience of a few days ago, this option remains for me just a theoretical one. I prefer to do the icebreaker way.
I decide du put the dinghy in the water, I leave the helm to Ijri who in these weeks has shown to have a talent of helmsman and with Matteo armed with my fishing hook we proceed few meters in front of Angelique II, beginning our new task of "ice sweepers".
Wa hook the large blocksand drag them out of the trajectory of Angelique II. With the little block we use a different technique. I approach them in reverse gear, using the stern of the dinghy as a shovel snowplow, moving a large amount of ice.
We go on like this for about 3 hours until the Channel opens free in front of us. We continue as far as the exit of the Channel where we meet a slight breeze that allows us to hoist our full sail invemtory pushing us up to 7 knots to Ferguson Channel, access to Paradise Harbor. What a great feeling to watch Angelique II again fly free on the water.
My notes show an anchorage on the north shore of the Caoughtrey Peninsula, right next to the Argentina Brown Base. I approach the entrance totally surrounded by a large glacier. Depths decreases rapidly.
With the binoculars we identify a couple of people watching us from the base. I contact them by radio and ask for advice. They tell me that the minimum depth at low tide is about 1.5 meters and that yachts normally anchor in a bay south of the Base. Thank you for the advice, I do a 360 ° and I go in the direction of Skontorp Cove.
We anchor in 15 meters of water in a bay also surrounded by a glacier.
No wind, the surface of the sea as a mirror, we await the full moon and we enjoy this Paradise Bay, a definetively deserved name.
Posted on Feb 20, 2016
Vernadsky Research Station, Galindez Island
This morning I woke up with the question of what to do with the beam in the port side hull.
It is only one plank out of the 20 sitting in each hull and with these temperatures and humidity, working with resin will not be easy. But with the Drake to be redone and the stretch from the Falklands to Buenos Aires, I think I need all the rigidity of the structure. So I decided to call my frind Giorgio Magrini and give me some advice.
Giorgio is one of the most famous yacht designer of Otaly having built Americam Class boat and many maxi's.
"Hi Giorgio, I'm Giamba"
"Hi Giamba, where are you?"
"I'm at the South Pole and I almost sank Angelique II!"
Giorgio obviously advises me to repair the structure, even if in a rough way. He suggests to heat the part of the hull as much as possible, and to test the resin to check the percentage of catalyst to use.
I remembered that Ukrainian told me theu frequently use resin and fiber to repair their inflatable boats, because it's really easy to get stuck in these area ....
So I called the base via VHF radio and announcing my visit at the base. Anton was waiting for me, a great young engineer responsible of the maintenance. Wwhen Anton arrived to weighed about 20 kilos less.
Here he decided to become a bodybuilder and, the magic of Antarctic science, today he weighs 20 kilos more of pure muscle mass. But he also adjusted his look to the new fisic du rol.
Long beard, hair shaved to zero except for a long tuft that held in the middle of the forehead, like the old Ten Ten. Anton told me to use for their repairs a resin with 30% catalyst that would set within 24h.
I asked if they could give me some of this miraculous resin and obviously not only have they satisfied me, but they offered to come and help me on the boat to do the job. Back to the boat I started to prepare the surface, grinding the delaminated layers so that the new lamination would grip on a steady surface.
This is "sh....* work because grinding generates dust splashed all over. So emptied the cabin of everything, with we completely covered the area with nylon in order to contain as much as possible the dust.
15 minutes of immersion in the fiber and resin dust and the fear has passed.
Following Giorgio's suggestion, before proceeding with the beam repair, I performed a test with the resin applying 30% of catalyst. component and as promised by Anton after about 30 minutes the resin set.
I tried to warm up the area with an hairdryer and inve with a the temperature in the cabin at 31 degrees celsius, the hull was still damn cold. But trusting the experience of Anton I began to stratify, applying the first layer of mat. Once applied the resin and the fiberglas we had just to wait and see.
Meanwhile Anton told that the Commander invited us again for a farewell party. The entire Ukranian team will spend another 5 weeks at the base and then a new team will come.
At 21:00h we were in their cozy pub drinking cocktails worth the best bar in Milan.
Alcoholics, wine, finger food, salmon canapés, fruit, sweets, music, everything. The crews of other two boats arrived during the day were invited to the party as well. Pod Orange, a French boat that has been chartering here for many years and Alde Tasmanian, a schooner with an Australian flag, recently in these seas but owned by a skipper who has 140 cruises in Antarctica on his log!
This boat was bought in the Netherlands and after having crossed the Northwest Passage last summer, sailed down here to start its charter business. His previous boat, the Australis, which we met in November in the Beagle Channel, is now entrusted to his son and continues to charter here in Antarctica. On average 3 or 4 cruises a year, for a turnover of around 120,000 US $ per cruise. Not bad!
Pod Orange's crew, casts a video on the huge screen of the base. The protagonists are two girls of the crew who tell their work year from their point of view, making shuttles between the South Pole and Ushuaia.
Tomorrow weather forecasts announce 3 days of little wind, what we need to get a relaxed back at sea, after the last thrilling days. We hug our new friends, I do not know if we'll ever see them again, but we certainly thinking of them every time we will be talking about our year at the end of the world.
Posted on Feb 19, 2016
Vernadsky Research Station, Galindez Island
Another long day, but marked by a good mood: Angelique II has no problem in going back to warm latitudes counting only on herself. Despite the 23 hours of pure adrenaline experienced yesterday, this morning at 06:00h, after just 4 hours of sleep, my eyes were open and the brain already at work.
I realized that the wind had given up and I wanted to get back to Stella Creck's, before it got up again.
So I woke up the boys and within half an hour we were safely and quietely in our refuge with 4 lines well secured to the ground. We had a frugal breakfast and I start with a complete assessment of the damages and work sto be done. I started with a underwater inspection of the hull. We already knew about the detached, but diving underneed of the boat I found one of the blades of the port propeller broken, which was the cause of the great vibration I felt yesterday. Another discover was a large crack on the nose of the port side bow. Every Outremer bow has a sacrificial compartment, made specifically to absorb shocks without compromising the buoyancy of the hulls. Fortunately, the stroke has only broken some outer layers of the lamination and not on the front, but rather 7 to 8 centimeters aft from the bow and about a few centimeters above the waterline. It is unthinkable to imagine a repair without taking the boat out of the water and anyway, again, we do not have water in that area.
It is only a few millimeters of superficial skin. An inspection of the bottom of both hulls, incredibly, highlighted only some superficial scratches. The port side rudder, on which the boat rested after the second bump when we had already lost the keel, appears only chipped at its end without any impact on its functionality.
The inspection inside the boat, however, recorded a detached beaa in the bildge of the port aft cabin and the starboard engine moved by few centimeters. Probably one of the strokes taken on the rocks must have moved the engine that has torn the rubber mounts on which it is sitting.
Dear friends, since I sailed on Angelique II I keep saying that I would not sail on any other boat, but after this experience I really believe that Outremer builds exceptional boats. Not just fast, stable, comfortable, easy to manage and repair, but above all indestructible. This shipyard deserves all my respect and estimate.
In light of the problems identified, we have drawn up a work plan. I would have dealt with replacing the port propeller with the spare one I bought in Puerto Chacabuco in August when, always the same propeller, had a problem with one of the internal sprockets and had to be sent to Italy for repairs. Ijri, would try to put the port engine back in place. These seemed to me to be the two most urgent interventions, so as to restore total maneuverability and efficiency to the boat.
With Ijri we went to the Ukrainian base where Andrei and Dimitri were waiting for us. Andrei is a marine biologist and university professor. Dimitri is a super computer technician. Both divers they carry out projects on flora and fauna in the Antarctic. Andrei is at his 10 Antarctic expedition.
They are the angels sharing yesterday with me the entire adventures. Once I shared with them our repairing program, Dimitri left to come bacltwo minutes later with a tackle and his diving equipment.
We returned to Angelique II where Ijri disappeared in the engine room with the tackle, while Dimitri and I dived into the water to replace the propeller.
Meanwhile Matteo and Dave have shuttled with the base to bring back on board everything we had downloaded the day before and, on the last trip, they also took back Vale and Adela veterans from a long sleep and a five-star breakfast.
Even the people from the ship Europe came to visit us to find out what damages we had. They told us that they would stay in the area for a few days more and offere any possible help if required.
So, between repairs and PR, it was afternoon and I start feeling really tired and my wife categorically sent me to sleep. I slept hard until half an hour ago when hunger pangs were felt. The weather forecast for tomorrow still gives strong winds from the north west, while day 21 and 22 should be two quiet days, so we will stay here guests of our Ukrainian friends one more day.
Posted on Feb 19, 2016
Vernadsky Research Station, Galindez Island
I'm laying in the saloon, I decid to spend the night here, to check our anchor. I activated both radar and anchor alarm to rest a little, but I can not. The adrenaline that still flows in my body does not allow me.
Today I experienced the scariest 20 hours of my life.
At 03:30h, friends from the Vernadsky Base took Mireille on board to take her, as promised to the Commander of the base, to Port Lockroy. Ijri and Matteo went ashore to realease our lines ashorer and at 04:00h we left our anchorage. The day light began to peep, however both the bows and the stern projectors were on. Flat sea and not even a breeze of wind. I do not know for what damn reason I came up with the suggestion of the French skipper, to reach the open sea passing by the side of the Ukraine base, instead of going trough the course I followed upon on our arrival. I clearly remembered that she had told me to pass near a red buoy to the northwest of the base.
I strange feeling, like discomfort accompanied me, so much so that I asked Mireille to confirm that they really had come from there. Mireille replied that she did not remember exactly.
I asked Matteo, Dave and Adela, to stay on the bowes keeping an eye to to identify any signs of shallow water.
The sense of unease persisted so much so that I decreased the speed to 1.5 knots.
As soon as we got across the buoy, Angelique II hit something which immediarely stopped the boat
I try to go full reverse gear, but the only result I got is to see my port-keel slide aft. At this point I'm sure I hit something big.
I look all around the hulls to realize that we are sitting on a rock no deeper than 30 or 40 centimeters.
While I ask Vale to check the bilges immediately to see if we have water, I call the Ukrainian base via radio.
As in all the Antarctic Research Base, Vernadsky as a 24-hour watch team and within 5 minutes they reach us on board with an iflatable boat. No water in the bilge.
I ask them the about the tide to learn that it is still going down and high tide will be only midday.
We put the dinghy in the water and drop two anchors in the stern in the attempt to add to the propulsive force of the engines the lines from the two anchors, which are now enrolled on the electric genoa winches.
But even this attempt is vain. Nothing else to do but wait for the high tide. Vernadsky's friends invited us to get to the base for breakfast. So while I decided to accept the offer sending most of the crew ashore, I stayed with Ijri to check the damages. The lost (and recovered) keel does not have a structural function. It is a sacrificial keel to protect the rudder and propeller. Shaft seemed to be straight to me, also because when I put the engine back in an attempt to free myself, I had not felt any vibration.
But from a check of the bilges, I realized that in the port aft cabin one of the beam was unglued and just a few centimeters aft of the same beam, the hull had a small swelling, a clear sign that something was pushing under.
The idea that the low tide would increase the load on that point made me shiver at my back.
So I decided that it was necessary at all costs to lighten Angelique II. We started to empty the diesel tanks, transferring the contents into jerrycans.
Then we started to take ashore the 80 meters of chain, scuba tanks, all tools, our bicycles, evaluating the effort in around 1,2 tons. Meanwhile, a light breeze from the north began to reach us. I knew that some strong wind was expected in the afternoon.
On the last trip ashore I went to visit the rest of the crew at the base. The Ukrainian friends prepared for my crew a room equippes wit camp beds and sleeping bags, in an attempt to make us rest and lower the tension.
Meanwhile the wind continued to rise and veer to east. I decided to go back ion board asking Dave and Matteo to join me. Although we were inside the small archipelago, a very annoying wave was already at work, while the wind was pushing threatening blocks of ice against us. In the following 3 hours we had to fight against a huge number of blocks of ice, all intending to hit our injured Angelique II. We jumped in the dindhy trying to catch with a hook the blocks of ice and move them away to avoid the collision trajectory. The wind was now constantly above 30 knots and the task was really difficult. While I was in the bilge to check the evolution of the swelling on the hull, Matteo shouts from the bridge that a big block of ice has slipped between the two hulls and got stuck on the rock below us, with the risk of continuing to bounce between the hulls. Impossible to reach the position with the dinghy, so I wear the dry suit and enter in the water. Fighting with the white beast I manage to move the block away. Returned on board Matteo has prepared a hot coffee but we hear a crash stronger than the others. I fear the worst. I run into the port aft cabin and the swell on the hull is gone. The tide is getting hogh, lifting the port hull just enough to keep the rock from sticking. I realize that at any moment the wind, now at 35 knots, could just release the hull. Around us islets and rocks and two 100-meter lines in the water, connected to our two anchors. Another thrill runs through my back. I try to give clear instructions to Dave and Matteo: when the boat will be released by the roks, let the ropes run to the outer side of each hull and, once forward, secure it to a cleat. Is that clear? Meanwhile, I call the station via radio, asking if they can send a rubber boat to support us in the event that the boat gets unstuck. I do not have time to put down the microphone that at the sound of another crash, the boat is pushed away by the wind. The engines have been on for at least half an hour, ready and warm. While I try to keep the boat to the wind I shout to my crew to start to recover the lines. But one line get dangerously close to the stern of the starboard hull, so i'm forced to put the engine in neutral.
A rock approaches port and an iceberg is less than 50 meters from our stern. I have to go forward engaging to the engine and so I do. I can avoid the rock but giving power to the engine, inevitably going over the line which get stuck and block the propeller. The engine buzzer sounds. The engine is off. The wind now hits the port side. I try to give full reverse with port engine in the attempt to put bow in the wind but another relentless buzzer, warns me that the other line has reached the port side engine. Well we are without engines, without anchors at the mercy of wind and rocks. We bounce on a first rock, than on a second where after a couple of jolts we stop.
Around us threee big inflatable boats one coming from Vernadsky and two rubber from a beautiful three-masted charter boat called Europe. They try to pull me out but nothing to do, we are again well sitting on a rock and always with the same hull. I need to rescue the anchors I have left behind, I go into the water and with a bit of effort I can free the two 18 mm polypropylene lines, still intact, from the propellers.
I entrust the two Dinghy from Europa with the task of following the lines till our anchors and recover them.
I check the bilge everything is OK, once again it does not seem to have serious damage. I know the tide will again reach its mahimum high 24:00h, still 8 hours to go. Meanwhile, we bring back on board our chain to which we assure the main anchor recovered from the inflatable boat of Europe, while the second still arrives with the friends of Vernadsky.
The wind now arrives on our sterm starboard hull and pushes me more and more on the rock under the port side hull. Without the keel to protect it I'm afraid about the rudder, a meter more and the rock will take it away.
I have to secure the boat in this position until the tide is high enough for me to slip out. I ask the dinghies around me to help me placing two lines on a rock about 50 meters across the beam of my starboard hull, one securing the bow and one the stern, and an anchor aft. It is pitch dark outside and the people from Europe tell me that they have to go back on board, but to call them by radio for any need. Vernadsky's friends return to base to change helmsman, ithe is frozen, but they come back just 15 minutes later. At around 11 pm the wind has dropped to 20 knots with gusts of 25. The boat is completely full of snow. Despite continuing to snow we are in the cockpit while our Ukrainian Angels are still in the dinghy flanked to our starboard hull.
At a certain point we clearly hear that the boat starts to rise from the bottom. The engines are still on and this time I decide to anticipate the maneuver. I ask my crew to cut at my order both lateral and stern lines.
The wind will push me forward where I have water for at least 300 meters and I will use the engines only when it will be at a safe distance from the rocks. Let's wait 5 more minutes and then I'll start. We cut all ropes, we still hear a crunch under us and then nothing more. 200 meters ahead, I put the port engine in reverse and the starboard forward. The boat turns to the port, but a strong vibration comes from that engine. We return at very low speed to the area of our previous anchorage. I can't enter Stella Creek with this wind, without lines and with one engine vibrating this way, so I drop the anchor in 20 meters of water, but without success. I repete the maneuver 5 times until my anchor finds a grip to cling to. Ijri meanwhile reaches the Ukrainian dinghy and goes to recover the three great lines and our spare anchor. Successfully returned I ask him to put a line ashore.
The girls are at the base where the Ukranians have prepared for beds, dinner and much comfort. We reach them by radio and we agree that the best thing for everyone is now to rest.
Today I think I have lived an experience that even in the worst nightmares I could never have imagined.
However, I can assure you that I have not thought, even for a moment, that I could lose our boat.
Tomorrow we will think about how to bring her back home.
Posted on Feb 17, 2016
Vernadsky Research Station, Galindez Island
Vernadsky is an "all year round station", meaning a research station running 12 months a year and not just the summer months like most of the stations here in Antarctica.
Until 1998 the base was called Faraday and was English, then it was sold to the Ukrainians for a pound. Right here, in 1983, British scientists identified the ozone layer. The base has a staff of 12 researchers who become 18 during the summer months. In the winter period (April / October) the base must necessarily be self-sufficient because it is inaccessible for any boat that is not an icebreaker.
The day promised to be beautiful: sun, sky clear of clouds and little wind. I contacted the base in the early morning to extend my greetings and ask permission to visit it. They replied that they were waiting for a cruise ship to visit and they would welcome us around 21:00h. But at the same time they asked me if we wanted to visit the 'Wordie Hut' an English base built on Winter Island just 50 meters from our anchorage. The Ukrainians keep the keys and look after the base.
We were very enthusiastic about the offer and a few minutes later, the base Commander came to greet us and give us the key of the hut. Wordy Hut is another of the buildings identified as monuments from the Antarctic Treaty, which the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust has renovated. Like the Vernadsky base it is in a truly breathtaking setting, with the peaks of the Lemarie Channel still visible and immersed in the sea of ice that leads to Crystal Sound. The base, very well restored, still retains the testimony of the presence of the old explorers who, like Shackleton, went so far with the means that technology offered them in these days: simply heroes. Built in 1947 and baptized in honor of the Chief Researcher of the Shackleton Expedition, it was occupied until 1954 when the British built the nearby Faraday base (now Vernadsky). It hosted on average 4 or 5 researchers and the activity was mainly directed to meteorology.
We spent the rest of the day climbing on the mountains of ice arounf us, visiting several communities of penguins and simply enjoying these white paradise.
After dinner we went to Vernadsky where the Ukranians offerd to show us the a Base. After the visit they invited to the Pub where an excellent hamon serrano and a good Argentine wine was waiting for us. In the Pub we met MIREILLE, a nice French unexpected guest of the Base.
MIreille was on board the French boat whose Skipper visited us last night on our arrival. It seems that MIreille decided to disembark because she did not feel safe on that boat, despite the contrary opinion of the skipper who at all costs wanted to bring her back to Ushuaia. The doctor at the base somehow found a solution, telling the Skipper that MIreille needed a rest period and could not get back at sea.
The problem for the Ukrainians was how to allow MIreille to return to the civilized world. At this point the Commander of the Base asks me if I consent to give a passage to MIreille up to Port Lockroy where a large cruise ship seems to have agreed to take MIreille back to Ushuaia. Obviously I said that there would be problems for us.
Weather forecasts for tomorrow foresee light winds till 12:00h and afterword up to 25 knots till evening. The idea of sailing the Butler Passage back with 40 knots upwind does not even pass through my head, so i decide for an early start at 04:00h so as to be in Port Lockroy for lunch, well before the wind goes crazy.
Big hugs with the Ukrainians for having solved the problem and above all another 200 liters of diesel in our tanks gently presented by the commander of the base Yes, because when I agreed to take with us MIreille, the base Commander asked me what he could do to return the courtesy and I, shamelessly, asked him to offer us 100 liters of diesel for our generator and heater. So we took on board with us 8 elegant plastic jerrycans of 25 liters each full of diesel.
Long life to the Ukrainian, long life to Antarctica and long life to all those places in the world where the words hospitality, generosity and altruism still have meanings.
Posted on Feb 16, 2016
Vernadsky Research Station, Galindez Island
After the yesterday long night, we decided to set sail a bit later on in the day to allow few hours more of rest.
By 12:00h the anchor was up and we headed towards one of the most spectacular stretches of sea in this cruise: Lemarie Channel.
Leaving Wiencke Island, we had Butler Passage in front of us, a stretch of sea just 10 miles long.
The wind, as expected, was around 15 knots on our port side garden, so I decided to hoist the Code 0 to increase a bit our speed. 38 miles separated us from our next anchorage and I want to be sure to cover them with daylight, also because I knew that once in the Lemarie we would have to deal with the continuous presence of ice in the sea.
Despite the weather forecast predictions, a white halo on the mountains on the horizon was a clear sign of snow swept away by the wind. Within 20 minutes the wind started to turn towards our bow, increasing up to 25 knots.
Prudently I decide to roll the Code zero and hoist the Genoa. Half an hour later the sea had turned into a great mass of white water, with 3, 4 meters breaking waves and the wind gusting up to 50 kn.
We have reduced the Genoana up to 40% and 3 reefs on the main, but the speed still high (10 knots) and the entry of the Lemarie Channel closer and closer.
An annoying thrill ran through my back: looking at the enbtrace of the channeli trough my binoculars it seemed to be obstructed by a series of Icebergs.
The idea of not being able to get in and having to put the bow back to the hell we were going through did not make me feel comfortable. The information I had collected from the boats returned to Puerto Williams and Ushuaia from the Antarctic, signaled this season as a year with an exceptional presence of ice.
We arrived at the entrance of the Canal around 16:00h. The situation was not as dramatic as it appeared trough the binoculars. the access to the canal was not blocked by icebergs, but a long strip of large blocks of ice passed through it completely. We took down all the sails to approached these obstacle by engines.
An annoying wave still arrived on our ster, pushed by the inertia developed with the strong wind encountered in Butler Passage. The ice strip was only about ten meters wide, so we chose an area that looked less dense and we started to cross it. The engines were practically at zero rev and the one knot of speed we had was more deu to the wave and tidal current than to our two propellers. The two hulls started to make their way trough the ice pack and in 5 minutes we were out of the nightmare to enter a dream.
The wind was completely gone, the sea a dark blue table in which the most extraordinary Icebergs sailed in the same direction under the watchful control along both sides of the highest black peaks surrounded by glaciers that turned from white to the bright blue.
6 miles and 2 hours in a fairy-tale setting, I would not know how else to describe today's experience, which alone is worth these 14 months and 12,000 miles spent to get here.
We were heading to the Ukraine Vernadsky research station, a all year round base.
The base is located in Galindez Island in the Argentine Islands archipelago, whose access passes through a narrow channel. Once at the waypoint marking the entry to the narrow passage, we reduced the speed to just one knot.
Ijri and Dave on each bow and Matteo in the middle ready to point out any potential sign of shallow waters.
The map we have shows in large letters "UNSURVEYED AREA", that is an un-investigated area, meaning not sounded. We had the base at the port side and an arrow on a buoy indicating "Vernadsky Station Here.
But our paper, however unsurveyed, showed a series of "x" in that area, which on a nautical chart indicate rocks, even if present high tide subtly hid them from view.
Despite the inviting signal I preferred to continue, circumnavigating the "shoals" and try a passage with less "x".
Leaving the area on the port side, we again had the base at the bow where a sailing ship was clearly at anchor.
We approached the ship when the crew signaled us that the area in fron of us was clear from ice.
We then proceeded in a narrow passage between Winter and Galindez called Stella Creek, where an inlet large enough to accomodate our hulls was waiting for us.
The anchorage with a boat the size of Angelique II I does not offer enough space to drop an anchor and the mooring is done by placing 4 lines ashore. The problem is that at Stella Creek, like everything else around here, the soil is under few meters of snow. Ijri and Matteo climbed a snow wall, at least, 8 meters high to secure our lines on rocks. Before leaving Puerto Williams I bought 24 meters of 10 mm steel chain that I cut into 6 pieces of 4 meters each to be used to secure our lines to rocks, avoiding chafing.
The operation was not easy, especially because the area is full of Antartic Shag nests, large birds with big beak, which annoyed and perhaps worried by our presence, started attacking our two heroic crew members.
After setting up the mooring we sat down to enjoy time and comment the fantastic landscape offered by the Lemarie Channel.
Few minutes later, the skipper of the yach anchored in front of the Ukrainan Base came to visit us. A lovely French girl who showed up with wearing her technical overall and at her feet a pair of crocs without socks!
The yacht she is skippering has made over 40 cruises in the Antarctic but this one is the first with her as a skipper, with 6 customers and no deck hand on board: brave girl.
She asks me why I have made the wide round to reach the anchorage instead of going directly to the side of the Base. I answer that the map reads "UNSURVEYED AREA" and is also full of x.
She assures me that passing very close to a buoy to the east of the base there is no problem and that the depth is always above 8 meters. I recorded the message.
She will leave tomorrow and she is heading Melchior Island and from there to Ushuaia.
We greet her with great sympathy and admiration.
What French super sailor!
Posted on Feb 15, 2016
Port Lockeroy, Wincke Island
It is three o'clock in the morning and finally the roar of the wind has stopped and with it the fear of losing the anchor and "go to rocks". Now only the ice alarm remains!
Port Lockroy is a bay on the south west coast of Wiencke Island, whose access is protected by a series of islets, rocks and outcropping rocks.
We, as suggested by the precious notes, anchor in the area certainly more sheltered from both the sea and the wind and also distant from the great glaciers overlooking the bay.
When we arrived, another yacht stopped at anchor in the same area, but we preferred to take us even more inside the harbor and anchor in 14 meters of water against the 22 on which rested the other sailing ship.
Before going to sleep we activated the alarm on our radar at 50 meters to alert us on the eventual arrival of ice.
The night passed in an absolutely calm way.
In the morning we decided to go ashore to visit the museum of Port Lockroy, also because the forecast gave wind of 20, 25 knots from the afternoon.
In 1944 at Goudier Island, one of the islets at the entrance to the bay, the British government commissioned James Barr (who as Boy Scout had explored Antarctica together with his friend Ernest Shackleton) to build a secret base.
A few years after the war, the base was turned into a scientific research station, to be abandoned in the late 1960s.
Since the 1990s, the United Kingdom Antartic Heritage Trust has renovated the station, as well as many other historic British sites here in Antarctica and has turned it into a museum and post office, the southern post office of the world from which you can send mail to any destination for a dollar.
But the "extraordinary" is that the dollar you can safely pay with your credit card.
Obviously nobody will have a single dollar bill, because one of the premises of the old station has been transformed into a well-kept gift shop where you can buy magnets, postcards, photographs, books and even a very useful umbrella with matching bow tie, with an Antarctic fantasy with typically British colors.
And if you are wondering how the UK Antartic Heritage Trust justify the cost of transporting this material down here, combined with those cost arising from the 8 very kind and gracious rangers, the answer is that here in Port Lockroy, in a year (4 summer months) 18,000 people pass through. Yes, you understood correctly, 18,000 tourists in 4 months, about 150 a day.
The person in charge of the base had not yet finished telling us about the amount of work they manage, who apologizes and tells us that he must leave us. A ship had just arrived and the rafts began to shuttle between the island and the ship.
Mature explorers of my father's age, disembark in the island with their technical clothing scrupulously provided by the tour operator and like many soldiers closely follow the instructions of their guides.
A few hours later, on channel 16 VHF we listened to the conversation between another ship and Port Lockroy. They waited for the first ship to leave the bay to enter and disembark their precious cargo.
I do not deny that this affair has removed a bit of romance from what we are doing, but at the same time I am glad to have done this experience now, because the world is getting smaller and even Antarctica, sooner or later, will turn in a mass tourist destination, if not a theme park, with all due respect to penguins, seals, killer whales and whales.
In the meantime the wind goes up to 25 knots, presaging much higher winds than those indicated by the forecasts. Despite having 80 meters of chain in water with just 14 meters of depth, I felt it would be better to be cautious and spin a second anchor.
The wind came from the north east giving bow to the glacier and stern to islands and rocks! I do not want to take any risk. Once complited the second anchor operation we dedicate ourselves to the activity we like the most: cooking.
Panzerotti Pugliesi and apple pie, this is the menu for the evening. At 17:00h the wind went over 30 knots with gusts of up to 40. Although the boat seemed to sail, I was sure that the two anchors had not drag even a meter, but for further the sake of safety I thought to secure a line from our bow to the shore of the island about 200 meters fin front of us. Fortunately, before leaving Ushuaia, I had bought a 250-meter of polypropylene rope from a fishermen's cooperative, which was complicated to stow for any boat but not for a catamaran of our size.
It is arranged, ready to use on the trampoline,
Given this additional safety measure we thought we could rest. Instead a series of blocks of ice peel off the glaciers, fall into the water and pushed by the wind toward the open sea, towards our boat.
Big, medium and small blocks all in scrupulous Indian row towards the Angelique II.
So we turned on the radar alarm at 50 meters, to switch it off just few minutes later because it continued to play non-stop. Alternatively we decided to stay on watch costantly looking at the radar to identify the large blocks having a collision trajectory with our position.
If a block approached dangerously, two of us went out (where the storm was raging) and with a long "stick" tried to keep it away from the hulls until the wind pushed it beyond our stern.
We also left the tender in the water if some really big block would have required the help of the engine for this anti-collision maneuver, but fortunately its use was never necessary.
The wind continued to rise reaching 45 knots with a recorded maximum of 52.8, but Angelique II held up very well. I've been awake until now but now that we have "only" the risk ice I think I'll go to rest a few hours, tomorrow we should sail to reach the Le Marie Canal and from there the southernmost point of our cruise.