British biscuits for British bases.

12/11/2013, 64 49.7’S:063 29.8’W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

Written by Bertie Whitley

Being British, and currently residing at a British Antarctic base, lets first address the important matter of talking about the weather. Today, the sun is out again, great for filming, but unfortunately it is not one of the perfectly still Antarctic days we relish, and a light NE force 4 is interfering with Ruth’s sound equipment. Pesky wind. On the boat we’re not complaining though, force 4 is an improvement on last night, which it must be said was rather blustery. With the breeze dead on the nose Pelagic spent the night tacking on the spot. The Skipper’s dulcet snoring was accompanied by the sporadic dull thud, and a slight rig shake, as the bow of the boat nudged the ice on one side, and then the other. We’d played with our lines before bed, but only managed to slow the process, not stop it completely, so we just had to put up with the noise. The skipper’s dulcet snoring was rather reassuring though, as we all agreed that there was no need to worry until the thud became loud enough to wake him. Our icy mooring boulders seem to be holding, for now at least. We’re hoping we might get another day or two out of them before the pack ice blows out of the back bay and we can tie onto the fast ice. We shall see… continue reading

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Filming commences

11/11/2013, 64 49.7’S:063 29.8’W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

Written by Bertie Whitley

I am writing this from an eerily quiet Pelagic. All you can hear is the sounds of ice melting and bubbling away outside the hull, the occasional bump as a piece dislodges and makes it way down the side of the hull, and the dulcet tones of penguins coming back from fishing. Andrew and Ruth are ashore, busy as beavers. Today is not the first day of filming either. Working down here is not as easy as simply stepping off the boat with a Peli-case, setting up the camera and pressing record though. With Pelagic still beset in ice Andrew and Ruth, led by Tudor, had to perform the tricky traverse across the pack ice on snow shoes, how to get the film equipment ashore was another challenge though. Not wanting to carry heavy camera equipment across the ice of varying thicknesses, Tudor and Dave spent a fun afternoon banging stakes into the snow ashore and setting up a zip-wire running from the boom across to the shore. It works surprisingly well, however despite Ruth’s insistence that she would be happy to try it out, we stuck to luggage on the zip-wire and people on snow shoes… continue reading

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Seals with laser guns

10/11/2013, 64 49.7’S:063 29.8’W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

Written by Bertie Whitley

When we first wedged Pelagic into the little ice gap that has become her home for the last few days we were delighted to see seals swimming around the boat. The debate still wages as to whether they were Leopard Seals or Weddell Seals, with Tudor claiming that the seal that was spy-hopping in the ice was a Weddell, and the rest of us rest of thinking that it was a Leopard. Since he was standing on the ice at the time, as the seal was eyeing a tasty meal, we suspect his certainty that it was a Weddell may have been wishful thinking. But then he is the only one of us with a Polar medal, so he probably knows a thing or two about these things. Since then, we’ve had definite identifications of both types, the cutest being a mother and her pup, still weaning, at the base of the sea ice below Goudier Island. All this seal talk leads me on to the strange noises we’ve been hearing on the boat… continue reading

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Fifty shades of white

07/11/2013, 64 49.7’S:063 29.8’W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

Written by Ruth McCarthy from the film crew

Another glorious day at Port Lockroy. Shame we are still trapped in sea ice though – unable to move at all now, or access Goudier Island. The sea ice has completely filled the bay and is blocking the channel, encasing giant icebergs (as well as Pelagic) in its path. Quite a spectacle, even if a little frustrating! Still, the team are making good use of the time; cleared the deck of A LOT of ice and snow after this shot was taken… and fixed a few weather-beaten things around the yacht. The film crew filled the saloon with their kit as they took the still and calm opportunity below deck to sort out cameras and sound gear. Should be good to see the filming progress – they are certainly keen to get out and see the penguins! Up at 4am this morning to check up on sea ice status and watched all the penguins in the area march to the only bit of rock accessible to water. A hungry leopard seal waited below them but sadly we didn’t see any predation. Shitehawks (aka sheathbills) are living up to their nick-name, discolouring the deck as usual, and even having a go at our lambs – cheeky birds! We have had to cover them up to protect them and prevent waste. Dinner soon – Bertie’s special sausage stew. You can’t say we don’t eat well on this yacht!! Crossing our fingers for a peaceful night and freedom from the sea ice in the morning. Please do the same for us!

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At what temperature does sea water freeze?

06/11/2013, 64 49.7’S:063 29.8’W, Half a mile from Port Lockroy

written by Bertie Whitley

Ice on the bow

Ice on the bow

How cold does it have to be for sea spray to freeze on a boat? We’re not actually sure as our thermometer gave up the ghost around -6C and that was a good few days ago when it was still practically tropical. Frozen sea spray on all the guard wires, shrouds, lines and just about everything does make for some impressive photos, even if it does make boat maneuvers a bit time consuming, what with having to chip ice off and dig out any lines, winches, cleats you might need. It’s also not so fun when the frozen sea spray is on your face, or any other part of you, for that matter. Our first experience of seawater freezing happened overnight in the Drake, about 50Nm North of Smith Island. Caution being the better part of valor we decided to hove to through the night rather than push on through to try and find shelter. Pelagic then stoically rode out a storm which saw gusts as high as 60kts. True southern ocean conditions saw gigantic waves and icy seas. The crew, now almost all over their seasickness, seemed to take it all in their stride. 36 hours later when the storm had completely abated, there was a valiant de-icing operation as we motored down the Bransfield in flat water… continue reading

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Heading south

01/11/2013, 58 08.1’S:065 47.5’W, Drake Passage
So, Pelagic is heading south once again. We are on our way to the Antarctic Peninsula Ð the first tourist vessel of the new season. More specifically we are heading to Port Lockroy with a two person film crew of Andrew and Ruth, and a UK Antarctic Heritage Trust team of Tudor and Helen who are opening up the museum/post office that is Port Lockroy. We left Ushuaia for Puerto Williams Thursday lunchtime, and after much negotiation with officialdom left Puerto Williams after dinner that evening. A pleasant night motor-sail and a beautiful dawn had us passing Isla Lennox with less than 10 knots of breeze from most directions at one time or another. By lunch the breeze had freshened a little from the northwest and we had picked up an entourage of dolphins, black-browed, wandering, and a lone grey-headed albatross, countless cape petrels, terns and fairy prions. With this audience and a solid breeze it was time to turn off the engine and enjoy the view as we sailed away from Cape Horn. Over night and into this morning we have had good conditions – occasionally up to 30 knots but largely in the low 20’s all from aft of the beam, perfect sailing for Pelagic. Tonight we are expecting the breeze to build a little with gusts into the high 30’s.

Follow on Pelagic’s Sailblogs page.

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Success at Cape Horn

No problem Pelagic…? It seems this statement is true. We have succeeded in making it to the Horn and back again within three days.

We are now back in Ushuaia which has been uncharacteristically calm although there are a few days of wind and rain now forecast. Time to crack on with jobs ready for the next charter.

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No problem Pelagic…?

Cape Horn for New Year, and only three days to do it in… sounds unlikely to work. But, so far we are on track! A happy family, just back from meeting the lighthouse-keeper on the Horn. Just need to make it back to Ushuaia for the 1st now!

We have had light head winds for most of the trip so far, but we were lucky and managed to round the Horn with full sails heading downwind. Tonights destination is Isla Lennox for a New Years Eve dinner and glass of wine before an early departure to try and keep us on track.

Sincerely wishing everyone a very happy New Year from everyone on Pelagic.

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Sea Lion Island

Pelagic is down at Sea Lion Island for a few days, helping out with some filming, and taking a bit of an expedition away from Stanley, thus keeping the crew out of trouble. Not that we need keeping out of trouble, obviously.

Although the forecast for the weekend is really good, the past week has been predominantly 40+kts from the South. Apart from the fact that it has been bitterly cold, we were a little worried about what the sea state would be like when we tried to set off. After a long debate about when to go, we decided to leave it as long as possible, giving the sea a chance to calm down. Waking up just before dawn on Thursday was a bit of a struggle, and although the sea was still a little sloppy and choppy, we were rewarded with much better conditions and a nice sail in the afternoon.

The plan was for a quick stop at Sea Lion, to collect Paul, a friend who will be staying with us for the next few days, and then on to Bull Roads Cove, back on East Falkland, to hide out from any remaining swell. Everyone we’ve met has recommended Bull Roads as a bullet proof anchorage and I’ve learnt to always listen to the locals.

We arrived at Sea Lion at around 7pm. We were really hoping this week to catch a glimpse of the pod of Orcas that sometimes hunt up and down the shore. As we arrived I flippantly asked where the Orcas where, only for Bertie to squeal as two surfaced close in on the beach. Wow. I don’t think either of us was expecting that. A few minutes later Paul arrived in his tender and we reluctantly left the whales to their hunting and headed back to Bull Roads for some well-earned dinner. We were spoilt with one of the most fantastic sunsets, where the it looked like the whole sky was ablaze, and a rainbow to go with it. Once we were set , we all shared the customary anchor beer; a lovely calm anchorage to ourselves, with only the braying of penguins to keep us company.

We are now motoring back to Sea Lion, with a return to the fantastic t-shirt weather we had the first week we arrived. Blue skies, bacon sarnies in hand, camera at the ready and hopefully a good few days ahead. What more can anyone ask for?

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Sailing south with the whales

We left Piriapolis on Sunday after a few weeks of sorting Pelagic out following her winter refit. We left with a 10 knot forecast and for the last 48 hours we have had very pleasant motor sailing weather, an ideal way to start a trip on a vessel which we are both trying to learn the layout of.

At lunchtime on Tuesday (still motor sailing on) I was on watch and saw in the distance, two puffs of spray in the distance. I put the helm over to head towards them and once I saw the spouts again I woke Bertie. Coming on deck we glanced around looking again for the spout, finally they surfaced and Bertie was ready with the camera. As we crept slowly up to them we were debating the type, confirming after they had broken the surface a couple of times that they were larger than Minke’s and were in fact Sei whales. A mother and calf. We gently followed them for a while until they headed off at a pace we couldn’t keep up with and resumed our migration south. Throughout the day I have been lucky enough to see whales spouting in the distance, all of them on the horizon though until just before dinner.

Midway through the afternoon the breeze built enough from astern for us to think about sailing properly, we had already poled out the jib but we still required a little help from the engine to keep us moving forward at a reasonable pace. With 10knots of apparent behind us we went into neutral before switching off the donkey. What a relief it is to finally just hear water rushing past the head as you lie in bed.

Whilst on the helm I saw a spout on the horizon ahead of us; I headed up a couple of degrees and waited until a second confirmed it, I called Bertie and she came out of the companionway looking off to starboard into the sun where I had last seen the mist. As we were staring into the distance we suddenly heard a blow from out to our port side, there was the lone Sei whale I had seen in the distance only he was a couple of boatlengths away and looking larger than us! He stayed with us for a short while, occasionally switching which side of us he would pop up on before getting bored of us cruising along at a leisurely 6 knots.

We managed to sail throughout the night, with only one prolonged lull that had us start the engine for a few short minutes. By my dawn watch the breeze had built to 25knots from a little aft of the beam with some little waves to try and catch. It was good fun helming in these conditions before the wind suddenly came forward and a reef was required and our progress slowed. A few hours of this with the wind heading us and easing before in the middle of the afternoon I gave in and switched the engine back on returning us to the monotonous droneÉ

Just as I was about to press send for this, Bertie knocked back the revs thinking she had seen something, I glanced around and once again, fairly close was a Sei whale but unfortunately for us he was heading north and wasn’t in the mood to play.

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