West bound Transatlantic 2011

So, I am now into my 2011/12 season and I guess it is time to write another email/essay. This season kicked off in Cape Town where we spent the best part of a week finishing the jobs from the refit, nothing particularly exciting but all essential I guess. All work completed and ready to go – we had cleared customs and immigration, the boat was all stowed for sea etc – we were about to head to the fuel dock to get the 7000+ litres of diesel needed to fill the tanks when we were told that the owner of the fuel dock had fallen out with the supplier and therefore only had 300 litres, not much use to us obviously so some frantic phoning around was required from Skip Novak (the boss) to see what we could organise. After waiting for most of the day it finally turned up, and after two hours of standing holding the pump nozzle in the fillers we were ready to set off.

The weather for departure was pretty good, a gentle south westerly had us sailing pleasantly towards the sunset, and looking back to see Table Mountain illuminated with various strobe lights was almost a relief. After a couple of hours and setting the tone for the rest of the transatlantic the wind veered and forced us to head south west, away from the desired route which would take us north into the light easterly winds of the St Helena high. We were eventually able to tack over and get back towards the northerly track and the winds eased as we got into the high pressure zone. So the short version (all I will bother you with) is that the high pressure zones were a long way north, every time we tried to get a little south into the course cutting some miles off of the trip to the Falklands we got onto the top of a low and were then faced with big headwinds, frequently 40 knots or more. We did have 12 hours of slamming into 60 knots hard on the breeze, the least pleasant part of it for me was being out on deck to wrestle the mainsail down, for Magnus (the skipper for the trip) it was going out along the boom to lash the sail down.

In Cape Town one of our sponsors, Quantum Sails, had made us a new headsail. As the trip was progressing and having used it in some breeze the front edge was stretching and requiring us to put more tension on the halyard every few days. One of these times having decided to really crank on the tension it was my turn to do the winding. Unfortunately for me, the 10mm spectra halyard broke. And whipped me in the eye. Ouch. And quite a lot of cursing!

Three weeks later we made it into Stanley and began sorting out Pelagic Australis ready for our first full charter of the season, a trip with ten ski adventurers heading to South Georgia to follow in Ernest Shackleton’s famous footsteps and cross the north end of the island. At the first opportunity, the Thursday, I went to see the hospital to get them to check out my eye. After a lot of poking and prodding the doctor with the most eye knowledge could see there was damage at the back of my eye and told me I should go back to the UK to get it checked out more thoroughly. “Fine” I told him, “I will be heading back in about nine months, I will get it checked out when I get home”. He didn’t agree. He rang up the agents there and then to try and get me onto the plane which left for the UK the next day. There were no spaces for then, but on the Saturday there were, so back home I flew thinking it wouldn’t be so bad to have a couple of weeks off. I went straight to Oxford where the specialist I was advised to visit was based, got the all clear and headed home.

After informing Skip (boss) and the Miles (skipper of PA) that I had the all clear from the doc, Skip suggested that I head down to Uruguay to help work on the original Pelagic before heading back to the Falklands to re-join Pelagic Australis. Six days was all I had back in the UK, 36 hours after talking to the travel agent I was heading to Piriapolis for three weeks to help on here refit. I’m not going to go into detail here, but Uruguay is a really nice place, very friendly and laid back and well worth the visit, it was almost worth damaging my eye to go and see it!! We finished the refit within two weeks and once the other crew arrived had a night on the town before heading off for the delivery.

It was interesting to sail on the little boat, to see how an 80’s sailing legend thought an expedition yacht should be like. (Skip and a few friends had talked about the design of a yacht suitable for cruising the Antarctic Peninsula whilst on the rail racing Drum around the world in the ‘85 Whitbread, she was finally drawn and built in 1989 to Skip’s specification.) She did seem to work, there was logic in everything, sometimes hard to see but it was there! She sailed along very comfortably, everything worked and as a result a lot of the things have been scaled up and used on PA, my home for the next 9 months. We got into Stanley and I moved back onto PA and started working on her that day, getting ready for the next charter which started 6 days later.

About David

David Roberts is the skipper of sailing yacht Pelagic, a charter expedition yacht working in Antarctica, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn areas.
This entry was posted in Pelagic, Pelagic Australis, Southern Ocean. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *