Saturday, March 28, 2015

We're back in the southern ocean on Pelagic. This time to explore the Beagle Channel and Darwin Range and go again to see Cape Horn. Join us for updates at

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Some Photos of the Trip

We had a nice party last night with a couple other boats here in Stanley. We're here until Saturday when the weekly plane will hopefully take us to Santiago. Now that we have a bit of bandwidth, here are some pictures of the trip. More to follow at some point, but have to go exploring now.

Setting Sail to South Georgia

Arriving King Haakon Bay, South Georgia

Coming Ashore to Meet our First Fur Seal

Starting the Traverse

First Night Camp at the WindScoop at Trident Ridge

Putting Skins on our Skis

2nd Night Camp Over Possession Bay

Coming Down to Possession Bay

Amy Through the Avalanche Debris Field

Back onboard for a Night

Sailing to Fortuna Bay (Laura and Gretchen)

Starting up the Fortuna Glacier

Getting Steeper - Crampons On

Julian belaying Larry at the top of Breakwind Ridge

Breakwind Ridge from Fortuna Bay

King Penguins at Fortuna

Cresh of King Penguin Chicks

Ed Wading Barefoot Across the Konig Glacier Outflow - Very Cold!

Up to the Stromness Col

Ready to Ski Down to the Stromness Whaling Station

Traverse Team Photo from Left: Larry, Skip, Julian, Amy, Georgio, Ed, Gretchen, Cam

Back on Board

Celebration Dinner aboard Pelagic Australis

Whaling Station at Grytviken

Skiing up to Mount Hodges Col

Ridge of Mt Hodges

Overlooking Grytviken

St Andrews Bay King Penguin Colony ~300,000 Penguins

Prion Island - Nesting place of the Wandering Albatross

Wandering Albatross Fledgeling after about 11 months

Fur Seal

Leaving South Georgia

Albatross Following Us

Heavy Weather Sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean

Amy and Gretchen Taking in a Reef

Arriving Stanley

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 6 Land Ho!

By Larry Wed, Nov 6

As predicted, the wind went from ahead of us in the West to our beam in the North allowing us to sail much more quickly the last 12 hours. We arrived in the harbor at 12:45 UTC (7:45 EST) . 5+ days back compared with 3+ days downwind to South Georgia. It was foggy all the way in and the sea birds have left to find another boat to follow. The last 12 hours were a bit of a washing machine sea, bouncing us around, but steadily clicking off the miles at 9 knots.

We've now landed just before a 30-knot squall hit. The weather is certainly unpredictable when we get near land! We're here on Wed morning with three days to spare before our plane leaves on Saturday, so we'll enjoy each other's company and begin to think about what we need to do when we get home. May get a little Falkland Islands touring in as well.

We'll spend some of the day cleaning and some looking at our photos to share and I will post some when we get to the internet café on main street.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 5 Dawns on the Southern Ocean

By Larry, Tuesday, Nov 5

It's all upwind. Amy wants to know if we'll ever get to Stanley. Others wake up for their watch and say "good morning, are we still at sea?" The instruments count down the distance to waypoint (Stanley). Yesterday we were 350 miles, this morning we're under 200.

Somehow, I'm thinking different thoughts. I like it out here. I won't get to see the Southern Ocean again for a while and it's been great to be allowed passage so far by Neptune. I prefer another week or two at sea. I feel like we're just beginning to get into a good rhythm and in my experience it just gets better, the longer we're offshore.

We've navigated right on the edge between the South Atlantic High Pressure which is relatively stationary and the northern extents of the lows streaming through the Drake to our South. Skip's other boat, the 54 ft Pelagic crossed the Drake and was hove to for 2 days in 40-50 knots of wind. That's what happens when you have to go through the lows. The other advantage of staying with the high is the sunny weather. The wind has been up to about 40 knots but most of the time in the 20s and 30s for the past two days. We just made what I hope is our last tack for final approach from 150nm out. If the forecast continues to be as reliable as it has been, this should give us a nice close reach into Port Stanley by around 1pm UTC tomorrow (Wednesday, about 8am EST).

The birds were spectacular today. We had again about 50-100 birds following us. Many Black-Browed Albatross, Wandering Albatross, Sooty Albatross, Giant Southern Petrels and lots of smaller Cape Petrels. All day they would soar right up to the side of the boat to check us out and say hello. They would fly along sometimes within 6 feet of the boat. But the boat was going to slow so they'd have to soar away to keep above their stall speed and then they would circle back to have another look. When we hoisted to full main and jib, the birds started playing in the pressure wave just in front of the boat, often just flying in front of us like guides, telling us which way to go very much like dolphins who play in the pressure wave of the bow. We did see a few of them land on the water, contrary to popular belief that they never do so. I even captured a movie of one landing on the water.

We also have had a number of visits from Cape Porpoises, which are small dolphins that are very playful and curious. Still waiting to see the whales, but it may just not be the right time or the krill may be in another part of the Southern Ocean at this moment.

We're now just about to have dinner as the sun sets on presumably, our last night at sea. Amy and I are on watch until just after sunset, but everyone is up and enjoying the camaraderie and the smoother seas.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 2 on our Southern Ocean Crossing

By Larry, Sun Nov 3

We've now been at sea about 50 hours and have only45% or 350nm left to go on the Great Circle route. The seas have been moderate and we've been able to power into them without too much pounding. We have only the 2nd reef in on the mainsail and but we are not using the staysail since it would mean sailing further angles from the wind. With the motor in 20 knots of breeze, we are able to sail 35 degrees from the wind at about 7.8 knots or about 5.5 knots Velocity Made Good on Course (VMC). The forecast is for the wind to increase to about 35-40 knots from the West, so making good time prior to the arrival of the front will pay off in less miles sailed when we have to start tacking back and forth to get to Stanley.

The waves and wind are picking up a bit now (white caps every where) and spray being blown onto the doghouse where we sit comfortably bouncing up and down. Its fantastic to see about 50-100 Albatross, Petrels and Terns following us and swooping low to see if we have any food that churns up in our wake. Earlier we sat outside in the cold just to watch them soar so effortlessly. I think I saw the Albatross flap its wings 3 times yesterday when I watched for an hour, but the wind was under 10 knots. Now they don't flap at all, just glide up over the wave tops, catch some up drafts of air currents near the crest of the wave, pop up about 30 ft and then use that potential energy to accelerate further away until they come back down to the water and use the water as a ground effect to get better lift, soaring through the trough to catch the next up draft. They do this for hours and days and weeks at a time! Such a contrast to sailing to Bermuda and having one very tired bird landing on our boat 200 miles out and hitching a ride home to Bermuda. There just aren't these kind of birds out in the open ocean in the North Atlantic.

The forecast says the front and more wind and waves will come to us from the Drake Passage mid afternoon and then the wind will go from West to WNW. We'll be changing our course to stay about 35 degrees from the wind and then eventually tack back towards the SW. We tack on about 75 degrees with the motor on and about 120 degrees with the motor off. As the wind and sea state come up for the next few days we will be doing much sailing at the wider angles and sail a lot more distance. So despite the fact that we've come more than halfway in 2days, we still have at least three days to go.

Everyone is feeling good onboard and enjoying our watches, talking, reading, reviewing our picture collections. It's a nice time for contemplation as we sail slowly home. It will be 10 days to get all the way home from South Georgia. In this day and age, that's pretty a remote.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day One back at Sea

By Larry, Sat Nov 2

We left Prion Island and Rosita Harbor yesterday morning and are now 24 hours into our sail back home. We sailed (and motor-sailed) along the rest of the North East coast but it got quite foggy and we couldn't more than a few boat lengths. We decided to go through the small cut at Bird Island. The waves were breaking white in the middle of the channel and we nearly backed out, but since Magnus had marked his track on the way through in calmer weather, we just stuck to that trail on the chart. Here in the south, the land and other features are never exactly placed on the chart. They are always a bit off as are the depths. So in a low visibility area, we have to be doubly careful running radar and charts to see the errors. But when it comes to close quarters there is no substitute for having been there in calm water and taken your own soundings for future reference. As we went through this narrows were able to see the land on both sides, but just barely. The sea state was worse than out side because there was a current charging through the narrows in the opposite way to the waves, making the waves steep and breaking. We made it through, saw a few more albatross soaring around the narrows and off we sailed, next stop Port Stanley in about 5 days.

The weather on our first day back at sea was 15-20 knots of wind nearly dead ahead, so I did a routing optimization based on our forecast and the boat speed for any point of sail and windspeed. It suggested we head a bit north of the straight-line distance. In fact in a sail of 750nm, the straight line distance is a misnomer, since it is really a great circle of the earth (defined by three points: the start, finish and the center of the earth's sphere). Where this plane defined by the three points cuts the surface of the globe is the great circle route or shortest distance. It appears to be curved to the south here by about 30nm from a straight line drawn on the map.

Luckily for now, the seas are down to only about 6-12 feet so we sail close to the wind or straight into it with our motor on for now. As soon as the wind comes back to about 70 degrees from the course we hope to achieve, then we can sail and turn off the motor. The forecast shows we are going to get 35-40 knots later in the trip and it will be blowing "straight from the pub door" to make a harder to get there. So for now we'll go straight along the great circle route until the wind is stronger.

We're each taking a 4 hour watch twice a day. We can really notice that the day has gotten about a hour longer since we sailed out. As we settle into our lives at sea, we see some penguins swimming and some fur seals sleeping with one fin up in the air and then when they hear us, they start flippering up and down over the surface like dolphins. The sun just came out and we're sailing in glorious conditions now.

Its time to get the next forecast file to see if there is anything to change in our routing. My job is to make sure we are in Stanley before Sat morning, Nov 9 since the planes only leave the Falklands once a week on Saturday afternoon.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Wandering Albatross Nesting on Prion Island

By Larry, Thurs Oct 31

Our last full day on South Georgia! It was another beautiful day of high pressure and we motored 4 hours against the wind with a magnificent view of the mountains and bays that we had seen or skied on the way south. We got some excellent pictures of the Fortuna Glacier and the Breakwind Ridge that we skied down and then Possession Bay and our exit off the Murray Snowfield. Our goal was the island called Prion which is one of the few known albatross nesting places. The big Wandering Albatross and many of its cousins like the Light Mantled Sooty Albatross come here to mate and fledge their young. They know Wanderers can live to more than 55 years old and start breeding when they are about 11 years old. They pair for life and take turns feeding their young. We were here at the end of the brooding period of about 11 months and the young Wanderers were everywhere on this small island. Their nests were spaced about every 50 to 100 feet near the top of the hill. They would turn into the 25 knot wind and spread their wings as if to fly, but they are not yet ready to fly – they are too heavy and have too much of the downy warm feathers on their bodies and leading edges of their wings. To unfold or refold their wings seems to take quite a long time and seems quite complicated. They are so long that they have to be careful not to get feathers stuck out of place. When they stretch their wings at about 9-12 feet its just amazing to see. Then swooping in, comes an adult Wanderer show us (and the fledglings) how its done. Just soaring on the wind currents, turning left, then right, then taking an updraft and diving down again, all without flapping its wings even once!

It's said that to feed the young albatross, the mother or father flies up to 5,000 miles and is gone for a couple weeks at a time. The books we have on board say that they have measured the energy expenditure of a Wanderer flying at sea and they are such efficient flyers that its no more energy to fly than to walk around on the grass at home. Luckily, the amount of albatross caught up in long-lining has drastically decreased in South Georgia and the rest of the Antarctic, but the mitigation measures need to be enacted and enforced in other fisheries further north in South America, Africa and India.

We motored into a nice harbor a few miles away in the shadow of the glaciers and had a nice last dinner on South Georgia in calm waters.

The weather forecast is for headwinds much of the time so we are planning to leave in the morning to catch a relatively calm period before the gales. The flights from Stanley are only once per week, so we don't want to miss them due to bad weather on the sea.