Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We set sail! Update from 310 miles east of the Falklands (450nm west of South Georgia)

by Larry Oct 15/16 early morning,

We set sail about 6pm Falkland Islands time. We were concerned that Skip, our expedition leader might not have landed on the RAF flight from the UK due to high winds, but luckily he did. It was blowing less hard outside the islands and as soon as we bore away onto our course direction of 105 degress (ESE) we were almost directly downwind and rolling a bit. Its such a privilege to be in the Southern Ocean again. Its hard to convey the number of birds following us and playing in our wind stream. Petrels, Albatross, terns and other birds. We have a number of bird guides on board and a few people like Mike and Julian who seem to know the birds well. They are all so graceful, almost never flapping their wings. Just soaring along the wave tops and then flipping up 30 feet and swooping back down to almost touch the waves. The waves are about 15-20 ft high. Its now about 34 hours since we cast off and we've made a good 300 nautical miles already. Its pretty cold outside, but Skip's new boat, Pelagic Australis at 74 ft, is quite a bit bigger and heavier than the original Pelagic at 54 ft. (Pelagic is the boat Amy and I and our two boys went to Antarctica on in 2000 along with Skip & Julian).The main new features are auto-pilot, so no one has to steer for hours at a time out in the cold and a pilot house with steering and great visibility all around without having to go out except when one wants to be out in the wind.

We have our mainsail put away on the boom right now and have two of our three headsails out, one on each side of the boat led through long poles for a very stable double headsail rig. Its like a parachute catching all the wind while also riding the waves downhill. This afternoon was sunny and about 30 degrees (water temp is about 40 degrees here and will hit 32 degrees when we cross the convergence zone. Inside the Convergence Zone, the wildlife population grows immensely due I think to the greater amount of krill. THis is where the whales feed as do the smaller fixh and birds and seals. We sat outside by the mast for a couple hours fixing some rigging that had needed repair from UV damage over the years. When it was fixed we came in for tea and biscuits and after lots of continued catching up with each we had supper. Amy and I are on the 6-10 am and pm watch (using GMT), which is really about 3-7 am and pm local time. so one watch is in the aftenoon light as the sun is going down and the other watch is the wee hours of the morning before sunrise. Each of us does 4 hours on and then 8 hours off unless there are sail changes or other things that need more hands. Georgio is on our watch along with either Magnus or Laura and Tom (the boat's professional crew and Skip stagger their watches to keep some continuity between the watches.

The weather forecast shows winds at nearly 40 knots in the next day or two as a low pressure system moves through the Drake Passage (around Cape Horn) and then contineus on its way unimpeded around the bottom of the world. These systems bring more wind and often a change in the direction of the wind for half a day or more while they pass to the south of us. In the southern hemisphere the wind around low pressure systems go closkwise instaed of counter-clockwise as in the northern hemisphere. So the tops of the lows give us stronger westerly winds which is great for the outbound journey but will make it a direct upwind slog coming back from SG.

Its so great to be on our way after all the hard work of everyone in preparing for the expedition, we can relax and enjoy our time at sea and beyond. I easily slip into a routine at sea, feeling very much back home in the Southern Ocean.


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