East Falkland cruising
Bob and Janet arrived early at Maiden Haven marina and helped us cast off our lines. They own a boat which they keep in the marina and run the Falklands Sailing Club. Bob commented that it isn't very often that anyone goes cruising in the Falklands. Still, it was a beautiful calm day and escaping harbour rot seemed like a good idea.
We headed out through the Narrows and tacked out of Port William before passing Pembroke lighthouse and changing course to follow the coast south-west. Every now and then there was a splash and a quack as a penguin leapt clear out of the water. In places the water looked flatter, as if the waves had been ironed out. We soon realised it was kelp, sometimes growing over 20 metres from the bottom of the sea. It is best to avoid sailing through kelp as it can hide submerged rocks but it also provides calmer water if one can get behind it.
We sailed into Port Pleasant and anchored off the Fitzroy settlement jetty. It was gone 7pm so we didn't go ashore but we waved at the man who peered at us through binoculars. He didn't wave back. The farm here is 47,925 hectares. For comparison, a substantial hill farm in Wales is 500ha and a large estancia in Uruguay is 6,000ha. We ponder how a unit so large can be managed effectively.
The ‘settlement' and jetty in Fitzroy Creek, Port Pleasant
We did receive one unexpected guest …
We don't know what species he is. Falklands stamp issue prize for anyone who correctly identifies him.
Early the next morning we winched up the anchor. A large tangle of kelp came up with it. Time to use the machete we bought in Brazil. It cut beautifully but we were sorry we didn't buy the longer one. The wind had gone south-easterly so we were close-hauled retracing our steps out of Port Pleasant but we were pleased we didn't need to tack as there wasn't much room between the rocks.
The wind picked up to force 5 and pushed us south west to the entrance of Choiseul Sound. The sky was overcast for most of the day and the air bitterly cold.
The landscape reminds us of the lower lying islands in the Outer Hebrides. The land to the south is called Lafonia. It is still part of East Falkland but only connected by a narrow isthmus near a settlement called Goose Green.
We passed Pyramid Point and anchored in Seal Cove. Through the binoculars we could see seal like shapes on a distant beach. The landscape here is very low lying and bleak. On the chart, round the next headland is an island called Bleaker Island! We'll give it a miss.
Day 3 and we are going kayaking, we hope to see some penguins. Franco sticks his head out and pulls a face, it is drizzling. I dig out the dry suits that we packed so carefully a year and a half ago and to my dismay, the rubber neck seal on my suit is perished, it has turned into black sticky goo. Meanwhile Franco is trying to get a forecast through the satellite phone but it is playing up again (we thought we had solved the problem). Eventually we are nearly ready and it is 11am but still no sign of Franco's pogies (a sort of glove that fits onto the paddle shaft). I suggest we give up on going paddling and that I spend the afternoon making a replacement pair but the sun comes out and we get going at last.
We paddle over to the shore but the seal shapes turn out to be rocks and there is no wildlife whatsoever. As we paddle out of the cove, through thick kelp, things start to liven up as a skua, frustrated (or hungry) at constantly missing rock shags as they disappear underwater, decides to claim Franco's head as a consolation prize! Luckily he misses.
Kath in the kelp
Playful Peale’s dolphins
Once clear of the kelp, we come across a small pod of Peale's dolphins swimming in the shallows. They approach and play under the kayaks, fearless. We are enthralled. It isn't so much 'paddling with dolphins' as 'dolphins swimming with kayaks'. As we paddle off, two of them surf my bow wave.
A little further on a colony of South American terns shares a beach with kelp gulls while Magellanic oystercatchers (smart black and white birds) and blackish oystercatchers (black) scurry around the foreshore. There are plenty of Mr and Mrs Falkland flightless steamer ducks wallowing in the kelp, always seen as a couple and dolphin gulls flying overhead.
We stop for a late lunch on a white sand beach. What I had taken, from a distance, to be short grazed grass turns out to be barren soil. Out of the wind, the sun is warm.
As we continue our trip we hear a roar, sea lions? We follow the noise out to a rocky skerry. A couple of large males are sunning themselves with their harems. I always wondered how sea lions got their name, the females are playful and easily trained to do tricks in aquatic parks. The males are 100% testosterone and when silhouetted on a rock in full display, look and sound just like a lion.
I noticed Franco moving off fairly quickly. When I caught up with him he explained that the young male swimming nearby had come up just behind his kayak and nudged his kayak fairly hard. Time to go. "I can take a hint" said Franco.
We got back to the boat just after 5pm and made the most of the glorious evening to dry all our kit. Maybe Seal Cove isn't quite as bleak as we thought after all. A wonderful day.