Return to Stanley
The return leg to the Falklands was not something we were looking forward to; 800 nautical miles as the albatross flies (if it flew in a straight line, the proverbial crow having been blown way off course), to windward against predominantly strong westerlies is no yachtie's cup of tea. Our lack of enthusiasm turned to dread when I trapped a nerve in my back as we sailed out of Blue Whale Harbour.
I was at the helm and Franco was reefing the main. A slightly stronger gust pulled the rudder just a little bit harder and I felt something slip in the middle of my back. Severe pain lanced through from the pelvis to the shoulder blades and my muscles contracted hard. I could still steer, lying rigid and facing backwards! Franco quickly finished his work and relieved me at the tiller.
Once safely in Rosita Harbour we discussed our options: a) return to Grytviken in the hope that I could get on a cruise ship to Stanley (unlikely) or Ushuaia, leaving Franco to sail back alone across one of the most challenging seas in the world or b) wait for the pain to go away.
My only option was to sail back with Franco on Caramor. Franco is extremely competent but I couldn't stand the thought of him sailing this stretch alone. Furthermore, in the contingency plan we submitted in support of our South Georgia permit application, we had emphasised our self-sufficiency and this was important to me.
I was in pain and couldn't lift my right leg, nor could I reach my feet to put socks on. "Let's wait until I can put socks on by myself" I suggested. Three days later, I still couldn't, but the forecast was the best we could hope for, so we left anyway.
Disappointingly I was even less able than I had hoped. We knew I wouldn't be able to work on deck but I couldn't even cook. Our strong painkillers for emergencies worked well but unfortunately had several unpleasant side effects, including nausea and drowsiness, a new meaning of the word for me as I could barely keep my eyes open.
Franco managed it all, the reefing, the sail changes, the navigation, the cooking and looking after me.
I have little memory of the first few days. On the fourth day, the nausea from the pills felt worse than the back ache so I stopped taking them and this time the pain didn't increase. Peace aboard Caramor was shattered by my 'constant chatter' (Franco's words) as I came back to life and generously provided Franco with a blow by blow summary of the modern history of Argentina and the rise and fall of Peronism (riveting stuff, you will agree). I could also manage some cooking.
In spite of eleven days on a roller coaster, my back has been healing steadily and on the final day out I was able to change my socks unaided.
As we approached the Falkland Islands, the weather gods decided we had earned our right of passage and indulged us in two fine days of southerly breezes.
Peale's dolphins escorted us, from just short of a hundred miles out, nearly all the way to Stanley where they handed the baton over to Comerson's dolphins for the run into harbour.
It took 1,100 nautical miles of sailing to cover the albatross' 800. We dropped anchor outside Maiden Haven at 5am this morning, three hours short of eleven days at sea.