Date: 13 February 2011
Position: 62:40.0S 061:45.5W – within sight of the South
Well, the boisterous conditions which we had signed up
for have at last arrived. As forecast we have been sailing in a northeasterly
gale for the last few hours. The seas are big but, at the moment, not the
Southern Ocean monsters we’ve all read about. We are sailing south east so the
wind is on the beam and we are screaming along at over 10 knots with a small
staysail and three reefs in the main. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!!!
But I can’t tell you how cold it is. Well, actually I can
– it is 1.5º. Add to that a gale of icy wind and the chill factor is phenomenal.
Go out into the cockpit without gloves on and your fingers are completely numb
in minutes in the driving sleet. Quite a contrast to the 30º plus that I was
suffering from in Buenos Aires just five days ago. It sure is a different world
– an Antarctic world.
But it’s worth going out into the cockpit, gloves or no
gloves. The boat has been surrounded by a flock of the prettiest Cape Petrels.
Small black and white birds that wheel and turn close to the boat, hovering
occasionally to paddle their dainty webbed feet in the water before soaring once
again. They only come out, apparently, in stormy conditions (where the hell do
they go when it isn’t stormy?)
I signed off my last blog saying that I was going to have
a kip before the action started. No sooner had I closed the laptop lid when
Laura bounces in and says “I hear you’re cooking dinner tonight. What are we
having?” I’d completely forgotten. Hey, ho – who needs sleep anyway?
By good fortune we were cooking roast chicken – a bit of
a speciality of mine. We should have had the chickens the evening before, but
they were found to be still frozen. There were three chickens for 11 hungry
adventurers and I was to serve it with my famous roast potatoes, glazed carrots
cooked in butter and steamed broccoli. An ambitious project, but I was quietly
confident - I have cooked roast chicken with all the trimmings literally
hundreds of times before. As they came out of the oven, it looked a triumph –
all crispy brown. I started carving the breast of the first of the chickens and
said to Laura, “This chicken’s very bony – there’s hardly any meat on the breast
at all”. Laura glanced over and said “That’s because you’ve cooked it upside
down – you’re carving its back”. The other two chickens were the same. How could
that have happened? I was mortified. Laura tried to comfort me by saying it was
easily done – Chilean chickens, she said, being in the southern hemisphere,
grow standing on their heads.
As it happened the breasts, which had been quietly
stewing in their own juices, were as succulent and moist as any I had cooked
before, so no harm done. Indeed I might cook chickens on their backs all the
time from now on.
+++ BREAKING NEWS +++
I’ve just been called up to the pilot house (I’ve been
typing in the snug of the saloon below). Just on the port bow is a rocky island.
Snow Island, our first sighting of the South Shetlands off the tip of the
Antarctic Peninsula. What a moment, after all the years of dreaming, we have
nearly crossed Drake Passage. But it’s not over yet – the gale we’re in is
forecast to last another 12 hours. Sadly Deception Island is probably not an
option – to get there we would have to sail the last 50 miles into the wind -
extremely uncomfortable in these conditions - and the anchorage would be
untenable if the wind continued. The alternatives are another 50 miles away.
Time will tell. I’ll let you know.