logo Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Date: 13 Feb 2011 14:15:00
Title: A Gale at Last - and a Culinary Cock-Up


Date: 13 February 2011

Position: 62:40.0S 061:45.5W – within sight of the South Shetlands


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.




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.

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