Date: 02 March 2011
Position: 54:56.10S 067:37.125W Puerto Williams,
We made an early start leaving the beautiful and isolated
anchorage in the Beagle Channel as the rising sun cast a stunning pink glow over
the horizon. This was the final 80-mile leg to Puerto Williams after our epic
cruise, and we all had mixed feelings: joy that we had returned safely after our
return crossing of the Drake Passage, but sadness that this was the wind-down to
our wonderful life-changing adventure together.
However, we had one further treat in store. In Puerto
Williams is the famous Micalvi, the southernmost yacht club in the world. It is
an old munitions ship that has been beached and it is alongside the ship that
yachts tie up. The bar on the Micalvi is the focal point, where crews get
leathered on pisco sours regaling each other with tales of their adventures to
South Georgia, the Falklands, Antarctica or the Beagle Channel. I had read so
much about the Micalvi over the years, and for me the inevitable party in the
bar was to be the memorable conclusion of our fantastic trip. Not.
On our arrival we were told by the pilot that the club
secretary / barman and his family had had to go to Punta Arenas for some medical
check-ups and he had taken the keys with him. The club was closed. The news was
a crushing disappointment and I was gutted.
The shut Micalvi
However the voluminous bilges of Pelagic Australis still hid the last
remaining 75 cases of excellent Argentine and Chilean wine. The party was on. An
added bonus was that Pelagic
Australis’s agent had kindly donated a simply massive octopus for our dinner
to supplement the steaks that we were to barbecue on the aft deck. At 8kg I was
forbidden from lifting the octopus out of the bucket by the string tied round
its head for fear of putting my back out again.
There was one small problem. None of us had ever prepared
and cooked an octopus before. Dave, a strong lad, hoisted the enormous beast out
of the bucket with one hand whilst reading in the other hand the instruction
manual on “What To Do With A Dead Octopus”. Between his teeth was a sharp knife.
“Shouldn’t an octopus have eight legs?” someone asked. “This one seems rather
over-endowed”. It was true. This magnificent beast had a staggering 24 legs. Had
we discovered the first vigintiquattuorpus? It was only when we cut the string
round its head that we discovered we had, in fact, been given three octopi.
Dave with the first ever viginti quattuorpus – and
Dave was going through the manual:
“1. Turn the head inside out and discard all the
We weren’t even sure where the head was, let alone see
any way to turn it inside out until we worked out that they had been delivered
already pre-prepared. So one of them was popped into the pressure cooker to
comply with instruction 2: “To tenderise the octopus, boil for 1 ½ hours”. Shame
we hadn’t read that bit before.
Meanwhile Dave got the barbecue going with the ship’s
multi-purpose blow torch which is used for such diverse tasks ranging from
re-welding broken bits of the boat together to browning the crème brulée on our
evenings of fine dining.
The barbecued steaks were divine and the wine flowed
freely as the deck filled with the crews from the surrounding boats for our
farewell party. A pudding of stewed octopus with lashings of Bird’s custard had
somehow lost its appeal and was quietly forgotten.
The following morning, cradling our heads that were as
tender as the octopus, Niko, Joachim and I packed our bags and bade a tearful
farewell to Miles, Laura and Dave and our other crew-mates for the 40 minute
drive down the stunning coast road of Isla Navarino where we caught the fast
boat ferry over to Ushuaia.
The coast road overlooking the Beagle
We were greeted by Mrs Fixit, Roxanna who had rearranged
our plane bookings back to Buenos Aires. At 1900 I rang the bell of Maria’s
mother’s flat. The Downstairs Skipper opened the door and into her arms fell
what appeared to be a foul-smelling bearded old tramp. The Antarctic adventurer