At Last – The Celebrations

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Wed 25 Jan 2012 05:26

Position: 54:56.106S 067:37.164W, Tied Alongside The Micalvi, Puerto Williams

Date: 24 January


I last left you as we were crossing the 35 mile wide Bahia Nassau on our 78 mile passage back to Puerto Williams, being escorted by a large school of acrobatic Peale’s dolphins. The sea was very confused all the way over the bay with conflicting waves coming from every conceivable angle. Had we not been hardened to being chucked around it would have been distinctly uncomfortable. No wonder it is known as Bahia Nausea.


Having headed north across the bay we started the slow turn west into the Beagle Channel. The Chileans, under whose bureaucratic control we were passing through these waters, are nanny-like in their interest in your progress. There are manned naval stations about every 20 miles and if you don’t report into them by radio, they call you. As we were passing Puerto Toro (the southernmost village in the world) we were called up on the radio. We were told that a yacht was entering that had been trying to make their way to Puerto Williams, but the conditions were so appalling that they had to turn back. Did we want to stop off in Puerto Toro like them or were we to persist in our madness and try to continue west? We saw the yacht that had been repelled by the appalling conditions. It was a stout steel motor-sailor, built like a tank. If it was too much for them, it would be unpleasant for us at the least, whatever we had recently come through. OK, we said, we’ll come in to Puerto Toro. Which we did, and tied up alongside the quay.


Puerto Toro is a king crab fishing village. In the season (not now) it is crowded with fishing boats. Now, it was deserted. Walking up the hill to the few houses we met a young girl. She explained that the population of the village was normally 27 but most people were away travelling just now and there were only two families there at present, one of which was the man from the naval station who had pleaded with us to come in. The whole place felt rather spooky and as we could see that the dark cloud from the west had dispersed, we decided to try our luck and push on to Puerto Williams, our destination.


In the event, after sailing through a bit of vigorous wind, we had one of the best sails we had had since the expedition had begun. And there was a strong incentive for us to get back to Puerto Williams. In the tiny port is a grounded ex-munitions ship called the Micalvi, against which yachts tie up. The Micalvi is legendary for being the southernmost yacht club in the world. It is where the few yachts that venture over to Antarctica congregate – and to where they all return, to celebrate their achievement in the Micalvi bar drinking reputedly the most lethal pisco sours in the world.


So yesterday evening we celebrated. And how. They say that one pisco sours is enough, two are too many, and three are not enough. Oh dear. By the time we were thrown out, I’m afraid to report that one of our company had to be carried out, singing, lifted onto the boat and put to bed. Whilst letting the side down rather, what goes on the boat stays on the boat, so I certainly won’t be mentioning her name on this blog.


Today was tidying up day, with hangovers like none of us could remember. We are due in Ushuaia in two days time for the triumphal arrival to be greeted by the Downstairs Skipper amongst others. Everything on the boat was sodden with now thawed condensation. And for a week or more there had been the pervasive stench of diesel on board and an unhealthy quantity of it in the bilge, source unknown.


Richard had a bad start. He was stumbling around, bleary eyed. “I say” he said “those pisco sours were jolly strong – I can barely focus”. It later transpired that he had forgotten the night before in his euphoria to take out his contact lenses. This morning he had popped in another pair of contact lenses on top.


Mattresses were thrown on deck for drying out. All the lockers were emptied, scrubbed clean, dried and re-stowed. Venetia, our Quartermaster, made out a list of all stores and where they were stowed, for the handover to the DS. We found the source of the diesel leak and remedied it (we hope). I tried to fix a bilge pump that had broken, without success.


Hopefully the enormous amount of hard work put in by the crew today will enable us all to explore this beautiful part of Tierra del Fuego tomorrow. Unless, of course, we make the mistake of visiting the bar of the Micalvi, alongside which we are tied, for the second night in a row.