The Aftermath of the Dawnbreaker Farewell Celebrations
Position: 54° 44.040S 069° 58.889W
Isla Pirincho, Seno Garibaldi
Date: 29 February 2012
Happy Leap Year Day!
On our final day in Seno Pia, we took Mina2 into the western arm and up to the end of the fjord where one is surrounded by a fantastic amphitheatre of three glaciers. Although still Weezle cold, the visibility was rather better than the first time we were here, the steep mountains of the fjord soaring into stark contrast with the clearing sky as condors glided overhead. Melt water from the surrounding glaciers tumbled down deep gorges into the fjord all around. After taking in the breathtaking views for a while we turned our bow south. It was very beautiful and tranquil as we sailed out of the fjord for the seven mile crossing over the Channel to Seno Tres Brazos and into Caleta Cinco Estrellas for our rendezvous with Dawnbreaker. They were already there when we arrived at 1815, with fenders out ready for us to raft up to them, and the G&T’s already poured, to which we symbolically contributed some of our remaining gin-clear Antarctic ice. We both roasted lamb in our respective ovens and then brought them together for The Last Supper which took place in the capacious saloon on Dawnbreaker.
Caleta Cinco Estrellas – 5-Star Bay – has no dramatic glaciers but it is surrounded by beautiful hills, lakes and waterfalls – 5-Star hiking country – so the following morning, to clear the cobwebs from the excesses of the evening before, we all went ashore for a mega-hike. We climbed forever upwards getting better and better views of the two boats nestled into the little pool way below us on one side, and beautiful lakes with steep waterfalls plunging into them on the other side. At the summit, symbolic photos were taken of the two Skippers, Lars and Tim, shaking hands in mutual congratulation at having conquered their own personal Everests over the previous few months.
Andrew spotted a couple of much higher peaks far away and set off like a hare out of the trap for some more demanding hiking, whilst Lars with his friends Uno and Viola headed down towards the lake, high above and behind the anchorage, where we later saw photographic evidence that Lars stripped off for a plunge under the ice-cold waterfall. These Scandinavians are bonkers (but, in fairness, Andrew also went for a dip in the lake on his way back several hours later).
We both decided to stay one more night here and we had a repeat Farewell Last Supper, this time on Mina2 with the Specialité du Bateau, the skipper’s famous Chili Con Carne.
Yesterday morning, there were deeply emotional scenes as the skippers and crews of the two boats embraced in final farewell as our respective vessels headed off in different directions – Dawnbreaker going west and Mina2 east.
We only had a short hop back over the channel to Seno Garibaldi, the first fjord on this cruise that we hadn’t visited on our earlier cruise, so breaking new ground at last. Garibaldi is an 8-mile long fjord; very steep-sided it is reminiscent of the deep fjords on the west coast of Norway where I cruised on Mina2 in 2004. At its head is another spectacular glacier that has a reputation for calving heavily in the summer, enormous slabs of ice the size of a skyscraper plummeting off the front of the glacier with a thunderous roar, setting off a tsunami of ice.
As we were approaching the snout of the glacier we heard odd noises on one side of the fjord. We went to investigate and found, sitting on a platform of rocks a large colony of Southern Sealions with lots of young pups, all bickering and fighting. Amongst them strutted a number of Turkey vultures with their bright red heads, looking for the remains of any young pup that hadn’t made it.
The mountains here plummet almost vertically into the water and we were able to get within a few feet of the colony. The Sealions didn’t seem to notice us at all as we stood in the bow taking photographs. Observing wildlife this close is one of the privileges that cruising in this area brings. Seeing these creatures in their natural environment is just so exciting. Before we left the side of the fjord I demonstrated how steep-to the mountain walls were by getting so close that, from the bow, the Downstairs Skipper and Andrew were able to touch the towering cliff.
We continued to the snout of the glacier – having to negotiate only a little ice on this occasion – turned the engine off just a hundred metres from the towering ice cliffs and floated around for the best part of an hour waiting for some dramatic calving action. Apart from a couple of pathetically small falls there was nothing, which was a bit of a disappointment. But the weather was brilliant – the best day we have had weather-wise for almost three months - with almost continuous sunshine, the vast white glaciers standing out in brilliant contrast to the deep blue skies. We back-tracked a couple of miles down the fjord to a small island behind which we slung the anchor and took a long line ashore to tie to a tree for the night. As we have experienced in a couple of other anchorages, the dinghy with Andrew in it taking the line ashore was buzzed by a couple of inquisitive Peale’s dolphins. It’s a bit disconcerting being in a dinghy with dolphins throwing themselves out of the water and landing with an enormous splash just a feet away from you.
As we were enjoying our anchor nip, we saw another yacht a couple of miles away making its way up the fjord. Binoculars out: white hull, ketch, big doghouse. It must be “Victoria” a New Zealand yacht with Jim and Karin on board (there are so few yachts here that one knows pretty much all of them, and can identify them even from a distance). They anchored nearby, also with a line ashore to the island and, after a chat with them, we settled down for the evening.
The DS and Andrew had been sorting out a large locker with cans of food in and had come across a couple of tins of Hot Dogs that I had bought in the Falklands. Looking at the label I noticed that the ingredients were: Chicken (Mechanically Recovered) 72%. The next biggest component was water, followed by a long list of chemicals. I decided these were definitely not fit for the consumption of humans with any discernment, but I hoped that they may be attractive to Centollas, the delicious king crabs that scour the bottoms of the fjords, so I put a few pieces into my expandable lobster pot together with the remains of a tin of sardines to see if we could catch a large Centolla for tomorrow’s dinner.
This morning, Jim and Karin weighed Victoria’s anchor to head off to the glacier when we were all surprised to see a large cruise ship appearing from behind the island. It was the French “Boreal”, one of the smarter cruise ships that ply this region with a couple of hundred passengers. I last saw her down in Antarctica. Being on deck reminded me to have a look at my lobster pot. I hauled it up to find a rather small and unattractive looking fish together with a very small crab – certainly not of the proportions I was expecting. Life is full of disappointments.