Leg 5 officially starts today. Antarctica via Puerto Williams and Cape Horn Islands. The new crew are all onboard with the exception of Lara who we are expecting any time now (there are delays on the Argentine airlines). The crew are Skipper: James Boyce, Mate: Clare Thorpe, Watch leaders: Jim Clarke, Andy Kitching, Jon Seddon and Lara Caine and able crew, Zoe Aukland, Ali Lennox, Juliet Burke, Carl Tilling, Tim Acland, Ian Ridgway, Lynda Groocock and Andy Royse. So we are heavy on the boys this trip with just five ladies to soften the dinner time conversations.
We have loaded up with 25 days worth of food and plan to set off early tomorrow morning after clearing customs and prefectura. Our first stop with be Puerto Williams in Chile where we plan to stay a few days to wait for the right weather to cross the Drake Passage. This stretch of water is notoriously rough although it can also be flat as a pancake ‘the Drake lake’. We are hoping for something in-between with enough wind to sail Elinca and preserve our precious diesel for heating, cooking and motoring in and out of the ice strewn anchorages. The weather is looking good to leave Puerto Williams on Thursday. Having checked into Chile we can then sail down past the Cape Horn Islands. There weather will probably be a little too rough to land but we have our fingers crossed and if we can we will put the boat ashore and let the crew set foot on the famous island. With luck we will then be in Antarctica at the beginning of next week. Of the crew onboard, only me (Clare) and Jon have visited the white continent before and so there is an air of excitement and a little nervousness. Elinca will be taking a similar route to the one that Anna-Margaretha took when I sailed her in 2009/10 as well as exploring some new coves and different penguin colonies. We have been gathering advice from the other boats moored along the pontoon. There is a lot of ice this year and it is quite far north making some of the places we want to stop impossible. Today even Port Lockroy (the British Post Office) is all iced up and the bay that we would anchor in isn’t accessible. This situation can change any day so we’ve got our fingers crossed for the wind to change and blow all the ice away. Down in the south the wind can be your friend, blowing ice out of your way and clearing you a path, or you enemy, blowing ice into the bays you want to us or even blocking you in at night. Elinca carries two big sticks (affectionately named Neptunes Butt Scratcher and Elinca’s Hooker) and they are going to be used for pushing icebergs away from the rudder when at anchor so that bergs don’t damage the steering.
A lot of people keep asking me if this is the start of the real challenge. I have to say no, not really. It’s just a different sort of challenge. Each leg of the trip throws up something different. On this trip i’m particularly worried about finding a good safe place to stop to have Christmas dinner and about getting everybody to a pub in time for New Year.