Elinca is currently in position 54 55′ S 67 31’W. The wind is west south-west force 3 and we’re making around 4.5 knots. We’ve got 3 reefs in the main and the full jib and are gently gybing between the islands in the Beagle Channel. Our route out is prescribed by the Chilean authorities and so we must pass between Isla Navarino and Isla Picton, then between Isla Lennox and Isla Nueva and then finally between Isla Herschel and Isla Deceit, although we’re allowed to vary our route if there’s bad weather. We’ve got around 80 nautical miles to go to Cape Horn. The weather in the Drake Passage is westerly 25 knots and so we’ll have a good fast beam reach over to Antarctica.
We’ve left for Antarctica! We were hoping to leave Puerto Williams on Thursday afternoon but there were strong winds in the Beagle Channel and so the port was shut and we weren’t allowed to leave and had to remain on our mooring buoy for another evening. Overnight the winds calmed and so Clare and James were at the Port Captain’s office when it opened at 10 o’clock this morning to collect our permission to leave and our passports. Meanwhile the rest of us brought in the shore lines and got the boat ready to go.
I really enjoyed our stay in Puerto Williams. It’s a small town of around 1000 people and a small but busy Chilean Navy base. We stayed at the Micali yacht club in the eastern corner of the bay. There’s a 50 m old cargo ship that’s been sunk and a lounge and showers built onto the upper decks. Yachts tie directly to either side of the ship and there’s a wooden walk way to allow you to get ashore. There wasn’t enough room for us to come alongside the ship and so we stayed on a buoy in the bay and used the tenders to get ashore. There are a few local yachts at Micali but the rest are all staying there while clearing Chilean customs and immigration on their way to Antarctica. There’s a great friendly atmosphere in the club and the Chileans were teaching us tango and salsa dancing in the evenings.
Puerto Williams is on Isla Navarino and is surrounded by 500 m high mountains. All the new crew members got up at 7 o’clock yesterday morning to walk up one of them but everyone who’s been on since Europe opted for a lie-in instead. Sailing 8000 miles has been quite tiring. Everyone’s really enthusiastic this morning and very excited (and a little nervous) about Antarctica. This is the biggest crew change we’ve had since leaving Falmouth and it’s great seeing how all the experienced crew members are helping the new ones.
It could be a little lumpy in the Drake Passage but we’ll make a quick crossing with the forecast winds and so very excitingly we should be in the South Shetland Islands in four or five days time!
PS Tim sends his regards to his parents and to Ion and Sue. Hello too, to Ruth, Guy, Eric and Owen, plus the rest of the Southampton lot.