Elinca’s crew had a relaxing day in Puerto Williams on December 31st. Five of us went for walk into the mountains of Isla Navarino. We’d been told by a RIB driver on one of the Antarctic cruise ships that it was one of his favourite walks. There’s a circuit that takes four days, starting and ending in Puerto Williams but as we didn’t have time for that we went for a walk up a valley that runs parallel to the first stage of the circuit. All of the paths are regularly marked with paint and so navigation is quite easy, but the path required us to balance along fallen tree trunks to get us over boggy sections. Being at sea on the moving boat appears to have been good practice for my balance as I felt more confident than usual walking along slippery tree trunks. We stopped for lunch at a lake (thanks to Juliet and Ali for making the pasta salad before we left) and then continued to a high point where we could admire the impressively steep snow-covered mountains in the centre of the island (I’ll try and upload a photo later). Unfortunately we didn’t have time to climb to the top of the first peak and head back to Puerto Williams on a different path and so we had to retrace our steps through the trees. If I’m in Tierra del Fuego again then I’d definitely be interested in taking a tent and completing the full four day walk.
When we got back to Elinca everyone was preparing for a New Years Eve party. Clare and James were making haggis and tatties (we’d bought tinned haggis from Scotland with us) and Tim was making a selection of drinks. Andy K and Zoe had been working hard on the laptop all day so that we could watch the premiere of the leg 4 video (it’ll be online as soon as we can upload it, which may be from the UK and so you’ll have to wait a week to see it). We were joined by the American couple from Micalvi, Tom Bastable and his girlfriend, and Thomas the mate from Pelagic Australis. It was very cosy with this number of people in Elinca’s saloon and so we had to have two sittings. There was a slight panic when I turned the generator off and the oven wouldn’t turn on again, but fortunately it fixed itself – sorry about that panic!
After dinner we joined the crews of the other boats in main saloon of the yacht club. There was a great mix of Chileans, British, French, American, Australian, Finnish, Swiss and German people and so at midnight the arrival of 2014 was celebrated in many different languages and traditions. I enjoyed the fresh grapes that the Chileans use to celebrate. After several hours of dancing we all went to bed very tired and had a lie-in on the morning of the January 1st.
Unfortunately strong winds were forecast on Wednesday afternoon and so had to leave Puerto Williams at 14:30 in case the winds meant that the port shut, trapping us there for several days. The wind was already blowing 25 knots from the west and so we motor sailed the thirty miles back to Ushuaia with two reefs in the main sail. We tried tacking to windward for a little while but the current meant that we made little progress westwards and so we dropped the staysail and furled away the jib and motor-sailed back to Ushuaia. Despite the Beagle Channel being quite sheltered it was really funnelling the wind through it and building up some short steep waves that tested peoples’ stomachs just as much as the Drake Passage. We got into Club Nautico AFASyN at 21:00 and rafted up alongside an Australian ketch.
As soon as we were tied up the entire crew walked through town to the Prefectura (Argentinian Coast Guard) to register our arrival back into Argentina. We finally made it to a pizza restaurant at midnight and enjoyed a selection of pizzas between us.
This morning James and Clare are off completing the paperwork at the Aduana (Customs) and the rest of us are getting on with other jobs. A few people are planning to head up the glacier later. Those of us remaining on the boat or in Argentina are off to the launderette too to get our socks and thermals clean again for the return to Antarctica or for some time off, walking in Patagonia.
The current crew get off over the next few days and the next crew arrive at midday on January 5th and so there may not be daily blog entries while we’re in Ushuaia. It’s going to be a busy time with food for the next Antarctic leg to buy, 1200 litres of fuel to take onboard and ongoing maintenance to complete. Seven of the crew have been on Elinca since leaving Falmouth on September 24th and so it’s going to be sad leaving the good friends that we’ve made on Elinca. However, there are also lots of fresh faces joining us and so exciting times too.