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Falklands report 3 Wed 30th March to Sat 2nd April

Wednesday 30th March 2011

Getting very frustrated by the weather ... departure delayed yet again - due to strong winds, forecast to give big seas over Thursday and into early Friday. So now hoping to leave late Friday , maybe Saturday.... a good week later, so far, than expected.

Winds blew up this afternoon - much stronger than expected - to 35kt, not the20kt or less that the gribs forecast earlier.... but a local radio forecast had predicted gale force winds.... When winds turn E of N, we bounce around a lot in the chop because of the shallow water hereabouts and the long 'fetch' across the water to where our bows face north on the east side of the FIPASS dock. If winds get up over 40 kt, boats normally leave the dock and go over to anchor on the opposite side of the harbour...

'Australis' left on Monday for S. Georgia with a BBC TV film crew, including divers, on board, hoping to complete filming of the wildlife there that they started nearly three months ago. I'd hoped to leave at the same time - but not being built like a tank for Antarctic conditions, as they are, I stayed .... and was glad I did when the forecast strong winds duly came through, gusting up to 40kt over Tuesday!

People around me here are being very helpful. Ben, from the Swiss boat 'Dira', presently waiting for the local aluminium welder to patch the boat after they were driven onto rocks on Islas de los Estados recently, volunteered to look at my Sigmar 120 heater which was clearly blocked somewhere. It turned out the carburettor was clogged with dirt particles and a white emulsion of water and diesel .. It was very useful for me to see the inside and get to know it - I shan't be worried when I have to deal with it in future! As it was, after he'd spent a time cleaning it and getting fuel flowing nicely to the burner, I found a pipe connection was leaking the next day - but had no difficulty fixing that small problem!

Chris, from 'Pelagic', had commented that my radar scanner was leaning a bit drunkenly and found a couple of screws on the support were loose - soon tightened. He also had a look at my VHF radio which was misbehaving - I couldn't hear the local Fisheries people talking to me on their high-power transmitter. He found a very loose connection in the coax aerial lead, which also had a crimped connector, rather than the soldered connector that should have been used. After he'd kindly gone & bought the right kind of connector in town, and then soldered the lead correctly, the radio was tested and found to be working perfectly - meaning I'll have a far better chance of connecting to ships getting close to us than recently.

Jerome, of 'Golden Fleece', heard that I'd lost my invaluable LED headlamp when I fell off a pontoon in the Canache one dark and very windy night last week and brought me over one of his as a replacement - I use it when sail-handling at night and had searched the town shops for one to no avail. He's become a British citizen and has an amazing place on Beaver Island, off W. Falkland, ... he lives on venison, geese, beef, lamb, fish, etc, .... all found or kept by him on the island, where he has a dock for his boats & lives with his sons and occasional friends who visit him over the winter there. (In the summer months, he, like Skip & Chris on 'Pelagic' and Ben and Skye on 'Australis', takes people to S.Georgia and the Antarctic on 'Golden Fleece'. It's been fascinating for me, both here and in Ushuaia, to see how sturdily these Antarctic charter boats are built, and how they are equipped and organized, and a privilege to have been able to chat to a few of these highly-professional, safety-conscious skippers and their crew, operating in very difficult waters, often in extreme weather conditions.)

Chris and Pete (of 'Kiwi Roa') were both unhappy with my washboard, saying that while it wouldn't crack, being Lexan, it could conceivably 'pop out' at the sides if we were 'pooped' by a big wave in bad weather, with a lot of water hitting it hard from astern and making it flex a lot. After discussing the options with them, I found a thick piece of wood to go across behind the Lexan as a support. Pete has cut and drilled both plastic and wood and I went on a tour of town shops today to buy the bolts, washers and nyloc nuts needed to fix it in place.... tomorrow's job! I also bought a tube of sealant to fill the slight gaps at the sides and base of the washboard ready for my next passage.... I'm bound to have quite a lot of rough weather going to Cape Town from here....

Going to and from town has usually involved hitching a lift from the occasional friendly local passing by in their four-wheel drive - I'd been advised to try it originally by Alan, the Customs official who cleared me in! They've often gone out of their way to make sure I got to where I was trying to get to. The Canache, where I moved to for a time last week and where 'Kiwi Roa', 'Damien II' and 'Dira' are berthed, is a long walk out of town and the commercial FIPASS dock, where I'm berthed now beside 'Pelagic' and astern of 'Golden Fleece', is a bit closer in but still a good distance away. Many people grow fruit and vegetables and keep chickens for eggs - not much fresh veg in the shops and invariably expensive, and eggs are often in short supply in winter - weather is often cold and windy here and it's a long way from Chile or the UK for produce to be brought in.

I was given a long length of rope this morning by guys working in the local fishery agents' warehouse nearby to use with my Delta drogue - another point of discussion with Chris and Pete - it was felt it could be useful for slowing the boat down in less extreme conditions (i.e. not breaking waves) not needing the series drogue to be deployed, and it should be easier to retrieve. I have to organize a bridle tomorrow and fix it in place, with a bag to take the flaked rope. Chris says he never uses a drogue but prefers to keep on sailing, occasionally heaving to - but he's in a far bigger, heavier boat, with two or more crew.

I'll post this update - and download the latest weather files to see what they're showing.....

Thursday31st March

British Antarctic Survey ship 'Ernest Shackleton' unloads at FIPASS dock, close to where 'Nereida' is berthed...

Was shown around the ship by Third Officer Duncan Robb and introduced to Capt John Harper who brought the boat in from S. Georgia before flying back to the UK via RAF Brize Norton for some some well-earned leave - 31 years of experience of Antarctic waters!  The ship is an icebreaker.with impressive storage and facilities...!

Later in the day, had a lot of help from Peter ('Kiwi Roa') getting 200m long line and bridle organized for a Delta drogue which could be useful if I need to slow down (if boat starts surfing too fast in big seas) while keeping going downwind.

Friday departure was looking very hopeful, although now  (writing this Friday afternoon) it seems maybe I'll delay to dawn Saturday, hoping for wind to abate,  having cleared out with Customs this morning....

Saturday 2nd April update .................   So much for that thought - I spoke to local Met guy and found my 'window' had shrunk to 12 hrs with nasty weather following close behind for several days - meaning even the recent plan to head ENE from here, rather than NNE, to avoid strong N winds to the north of the Falklands, wouldn't work - so having said my 'Goodbyes,' I'm back in the Seamen's Mission writing this update and looking at grib files showing my next 'window' isn't likely to be before late Tuesday into Wednesday....   so the next job to make the boat safer for really bad weather (i.e. getting 'pooped' by following seas) is looking at my cockpit locker - lets water in and doesn't close well - both bad news if cockpit were to fill with water!   But a 'plan of action is in hand...!!

Found 'Uhuru of Lymington' on the dock this morning (Steve and Chris were in Ushuaia with the boat a time ago) - they'd sustained damage after running E in front of 40kt westerlies, gusting to 60kt.   Their experience demonstrated why it was best I stayed here a bit longer - the gribs had looked fine for their passage, but strong winds spread over a bigger area than expected and meant they couldn't head N as intended, for them  to get to Uruguay from Le Maire Strait, and they had a problem with breaking seas.   So they're unexpectedly here in Stanley - but at least they're safe!

Written by : Mike

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