Saturday March 17th, 2001


At sea






SW 20 to 30 knots



Air temp

3 deg C

Sea temp

4 deg C


997 mbs





Thawing out

Much of yesterday afternoon was spent with snow shovels and brooms getting the ice and snow off the decks. There was certainly plenty of it.

Now that Seamaster was under sail as well as engines, we took the sail “ties” – those 3 metre lengths of soft rope used to keep the sails neatly stowed when they are not in use – down below to thaw out. They were as stiff as boards to begin with. The rain of the previous few days had frozen solid.

By nightfall the sails still had pockets of ice and snow on them, even though the wind was starting to increase, but most of the ropes had become flexible again – a change from the solid “bars” that we had to “break” before any use was possible prior to hoisting earlier in the day.

It is now 0545 as I sit in the communications room and write this. Alistair and Andy are on watch – Don and I take over shortly. We stopped the engines an hour ago and are now sailing in a moderate to fresh southwesterly wind. The ship is quiet – very noticeable after 24 hours of the whine of the engines.

So far we have made great progress since leaving the South Shetland Islands on our way back to South America. Cape Horn is only 250 miles ahead, with another hundred or so onto Ushuaia. But we may stop at Puerto Williams in Chile as our first port of call – and tie up alongside the “yacht club” in the shallow river. This will be the best place to remove the propeller ice grids that we have had on since Auckland. There is no doubt they have saved the propellers from severe ice damage on a few occasions, but once back north we would rather regain the speed that they cost us through their bulk.

0930: A good watch

Dan is in the galley today – so porridge and coffee were sent to the pilothouse, and bacon and tomato sandwiches for us to munch whilst keeping an eye on the course. There are many birds about this morning – grey-headed and black-browed albatross, giant petrels, cape pigeons and storm petrels.

The waves are quite steep, with whitecaps everywhere. The snow has all but gone from the deck. The sky is overcast with patches of blue – a “Dutchman’s trousers” sort of a day. There is still some snow in the air – but it only finds us as rain.

Time for a shave

Janot shaved off his beard yesterday – he looks quite different without it. He has the following thoughts about our time down south.

Last night, I was on watch, by myself in the wheelhouse, surrounded by a dark and rainy night, and questions came to my mind: what did I learn in Antarctica, and what will I remember about this experience?

I learned a lot about a lot of things: about myself, about my friends, about wildlife, about beauty. I enjoyed the plenitude of those moments we were lucky enough to share with the seals, the whales and others.

I have just one regret – it was too short. Like the Arctic where I spent one summer, two years ago, I think I need to spend a whole year in this place to be able to understand all of the systems, the cycle of life and the deep relationship we have with such a different world, which is part of ours, and such an essential part.

I need more time to integrate all that I sense, to mature my analysis, to make sure I looked through the right lens, that I did not alter the reality, being dazzled by the bright beauty of what I saw.

I will remember mostly feelings: strong feelings about pureness, about beauty, about life. Feeling blessed to be one of the few people lucky enough to come to such a special place. And finally the most frightening of all, the feeling of the vulnerability and fragility of this wonderful place, which is threatened by our mistakes and our lack of knowledge, by our thirst for energy or power.

That’s what I thought yesterday night in the loneliness of the night. That’s what I’m sure about now, writing this piece, and that’s all that I am sure about.

From the back of my mind,


1230 hrs: Warmer waters

Janot and Marc have just finished their 3 hour watch – from 9 until midday. They started out by donning their Musto survival suits and heading for the foredeck – tools in hand. The anchor was banging about in its housing, so they went forward to tighten the tensioning device. They copped a few waves in the face during the process, but the sea is now warmer than in Antarctica. We are now back north of the Antarctic Convergence, where the sea doubles in temperature to a warm 3 or 4 deg C. The wind forecast is for continuing fresh south-westerly winds for the next 24 hours – then easing away to a day of lighter breezes. At the moment we are making good time – with reefed sails only – averaging between 9 and 10 knots.

Best wishes,