From Ushuaia, Argentina to the Antarctic on the Anne-Margaretha
11 March 2015, a day in Puerto Toro (Chile)
(photo: little church of Puerto Toro)
Puerto Toro is a small settlement of about 10 families. It was quiet. Not much happened. We spent a lovely day catching up with ourselves and going for walks. You could follow the track out of town and up the hills behind to the old cemetery where one lonely cross remained surrounded by parts of a wooden wall. The timber of both was bleached by years of rain and wind. Beyond the cemetery and across a dry swamp was a beaver dam. Some of us got that far, others settled for a walk around the beach and over a small isthmus where three old hides were found, remnants from the wars between Chile and Argentina across the water. We were in Chile but had not yet formally checked in to the country. That would happen tomorrow in Puerto Williams.
( photo: docked in Puerto Toro)
All the other vessels left early in the morning and Anne-Margaretha was moved around to the side of the dock. The crew worked steadily all day cleaning, repairing and doing general maintenance. They sorted out the tangled anchor chain by letting it all out then re-stowing it. Sails were unfurled to dry and re-stowed. Wet clothing was hung out all over the boat. Heinz seemed to be upside down in the bilges or engine room all day. The fuel they had got in Ushuaia came in drums which looked none too clean, from which it had to be pumped into the ships tanks. The wild passage the previous day had shaken up the contents of the tank. We were halfway through dinner and bread baking when the generator stopped. Poor Heinz, back in the engine room to clear the problem. Oddly enough, the bread which had been half baked, stood for a while then finished off when the generator was running again proved to be the best we had had on two occasions.
While we were dining on delicious fish and curry, another yacht came in and moored alongside us. They were heading for Cape Horn and back. One fishing boat returned and the crew immediately set to work mending crab pots on the dock. The resident dogs came back to the dock hoping for a snack. We spent the evening sharing photos and film clips and watching each other’s favourites. Heinz showed us a great little clip of a beautiful bird of prey that had stayed on Anne-Margaretha for five days when they were en-route from the Cape Verden to Brasil. The bird would land on his gloved hand for food every time he emerged from below. He and his crew were very disappointed when it finally flew away. He also showed a photo of two killer whales about to rip the head off a penguin. Big mouths and sharp teeth!! We all sloped off to bed rather late and tomorrow came all too soon.
11 March, to Puerto Williams
(photo: Little harbor in Puerto Williams)
Another beautiful day dawned and around 10am we set off for Puerto Williams. The wind came up and we had a beautiful brisk sail. The sky was blue with some great cloud formations. There were birds in all directions. We were all secretly hoping for Orcas. Al saw a fin and a blow but it turned out to be a minke whale. The orcas remained as elusive as ever. For some inexplicable reason we were all very hungry today. We managed to eat four and a half loaves of bread by the end of lunchtime. Henrike had put bread and lots of great toppings up in the wheelhouse and we all fell upon it like a herd of locusts.
We arrived here in Puerto Williams shortly after lunch and came to rest rafted to a French boat at the Puerto Williams Yacht Club. The Yacht Club is an old vessel, stuck fast to the bottom. The visiting yachts raft up on both sides. Over the years the old ship has been renovated to provide a club room, power and internet. Some of the intrepid long distance sailors from all corners of the world over winter here, brave souls, it must be perishingly cold. Actually, since writing this I have found out that it is only about 5 degrees colder in winter and the winds are steadier and more predictable so winter cruising is better than summer. How I wish we could just stay here.
At six pm we all have to go ashore to be checked in and out of Chile as our next port of call is Ushuaia in Argentina and the last day of our stay afloat. I know we are going to spend many happy hours pouring over our photos and reminiscing. It is, as always, over too soon.
13 March, sailing back to Ushuaia!
But not over yet. Next morning we set off around 10am. We were delayed slightly because the first boat moored to us appeared empty. No-one around. The crew of the boat furthest out jumped to the rescue and as we backed out of our secure berth the wind arrived. Soon it was blowing 40 knots right from the direction we wanted to go. No problem! The crew were like a well oiled machine and soon had reefed mizzen, reefed mainsail and the fok up and drawing. As we turned into the wind Anne-Margaretha surged off, close hauled and making a steady 5 knots. What’s a mere 40 knots when you’ve weathered 77.5!
We had a great sail to Ushuaia, tacking all the way, Anne-Margaretha, well heeled over and really showing off. Around the halfway point Heinz called the crew up and down came the fok and up went the storm fok. This added another knot to our speed and soon we were back in Ushuaia. Our adventure was over. We had a hasty meal of pasta and delicious tomato sauce, prepared by Henrike while the boat was laid over at a near impossible cooking angle. After dinner we all trooped ashore and followed Heinz to the customs office for signing back into Argentina. We waited an age, then the appropriate person turned up and said “I’ve been waiting for you all afternoon. Where have you been?” Passports were examined and stamped and we all trooped back to the ship for a last evening of wine, beer and stories. Thomas took us through a compilation of everyone’s best photos and we all reminisced. One story lead to another and around midnight we all turned in for our last night asleep on Anne-Margaretha.
14 March, Last meeting in the morning
At breakfast this morning Heinz asked us all to say what the trip had meant for us. Everyone agreed that even if they’d wanted to die in the first few days out in the Drake, it made the experience all the better when they emerged from their sea sickness and became part of the dream. We are all still mesmerised by the journey, the sailing, the sights, the unique bond between captain and crew, and the bond that developed between us all. It truly was trip of a lifetime and I would head back out into the Drake in a heartbeat! For me it was all beyond magnificent. There can be no other way to see and experience the Antarctic than the journey we have just made.
Thank you Heinz, Sam, Thomas, Henrike, Sigrid and Anne-Margaretha. You are the amazing team that made our journey out of this world!