December 20, 2005
We are in Ushuaia Argentina, the 'Southernmost City in the World' which is twenty five miles west and about five miles north of Puerto Williams, to which we returned after a hectic ten day trip home to Chicago to celebrate an early Christmas and take care of other matters.
Ushuaia, with the cheap Argentine currency, is the place to provision and find most of the stuff you need to head south. It is the home base for the charter boats that are skippered and mostly owned by sailors who love the sea life and are trying to make a living at it. They are mostly French with an odd Australian, American, and Kiwi thrown in. Some have families. We have gotten to know Pascal and Bernadette with their young son on Valhalla. They live and run charters on the seventy foot boat that Pascal built. It is a strong functional craft that holds up to a dozen paying crew for trips abound Cape Horn, South Georgia and the Antarctic. It seemed that they could use more guests.
The talkative Cary and serious bearded Graig on Northanger invited us over for a coffee. They had a full load of six paying friends that were heading to the Antarctic a day ahead of us. One friend paid by giving them an old car and another a used mainsail. They do not seem too concerned about financial matters.
Cary and Graig had wintered over in the Arctic, an experience they said they would always treasure but never repeat. A big concern among the charter boats is the permit issue. This is the first year that the nations which subscribe to the Antarctic Treaty require their nationals to seek permission to visit the Antarctic. We are required to get permission from the State Department, the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Our son Justin has carried the load on this and has filed over a hundred and thirty pages of documents. As far as I know we are the only US boat doing it this year so we are a the test case. I decided to go the Flattie. Fortunately Justin arrived to help us for what turned out to be a messy whole day Job but we managed to fill all of the tanks with what appears to be good clean fuel.
December 21, 2005
Puerto Williams, Chile
After a frantic morning we checked out and had a great sail to Puerto Williams. After all of the pressure to get the boat ready and full we really enjoyed the four hour sail. When we pulled up to the Micalvi I used the bow thruster to keep us from crushing the boat we tied up to. I am afraid I sucked kelp into the thruster. It no longer sounds healthy. I am afraid I will have to use the new dry suit that I got after the last episode.
A few weeks ago we were anchoring in Caleta Ferrari in the Beagle Channel. As we backed down on the anchor we threw out the lines to take to shore-it was blowing about 30. One of the lines got away from Jeannie and she went halfway in trying to grab it. It wrapped around the prop.
I spent close to an hour in the water in my wetsuit unwrapping in the line. When I got out I had the shakes and no feeling in my hands and feet. It took twenty minutes for me to get warm again. I brought a dry suit when we were home.
December 23, 2006
We are south of Cape Horn headed for Deception Island where we will arrive on Christmas. Justin joined us in Ushuaia on Thursday and will leave us on the 29th flying out of King George Island, weather permitting. If the plane does not land he is to check in with Oleg from Bellinghausen Russian base for temporary accommodations.
Justin has done a lot of work to make it here. Before he could book the flight he had to file a pile of documents that are now required for any national of a country that signed the Antarctic Treaty. US citizens must get clearance from the State Department, the National Science Foundation and the EPA which turns out to be the big one. The EPA's request generated a 130 page response and they actually read it and responded with another list of questions and clarifications. As far as I know we are the only private US boat making this trip this season and this is the first year this has been required. All of the semi legal charter boat operators that we met, most are just cruisers trying to make some money by taking paying passengers on one to six week excursions, are complaining about this. The consensus of this mix of French, Australian, and New Zealanders is that the move is on to put them out of business and private trips like ours will be swept up in it.
The good news is the weather is favorable. We are sailing down wind in 14 knots of wind with a full load of sails up. The seas are lumpy but not big and the sun pokes through every now and then. Life is good so far.