Saturday, January 30, 2010

Setting our sights on South Georgia...

Helllooo all,

Last email before heading out. Setting sail today after we spend a couple of hours ahead this morning with Argentinian customs' shenanigans and strutting officials prior to send off. A short sail tomorrow from Ushaia (the most southerly 'city' in the world) to Puerto Williams, Chile (the most furtherest southerly 'town'). This is one way Argentina and Chile like to pee in each other's cornflakes. That and the fact they both claim the Antarctic peninsula on their respective maps and in their nightly news channel's weather reports...gotta love South American politics!

We are headed to Puerto Williams to pick up some fresh water as Ushuaia somehow managed to ruin their beautiful glacially fresh water source in the 1 km it takes to reach town...hhhhmmmm....their is suddenly a lot of new and very strong chemicals in the water this year....

Tomorrow we are going to be introduced to learning the ropes and routines. And today, I learned all about the mizen and main masts, booms, and sails. I even know what a genoa sail is....such a greenhorn! Really looking forward to learning so much about sailing, off shore weather, and bigger-boat-than-a-kayak navigation and sooooo much more!

It should take us 7-10 days to sail across to South Georgia. Then straight down to Gritvykn and our official debriefing by the political representatives that reside at the whaling station. Time to unpack and dust off Hayley's boat and kit it up with all of her gear. The two kayaks had been previously shipped there by our beloved polar tour company, Quark/Peregrine. This avoided months of red tape and thousands of dollars in fees and bribes in Ush-vegas.

Then it is time to set Hayley off on her solo voyage and tour the island. We are hoping to stay nice and close to her as well as find some time to go ashore and view the brilliant sights, sounds, and of course, les animaux extraordinaire!!!

The next blogs will be sent to and posted by the ever so kind, Mike Jackson as internet will be limited to very minimal correspondence emails only. You can follow Hayley's progress on her website tracking map. We should be in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands in time for our flight out of there on March 20. Then for a few days in the warm climes in the vicinity of Santiago, Chile where we will fly out of on March 25th for home:)

Till then, wishing you all lots of love!

Friday, January 29, 2010

When the soul takes flight...

When is it that whim turns to fancy? And at what precise point do dreams take flight and land in the cold, stark, and beautiful of surreal reality? Maybe it is after 23 hours of flight, a week in Ushuaian purgatory getting ready to wait, and a 7-10 biscuit-tossing voyage across the cusp of the Drake, crossing the Antarctic convergence to land in the place of dreams, South Georgia.

There are places on this blessed green and blue orb that have the ability to reach into the very core of one’s being, take hold of one's heart with an iron grip, and then caress one's very soul in the same manner in which the sun is apt to gently kiss one's face on a sun dappled day after a long cold winter.

Places that make you feel so alive that you inhale the crisp air as if it were your very first breath of life. And yet, at the same time, your last cherished breath as you give over to something greater than yourself. You are alive to the very marrow of your being and your soul dances with God on earth.

It is said that we all have a geographical home. A particular place on this earth with which you feel a connection with the land: a cottage by a lake, the coastal surf breaking on a rugged shoreline, a tropical paradise, your back yard when the autumn coloured leaves fall and blanket the ground, a garden as the smell of the soil being turned over fills your senses, the smell of grandma's soup, the sound of rain falling in a cedar forest, the crackle of a pine grove on a hot, dry day... Perhaps it is a place you frolicked and cavorted in your childhood. All of your senses awaken to confirm its place in your soul: the sights, sounds, smells of the flora and fauna, the way the wind ripples across this particular landscape, the upwelling of feelings… It is when you arrive at this place after being away, that one truly feels at home with all of heart-home’s inherent comfort and the easiness of its peace.

For me, I think this local is split between the Pacific Northwest and north and south of the 50th latitudes. The ancient mariner’s used to say that, “in the forties there is no law, in the fifties, there is no god”. I beg to differ. This is where I feel the closest to God and the magic of creation.

Where the majestic albatross both soars and slumbers on the wing amidst the erratic calm and fury of the southern sea, humpback whales pirouette with the grace of a ballerina in the weightlessness of azure seas, polar bears look through your soul and see you as simple sustenance in a shimmering yet monochromatic landscape, crotchety walrus flash you their toothsome smiles, and the spiraled ivory of a narwhal’s tusk emerges as an apparition in the milky, glacially silted, teal waters.

Where the trumpeting and acrid smells of a multitude of penguins, seals, and crashing surf welcome you to safe harbour. One moment the ocean’s surface is awash with brash ice and bergy bits and then it is replaced on the ebb and flood of the tide's movements by towering mountain sculptures of ice and grandeur that topple, explode, calve and constantly crackle and pop as centuries of trapped ancient air is released and melts into the sea, where the silence is so profound that you cannot tell if it comes from without or within oneself.

Here you feel you are a visitor that is tolerated but not entirely welcome and the terms of your stay are staked in your heart and wit and determination to embrace it all. Simply surviving means that you never overstay your welcome, exhibit any assumptions or arrogance, or lose your focus for too long. If you do relax into complacency, then the not so subtle slap upside one’s head of a katabatic wind careening down the slopes or the building seas and dumping surf, will soon snap you back to reality and encourage you back to the awareness of the basics such as seeking immediate shelter. It is the land where the works of Creation leave one spellbound in awe and swells one's heart till it wants to rupture with joy as teardrops stream down one's face unnoticed and unsolicited.

This is my soul's home. Where the opposites of the extremes intermingle on an hourly basis. Where beauty really does take one's breath away leaving one feeling winded and alive within the bounds and necessity of heightened awareness. This is the land that I cherish and this is my challenge to you, to cherish and protect yours.

May the albatross continue to hover over the waters infusing the spirits of those who have and those who have yet to take their first breath, with wonder.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gear up in Ushuaia...

The land of Ushuaia has treated us well but it is time to fly the coop. We are hoping to set sail tomorrow pending the arrival of a ship's latch. The boat is fitted up and all of our systems are double checked and tested: satellite phones (huge thanks to Anne and Lo of Naturetrek!!!), computer uploads via sat phone, tracking device for Hayles, epirb confirmations, video formatting and downloading, yadda yadda yadda, etc.

The shopping is done and I discovered a brand new talent of shopping for odd items (electrical tape to antacid to fish sauce to...) in spanish that have me running all over this backwater town. Also, learned today why we have to count our change as this seems to be a money laundering/drug port. Crikey! Who knew?! Sounds like Nanaimo, eh?!

Well, off to pack and to call home. Enjoy the shots of Ushuaia, the ship, my bunk, the crew (Keri, Greg, and young Magnus), blonde and beautiful Alicia and her friend Mark.

Will post soon with a map of the journey...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ola from the Southern Most City in the World!

Hello everyone,

Get ready for some general pretrip blatherings and email to pass on my new blog which I hope to be able to update periodically with the uber-kind assistance of Mike J.:

After two days of plane travel, we landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We spent a glorious evening in my favorite city at Milonga Hostel: haircuts from dashing Argentinian lads that suggest "bangs?" and you say, "but of course!" b/c what else do can one say to a sultry, spanish speaking chico even when you end up with a quasi-mullet?! Really hoping it is not that bad but well, have bangs now...sheesh, sucker that I am. Then pedicures with a rotary tool to sand the wee pieds down to baby bum softness, a pamperingly good meal with some vino tinto...aahhh delicioso!, and a mad dash to try and find a battery recharger for my camera....idiot that I am to have not packed it!!!!! Then, one more flight to Ushuaia three days ago. The true success of the trip so far is that we have managed to check in and arrive at the same time as our 500 kilos of gear/luggage in 7 'wee' duffels without problems AND a half price discount, t'boot...what a relief here, in Argentina, where things rarely go to plan!

The Northanger crew welcomed us with open arms to our new home away from home and we (both Northanger crew and us) are so relieved to discover how lovely they all are and how well we get on together! We settled in, unpacked and loaded our bunks to the hilt with gear, ran some errands and found two battery chargers at the last-option-to-get-one camera store ...PHEW and YAY!!! I am soooo relieved that I have to say that again, YAY!!!...still feel like an idiot, though:) Then, dinner Argentinian style at 10pm and still broad to love the south:) We spent the rest of the night getting to know each other over some good laughs and wee beers...

We are now in this beautiful and most southern city in the world staying at our good friend Alicia's appt overlooking the Beagle Channel! It is an utter oasis and Alicia is our hostess with the mostest/mother of the world whilst away from home and is taking such wonderful care of us. Meanwhile, the crew are reprovisioning with produce and food for the two month voyage and Keri is in the hospital today for some standard and microscopic surgery...she is out now and recovering well though.

Hayley and I are running around double checking our systems and gear and hunting down weird items that are not allowed on airplanes: like a bio wash for Hayley to use in order to wash her gear when she leaves one penguin colony for another...aka every day and landing...part of the permit application...

Otherwise, we are having a great time catching up with the family of Antarctic workers here in Ush-vegas (aptly nicknamed due to the burgeoning casino market...odd mix of Patagonian beauty, cruise ship passengers, general backpackers, and locals...kind of a hodge-podge medley of profoundly inspiring nature and a cross section of all the varied ilks of society similar to Tofino, really:)

Well, that is all for now. We will be departing Ushuaia around the 28th depending on a good weather window to start the trip down the Beagle Channel and out across the Atlantic for a roughly 7-10 day voyage to South Georgia.

Much love, thanks, and blessings to you all!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

South Georgia...(where the h-e-2X-hockey sticks!?!)...

Nope, not the country that makes Russia a lil' hot under the collar nor that saucy place with the southern drawl where mint julep is served out front on the davenport...

Head further south towards the tip of South America, then southeast about a thousand plus nautical miles in the range of the 50's latitudes, look and smell for the hundreds of thousands of penguins, fur and elephant seals, towering glacier capped mountain peaks, and the graceful soaring of the mighty albatross...This awe inspiring location is where I will be volunteering as a kayak support on a rescue yacht which will be trailing Hayley Shephard.

Hayley will be attempting the first solo kayak circumnavigation of South Georgia (about 500 nautical miles)...not your average lilly dipper paddler! She has a few solo circumnavigations already under her belt including Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands. Her expedition is a dream that is finally coming to fruition after nine years of careful planning. It will also be raising awareness and funds for the plight of the albatross whose numbers are rapidly declining due to a variety of negative human impacts including, but not limited to, long line fishing practises at specific latitudes in which the albatross fish. For more info and to follow the expedition, check out her website:

The South Georgia government requires all expeditions in the area to contract their own rescue vessel due to the remote and furious nature of the area, as well as, the subsequent expense and time delay in deploying any land, sea, and/or air evacuation. The rescue yacht will be the Northanger, owned and operated by Keri Pashuk and Greg Landreth: The kayak expeditions are also strongly encouraged to have a kayak support person aboard the vessel to accommodate and advocate on behalf of the kayakers specific needs and requirements. I will join the yacht team in this role in conjunction with pitching in on general sailing duties...between cookie tossing activities, of course:)

The team will be leaving this Friday January 22 for a night in Buenos Aires before flying even further south to Ushuaia. Here we will spend a few days sorting out last minute gear and then join the Northanger crew before setting sail for Grytviken, South Georgia. This is the ghost town whaling station where Shackleton and his men ended their epic adventure and where we will begin ours.

Well, that is the latest swash buckling shenanigans! Stay tuned for more on the Albatross and South Georgia...YAY!!