Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Falklands...whot whot?! What the...?!

The journey is the adventure, after all…isn't it? And as my sister-in-law Tania said, "Perseverance. It's what got the snails to the ark." Are we the snails or the ark? Buddha or the mountain? And which for goodness sake is South Georgia and how do we bloomin' git thar or it, har?!

Time for a wee bit of an update, shall we...

Last seen on the coast of Argentina, we set sail from Ushuaia on Jan 31 for Puerto Williams just south and on the Chilean side of things to refuel, fill our drinking water tanks, buy the forgotten and utterly flavour-for-next-two-months important onions, and of course, clear customs for South Georgia more easily than from Argentina…still a bit of a sticking point what with the land claim on the Falklands/Malvinas war and what not…

We had a great day in Puerto waiting for customs that checked us in 'promptly' at 10 am…rather loosely lost in Chilean translation this turns out to mean roughly 1ish pm and then check us out again at 5pm…ish… Needless to say, we sailed the next day instead. However, we had a bit of a walk through town and a lovely visit with friends of the yacht, Denis a Swiss local and Monica another Swiss who biked and boated from home to India and back and now south to the bottom of the earth. She gave us fresh herbs and salad from the garden. Just some of the amazing people and stories we are blessed to meet down here...that and the wife of a fellow solo sailing around the world...crikey!

Feb 1st saw us in full escort out of the last of the Beagle Channel by a beautiful pair of Peele’s Dolphins that frolicked and cavorted on our bow wave for over an hour! Then we cut our continental shelf umbilical chord as the late summer sun set on our last glimpse of land, Staten Island, and headed out to sea and the dreaded Drake Passage. The next day welcomed us with brilliant sunshine and more visits from Peele’s and Hour Glass dolphins. They were heart tickling and kept us grinning as we soaked up the rays on deck and whilst this green horn learned a thing or two about sailing. Then, well, the clouds started to build on the horizon….daunting, to say the least…yeep!

The winds built overnight to over 60 knot winds and we were forced into our first hove to situation…oh my but yes, I did say ‘first’! Hove to, I soon found out means taking in the sails and bobbing about like a cozy little cork in skyscraper sized seas and huge winds. Aside from the incredible fight to stop my body from rejecting my stomach as a foreign and profane entity that took over me whole body like a sleep inducing, diet diverting, evil minion gone awry….ugh! UGH!! did feel incredibly safe! Even in spite of evil tummy, lying on my bunk watching the mast sway deeply left, then right, then left, no, that was a double right sway, etc on a generally 90 degree swing from centre mast upright pivot point. I found that the most astounding and incredible thing, really! Safe and cozy as a sick bug in a rug:) What a sea worthy and stalwart vessel the mighty Northanger truly is!!

We weathered out that storm after about 8 hours and carried on our course making good time on the gravy train winds of the previous system, which basically had us now cruising on our way to South Georgia. Albeit the seas and tummy never did come round…evil cookie tossing tools!

In short, we continued to have our socks rocked off of us as we sailed well below the Falklands on the end of the storm. We spent the next few days hopping from bunk to more social dinner table bench for watches, spending as little time as possible vertical as that would entail further frantic nick o’ time staggerings to the head. All of the boat movement and the act of simply staying horizontal on the bunk with knees wedged into ledges as a bracer and ducking the swaying low ceilings, has left me with weird rib, core and inner thigh muscle. Thank God for Greg, Keri, and Magnus as they took the brunt of the watches and we just seconded them. They are incredibly solid, knowledgeable, and entertaining in trying times.

Then it was just the major job of maintaining hydration and nutrition…a hard work diet of plain buns shoved in the cheek pouch like chewing tobaccy, some plain pastas, lots of effort to drink and keep down water on the high seas in order to try and keep something other than bile (turns out a lovely shade of blue green, don't you know;) in the wee tumtums…we all lost a bit of weight and even the crew had some bad sea sickness moments…again, ugh!

Now for the second hove to and the real heart of our situation...

Currently, some of you may have noticed on Hayley’s blog tracker map that we are in the wrong set of islands, the Falklands, and have been diverted here due to an accident that happened about 250 miles south of here in 50+ knot winds. We apologize that we have been stalling putting this on the blogs but we wanted to make sure our skipper was able to call his parents to let them know he is okay and tell them what happened first.

Essentially, just a couple of days after the 'hove to' experience on Feb 4th, Greg got his right index finger caught in the propeller shaft and severed it above the second knuckle. We immediately took in sails and stopped our course south, bandaged his hand, then the finger and were forced to agonizingly hove to in the big winds for 12 hours while we waited for any weather window to start a much needed headway north to the Falkland Islands and medical assistance. It was a bit of a harrowing experience and Greg was a real trooper, to say the least! Luckily we had antibiotics and access via sat phone to the great doctor support and advice from the Stanley Hospital doctors. This is something that was very relieving as we sailed the three day trek back 250 miles north to Stanley to arrive finally and safely with Peele's and Cummins Dolphins to flank us into port. The surgeon here did a fabulous job saving the rest of the remaining finger. Greg will need some rehab and healing time to get fully back on his game as he is an avid climber, cellist (he will still be able to play), sailor, etc. A rough time all round for everyone but he is doing well now and has just been released from the hospital today. It is good to have him back home on board and feel his unbelievable good spirit still shining forth and cracking jokes.

What this means to our expedition is...well, it is on a thin edge right now. Greg and the crew are very keen for us to keep going but we need another competent crew person to keep going. This is obviously a high order as there are few at this time of year with qualifications and availability. We also require permission from the South Georgian officials in order to consider other options of carrying out the expedition. In short, we are feeling a lot is hanging on a fine line as our limited weather window begins to wain. Everyone in town, including the officials, is thinking up sailors and giving us a hand. It has been wonderful to experience the kindness and effusive hospitality of this community. For this, we are so grateful.

We had a pleasant few hours today to lift our spirits with an heartwarming visit with our friends who work on a cruise ship that was in town for the day and on which we have both worked. They graciously offered to give us a lift but that still does not get our safety yacht there but was sorely tempting as a fast and smooth ride down. We are also looking at plan B's and have talked out all situations and variables including what it would mean to nix the expedition or change locations. It would be devastating but it has to be considered as a very real option right now. We are clinging to a glimmer of hope and are still trying to get there safely and responsibly to carry on with Hayley's dream and expedition goal.

Well, that is the gist of our situation. Will do my best to keep you all posted as the next few days and hours unfold showing where our adventure will lead us next. Much love and heartfelt appreciation for the encouraging emails that have been coming. They mean a lot right now. It has been stressful on a lot of levels but we are all coming out of it as best as we can, spirits are still high, and we are most grateful that Greg is okay now. Till very soon,

Beth Anne

1 comment:

  1. Well, your adventure of a lifetime has been more adventure than you bargained for!! We pray for your safety. Looking forward to the next post! Karen, Mike and girls.