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Arrival on South Georgia

Rough night again for our tough fellow travellers steering the Europa and keeping a sharp lookout, while dealing with the cold, wet, miserable weather and bumpy seas characteristic of the area.

Swell keeps us on an uncomfortable sailing all night, water wash the decks coming over the rails and some big waves hit Starboard side of the ship. We sail between 5 to 7kn with the same sail configuration than last evening, just lower Staysails, Topsails, Storm Mizzen, and in the bowsprit the Fore Top Mast Staysail and the Inner Jib.

The SW-ly wind picks up from 28kn to just below 40kn during a couple of short rainy squalls. All an all making a hard last night at sea for all of us, before reaching South Georgia shores. From then on and during our days visiting the island we will be in day-watch to have time to go ashore and enjoy the amazing landscapes and wildlife of South Georgia. Between the squalls we appreciate the sunlight and partially cloudy skies in the cold hours of the early morning, dealing with 1.8ºC temperature, feeling even colder due to the wind effect on it. And around 05:00AM we change course heading more Eastwards, a better angle to ride the waves and have a more comfortable sailing, after last evening and night heavy heeling, rolling and pitching the wild South Georgia waters. Humpback whales are spotted on this new 110º course straight to the Island. The water temperature has also dropped considerably from last evening, and now we sail on 0.8ºC seas.

After breakfast the wind stabilises around 22 to 24kn from the WSW, time to set more canvas and brace our yards squarer. At the beginning Fore Course is set and during the morning gradually almost all squares follow, but the Sky sail. We switch between Desmond and Aaap a couple of times, Fore Top Mast Staysail is furled and the Outer Jib comes up, while we take away the Dekzwabber. The Sw-ly wind blows up to 28kn as the Europa sails Broad Reach on a 100º course at 7 to 8 kn. Temperature slightly rises to 2ºC.

More wildlife is spotted during the day, even two beautiful Snow Petrels fly with us for a while, accompanied by Giant petrels, Grey headed, Black browed, Light Mantled sooty and Wandering albatrosses. Purposing King penguins are seen too together with Antarctic Fur seals and even Minke and Humpbacks whales show up as we get closer to South Georgia Island. After lunch, during our traditional meeting with the Captain, we are informed that is just 44nm to our anchorage at Rosita Harbour, while we have done 156nm during the last 24h. Soon afterwards lookouts report “land ahoy!!” our first sight of the coveted Island that took quite a bit of struggle to sail to from our embarkation at Montevideo. Cape North is at sight!

But these last miles were not the easiest ones of our trip either. Europa runs into several showers and squalls, with winds over 30 to 40kn and with each one of them we reduce canvas. First Royals come down, then Top Gallants and Outer Jib, Mizzen Top Staysail. All this seasoned by crossing a belt of bergy bits and growlers, make the lookouts pay extra attention and even a permanent crew member is sent up the fore mast for a better view. Before dinner all permanent crew hands are called on deck to deal with the last strong wind gusts of the day and help taking away and furling the remaining sails. Courses are clued up then Top Sails as well, under harsh conditions, cold and strong wind, as we sail into Bay of Isles, where Rosita Bay, our good anchorage and planned landing spot for tomorrow is located.

Soon we drop anchor. Nice feeling as well to be now on a steady ship! Zodiacs are lowered down for a good test before they start they hard job during the next days, where several landings are planned and they will be heavily used.

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