Days and days of good and quite easy sailing brought us at just barely 300nm from our destination, leaving behind 4426nm of open oceanic waters. And just with a couple of days left for arrival, of course the Atlantic crossing had to gift us with some rough conditions, showing also yet another of its faces, adding some excitement and difficulties to the sailing and life aboard.
Gusty strong winds blow from a Southerly direction, between a High and a Low Pressure systems, the sort of corridor where the Europa sails today.
With them, fly and glide over the high swells many more seabirds than we have seen so far. Including a variety of species whose home is further south. Again the Europa meets her old feathered friends from the southern high latitudes, after a whole year has passed since her last visit to the area between Montevideo and Antarctica.
Cape, Wilson, Soft plumaged, Atlantic, White chinned, Spectacled and Giant petrels share the strong winds with Black browed albatrosses. A young Wandering albatross also shows up for the occasion.
In a sort of welcome once more to the ways leading south to subantarctic waters and the white continent, or we could think also as a farewell to our beloved Captain Klaas and his wife Marianne as, so they say… they are retiring from the Antarctica yearly season. They have spent more than two decades sailing and cooking in an often wildly pitching, heeling and rolling ship in the Southern ocean, or manoeuvring amongst majestic icebergs or difficult sea ice conditions, in a ship that, no matter how well is daily cleaned, every day ends up with the typical and characteristic penguin guano smell.
With all those birds easily soaring in the strong winds over the unruly seas, Europa deals with it under reduced sail, gradually increasing her amount of canvas spread during the day, first with Courses, then Top Gallants, while heeling hard to Starboard. Attention and concentration is required on the steering, lookouts are moved to the Poop deck, only access to decks being through the wheelhouse, and now and then main and fore decks taking water. Situation that lasted until about midnight, when abating wind and swells allowed for start setting more sails, starting with the powerful Outer jib in the bow, and the Spanker at the aft. Not much later the rest of canvas follows.