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Departure from Ushuaia


The day started full of expectation for our imminent departure
southwards to Antarctica. And it was around breakfast time when boarded
the mandatory pilot assigned to all vessels sailing in the inner waters
of Southern Argentina and Chile.
Soon we hear the roaring of the engines while the mooring ropes are cast
off to move a short distance to the neighbour bunker pier.
While the Europa fills up her fuel tanks before starting our adventure,
we make use of this time to conduct a mandatory briefing regarding
Safety on board.
The quiet waters of the beautiful Beagle Channel are ideal for the first
sailing hours, first to start getting used to our sailing ship, the
routines on board and to get acquainted with our duties while we are on
watch. Most of the day is used for these purposes.
Argentinean bureaucracy delays our departure for a while, but in the
meantime we gather in the deckhouse for our first meeting with the
photographer team that will be with us for this special trip, more
focused on photography and video than the previous ones. Frits, Daniel,
Valery and Josiah expose their ideas on how to manage the photographic
part of the trip. Besides general guidelines Frits also presented his
project to create a final product after the trip where all of us can
participate. After a brainstorm of ideas several Antarctic and Sailing
aspects are agreed to be considered. Like this we started gestating
something interesting with the joint effort of all under the supervision
and guidance of out multidisciplinary photo team, with Frits background
being more related with storytelling using his amazing pictures to
illustrate his storylines; Daniel as a more focused on nature and
landscape aspects, Valery specialized on maritime photography and Josiah
documenting all our activities on video.
As soon as we finished with this first photography meeting and we left
the bunker pier, all gathered on deck to start the sail training. First
of all with climbing instructions, mandatory if at some point during the
trip we feel like climbing the rig to help the crew with the
sailhandling, to take pictures or to enjoy a moment on the quiet heights
of the ship’s masts.
Shortly afterwards Puerto Williams start showing up on our
Starboardside. On the Chilean side of the Beagle, this settlement holds
the title of Southernmost town in the world, and in comparison with the
teeming streets of Ushuaia, it’s a much smaller and calmer location.
Some canvas is set, but the typically variable winds of the Beagle
Channel call for the use of the engines, eventhough lower staysails are
hoisted together with the Inner Jib, and Top sails unfurled. It won’t be
until reaching more open waters during the evening that we can set more
canvas and actually sail.
While doing all those activities time went by pretty quickly and soon we
were called for lunch. Afterwards the afternoon program was filled with
a proper watch responsibilities familiarization. Later on the three
watch system will start, and will run until reaching the shores of the
Antarctic Islands of South Shetland. Under permanent crew supervision,
we have to be able to steer the ship, help with sailhandling and conduct
a good lookout. Once those explanations were finished, Valery used the
end of the afternoon to give a talk about maritime photography, loaded
with countless tips to keep ourselves and our cameras safe in the ship
and ways of taking interesting pictures while on board. He did this
through a visual collection of his work on tall ships pictures. Valery
has been dedicated for 17 years to highlight the beauty of sailing and
the ocean. For that, he joined the most relevant international Tall Ship
races crossing the oceans and collecting pictures all around the world.
Making our way along the Beagle Channel, Port and Starboard are framed
by green meadows and heavily forested mountains, sort of waving us
farewell before entering the oceanic kingdom of the Drake Passage, and
in a few more days the icy world of Antarctica. These Evergreen
temperate rain-forests of the Magellanic Region are dominated by three
endemic species of Nothofagus and maintain the fragile and complex
sub-Antarctic ecosystem.
Reaching the East mouth of the Beagle Channel an embarkation comes
alongside and collect the pilot that has been with us from the morning.
Meaning that we start facing the oceanic waters of the Eastern part of
Cape Horn Archipelago and the infamous Drake Passage.
Evening fair Westerly winds offer the chance to stop our engines and set
more sail. Now Top Gallants join the Top Sails that were set during the
afternoon, together with the Spanker and Middle Staysails, while Inner
Jib and Fore Top Mast Staysail take the wind on the Jib boom. Courses
are also unfurled, but the gusting winds of 35kn made us re-think about
it and at the end stayed hanging on their gear waiting for a better
moment. During the night actually the gusts increase and the Top
Gallants have to be furled once more.
The feared seasickness didn’t wait long to strike, and many of us
struggled during the evening and night to keep up with the different
activities offered and the beginning of the watch system. Watch leaders
had to fiddle around scheduling and re-scheduling duties during the
watches as gradually more and more components of the puzzle disappeared
after feeding the fishes overboard.
The journey along the Beagle Channel also provided us with several good
Patagonian wildlife sightings as Magellanic penguins surround us looking
surprised by the meeting with our beautiful ship, and South American
terns, Kelp gulls, Skuas, Giant petrels and groups of Black-browed
albatrosses fly around. Rock and Imperial shags whoosh in groups coming
and going from their nesting sites on the rocky shores.
During the afternoon several Peale’s dolphins join us for a while,
amused by the bow wave that Europa creates as she sails.
This species is small and robust, widespread along the coastal waters of
the Patagonian Channels, thus having a restricted distribution around
the Southernmost tip of South America.

Written by:
Jordi Plana Morales | guide

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