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getting closer to the South Shetland Islands

Last night and during the early hours of the day, the wind decreases and for half of the day the Drake offers us a break to take a deep breath and prepare again for the strong winds and gusts reserved for us during the evening and night.

In the dark and cold Antarctic night we take away the Main Royal with winds gusting 32 knots, but about an hour afterwards we can set it again in calmer conditions, together with the Fore Course, Dekzwabber and Desmond. At daybreak the skies are grey and rains, weather conditions that will be with us for the whole day, as we get closer to South Shetland Islands on a 175º course.

The wind starts dropping to 25 knots and during the morning it decreases to 18 knots. Our progress also is slowed down, from 7.5 knots to around 6, and still diminishing more, mostly during the afternoon. By that time the wind eased even more, before turning to SE-ly and quickly rising to 35 knots, gusting 40. Time to drop all Square sails, brace to sail Close hauled on Port tack, and start the engine, in an increasing swell as well. Europa stars rolling heavily again from then onwards. Many of us were around on deck helping with this afternoon manoeuvres, also a useful opportunity to learn the ropes, their functions and practice sailhandling.

From 17:00h we sail under Inner Jib, Storm Fore Top Mast Staysail, Dekzwabber, Aap, Spanker and Lower Top sails, doing around 4 knots along the 40 nm left to arrive at the entrance of the passage between Greenwich and Livingston Islands, the Mc Farlane Strait. As the weather and swell conditions had became difficult again, after a the better conditions in the morning, Captain, Mate and permanent crew takes over the steering again from the wheelhouse in the afternoon and evening, just the lookouts are needed on deck. During the night the wind still blows from the SE at around 30 kn, and starts decreasing as we get closer to midnight Taking advantage of the better sea and wind situation during the morning, Jordi takes the chance to do his talk on the Seabirds of the Drake Passage, Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Introducing their biology, diversity and some identification features.

During the daily meeting with Captain and guides after dinner, they told us about the progress from noon to noon, 122 nm done and 60 nm left to arrive to our planned landfall tomorrow afternoon. So in order to have a good rest and be ready for the starting of our activities ashore is decided to keep the voyage crew watches just until midnight. Just the time when the wind start easing more to 10-12 kn, and turning more to the S. Under these conditions and in a freezing cold night we take away Spanker and Lower Topsails, starting the engine. After a rough Drake crossing, tough still dealing with it overnight, we star realising that with our combined effort during the last days we have been able to sail the beautiful Europa all the way down to Antarctica. In the meantime learning some sail handling and navigation, when weather and seasickness allowed us. The sea watches makes us more aware of the amount of energy, work and experience needed to sail a Tall Ship on those high latitudes, besides having to keep a constant look at the wind evolution and when and how to set or take away sail. It is a slow learning process, which we started on some of the most impressive sailing areas in the world, the Southern Chilean Channels and it kept going across the infamous Drake Passage.

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