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Sailing the Drake Passage to Ushuaia

We wake to a foggy and cloudy morning, and almost the whole day kept snowing. 

During last night the wind decreased and by breakfast time it was blowing just about northerly 10 knots. We started the engines early in the morning and clewed up all square sails as we deal with those head winds, doing a speed of 4 to 5 knots. Afterwards we change tack to Starboard, braced almost close hauled and we are all busy on deck setting all canvas, including the royals, which so far had remained furled. After a while, the only sail that remains furled is the gaff topsail. As soon as the wind picks up to 15 knots Eric stops the engines and we are back under sail, steering on a W-ly course.

We are under the influence of a Low Pressure system, and it’s forecasted that will pass by during the next days on a Easterly direction. From the N wind we had at the moment, it will veer all the way to NE, and will keep veering to SSE and S during the next hours. The idea is to keep ourselves at the Southern edge and the back side of that Depression, following these winds to reach Southern Patagonia. During the whole day we pass several areas where we still find icebergs, bergy bits and growlers, having to keep a sharp lookout. We just have to have a look at our position and the water temperature to realise that we are still sailing in Antarctica, even though we have been sailing now for a day. The reason for that being because on the way South, at the beginning of our trip, we head to South reaching South Shetland Islands; but on our way back North we left the Antarctic shores sailing from Melchior Islands, between Anvers and Brabant Islands. This area is located around 100nm further south than the South Shetlands.

During the morning Jordi kept going with the lecture program on board, and today he talked about how the researchers actually work with some of the species that we have seen during the trip. He is related with a couple of research groups in Patagonia, and had been collaborating on their projects there and in Antarctica. Mostly their work is based on Photo identification of Humpback whales, taking skin samples to work on population genetics, then also with Elephant seals and Black browed
albatrosses as well. 

The wind keeps being variable in the afternoon, decreasing again to 7 knots, but already veering to an ESE breeze. To keep a minimum speed and avoid too much flapping canvas in the rig, the engine starts again and we motor sail on a Northerly direction at about 4 to 5 kn, while we clewed up the Courses, leaving the rest of canvas set. On our daily meeting after dinner, Eric tells us about the weather situation and forecast. He also let us know that during the last 24 hours we have sailed 125 nm, and by that time we were at the latitude of been seeing several Humpback whales on our way. We are still South of the Antarctic convergence area, not so far from the islands, where those whales have their feeding grounds. A bit later, just before 22:00h the wind has picked up to 17 knots, with the tendency to increase more from a SSE direction, moment to stop the engine and make our way under sail again, steering North and setting the fore Course with its whisker poles.

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