Rounding A76A, steering again on a good course towards South Georgia on increasing winds and growing seas.
Sails up, sails down, braces square, beam reach or close hauled. Manoeuvring on the often shifting winds. A change of course to round one of the largest icebergs detached from the Weddell Sea ice shelf that drift on those waters. The Scotia Sea always hides a trick here and there. Now sailing in a ship not pointing anymore to our destination at South Georgia, then finding again the chance to set course towards the island, leave behind this Antarctic floating behemoth of white ice. Detours and changes on the sailing conditions that rule our progress and affect our hopes and anticipation for arrival to land.
Don’t even count the number of nautical miles left to go; don’t refer to such distances in definite terms. A sailor should talk only of headings, not destinations. It’s fine to be trying to get there - he should just be aware that it’s at the discretion of the gods if he ever will.
Jonathan Eyers. “Don’t Shoot the Albatross. Nautical Myths and Superstitions”
It actually took until this morning to finally find the eastern corner of A76A and to start steering to the Northeast once more.
Since last night when it crossed our path, meteorology has changed together with winds, seas and visibility.
Tabulars of this size can create their own weather and have a noticeable effect on the sea conditions too. Sailing in their neighbourhood sure will make you feel the drop on the temperature as the wind blows for miles over their large flat top. That influences the rising or falling of air masses flowing over them, their moisture and condensation. With that comes a change on the visibility, often they come with associated fog.
Their size both above but mostly below water certainly affects the steam of the current systems.
Europa doesn’t seem to get rid of the hold of all those effects until about midday. By then, the barometer quickly drops and the general winds increase, now blowing strong from the Northwest. She rides them at 6 to 10kn of speed, heeling and rolling on the growing swell. Gusts close to 35kn made for sticking the Main Top Gallant, but keep the pull of the rest of the canvas.
Furthermore, as we found out, here the large icebergs and tabulars drift on slightly warmer waters than in Antarctica. They break and calve more often sometimes littering the seas around them with any kind of floating ice. From growlers and bits to large icebergs. Navigation then requires to keep good and reliable lookouts, day and more carefully dung the dark hours.
Drizzle, rain, cold, the danger of the scattered icebergs, occasionally waves washing over the main deck. But we live just at scare handful of meters of a different world: the warm, dry and inviting below decks space.
21st Century Europa is equipped with a well assorted bar, a homely deckhouse, cozy cabins and bunks, a nice galley where good meals brew, a comfortable library now home for both sail makers and avid readers and information gatherers. Many times we think it is a hard job to leave all this aside for a while, wake up for our watches and come up outside for lookouts, steering or pulling some ropes.
Beginning of the 19 hundreds, these very same waters saw six starving, tired and frostbitten men, a 6.9 metres wooden sloop, a piece of canvas, a sextant and a watch. 16 days of struggles for survival it took for Captain Woorsley, Shackleton and four of their strongest crew to sail the “James Caird” from Elephant Island to South Georgia. On Elephant, the rest of the crew remained waiting for rescue. On South Georgia, the hope, the possibility of salvation. Their crossing it is still considered one of the greatest open-boat journeys ever done.