The Screaming 60’s welcome us with light winds and calm seas. Motor sailing our way north of the South Orkney Islands.
Black and white. Their upper wings show the colors of the day. Spread over their wingspan of about 90 centimeters, white spots, and blotches form a sort of chessboard pattern. Out at sea, it's foggy, a whiteout where the scattered growlers can be spotted just at a ship’s length. Colours fade leaving a black and white day. Cape petrels share the cold and misty journey with us.
Chinstrap penguins porpoise in the relatively calm waters, while above their heads the flocks of Cape petrels follow the ship. Flying around with their stiff wing beats and glides, they often land at our wake searching for krill, fish, carrion, or whatever the ship would surface as she uses her propellers, removing the water as she breaks the low long swell.
They nest at this time of the year along the area between Patagonia and many islands of the Southern Ocean, including the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetlands, South Orkneys, and South Georgia.
On deck in the early morning, we are hit by some small icy bits falling from the rig, coils, and safety lines. It has been a cold night. It has been a foggy night. Both water and air temperatures are below 0º C.
Mist, low visibility, easing seas, and shifting light winds make for setting sail whenever we can, engines go on and off a couple of times. From last evening they help on our progress westwards passing by the north of the South Orkneys and the ice that surrounds them.
By 5:00 AM the wind from the North-northwest made for trying again to just use the breeze and stop the motor. Under Topsails, Lower Staysails, Fore Top Mast Staysail, and Inner Jib, Spanker we keep steering westwards.
But again, getting foggier a couple of hours later makes for taking sails away, and putting the engines to work. The only visible ice passes now and then close by, hidden by the low visibility, but some show up on the radar south of us.
Sails come up again just before lunch on a good Northeasterly 15kn, with the weather playing tricks with us, letting us think that the fog dissipates… but not for long.
In the afternoon again the Europa motorsails in a misty situation and no wind, just a light northerly 5-6kn. Some of her sails are clewed up or pulled down, furled, and packed. She steers westwards motor-sailing, clearing up the ice edge that reaches South Orkneys.
The latitudes of the Screaming 60’s have welcomed us with their typical unpredictable weather, a surprisingly quiet mood, a veil of thick fog hiding some of its landmarks and icy waters, and its characteristic birdlife.