Week 2 of Antarctica

Highlight for all of us:
Whales! (Mostly (all?) humpbacks)

We closed out week 1 in the sun with gin & tonics, with glacial ice cubes, in the cockpit marveling at the picturesque bay. As it cooled off the surrounding glaciers started calving and the bay accumulated a good amount of ice. We heard ice knocking on our hull all night and awoke to gray skies and a lot of ice piled up near Bombay Island, the island with the penguins and the Argentinian hut. It was a far gloomier and austere looking place in the gray.

Tuesday started off slow with the overcast weather. Megan tried out a new banana bread recipe with the last 4 bananas. In the early afternoon things cleared up and the winds were calm. We decided we should check out Spert Island off of Trinity Island. We motored the 10nm over and saw impressive icebergs, growlers and bergy bits - some of the icebergs are seriously big. On the way over we saw whale blows, fins and flukes off in the distance. Upon anchoring we got ready to do a dinghy explore. As we were launching the dinghy a whale came over to check us out! He swam a tight loop around Zephyros and continued on his way. It was so incredible! The whales seemed to be humpbacks - often in pairs. We got some good pictures and videos. After he moved on we launched the dinghy and had a nice excursion. On our way back it started to snow and we spotted another whale. We kept our distance (both for the whale and because we were in the dinghy!) but the whale seemed to be curious enough to follow us and get a bit closer, but not too close. At one point he turned towards us and we all were unsure how we felt - excited or scared - yep, both! We caught a bit more video, this time we saw a waved flipper. Definitely an amazing day with the whales. We finished out the afternoon adventure with a drive past some penguins (Chinstraps and a few Gentoos plus Antarctic cormorants). From there we headed 4nm to a different anchorage off of Trinity Island.

Wednesday saw us moving again. The wind was forecasted to pick up and change directions making Trinity Island not the best place to be, or so we figured. The wind was pretty high by 5am and we peeked out and saw some large icebergs around, though only smaller ice was nearby and finding us. We decided we should get moving and hoped to be better sheltered at Midas Island. We were underway by 6:00am and were sailing within 15 minutes. We had a fast, cold, horizontal snow, 20nm sail south with whales, a seal and penguins. We anchored by 9:30am and posted an anchor and ice watch as the high winds swept through and we were not as tucked in or sheltered as we had hoped to be. Things eventually settled down as forecast and the winds shifted to the NW and the island then provided us shelter from the winds, but not from the waves or swell.

It was a challenging day that added up to one of THOSE days in the end. Sailing is full of high highs and low lows. So from gorgeous days, up close whale sightings and penguins to an old iPad that no longer works / charges, a huge down draft that blew off a flexible solar panel and broke the connection for the other, and a computer that no longer wants to charge the battery and is operating inconsistently when plugged in. An expensive day, for sure. We shall try to recover the iPad (currently seems to be working) and continue troubleshooting the computer (still inconsistently working, but not charging), but the solar panels are a significant loss - both the loss of power charging capability and the expense.

Wednesday night we rocked and rolled in confused seas as the winds died down and shifted but the waves and swell from the stormy, gusty day continued. It was not a good night's sleep for anyone. Eventually we pulled ourselves together and moved south again. Thursday was a slow motor sail in light winds as we tried to save some fuel and not run our engine at high rpms. We saw beautiful icebergs, even some Gentoos on an iceberg, and some whales (seemed to be a mother and juvenile humpback). We tucked into a cool spot between Bluff and Challenger Islands. We were happy to have a calm spot to rest after 2 nights of little sleep.

Friday we woke, better rested, to a bright sunny day. We decided to stay put and enjoy the beauty of the spot. We enjoyed pancakes and passed the day outside playing and hoping for some calving off the glaciers. We saw nice smaller events while hoping to see a big chunk fall. It was another high high type day. The sunny, calm days are quite amazing and help to wipe away those cold, gray, expensive days.

Saturday it was still sunny when we woke up, but clouds and gray rolled in before we were moving. We planned to move south again and find shelter for potential bad weather Sunday into Monday. We were excited to go through Graham Passage hoping to see more whales and because it is supposed to be quite beautiful. Well, we were successful in seeing whales and a humpback came right up to the boat, broaching right in front of our path! After that the clouds really moved in and the snow started, severely limiting visibility so that beautiful passage, might have been amazing, but we didn't see very much. We expect it looked quite a bit like the anchorage we had just left. We regretted not taking the trip Friday in the sun. But, so it goes, you can't see and do everything. We continued south in the snow seeing whales and penguins as we motored in calm seas to Enterprise Island. We arrived and tied up next to a shipwreck of an old whaling supply ship. It is reportedly one of the safest, calmest spots in the area, so we should easily be able to enjoy the spot and wait out the potential upcoming weather. Of course the irony of seeking shelter alongside a wreck is not lost upon us.

Sunday we did some chores and played games. The day was calm and overcast, and turned into a bit of a rest day for everyone. A check of the weather showed that the models diverged with one predicting wind for Monday and one suggesting not much wind. There was some wind over night and we could hear occasional wind in the rigging. Perhaps it is windy outside of our secure spot, but we aren't feeling much. We'll take it and the additional rest day. We've been baking and eating well while continuing to play games, do schoolwork and enjoy the dramatic surroundings. And so we close out week 2 of our Antarctic adventure.

Week 1 of Antarctica

Highlight for all of us:
Penguins! (Chinstrap & Gentoo)

We arrived in Deception Island late in the day Monday, 11 January. Tuesday we rested and moved fuel from the bladder into the tank. It was quite windy, but the sun was out making it quite beautiful too. The chore had a learning curve, but we were able to empty out the bladder and stow it before we got too cold. We definitely used more fuel crossing the Drake than we would have liked (it isn't the kind of place you want to drift around waiting for more wind) which will impact how far south we can go.

Telefon Bay Anchorage

The anchorage was very secure and beautiful - in a volcanic, black, otherworldly type way. There were a couple of seals posing as ice cubes on the shore, numerous birds and the occasional penguin that came into the bay for our viewing. The wind was significant - katabatic winds off the volcano caldera regularly whipped through. This kept us boat bound and made outside chores cold and draining.

Are those ice cubes - nope seals!

On Wednesday morning things were pretty calm and sunny so we worked on getting the dinghy inflated and things back to "cruising" configuration. Then we headed south to the (closed) Argentinian base where you can take an easy walk to a penguin rookery. Well, the winds decided to pick up and by the time we were heading south it was already more wind than forecast. We anchored and talked about the options with the 15-20kt on shore breeze. We checked weather a last time, looked carefully at the clouds crossing the bay, and then it started to snow and snow hard. The winds were also picking up, earlier than forecast. We scrapped the plan and decided to head back to our secure anchorage. Visibility became quite low and the snow was pelting us, because, of course, now we were headed into the wind (and the outside navigation iPad battery died and the windlass relay was acting up—it does always seem to pile on and add up!) It was a long 3nm back to the anchorage, but we made it back safely and were happy to drop the anchor and get warmed back up.

Cold, pelting snow - Antarctic sailing!

Happily back at anchor

Thursday saw us stuck with high winds again. There were games and school work to pass the day. Friday things eased in the afternoon and we did some more work to clean up the stern of the boat to get the dinghy back on the arch (rather than tied down on the bow, sometimes trying to be a kite). At this point D was getting desperate for penguins but the parents were still a bit hesitant after Wednesday's foray. We discussed making the trip down on Friday evening, but decided to wait until Saturday as the forecast seemed ok.

Nice weather - try again or wait?

Saturday we got underway just after noon. The winds quickly set up rather similar to our first trip down so we set sail to move south this time and decided we should not try the base / walk to the penguin rookery again, but that we could try to go to Whaler's Bay. We had a nice 7nm sail and anchored off the beach. D was quite upset that we were not going to see the penguin rookery. However, a look to shore, confirmed by a peep through binoculars, suggested that there were a few penguins ashore! Thank goodness! Disappointed, grumpy kids can quickly become insufferable.

We organized ourselves and went ashore for our first time in Antarctica (well, technically the South Shetlands). It was a fascinating walk and great to stretch our legs. 4 Gentoo and 4 Chinstrap penguins greeted us. We enjoyed watching them for a bit. Then we toured the old base. The base is a historic UK site that closed in 1968 after volcanic damage in 1967 and 1968. Before WWII, the base had been run by a Norwegian whaling company, and the site had been used by seal hunters as early as the late 1800s. After admiring the relics, we took a walk to Neptune's window to enjoy the cliff view. There was a low cloud and a dreary setting which added to the feel of the whole place. After our walk we came back and watched the penguins some more before returning to Zephyros.


Touring Whaler's Bay

Dreary & fascinating

We spent a peaceful night in Whaler's Bay with the plan to move south early Sunday. We started around 7 and headed out of the volcano caldera and over to Bailey's Head where there is a large chinstrap penguin rookery—reportedly the largest in Antarctica. We were able to anchor off of the beach and go ashore. There were so many penguins coming and going! They porpoise through the water in groups. They body surf into and out of the waves, and they waddle to and fro on their highways between the sea and their hilltop roosts. It was really fun to spend an hour with them on land. Looking up at the hilltops, we could see thousands upon thousands of the little fellows, many quite high up.

Walking around in Baily Head, Zephyros at anchor


They are up in the hills too

We returned to Zephyros and started south. We set sail in fog and shifting winds. The engine came on and went off and came on and went off. Eventually there was a steady 10-15 knot breeze and we were able to set up for a slow sail south to Trinity Island. A couple of whales passed in front of us and then turned towards us, giving us a short bit of excitement. They disappeared for a bit and had us all looking every direction for them. Eventually we heard and saw them. They were back on their way and a bit too far away to see really well.

Sunday's sail was a long (60nm), slow one - with the exception of a couple of good, faster hours. But we were happy to save some fuel and it is pretty much light 24 hours a day so an overnight sail is in mostly day light anyway with maybe a few hours of "dusk" type light. The gray and fog made it a bit less pleasant than it might have been and quite stressful at times, along with the unforecasted 20+ knots of wind on the nose for the last 20-25nm and the need to dodge ice as well. In the end, we safely arrived and tucked into a very secure spot, around 1:30am, thankful for the dusk type light and good charts. We quickly secured and fell into bed.

Trinity Island

Some large, beautiful icebergs

Monday, we awoke to bright, sunny, mountainous, snowy, icy, amazing 360 degree views. There is an Argentinian hut and a Gentoo penguin rookery here to explore and spectacular weather to enjoy. We had a lovely land excursion and marveled at beautiful, fluffy baby Gentoos. The wind forecast for today and tomorrow suggest no to light winds and seem to be holding up thus far. We are excited to have moved on from Deception Island and to do some more exploring. It now really feels like we have arrived in Antarctica and we can even see the peninsula mainland from our anchorage spot in Mikkelsen Harbour.

Mikkelsen Harbour

The Argentinian hut & the Antarctic Peninsula across the water

Gentoo penguins!

Note: We've updated the post with pictures, but for those that want to see *more* pictures & video:     Link to Antarctica Week 1, is now active!

Day 5, Arrival in Antarctica!

2200Z 11JAN21, anchored in Stancomb Cove, Telefon Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica.

Approaching Boyd Strait, early on Monday, we saw the snow and ice covered mountains of Smith Island welcoming us to Antarctica. The motor through the strait was fine and we were then able to set up on a close reach in calm seas with 10-15 knots of wind - perfect conditions oft referred to as "champagne sailing".

0230 - not very dark, sailing well & land ho

Smith Island

Hello Antartica!

As we came through the strait, we saw our first Antarctic whales. Our first Gentoo penguins came swimming at us like dolphins porpoising along the surface. We later saw quite a few more whales as we approached Deception Island, one of which decided to swim alongside the boat for a few minutes. As we neared the South coast of Deception Island, we saw our first enormous penguin rookeries. The penguins were surprisingly high on the hills and had long, busy highways running up/down to the water.

Sailing towards Deception Island

Getting closer



Deception Island - what are all those dots on land?

Penguin Rookeries!

We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing, easy 35nm sail to Deception Island. We entered through Neptune's Bellows into the volcano caldera around 6pm. We were greeted by a friendly Argentinian naval research vessel and we talked with them as we moved to the sheltered cove where we would anchor.

Approaching Neptune's Bellows

Sails down to enter the Bellows

View to the port (left side) in the Bellows

Close up of the hills on the port side - penguins!

View to the starboard (right side) in the Bellows

Through the Bellows

Into the Caldera

More Caldera

The Caldera is quite large

Deception Island is a Volcanic Island

Other worldly!

Passage Information: 535nm, 4d 13h (109hrs), 4.9kts avg SOG, 44.6h on engine, one minor casualty: a parted lazy jack line that should be retrieved and spliced later today.

Day 4, Drake Passage

0900Z 11JAN21, Day 4, Drake Passage. We had a good, but strange day. It started motoring in low winds and dense fog which had us a bit stressed (ice watch in fog - yuck!). The fog cleared but the winds stayed low. So we showered and made water, fully leaning in to our brand new world of a watermaker aboard with both Megan and Jon enjoying the nearly endless supply of engine heated water and knowing that we weren't concerned about using too much—even so, we don't really know how to take a long shower anymore but enjoyed the luxury of just a few minutes of flowing water. We spent much of the day motoring and saw fog again by dinner time. Then, just as forecast, the wind picked up. We sailed well, but reduced sail to keep our speeds reasonable so that we weren't going too fast in case we did find ice (which we did not). We got about six hours of sailing in and then were back to the engine arriving just outside the Boyd Strait to close out day 4.

Current Position: 62 39S / 062 07W
24 hour progress: 125nm, 5.2kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is about 478nm, approximately 60nm to Deception Island. Current ETA is around dinner time.

Sunday was mostly gray and going outside meant being well bundled up. We saw some dolphins and quite a few birds - Cape Petrels, Storm Petrels, Gray-headed Albatrosses, Black-browed Albatrosses and Wandering Albatrosses.

Excitement is up aboard Zephyros as we can see the South Shetland Islands and we are arriving at the Antarctica Peninsula!

Day 3, Drake Passage

0900Z 10JAN21, Day 3, Drake Passage. Our speeds have improved. We have had some good sailing, but we have also started to motor again. We knew that the winds would die for this last part of the Drake so it is expected. Now we will try to avoid getting too much wind on the nose.

Current Position: 60 40S / 063 07W
24 hour progress: 122nm, 5.1kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 353nm, approximately 135nm to Boyd Strait. After the strait there is about another 50nm to Deception Island where we hope to anchor. Things are lining up for daylight in the strait through anchoring - the benefits of such long days this far south.

Saturday was another nice day with sun heating up the boat a bit as it continues to get colder outside.

The sea legs seem to have arrived. Everyone is now keeping food down and food is being eaten more heartily.

We have crossed into the southern convergence zone and have seen new types of albatrosses and marveled at some of the small storm petrels that are so far out to sea. Interestingly it seemed like more birds on day three than day two.

Day 2, Drake Passage

0900Z 09JAN21, Day 2, Drake Passage. We had good, but slow sailing throughout our second day. Overnight we got set up wing on wing and made some better time, but all in all we are moving more slowly than we had hoped. Our boat bottom is dirtier than we would like and we are rather heavy with provisions and extra fuel. We are definitely feeling like we should have started this crossing on Wednesday evening, but what's done is done. We can't change it now.

On the positive side, the Drake is being kind to us. The winds have largely been as forecast which is a bit surprising since we often find them to be under forecast or closer to the gust forecast. We basically expected to see more wind than we are which would have us sailing above 5kts, but calmer winds is *not* something we are complaining about! We would just like a bit better speed out of the wind that we have - but such are the ways and lessons of passage making.

Current Position: 58 54S / 064 51W
24 hour progress: 116nm, 4.8kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 236nm, approximately 250nm to Boyd Strait. We are almost half way across!

The weather was very nice and sunny throughout the day on Friday. The air and sea are certainly getting colder but things were pleasant enough with the sun out. We are keeping the inside of the boat warm with our door closed and standing our watches in the pilot house which warms up well in the sun.

We are all doing fine and trying to find our rhythms. Bread has been popular throughout the day but there wasn't a lot of eating for anyone. Dinner was pizza which seemed to be popular even though it was picked at rather than how it is normally devoured. Nausea continues for everyone but Megan.

We are still seeing the occasional giant petrel and albatross, but they are down to solitary gliders now.

Day 1, Drake Passage

0900Z 08JAN21, Day 1, Drake Passage. We departed from our spot at anchor in front of Alcamar Lennox at 6am local time on Thursday, the 7th of January.

Before we started the passage, we left Puerto Williams on Tuesday evening. We had a few more clean up / passage stowing type chores to finish, but just felt like it was time to unplug and get into passage mode. It was an easy motor on a beautiful, calm evening to Caleta Eugenia. We were able to have a nice dinner, do some planning and get to bed. In the morning we deflated and stowed the dinghy and kayak, cleaned up our decks (we prefer clean decks for passage making) and stowed things inside as well. We do have a 200L fuel bladder secured to our foredeck this trip. We hope not to need our extra fuel, but it is some insurance allowing us to motor rather than wait around for wind in the Drake.

Leaving Puerto Williams

Heading to anchor - look at all the stuff still on the deck!

A last look west into the Beagle Channel

So long PW, for now

Beautiful night

So calm in the anchorage

Nice to unplug

And get in the passage mode

Wednesday we moved to Isla Lennox, about half sailing and half motoring, and had a last night at anchor. We really debated whether we should stop or just keep going. It looked like quite a bit of motoring if we started Wednesday night but if we waited we might have to motor the last part of the way to Deception Island in Antarctica, if we didn't make good speed. It's always a trade off and a bit of a guess. Weather forecasts are amazing and help us immensely, but they aren't perfect and different areas tend to have their own anomalies.

The sunken ship, on a shoal, on the way to Lennox

In the end, we decided on the night's rest and set off early Thursday morning. We raised our sail, but found ourselves motor sailing. The wind that was supposed to fill in, did not seem to be there, yet. So we motor sailed, often more slowly than we would hope, but we were happy to start our time in the infamous Drake with sun, some rolly short waves in the shallower areas around Cape Horn and not a lot of wind.

Motor sailing past the islands off of Southern Chile

Some nice weather and decently calm

So long, for now, Cape Horn

In the early evening, right after Jon laid down for a nap, the winds decided to fill in! The Drake definitely decided to go from calm to gale in about 45 minutes. We went from having all the sail up and out to fully reefed. Eventually we got settled in and trimmed up and the sleep schedule resumed. We sail conservatively, especially over night, so our speeds were sometimes slower than hoped as we were hesitant to let out too much more sail too quickly. But as day arrived, the rain left, the sun came back out, the winds settled to 20kts and the seas settled out, we shook out reefs and set up for passage day 2.

Current Position: 57 04S / 065 44W
24 hour progress: 115, 4.8kts avg SOG, approximately 365nm to Boyd Strait. We have been sailing a broad reach, direct to the strait. The seas have been large and aft of the beam. It's been awhile since we've been in ocean swell.

We are all doing fine and adjusting back to passage making. Everyone is a bit groggy and sometimes green. Megan continues to have the iron stomach, but it affects us all to various degrees. This passage isn't especially long so in all likelihood we will be arriving just as we all find our sea legs.

Cape Horn to Starboard

After an early to bed evening at anchor off Lennox Island, we arose early to grey skies and a little wind in the rigging this morning. After a final check of the weather forecasts, we weighed anchor and started South toward the Antarctic peninsula. It quickly became a calm, sunny day and we left Cape Horn to starboard, as we motor sailed into the Drake Passage. Given the fierce reputation of these waters, we'll accept burning some fuel instead of getting beat up. Hoping we might get to see some of the trailing Vendee Globe competitors sail across our path. So far, it's been dolphins, albatrosses, giant petrels, skuas, terns and seals.

We've been slowly preparing for this voyage to Antarctica for about 6 months, but we really didn't think it was going to happen until a few last things fell into place suddenly in December including an extraordinary permission to travel to Santiago and back despite community quarantines in order to renew an expiring passport for our youngest son. That whirlwind trip, and then the last minute preparations to get the boat ready and equipped with an extra 400+ liters of fuel in a borrowed bladder and borrowed containers wouldn't have been possible without the help of the many friends we have made in Chile.

Since we returned from the Beagle Channel Glacier tour at the end of November, we've updated our charting tablets, installed a watermaker, loaded over 3 months worth of provisions, made minor rigging and sail repairs, loaded 700+ liters of fuel (68 liters at a time), and completed a myriad of other minor repairs. It's been busy with the holidays, a quarantine, and the trip to Santiago for two of us all thrown in for good measure. We also took time to say goodbye to several friends who decided to sail north through the Chilean canals hoping to eventually be able to cruise in the Pacific, and to meet a fellow American who had to stop in Puerto Williams due to damages after having sailed single-handed all the way from San Francisco and around Cape Horn on a non-stop circumnavigation attempt.

We remain in awe of many of the sailors we have met since we've started cruising. We've been privileged to meet, learn from, and be assisted by so many fellow sailors. They've helped us through some of our lows and encouraged us to keep expanding our horizons throughout our adventures. That they have been so humble and generous has been a simple reminder of how we all should live, and has been a great illustration of the kinds of people we want our children to become.

We wish all a healthy and happy 2021. We hope you will realize your dreams, and continue to follow and share in the adventures that result from our chasing our own.

Cheers, Jon & Crew