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.

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