Antarctic - Ice with everything
- Departure Puerto Williams
- Duration 21 days
- Month December
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A voyage along the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula taking in some of the most scenic parts of the continent
This cruise voyage on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula will take in one of the most scenic and varied parts of the continent. The vessel will be a mobile base camp and we will be making several shore landings during the course of the time on the Peninsula, but this Operator's style, unlike a cruise ship, is more time spent in fewer areas with a flexible plan overall.
It must be understood that the itinerary outlined below can only be a rough guide to what you will see and do while on the Antarctic Peninsula. Every cruise will vary due to weather and ice conditions, making it impossible (nor desirable) to fix a rigid plan.
DAY 1 Board the vessel in Puerto Williams Chile. The afternoon is spent stowing personal gear, familiarising the team with the vessel and having a safety briefing.
DAY 2 Clear out of Puerto Williams and head east through the Beagle Channel and turn south through the Cape Horn archipelago. Weather permitting, you will sail directly across the Drake Passage for the Peninsula. On the other hand, if the forecast is for strong headwinds, or risk of storm, you will shelter in any number of three anchorages within the archipelago. If you are storm bound for a day or two while the system moves through, there are opportunities for long walks ashore on the rugged terrain of Tierra del Fuego.
DAYS 2-5 Crossing the Drake Passage to first shelter on Deception Island should take no more than 60 hours. It is emphasized again that if storm winds are forecast, a day or two waiting in the Cape Horn archipelago will be necessary until a safe and comfortable crossing can be made.
Arrive on Deception Island in the South Shetland archipelago. This is a semi active volcanic island and we enter the lagoon which is the flooded caldera. The landscape is unique in the Antarctic region as the island’s shape is a combination of volcanic ash and layers of ice. One night and day will be spent here rigging the boat for inshore sailing, briefing the team on the Antarctic guidelines with respect to the wildlife and taking any number of walks ashore which can include a visit to Whalers Bay, the site of the first commercial whaling operation in the region. On the day of departure, sea conditions permitting, we will try to land on the southeast corner of Deception where there is one of the largest Chinstrap Penguin colonies in the Antarctic.
DAY 5 Sail south for the Gerlache Straits. This can be done overnight (in relative daylight) as the majority of the passage is offshore through the southern portion of the Bransfield Straits. From the northern section of the Gerlache Straits, you will then navigate in between Anvers Island and Weincke Island – the Neumayer Channel - and then continue south towards the Penola Straits.
From here on South, Humpback Whales will be in abundance, so we can divert at any time to try and get close to them, which involves turning off the engine and drifting, hoping they come to us. Leopard Seals can also be approached as they ride the ice floes feeding off the penguin population.
DAY 6 Early morning sail through the Lemaire Channel which is a narrow, ice filled passage fringed between the high mountains of Booth Island and the mainland. This is considered to be the most scenic stretch of water on the Peninsula and hence its nickname, “Kodak Valley!”
Spend the day in the Penola Straits, with a possible temporary anchorage off Hovgaard Island. This and the nearby Pleneau Island are good places for a walk ashore where a small colony of Elephant Seals reside. The night would be spent anchored off Booth Island with stern lines to the shore on either side of an isthmus depending on which way the wind was blowing.
DAY 7 In the middle of Penola Straits lies Yalour Island which is one of the most attractive Adelie Penguin colonies on the Peninsula. On a sunny day, the views across to Fanfare Island and the peninsula plateau beyond are spectacular. In good weather you would anchor off here for the morning and go ashore.
The afternoon and night would be spent only a few miles away at the Ukrainian scientific station Vernadsky. This was formerly the British Antarctic Survey base Faraday, where the "Ozone Hole" was discovered with the Dobson spectrometer which is still in use today. Expect a good welcome and a tour from the base commander.
The anchorage is very protected and we moor to the shore in a narrow backwater in the small archipelago of the Argentine Islands. This is also the most secure of storm anchorages. This is probably the best example of one of the old Peninsula bases that is still functioning.
DAYS 8-11 Three days would be spent probing south into the Grandidier Channel and possibly into Crystal Sound. Since last year’s sea ice is very unpredictable, it is never sure how far you can get on the inside passage, so we may have to backtrack and go on the outside via the Pitt Islands where we have good shelter. On the outside of the island chain the big icebergs are usually stacked up touching the bottom and breaking up. If there is a swell running it is dramatic to see them heaving up and down and not uncommon to see quite a few capsize.
The culmination of the voyage and the goal on this stretch would be to reach the level of the Antarctic Circle and land on the mainland. If we can make it through the inside we would shelter near Prospect Point at the Fish Islands. Prospect Point is the site of an old British Antarctic Survey base that was abandoned in the 50’s and is soon to be removed. An interesting place if it is still standing!
This will be a highly variable (and therefore the most interesting part of the voyage for some people!) part or the trip, as the landscape here is open and stunning, but on the other hand very challenging as the good shelters for the vessel are few and far between. This is where we ‘suck it and see’ for a better turn of phrase.
DAYS 12,13,14 Aggregate lost time assumed due to unnavigable conditions. We would be storm bound somewhere!
DAY 15 Working our way back up north through the Penola and Lemaire Channels we would anchor and put lines ashore to Weincke Island near Port Lockroy. This has become the de facto visitor center for the cruise ship trade, but it is always worth a visit. Formerly a British Antarctic Survey base and recently renovated as an information center, they provide the service of a British Post Office selling stamps, post cards, information sheets, maps, etc. The base, manned in summer only, has been declared a Site of Historic Interest within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty System. The base was originally built on a Gentoo Penguin colony and today the humans are still very much the guests.
DAY 16 Going south about Weincke Island back into the Gerlache we would steam for a few hours into Paradise Harbour, again spotting Humpback Whales along the way. The night could be spent at Cuverville Island (bird and seal populations) to the north or within the Melchior Archipelago between Anvers and Brabant Islands.
DAY 17 Eventually, the Melchoir Islands are the best place to jump off from for the return passage across the Drake. By Day 16, we should be watching the weather closely for an opportunity to cross. The downside is an early departure, but any spare days can be spent near Cape Horn with a visit to Horn Island possible. The risk of a late departure is missing a favorable pattern and still being there on Day 20! When needed, we are using a weather router in America so we can predict the situation for about five days in advance.
DAYS 18-20 Recrossing the Drake Passage and/or spare days at Cape Horn.
DAY 21 Puerto Williams, last night on board.
DAY 22 Guests would fly back to Punta Arenas and connect to Santiago.
This operator, now in its 4th decade, sets the standard in high latitude sailing; Operating two expedition vessels available for charter to destinations in both hemispheres, eg; Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, Norway, Spitsbergen, Iceland, Greenland, Labrador and Arctic Canada.
A concept rather than simply sailing vessels, they are designed and built specifically for long-term operations in remote areas including climbing and film-making project support; scientific field research as well as building sea-time on delivery trips.
The Voyaging Style
Although the vessels are for charter, you should think in terms of 'expeditioning' rather than 'charter cruising'. The aim is to give you, as guest crewmember, a sense of participation in all facets of operating a small vessel in a remote area.
This perspective sums it up -
"When you have to wash up your own dishes you're on an expedition. If not, you are chartering."
The vessels will always have a dedicated cook/mate, so if necessary meals will be prepared throughout, however everyone is encouraged to try their hand in the galley. Washing up after meals is taken in turn. On deck, whilst everyone is expected to do a bit of steering, sail handling and help with launching and re-embarking the dinghy, no prior experience is needed.
Planning and Organisational Responsibilities
The operator is a member of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, which sets guidelines and protocols for safe and environmentally sound conduct. For Antarctic expeditions, it obtains a permit from the UK Foreign Office as required by the UK’s Antarctic Act and likewise will apply for and obtain its own permits as required.
It can give advice to guest crew regarding travel plans, relevant authorities’ visas, permits and environmental guidelines, however, all such arrangements are the responsibility of the client.
In the event that a client cannot obtain a permit as required by his/her national authority (or other relevant clearances/documentation) this will not constitute a basis for refund of any deposits paid.
The Possibility of Failure
Although their track record is well established, the possibility of failure and danger is, by their definition, implicit in an expedition. Otherwise it would not be an adventure!
They will make best efforts to stick to a client's itinerary as agreed beforehand, but the possibility of modifications because of: weather, the limitations of a small sailing vessel and the skipper's final say on decisions affecting safety, amongst other factors, must be accepted by the client. Therefore they can give no guarantees that any expedition or group will reach its objectives.
Voyaging with them is a true adventure where uncertainty is a key element in defining the quality of your experience.
The two vessels are tried, tested and evolved from many years experience in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean. Their philosophy is simplicity; when you keep a boat mechanically simple, you spend less time with your 'head in the bilge' and have more time to enjoy where you are going.
Both vessels are fully equipped for comfort. Warm and dry below, there are proper bunks, spacious head compartments with hot water showers, a library and a good selection of music. In short, eminently suitable for expedition sailing in extreme environments.
They are not, however, 'luxury yachts' in the sense that they have no varnish work or fancy stainless steel fittings on deck, nor hardwood veneer bulkheads below – don’t expect a shaver socket in the heads.
As for the water supply, rather than running a generator endlessly to power a water maker, they prefer to run ‘quiet,’ and resupply en route – perhaps from the waterfalls in Tierra del Fuego or the glacial run off from Antarctica – part of the philosophy of using available resources, though perhaps requiring some physical effort and ingenuity! Whilst water for showering is therefore somewhat limited, in reality you might find it unnecessary to shower daily in the cold conditions.
The Operator’s original vessel was designed and built in Southampton (UK) in 1987 specifically to operate in remote areas on long-term projects. 16.5m long, built of steel she is tough, able to cope with ice abrasion and beaching. She has been constantly updated over the last 20 or so years and can be repaired almost anywhere.
She sailed south for her first year and provided a mobile base camp for a mountaineering/filming expedition on the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia.
During this maiden voyage, she proved eminently suitable to operate efficiently and comfortably in one of the most hostile environments for a small sailing yacht.
Her greatest assets are her retractable keel and rudder. When raised she can moor in natural harbours that are unnavigable by deeper-drafted vessels; interesting for convenience, but ultimately important for safety. In polar regions, her ability to get behind barrier rocks and moor to the shoreline in shallow water, makes her safe from drift ice and secure against high winds and sea.
In the Tropics, as a dive platform, her ability to enter shallow lagoons and atolls speaks for itself. With keel and rudder "up", the hull is still manoeuvrable under power. With the tide out, she can be safely careened on the beach or rest on the bottom for cleaning or repairs.
Operating in cold climates she can accommodate up to eight team members including a professional skipper and one or possibly two crew depending on the ability of the party. In the tropics six is the optimum team size. She offers a well-proven standard of service.
Equipment for use by the client:
two 4m inflatable boats with 25hp & 15hp outboards; diving compressor - Bauer Junior Utilus 10 225 Bar
Navigation and Communication Equipment:
GPS, radar, depth sounder, sailing instruments, autopilot, weatherfax, SSB HF radio/VHF, SATCOM C. Iridium phone with data for email
: 30 days for 6 crew at 3 litres per person per day.
Food and Equipment Storage: three months for 6-8 crew.
Keel: fully retractable swing keel.
Rudder: fully retractable swing rudder.
Engine and Propeller: Cummins 6B 5.9 M 115HP with 3 bladed fixed prop.
Electrical system: 500 amp hours battery capacity at 24 volts. 24v to 12v, 24v to 220v and 24v to 110v inverters.
Heating System: gravity fed diesel stove. Hot water off heat exchanger on engine.
Built in South Africa this vessel was conceived as a successor to the operator’s first - based in Southern South America and providing logistic support for adventure charters. And in order to work the northern summer in the Arctic, she was intended to be fast enough under sail and power to traverse the length of the Atlantic each year; achieving a 10 knot average in normal conditions.
At 22.m long, the vessel can take up to 10 passengers and 2 crew in comparatively greater comfort and speed. Her principal features are an aluminium hull and deck structure specified to be able to withstand navigation in brash ice; a fully ballasted lifting swing keel and swing rudder which allow her to navigate in unsurveyed shallows, gain protection from drift ice by being able to enter shallow waters and also be able to dry out with the tide in an upright position.
Design of the pilothouse came first and then the boat underneath it. This focal point of the boat has a steering station, nav gear, chart table, foul weather gear storage, heated boot locker, a pilot berth/settee and enough space for four or five people to comfortably mooch around. Outside of the watertight door, a halfway house for three or four people gives overhead shelter but is in direct communication with the outside steering position, the sail control systems and a small cockpit. Here, people will be sheltered and have room to have safety equipment or camera equipment at the ready.
She is equipped with the latest Inmarsat Fleet 77 satellite communications unit which facilitates online storage and forwarding of film projects. The vessel is certified by DNV (Det Norske Veritas), has a UK Marine and Coastguard Agency certificate for carrying passengers and is CE marked.
Equipment for use by the client: 2 x 4m inflatable boats with 25hp outboards, Dive compressor - Bauer Utilus 10 225 Bar, Bottle bank – 8 x 12 litre bottles with A frame and DIN fittings, Foul weather gear
Inmarsat Nera Fleet 77 satellite terminal – voice and data at 64K
Inmarsat C satellite telex terminal - for email/fax store and forward only
SSB HF radio for ship to ship comms including amateur frequencies
Irridium antenna for use with clients handset
VHF Marine radio
4 x Icom handheld VHF radios
Iridium phone with data for email
Trip 1 - 1st December to 21st December 2016
Trip 2 - 5th January to 25th January 2017
£12,500 per person which is all inclusive of food and drink once on board. A maximum of eight guests is envisaged.
This cost includes the use of Sail Racing sailing foul weather gear, all personal safety equipment for sailing (lifejacket, harness) and the use of the Inmarsat communications equipment. (note: satime is billed separately as used).
"I found her to be one of the finest, cleanest, most well organized and thought out vessels that could have been constructed for Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. I must return one day to the high latitudes and my first choice will be upon this boat."
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