Friday, April 19, 2013

A Glimpse of Home, So Far Away

Galactic and her crew found themselves at the Aucklands just as a series of gales swept in from the west.  We spent the next few days snugged down in the best anchorages in Port Ross - Erebus Cove (below) and Terror Cove.

Terror and Erebus are names that resonate in the history of polar exploration.  The anchorages were named when the ships were in the Aucklands during voyages of Antarctic discovery, under the command of James Ross.  Later, of course, they disappeared under the command of John Franklin during the search for the Northwest Passage.  Very cool to anchor Galactic in this place.

There was also a settlement here, briefly, about 160 years ago.  Three hundred people lived along the shoreline in this picture, but now the rata trees look like they've been undisturbed since the dawn of time.

A cemetery is one of the few remnants of the settlement.

Many of the graves are from shipwrecks that occurred after the settlement was abandoned.

The weather limited us to a quick trip ashore and some exploring in the dinghy.  But meanwhile, of course, we were at home on board Galactic, and family life went on as per normal.  This is the only way that we could imagine extended travel with little kids.

Home school (boat school?) has become a major focus of Alisa's efforts.

Bundling the kids up takes time!

We scrubbed footwear before and after each trip ashore to prevent the accidental introduction of exotic plants.

When the weather cheered itself up we took Galactic around to Ranui Cove and went ashore to the World War II coast watch station.

The old lookout building.

The pinups are still on the wall, seventy years later.

And the magazines are still stacked in a corner.  This one was a find - Brad Washburn is a hero of Alaskan mountaineering - the central figure of mountain exploration in the Great Land.  Corresponding with him about his first ascent of Mt. Deception, and a route that a friend and I put up on the same mountain fifty years later, was a highlight of my climbing days.  It was great fun to imagine some bored, lonely Kiwi down here all those years ago, reading about Washburn's exploits.

The view from the lookout.  The tip of our mast is just visible as a dot on the shoreline in the center of the photo.

We sailed around to Dea's Head to anchor for the night.  Penguins porpoised in the sunlight on either side of us.  The anchorage was still - and yes, that is a gin and tonic in Alisa's hand.

We had a celebratory pizza dinner in the cockpit.

A period of settled weather had arrived, and we were expecting moderate SW winds on the leading edge of an approaching high.  It was the third week of March, and although we had only scratched the surface of the Aucklands, we were determined not to be caught out by the changing season, either in the subantarctic or at Stewart Island.  It was time to go.

As I took the shot above we were listening to pigs screaming in the bush and New Zealand sea lions howling from the water.  A few hours later the southern lights came out - the aurora australis.  Alisa and I met each other in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the aurora borealis is a part of everyday life, especially if you are a student living in a cabin without plumbing and find yourself making visits to the outhouse in the dead of night.  So it was a particular treat for us to see the aurora australis at least once in our lives. After all these years of traveling, and the effort of getting ourselves to somewhere as far from our previous experience of the world as the Aucklands, we were presented with this sight that was both wonderfully familiar, and something we had never seen before.

All the world is our home, and anywhere where we can manage to get our boat, safely, is a place where we're meant to be.

The display that we saw at Dea's Head was a good one - not one of those times when you wonder if that smudge of light on the horizon is the aurora, but one of those times when the lights dance high overhead.  We woke Elias to see them.

He was a little impressed, but mostly sleepy.

The next day we put to sea.

It was a good trip back.

In the next post - a few highlights of what we learned while operating the boat down south...


  1. cool post! that pizza looks really good! Less than a month and you'll be back in Kodiak! woo-hoo!! Zoya

    1. Thanks, Z! We are all VERY excited for Kodiak!

  2. Hi Mike, Quick question: In the picture above where you're holding what looks like the backstay, is the white wire with the blue standoffs your SSB antenna? I've thought to do the same thing with ours, but have been told by radio "experts" that it won't work. Please let me know. Looks like a great trip, nice pics. Michael (Del Viento)

    1. Hey MIchael - Yep, those are standoffs. For a glass boat, my understanding is that they are only indicated if the backstay is tied into the lightning ground system at the hull - in that case, the stay is of course common to the ground, and some weird induction-thingy robs you of boomin' power. Or something like that... But if the stay doesn't tie in to a ground system, then of course the insulators keep it isolated from ground, and there's no loss if the antenna cable runs right next to the stay.

      Anyway, that's all the conventional wisdom that I've picked up... If the stay is grounded, it can't hurt!

  3. aurora australis, a good omen .... sigh .....

  4. yep, a great moment to see them... funny how we're always having this background conversation about Alaska, and when we might return... but if we end up back in Kodiak, we'll never see the lights because of the clouds and latitude!