Monday, March 7, 2016

Outrageous (Good) Fortune

I've been counting.

We've now had ELEVEN days of absolutely fantastic weather IN A ROW. In South Georgia, that would be.

Add that to our better-than-could-be-believed passage here from the Falklands, and we appear to be on something of a roll.

An unrelenting string of mirror-calm seas and bright blue skies has been oppressing our attempt to sail somewhere really Edgy and Out There. It's hard to reconcile this experience with our long reluctance to stick our necks out far enough to actually sail to South Georgia. For years we heard the raves from our friends who had been here, but we were pretty sure that it wasn't a trip for us and our family crew.

Of course, the monster passage to South Africa still awaits. The experience of sailing to South Georgia isn't over until you reach the port that comes after Grytviken. If we can pull off that trip in something approaching comfort than we will have scored the three-for-three hat trick.

And now you can see how completely I have given up the superstitions of the sea, as judged by my willingness to commit that last sentence to the ether while the outcome of the next passage remains unwritten.

Our luck hasn't been limited to weather, either. South Georgia is fairly encumbered by cruise ships, and we have had some close calls in terms of avoiding sharing the wonders of this place with strangers by the Zodiac load. At St. Andrews Bay the National Geographic Explorer came in and dropped the hook just as we were getting our dinghy in the water. Somehow (and we spoke with staff from the ship later and confirmed it) they decided that the conditions were too poor for a beach landing. How anyone in the world could have a lower tolerance for dodgy beach landings than we do beggars the imagination, but there you are. The Explorer steamed off in search of calmer landings, we braved the ten-centimeter rollers breaking on the black sand beach, and had the 100,000 king penguins and the sunshine all to ourselves.

Or consider yesterday, when the family trooped from the abandoned whaling station at Stromness along the tail end of the route that brought Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean across South Georgia after their voyage from Elephant Island in the James Caird. There is no more legendary story in Antarctic exploration, and walking a bit of that route ourselves was a particularly humbling setting for having a very difficult day with our five year old ordinary seaman, and, for reasons that probably included an over-reacting father, splitting our Expedition into two teams of four in order to keep said five year old ordinary seaman from causing havoc with his nine year old able seaman brother.

A family day like that could only have been made worse by the presence of a bunch of fare-paying whoevers in matching rain gear. At least I was able to lose my temper with Eric at full volume rather than hiding the worst parts of me away, like city folk are meant to. So I was particularly gratified that a cruise ship chose the following day for their hordes to tread the same hallowed steps, after we were safely back in Husvik and having a wonderful and more harmonious family walk up an alpine valley that no one has ever heard of, including ourselves.

Our only real run-in with cruise ship folks came with a French ship (just sayin'!) at Cooper Bay, way down at the south end of the island. We had anchored overnight in the mirror-calm, table-flat bay that is wide open to the bleedin' Southern Ocean. Morning saw us in the family inflatable, Smooches, anchored just off the beach, watching the penguins and fur seals going generally hog wild with the joy of being alive while the elephant seals were apparently sleeping off record-setting hangovers. The ship anchored and disgorged the requisite black Zodiacs filled with people in matching rain gear and way-too-cool-for-this-world staff standing up (of course) at the big Yamaha four-strokes, driving. One of the too-cool staffers decided that his people in matching rain gear wouldn't be able to see the animals properly unless he pulled in next to our little anchored dinghy and ever so gently pushed it aside with his black French (just sayin!) hull.

Me, I didn't care. Alisa, she gets pretty exercised about personal space when it comes to boats. It was almost worth it for me to watch her get all ropeable but managing to keep the lid on that fiery Arab (just sayin!) temper.

So that is more or less us. Alisa and I are more used to seeing penguins around us than any other two people from Ohio have ever been. Eric is completely over his early fear of fur seals and now bravely goes running after the biggest bulls, brandishing rocks and screaming "shoo! scram!" in his shrill little ordinary seaman voice. We have to reign him in out of concern for the wildlife.

This post was sent via our high-frequency radio, as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!


  1. What a ponderous children your little crew mates are having, I hope you can keep your lifestyle far as long as you want it. I myself plan to sell my powerboat after running the "loop" and upgrade to sale and see all the places I've missed and even ones I haven't.. Keep the sails up keel down and your imaginations curious...

  2. I had to laugh at this blog. I was in fact one of those crew leaders ferrying tourists in matching rain gear up South Georgian beaches 20 years ago, although there were fewer ships in the area back then. What a different beast getting their in your own boat. It is definitely on our bucket list to get there. We will be crossing the Atlantic from Cape Verde to French Guiana in May of this year. If you are heading back in 2017, I'm curious where you are going from South Africa. Maybe our paths will cross. I've been following your blog for many years. You are all my idols! Keep on, keeping on.

  3. Wow, you continue to astonish us with your audacity and your courage. And your writing paints the pictures so vividly that we have no trouble imagining Elias's complete joy on meeting his longed-for Weddell seals or Eric stomping along Shackleton's track with his steam-from-the-ears old man or Alisa squaring up to the oh-so-cool dudes. It's all so out of our world, and we love you for doing it. Thinking of you a lot.