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Falkland Islands

12 February 2005

falklandmorning Arrived early this morning at Port Stephens in West Falklands. We sailed here from Pyramid Cove, a distance of over 100M so we sailed through the night. The wind picked up this morning so we were pleased to drop the anchor in a sheltered inlet called “Anchor Inlet”. We had our "recovery" smoked salmon and poached eggs on toast breakfast before sleeping for about 3 hours. We will wait here for a weather window in which to head back to Argentina.

10 February 2005

Today we headed to the naval base at Mare Harbour.  From Stanley Kev had contacted the people concerned to request a berth here.  When we were a couple of miles off we were circled by a naval helicopter - our presence had been noted I guess.  When we entered the harbour there were three naval ships moored including the Gloucester.  Kev tried calling for about an hour on vhf but no one responded.  Having failed to wake up the navy we gave up and anchored across the sound in Pyramid Cove.  By this time there was once again a lot of wind but the anchorage was very secure and Sapphire was very comfortable.

9 February 2005

We left the anchorage at 10 and checked in with the Patagonian Net. Don from the net is going to give us weather forecasts now for the leg between the Falklands and Argentina. It took us ages to beat back to Port Pleasant. When we entered the sound the lumpy seas died away and the afternoon was delightful. There is an amazing amount of wildlife here. We felt as though we were in the opening sequence of a David Attenborough film. In the space of less than a minute we saw seals, dolphins, penguins and countless other birds including petrels and cormorants. The little Commerson's Dolphins swam with the boat all the way up the sound and still loitered after we had anchored in a completely flat and peaceful anchorage.

8 February 2005

kings26 gentoos11 Said goodbye to Chris and Mel today and we left Stanley at 10.00 ish. On our way out through Port Williams we were accompanied by dozens of very acrobatic dolphins. They were leaping vertically into the air and making huge splashes with their tails. We also saw first the tell tale puff of vapour and then the back of a large whale but we don't know which type it was. We beat up to Volunteer Point through thick fog and anchored. As we did so, the fog lifted. We took the tender into the lagoon to get ashore and this in itself was easier said than done – Kev had to take the tender across a sand bar on which there were waves breaking. We got a little wet but made it ashore safely. We did not take the tender as far up the lagoon as we could have and we decided to walk. This turned out to be longer than we thought, I think about 3-4 miles each way and the country was pretty rough. (The first exercise in months!) We passed lots of Magellanic Penguins but they were consistently very shy and running into their burrows when we came close. The beach at Volunteer Point is utterly magnificent – and like the rest of the Falklands totally unspoilt. The sand is pure white. Eventually we found what we had come looking for – a large colony of King Penguins. These birds are probably the most elegant and exotic creatures I have ever seen. They are simply beautiful and suit their names well – they completely ignored Kev and me and just stood there with their beaks in the air. They strut around the place as though they are royalty though when they wanted to walk past us, they always made sure that one of their group went first and when they were happy that we were not a threat, the rest followed.The Gentoo Penguins were really funny. They were extremely curious and instead of ignoring us, some of them came waddling over to see what we were about. They were much more animated than the other penguins and more of them were squabbling amongst themselves. This was the main reason that we came to the Falkland Islands and was a day we will always remember.

6 February 2005

Still on our pontoon and we were visited by Dianne Freeman, Carl's wife. She told me that she and Carl are the OCC port officers here. We were also visited by Dr Mike Richardson, who is the head of the Polar Regions Unit at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was fascinating to speak to as his job is extremely interesting and has taken him all over the world. (He is visiting Antarctica in a couple of days.) During the afternoon we went for a walk to the memorial wood where there are over forty trees planted to remember the men and women who have died here on active service since 1982.

5 February 2005

chriskev melkev After an early start we spent most of the day bouncing around on anchor again as the wind picked up. Luckily it died in the afternoon and we managed to tie up to a pontoon in the town. Last night we went out for a fantastic meal with Chris and Mel and tonight we met up with them again during the evening to watch the rugby in the pub (result very much a disappointment to Kev) and play a few frames of pool in the Victory Bar.

3 February 2005

Carl repaired the stainless steel for us so now we just have to fix the fibreglass before we can head off. The 31st was our 8th wedding anniversary. Neither of us thought eight years ago that we would be toasting our anniversary in the Falkland Islands! On 1 February we spent the day on the boat catching up on jobs and that afternoon moved to anchor further up the harbour (in the same place that we had initially anchored) as the weather forecast was offering a gale. Kev made sure that the tender was brought in and everything lashed down. This was a good thing too as we spent yesterday clinging onto our anchor in 50 kts of wind with waves breaking over the boat. The day was pretty uncomfortable but mostly we were anxious that something might give. As it was we had no trouble. We seemed to drag about three boat lengths which was surprising as we had been fairly well dug into the mud. It didn't matter though as there was lots of room behind us. Once again we learnt a few lessons but we were ok. We could hear the cruise ship on the radio trying to billet out the 900 passengers who had come ashore – there was no way they could get back to their ship. Some were put into hotels but most stayed with local people. (The population of Stanley is fewer than 2000). Even the navy had been caught out as we could hear them telling some of their personnel to wait in the pub until they could be collected. (These guys were probably pleased with that.)During last night the wind eased considerably and today is only about a 6.

30 January 2005

dc10 tornado Today we went to an open day at the Mt Pleasant Military base. We were very kindly given a lift by Bob and Janet Mcleod. The military base was built after the 1982 Argentine Invasion of the islands. The drive to Mt Pleasant was nearly all on dirt roads and we got to see the inner part of the island. Life there must be very isolated. We also saw the curious stone runs – no one know how these were formed. The day was interesting as we got to look in a VC10 and a Hercules aircraft, see a fly over of the Tornados and see a mock attack at Mare Harbour. We also had a look inside the current guardship which is the HMS Gloucester, a destroyer. The HMS Dumbarton Castle was there also as this boat patrols the fishing limits. It was a good day and later we were invited back to Janet and Bob's place for supper.  On the way back we dropped in to see Carl Freeman who has built his own boat here as we needed to ask him about welding some stainless steel for us. We since found out that Carl is the OCC Port Officer for Stanley.

29 January 2005

kevbeer2 The past few days have gone really well. We met up with Sue and Bruce Wilks – Mel's aunty and uncle. We visited Miss Molly and the owner, David Hughes gave us all of his Chilean chats to borrow.  He also made notes on places well worth visiting.  This was really generous as he had never met us before.  Eddie Scougal who is one of the managers for Oyster had been sailing on Miss Molly and he kindly came over and fixed our instruments which was  a huge relief.  One wire had been damaged but this had brought the whole system down.  We visited Gypsy Cove which was  very pretty but is mined so it is not possible to walk on the beach.  We saw some Magellanic Penguins but they swam away as soon as they spotted us.  We managed to get our Hep A boosters is the hospital and visited the museum.  Today Chris Smith, the skipper of Magic Dragon has offered to help us to repair the damaged fibreglass on the pedestal.  We have been very fortunate.  The Falklands are a funny place.  When the weather is forecast here they include the "sheep chill factor" and the "risk to newly shorn sheep".  We were listening to the local radio and there was a programme where the local politicians are questioned.  On this programme they spent some time discussing how the width of the pavements were determined.   It is something where a community can list this as an issue of real concern.  I do not think there has ever been a case of mugging or pick pocketing here.  I also wonder if there is anywhere else in the world where the local newspaper publishes the routing orders for the defence forcer.  Last week they were working on "stalking practice".

20 - 23 January 2005

dolphinspotting We left Deseado this morning as this was a good weather window.  We were rocketed along by a very strong and at times gale force northerly wind.  Over the ground we did 180 miles in 24 hours.  After about 36 hrs the wind abated and we had fresh to moderate westerlies blowing us to the Falklands as we entered the furious fifties.  On the 22nd we were joined by a huge schoold of Peale's dolphins - I have never seen so many before.  We also saw a wandering albatros for the first time.  Early this morning with only about 20 miles to go we were caught out by a squal and we crash gybed.  The preventer broke and the boom slammed over taking the console with it.  It ripped the instruments out of the fibreglass.  It was just so disappointing to see our lovely boat damaged like that but on the other hand, the boom survived and had the  rest of the gear not taken the load the damage could have been much worse.  We need to try to get the electronics working before the passage back to Argentina.  The Falklands reminds me of Scotland.  Our first glimpse of Stanley was one of colourful tin roofs.  We are both looking forward to spending some time here.  We were surprised when we entered the harbour to see two large Oyster 66 yachts, Miss Molly and Magic Dragon tied up.  They had recently returned from Antarctica.