Saturday, February 28, 2009

Xplore: 28 February 2009

There be Dragons and Trolls in them hills !! Entering the gap in the ice strewn rock cliffs that give entry to Seno Occasion in Tierra Del Fuego is like being on the film set for Jurassic park: you can feel the tension building as your heartbeat skips a little faster and faster, as you make the final bends to this truly secluded anchorage. Each time I bring a yacht into this location my whole being is alive with emotion and feeling. I often wonder how I can capture the simultaneous feelings and sensations of my heart, mind and soul, so as to give readers a deep and full impression of what we see here in the south. But, like trying to take a photo of a large wave, the result is always disappointing compared to the real event; it's never the same until you live and experience it yourself. Xplore made a fast turnaround there in Ushuaia, after we finished the one month expedition to Antarctica. Everyone was pleased to be back in South America even though the arrival meant that new friends and shared experiences had to depart; while the new tasks, challenges and voyages bring questions that have to be answered. For me, I needed to get away again, and quickly. The small boating community in the South is a tight knit group of daring and kindred spirits -- which after years of experiencing can also become claustrophobic. My true friends there are very special, and I hope will always remain so, but the hustle and bustle of the Argentinian port and its quirky unexplainable Argentinian ways can get very tiring. So instead of remaining in Ushuaia and working on Xplore's regular maintenance list (to keep the wheels in motion) we decided to head to the Beagle Channel and the western capes of Tierra Del Fuego to win back some of the long lost energy that years of Southern sailing takes out of you. 'To bask in the rare moments of clear and crisp sunshine, and rock away in a snug anchorage after a good meal and glass of wine (or two). This is recovery time for myself and the crew, and I damn well need it. From here we will head west, and then north, to the Straites of Magellan and the Chilean port of Punta Arenas ("Sandy Point" in English). Our last expedition of the season will leave from there, working for a Chilean company in search of new wildlife locations on the northern side of Tierra Del Fuego's Darwin Mountain range. An interesting, and challenging location -- as virtually no vessels venture to this side unless they are there for military purposes or science. This is a chance for Xplore and the team to tread on untrodden ground, and we are looking forward to it. However today the weather is cold and windy: even if we wanted to move on it would have been impossible or dangerous. Gale force winds from the south have brought cold, cold conditions and dangerous ocean waves that break on the coast, blocking the passageways we need to take to creep around the corner into the Pacific, where we'll then re-enter the waterways of safety in the Cockburn Channel (don't laugh, it was named after an English explorer! But maybe someone in his family's past had an embarrassing personal problem). So we sit, read, plan our work lists, stay warm and remain patient; the only thing that changes weather in the South is time. More news to come ~ Stephen

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