South Georgia at last

For many years I wanted to visit South Georgia. It did not disappoint! We had trained ourselves for the bio security test and kept a close watch on the rodent traps. On our arrival we were welcomed by Steve the GO. He is the local police emigration officer clearance person etc. basically the man you need. He came on board and checked our protocols and was happy with the results. After his briefing we where free to go and explore Grytviken, the administrative port for South Georgia. The post office and gift shop were open, so money could be spent! Grytviken is the only whaling station where we can visit the buildings. The others like Husvik and Stromness have a 200 meter zone around them because of the dangerous and derelict state of the buildings. In Grytviken we could even sound the church bell! I went of to scout out the walk to Maiviken for the day after. All seemed well and easy with beautiful views over Cumberland bay.

The next morning our party was of to do the hike as we sailed the boat the 4 nml around the headland. In Maiviken bay there is a sealers cove where the sealers used to live for weeks when out, looking for furs! Hard to belief when there is a sweet smell of fresh bread coming from inside the Tecla. Our party came to the rendezvous as promised and of we went. Reefed main and stay sail, boiling down the 12 nml track to Ocean Harbor.

The wind picked up just before we had to gybe. We lowered the main halfway and gybed her with a little less strain on the rigging. This is when you want a mizzen to blank the main. The best part of sailing a traditional ketch! The mizzen makes life a lot easier. If there is too much wind you just leave out the main and of you go. So why did we not do this in the first place… Any way after our gybe we started to overtake a cruise ship that was also making for Ocean harbour. It did not last long because we had to come close to the wind, but it was fun as long as it lasted. Coming in to Ocean a hulk of a three mast bark comes in to site, the Bayard. With a little imagination you can see a ship powering along in ballast with a little to much sail. Course tack on the cathead and royals flying! Nothing like a powerful square rigged ship sailed on an edge! The Bayard came to be like this after she parted her moorings in a storm. She was a coal hulk for the whaling station at the time. Efforts were made to pull her of, but all in vane.

Winds were expected to pick up more over night so we were happy to be at anchor. Next morning the wind did not show any sign of backing of. We made an attempt to sail to Husvik, 20nml to the north. We should have stayed at anchor… Motor sailing into the sea’s we took one that was a little too much for the jib boom. I felt a shock and then the strange angel the big jib boom was under. Not good!!! We turned around, down wind to check the damage and ran for Coblers Cove. Luckily the big piece sticking out was still firmly attached to the ship so we were in no danger punching a hole in the boat. At Coblers Cove a shore party left for the Rockery Point where the rockhoppers nest, as Enki and I sorted out the jib boom.

Next day the weather was fair as we motor sailed to Husvik. Husvik is another whaling station in a pretty bay. Although we could not visit the site where the chief factors villa is, just out side the 200 mtr zone. Also the walking was superb. Fur seals and Elephant seals on the beach with some lost King penguins. A beautiful evening followed this perfect day. Next morning we dropped of a party to do the Shackleton walk from Stromness to Fortuna Bay. Shackleton and his men came the other way of course but that did not matter to us! Weather was foul but nobody wanted to back of. And that was a good call, for nothing is like the weather in South Georgia! Sure enough it cleared up as the party made it across the ridge! Shackleton must have felt a big relief when he saw the whalers steam across the bay below him. As did I when I saw the little dots come down the slope on the other side in Fortuna Bay. With a happy bunch of hikers on board we pushed on to the western entrance of Possession Bay, Prince Olav hr.

This is where Capt. Cook went ashore on his voyage down south. He did not think much of the place, if you read some of the names on the map, Cape Disappointment for example does not invite you to come over and see for your self. I’m very happy we did though, for South Georgia is some thing else! Rugged beauty filled with the best wild live. Prince Olav hr was no exception. The hulk of the Brutus gives a fairy tail touch to the cove. The Brutus was also a coal hulk but formerly a three mast square rigged ship. Olav harbour was a sealers harbour before the whaling took over. It was the closest safe harbour to the big rockeries at Elsehul, Udine hr and bird Island. The winds that night got up there and kept me awake for most of it. The new anchor gear is no extra luxury but simply a necessity in these places. At first I wanted to drop two anchors to have a good night sleep. But as the gusts came down and shot through the bay, shortly afterwards the winds although of no strength came from the opposite direction. That would make us swing around the anchor more than once. And that would have made a mess in the morning… The three shackels of chain and the anchor did a good job and kept us pretty much stationed.

That morning we were off to see the Albatrosses on Prion Island, our last stop before setting of for Tristan. The Albatrosses on their nests is for me the biggest wild live experience ever. Knowing these wandering Albatrosses only from flying in high winds it was something else to be up close with them on the land. There were several at their nests in the tussock grass, overlooking The Bay Of Islands. Magnificent!! But it was time to go. We have been chasing our own planning from when we left. There have been simply too much places to stop! Overwhelming to be honest! We left South Georgia bathing in the sun as we shaped a course for yet another distant shore! Into the roaring forties! Shooting down the back of a depression with all sails set and half a jib boom…

All is well, Gijs

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