A Travellerspoint blog

May 2007

Tristan to the Cape of Good Hope

The Final Leg

sunny 20 °C
View The Three A´s on Taffski's travel map.

So we're on the last leg of the trip....

Tristan to Cape Town (some 1600 Nm) and about 10 to 12 days to do it (as we plan to head south to make the most of the weather available)

It's day 41 of the trip and we've got 11 days to go on the ship..

Once again... sailing is not the most enlightening or most interesting of things to write about and to be honest not that much happened on this leg of the journey.

We did judge the bad beard competition (I didn't win)
The Photo Competition was concluded and Steph won the best Fantasy picture (I'll try and put all the photo's on here later on)
The Easter Egg Painting competition winners were announced and my Ninja Egg got a prize of some chocolate eggs (Steph was happy)
Friday the 13th came and went (luckily uneventfully)
The weather came and went and so did the wind and swells

However... once again... Neptune rewarded our patience....

On Day 49 (after 9 days at sea and just before we arrived in South Africa to complete the journey)

Pilot Whales... and not just any Pilot Whales

There was a large pod of them swimming behind us and they were racing to catch us up.... the rollers were about 4 to 5 meters and as a result the Whales were breaching out of the waves as they crested!

It was amazing... about 20 or so Pilot whales surrounded the ship as she danced in the waves and began to put on a show... and what a show!

Breaching.. crashing... spinning.... these were Whales though.... not Dolphins. One of the whales even took it upon himself to continually spin upside down as he breached the cresting waves on the side of the ship.... it was fantastic...

And then..... in the middle of the commotion.....

as if guided by all the noise going on.....

a Minke whale suddenly appears amongst the pilot whales !!

Wow.... What A Wildlife show.

It lasted for about a hour in all and is one of the most magical things I've seen for a long while.

We spotted Africa two days later and sailed up towards the Cape of good hope and up the Eastern side of the continent towards Cape Town.

The city is beautiful as we sailed into the docks and it felt brilliant and yet disappointing to be arriving after spending so long on the ship.

We were both sad that night in Cape town and as a result both Steph and I and many others on the ship got very, very drunk as a result of some serious boozing as it was our first day on shore..

We'd Arrived. We'd Made it. What a trip !

one I'm sure neither Steph nor I will ever forget and highly highly recommended for anyone out there should they wish to undertake the challenge.... it's well worth it.

Thanks Bark Europa

Posted by Taffski 06:27 Archived in South Africa Tagged boating Comments (1)

Tristan Da Cunha

The Most remote Inhabited Island in the World

sunny 15 °C
View The Three A´s on Taffski's travel map.

We arrived in Tristan and sailed up to the island.

It's basically like a big volcano in the sea and juts up from the sea bed in literally the middle of the ocean.

We'd been scheduled to spend 3 days on the island, however, we'd arrived on the Easter weekend and (depending on who you spoke to) either the port was too rough to allow us to land, or (as most of us suspected) since it was the Easter Weekend... and the Tristonians are very religious people... they weren't too enamored with having to curtail some of the residents festivities during this festival by having to open shops etc. ready for our arrival.

We never did find out, however, having spent two days anchored on the North of the Island (where we spent the days fishing and we caught some massive fish!) we were finally given the all clear to land on the island on our third (and luckily) last day.

We all were excited as there were rumors of a pub/ shop / Internet / Phones and all other civilized things we'd not had access to for the previous 39 days!

We landed in the harbor on the Zodiac (which consisted of a single break water barrier and that was all) The Ship couldn't dock and the only way onto the island is by small boats (There's no airport or any other way of getting on apart from a Helicopter or a Boat)

Our first impressions were good. The guys in the Harbour seemed friendly and we made our way up the hillside towards our first stop.... the Pub !!! It was open too !!!! Whayhaeeeeee!!

We grabbed a quick drink each and then we decided best not to get pissed on shore and maybe explore a bit.

It had already been arranged that myself together with 3 of the crew and 2 guests would be playing golf in the afternoon anyway....hmm......

Yep... They Have a Golf course... well sort of ....

It's basically a field that they'd cleared of cows and had placed three golfing holes (well a colored stone and a stick) for which you had to aim.

one of the holes ran through the Grave yard... so when one of the crew hit their ball directly into the graveyard... we decided it might be best to leave the ball where it was :)

Steph was off exploring by this point anyway and visited the site of the last Eruption (This was in 1961 and they had had to evacuate all the inhabitants to the UK... since it's a UK colony) Anyway, they'd all hated the UK and had decided to come back to the island to live.

We were beginning to understand why....

we spent the rest of the day traveling around and meeting the locals. They were lovely friendly people and outside the pub I spent half an hour playing football with the local kids...

Apparently next time there's going to be a football competition as none of the locals really like golf or the golf course (I can understand that one!)

We bought some Baked Beans and Mars Bars in the Supermarket, sent postcards from the post office, made a quick phone call home to the UK (costing us 2 pence a minute...eh ????) and then unfortunately our days traveling had quickly come to and end, so after a final beer in the pub we said goodbye and left to catch the last Zodiac back to the boat....

Which we caught.. else we'd have been left there for roughly a year :)

Funnily enough we thought long and hard about the prospect of spending a year on the place and to be honest... we both loved the place and the people and would have loved to stay there for longer!

Although I wouldn't want to live there forever I don't think.

We set sail later in the evening and as the sun set the Full Volcanic prowess of the island jutting from the ocean was all to apparent and was a beautiful farewell from a beautiful and remote part of the world that once again, very few people had had the privilege to both visit and see.

Thank you Tristan.

PS I won the golf Tournament by the way ;)

Posted by Taffski 06:05 Archived in Tristan da Cunha Tagged boating Comments (0)

Journey to Tristan Da Cunha

10 days sailing and a Force 9 Storm !!!

storm 5 °C
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Overnight and sea and winds had calmed down and we set sail for Tristan following a Roughly Northerly direction to get away from any remaining Icebergs and then easterly towards the islands.

it's some 1400 Nautical miles and we hoped to make it in 10 days or so.... 140 Nm a day.... an average of 6ish knots an hour....

The watches were changed slightly and having been out for a cigarette I was unfortunately named Watch lead for our watch (Blue Watch) We'd been joined by a few new faces also so it would be nice to speak to some other people whilst on watch we thought.

The Next 10 days were eventful and yet boring... if you can have such a thing.

We sailed a lot.
We saw Whales and Dolphins.
Some of us saw a Moon Rainbow (This is like a Rainbow but generated by the Moons Beams of light rather than the suns... absolutely amazing!)
We saw many...many birds and notably Albatross so I couldn't fish from the ship!
We had to entertain ourselves... we decorated eggs for Easter, had some practical jokes played on us by the crew and vice versa for April Fools Day, watched DVD's, gave lectures and the beard growing competition was going strong!
It was rough....
It was windy...

On day 31....

4 days out from South Georgia...

the storm hit !!!

It was a force 9 storm and had been steadily building up the previous 12 hours or so.

We only had 2 lookouts as we were luckily out of iceberg territory (having headed North from South Georgia!) and these lookouts were at the back of the ship.... we were still steering though and had to go on deck through the wheel house at the back of the ship. Harnesses were permanently on and as the ship rolled in the 6 meter swell we were all briefed for what was ahead of us by the captain.

We started our evening watch that night at 8pm and in the next 4 hours the main bulk of the storm was to catch up with us and last for 4 hours after which it would hopefully die away as it passed over us... this was the theory anyway!

As the wind increased steadily... we began to furl sails and in a force 9 gale this wasn't the easiest thing in the world.... 60 feet high up in the air hanging onto the yards whilst being thrown about in 10 to 12 meter (30 to 40 feet!) rollers whilst 100 kph winds whip around your ears (which are still quite sold incidentally) with the thought of falling and being lost at sea firmly lodged in your head...... Fun isn't the word !!!

I helped furl a few of the sails and with waves breaking over the deck regularly... Steph and I finished our watch soaked and thoroughly exhausted... we didn't sleep though.. The watch was handed over at 12am and we lay in our beds and listened to the storm above decks....

We were woken up for our morning shift at 8 and the seas had begun to drop... the rollers were more regular and less violent and the wind had dropped! It was great sailing weather and the sails slowly came back up and the winds dropped!

We'd survived a force 9 storm in the middle of the Southern Atlantic (Perhaps the roughest sea in the world) and to be honest... it hadn't been that bad after all!

Tristan Da Cunha came into view on day 11 (the 7th of April)

We'd been at sea for the past 10 days and had experienced some rough seas... but we'd come through and with the help of the ship and the crew managed to sail to our destination with no injuries and some good stories!

Posted by Taffski 05:38 Archived in Tristan da Cunha Tagged boating Comments (0)

South Georgia - Part 2

Navigating along the Northern Coast

semi-overcast 7 °C
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We'd arrived in Prince Olaf Harbour the previous evening and Steph and I had agreed to do harbor watch that morning from 4 to 8am.

We awoke early and found that it was still foggy and dark. The Seals and Penguins were howling and squawking and as the morning progressed and the sun began to rise out of the gloom the shoreline began to appear and in the half morning light the remnants of a large whaling station came slowly into view.

Straight out of some old film or some ghost story... the old whaling station was virtually entirely in tact and combined with it's history, rusty buildings and eerie howling going on around us... this place is perhaps one of the closest places I've ever been too where I could believe that their would be the odd ghost or two ;)

The fog cleared and we boarded our zodiacs for a short walk ashore around the station and up to the graves of some poor Norwegian whalers who's died in the station some two hundred years earlier.

(average age 28 years old!)

As we left this remote and tranquil old whaling and seal station, I couldn't help think that what was in it's day a highly focal and effective slaughter house had slowly been overrun by nature and, poignantly enough, those animals that the people had so actively slaughtered, now guarded their very graves...hmmmmm......

We headed for Fortuna Bay.

We had another Zodiac tour and saw some rather large Elephant Seals basking in the sun. We also visited another colony of King Penguins and also saw some Reindeer (that had been introduced to the islands) It was a nice walk and we had a good feed on our return.

Today we were walking....

Not just any old walk....

Nope.... we were going to follow the final 5 kilometers that Shakleton and his compadres finally made once they'd reached South Georgia.

The weather was sunny and it was the end of summer for us.... for those guys... it was the End of Autumn....

It was an easy enough walk and we headed up into the hills waving Europa off as she left to meet us on the other side of the ridge where she would pick us up after the walk (hopefully!)

We crossed the peak and headed down towards Stromness bay (where Shakleton some 100 years earlier had hurtled down on his ass in the snow)

We didn't have snow, however, I decided some moss would suffice and slid down on (an increasingly wet arse) down the hill... minus a few rocks every now and again... the slide worked quite well... nobody followed though....wimps :)

On the Beach lay the remains of another whaling station from where Shakleton had recuperated and embarked on a final trip to retrieve his compadres from elephant island some six months later!

They'd all survived !!!

We set sail for Grytviken... the capital (i.e. there were people there) of South Georgia.

We reached the "Big smoke" late in the afternoon and were welcomed by one of the research fishing vessels. The Catabatic Winds had started to whip around and after some waiting around before we could safely dock, we were due to head out to the other side of the island as a day hike.

The following morning we anchored up and after some formalities (where even though it is British soil... we still had to pay $100 for a visa) we were allowed ashore.

We were due to walk across the island to the other side of the point (the Maiviken walk) This was fun and although not everyone took part in the walk it was certainly scenic and well worth the 6 hours round trip.

We arrived back and went to the museum and walked around Grytviken (where we also visited the Shakelton Monument and his grave)

That night we all had a party and were joined by a few residents from the island's 12 strong permanent staff
(I think it was 4 scientists, an electrician, base commander, doctor, The Bases Ships' captain, shop keeper, museum curator and his wife and a postmistress)

We went to bed about 1.30am after a barbie and some free Antarctica Branded beer (Which was made in Brazil...figure that one out!) Anyway.... I kept an empty can for posterity reasons :) And we all consumed many more ! :)

We left early in the morning and had a good sail down the coast... albeit with slightly dickey heads and stomachs ;)

We headed for Godthul bay and Since Steph an I were nursing severe hangovers... we didn't land and chilled out on the ship (Steph made it up the Main mast too !!)

As the sun began to set I was fascinated by the returning Gentoo penguins who all swam straight up to the ship... would pop their heads up (as if to say what the Feck's this big thing!) and then swim around three times (the same amount each time) before working out they could swim around the ship :) Most amusing, however, I managed to get some good penguin swimming shots as a result.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that overnight there had been a smattering of snow and as a result the ship was covered with a fine white dusting that morning. Pictures were taken and then the obligatory snowball fight was had.

We then went via Zodiac to another old whaling station called Ocean Harbour where we got to see many penguins, seals, sea lions, Elephant seals, Albatross, Blue eyed shags and a myriad of other birds.

As if this wasn't enough we then headed round to Penguin Cove... where we were greeted (again) by thousands of Penguins...

Gentoos, Chinstraps and King Penguins all huddled together up the cliff sides (which must have been a good old climb to get there and back!)

We went to bed after a good feed and in the morning we headed down to Coppers Bay to see if we could find the so-far illusive Macaroni Penguins (of which there were supposedly more in South Georgia than anywhere else on earth!)

We weren't disappointed and after Landing in Coopers Bay, and short Zodiac ride and a quick hike up a hillside (which was snow and penguin shite laden and slippy as heck) we arrived at the Macaroni Penguin colony.

They are lovely little birds with Red Eyes and a Tuft of yellow feathers shooting back from their eyes (as if tucked back behind their ears.... expect they don't have any... but you can imagine anyway!) These little (noisy) guys seemed to be the final tick on most people's lists of "What to see in South Georgia" (which many of those aboard seemed to have in terms of expectations of the place)
and having been thoroughly Fauna and Flora'd out by this fantastic Island we settled into Anchor watch (from 10 til 12) as Europa was unable to set sail due to high winds

We leave tomorrow morning...boo hoo.....

Thank you South Georgia...

What a great place and a place that will I'm sure remain in Both our hearts for a long time!

Posted by Taffski 04:46 Archived in Falkland Islands Tagged boating Comments (0)

South Georgia - Part 1

The Jewel of the South Atlantic

overcast 4 °C
View The Three A´s on Taffski's travel map.

We arrived late in the evening and the weather closed in and we were soon enveloped in a blanket of Fog. We could hear and smell the land, however, it was too dangerous for us to Anchor up... so we sailed on that night.

We could hear the penguins and the seals but couldn't see anything... it was a kind of eerie place and to start with I wasn't sure of what to expect of the island group!

It's literally miles from anywhere... I remember that during the Falklands war... an SAS team landed in South Georgia and that there were no lives lost as a result, however, other than that.... Neither of us were too sure what to expect!

We'd pulled into Rosita Harbour at the Northwest point of the islands and had a little Zodiac tour of the area. We were joined by what seemed like hundreds of Sea Lions and they played around in the water as we sailed into the Harbour. We also managed to see Petrels, some King Penguins and Albatross flying around us as we plodded around in Sloopy....The Boat as opposed to one of the Zodiacs on board :)

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It was nice as to celebrate dry land and hopefully a landing on the Islands tomorrow... we all got a little bit drunk :) It was a nice evening.

By Morning we'd already moved to Salisbury plains, which was where we to land firstly in South Georgia.... What a place!

150,000 King Penguins !!!

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The main colony was further along the beach than where we landed, however, we were able to hang about with those on the pebble beach and just admire the birds as the fought, argued, flirted, and basically just enjoyed themselves on the beach.

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They're beautiful Birds and up close (which they were all to happy to come over and try to eat your Wellington boot or your jacket) their colours really are magical. Black and White with a crown of Yellow the Males and females were virtually identical, however, they all just waddled around through us as we sat on the beach. Magical !

We then were rounded up by Tully (Our Naturalist) and walked over the throng that was the main bulk of the colony.

How noisy, smelly, muddy, shitty (Penguin poop everywhere) a place it is..... and yet Beautiful at the same time. Here there were still some chicks and they were getting fed by the adults while the obligatory Skua's hung overhead waiting for any opportunity to grab a bite to eat (Penguin Chick food or indeed Penguin Chick given half a chance!)

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There were also the Obligatory Sea Lions inter dispersed along the beach and at the fringes of the colony, however, it definitely was a view that very, very few people in the world have seen and combined with it being our first landing on South Georgia, had already cemented the place as one of our favourites (all in one day and it was only lunch time!)

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Ok.... off to Prion Island to go and see some Giant Wandering Albatross. Where the heck are we I thought !!! This place is magical!

A few years earlier in New Zealand, Steph and I had gone to a part of the South Island specifically to see Wanderers, however, all we got to see was a single ball of fluff (a chick) and no adults.... so we were both excited at being able to see the birds with the largest wingspan in the world up close and personal!

We landed on the Island and then had to run (literally at points) the gauntlet of mother and baby Seals that were inter dispersed in the Grassy knolls that ran along side the path up to the Albatross rookery.

Wow.... there were about 20 Wanderers on the top of the bluff.... there were chicks, courting Adults and Juveniles all on land, however, there were also about 10 full grown adults gliding above our heads on the updrafts from the cliffs at the far side of the colony.

Some of the Adults began to display and to our delight they began to perform the Albatross Courtship dance right in front of us.... Amazing !

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These birds mate for life are now on the endangered list and to give you an idea of their size.... think of a bird that's the size of a sheep when stood up with the wingspan of a car when their flying !

Gorgeous birds and since the sun was setting at the time it was a beautiful location to witness one of the, sadly, rarer love dances in the world.

Every now and again I need to pinch myself (and Steph) to realise what exactly we're witnessing in this place and it's still day 1!!!!

Posted by Taffski 04:08 Archived in Falkland Islands Tagged boating Comments (0)

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