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So, after all this excitement, what were the plans for our next big adventure ?

We had originally intended to sail South to the bottom of Chile, round Cape Horn and then sail North back up the Patagonian Canals to Valdivia before leaving Chile in March/April to head West for New Zealand. {We say "Canals" but they are actually the Channels that exist between the hundreds of small islands making up Patagonia. Occasionally, these channels are exposed to the Pacific but predominantly we were enjoying our sailing on lovely flat Seas accompanied by often very nasty, violent winds}.

As is always the case on a Yacht, plans change and it seemed to us that it was a tad silly being so close to the Falkland Islands and not going there for a quick visit….

We mentioned our plans to a couple of French Yachties who advised us not to go without getting permission first from the Argentinian Naval Prefectura as they would fine us USD8,000 if they saw us sailing in Argentinian waters either to or from the Falklands. As you can imagine, being British, we were not too happy with this idea but being realists and not wanting to pay any dosh into the Argentinian coffers, we went along to the Prefectura and duly applied to Buenos Aires for permission to visit the ‘Isla Malvinas’. Although we were very polite and smiled a lot, we were buggered if we were going to call Port Stanley ‘Puerto Argentino’ so we diplomatically omitted the Port Name on our application. We received formal permission a few days later and left Ushuaia to return to Puerto Williams – Roger being "shopped out" !!.

We had a few jobs to do on the boat and we left Puerto Williams on 3rd February hoping for good winds which lasted all of 1 day…. We had a rather easy and relaxing 25 mile sail along the coast of Isla Navarino to Caleta Banner on Isla Picton to get us back into the swing of things. There was no wind the following day so we stayed at anchor and went out for a nice walk along the beach.... when we got back, we were having a little read about the Island and discovered that apparently there were some mines laid down by the Chilean army during their crisis with Argentina which are still in place... due to the swampiness of the land, some have moved and never been found... aaargh!!! Needless to say, Monty was not allowed to go for another walk!!!




Supplies being delivered...


The next day saw us moving another 40 miles East to an anchorage in Argentina. Not very pretty but we knew there was some nasty weather coming through so thought it best to be out of it for a couple of days. Even in the anchorage, we got 50 knots over the deck - good job our tandem anchoring system was so good !!!

We now had to cross the Maire Straits which is described as "a very demanding expanse of water 16 miles wide" There are very nasty tide-rips and overfalls formed by the excessively strong currents of the sea and their cyclic opposition to the winds. At times, the surface of the water looked just like liquid in a boiling saucepan – quite spooky really.

Well, we made it across ok and, in view of the weather forecast, we decided to stop at Puerto Hoppner on Isla de Los Estados rather than continue East. The Island is about 30 miles from the mainland and is an Argentinian Nature Reserve. About 200 years ago, it was a Prison Camp but it was considered too bleak even for convicts !! You have to have permission from the Argentinian Navy to anchor (which, of course, we didn’t have) so we were basically hiding from both the wind and the Argies….



The entrance was very narrow and the depth was only 3 metres but our French friends had previously advised us that we would get in without too much trouble so we held our breath until we were safely inside the inner lagoon.



Once inside, the "wind machine" turned off and we were sitting in a beautiful little oasis with a surface just like glass. It was difficult to distinguish the edge of the land as the reflections in the water were so vivid. We had 2 anchors down and 4 lines tied on to trees so we were ready and waiting for the nasty weather to blow through. The anchorage was very protected but we did have some ‘blowy’ moments with williwaws bouncing around us and we experienced one rather uncomfortable night with 50 knots over the deck.



After 7 days, we finally had a weather window to cover the 300 odd miles to Port Stanley. It was only a short trip but seemed a very hard one with lumpy seas and grey skies and we did wonder why we had changed our plans !!




Our initial view of the Southern Falkland Islands were how bleak they were – very flat, desolate and windy…







We arrived at Port Stanley on the 18th February and it was so nice to be able to speak English again and not have to worry about our Spanish being understood by the Officials… The paperwork was completed very quickly on the boat – none of this traipsing around to 3 different Offices and the Veterinary in charge was a lovely man. (We had been in e-mail contact with him about Monty once we decided to visit the Islands). Monty was indeed ‘boat bound’ but if we had known a little more in advance that we were intending to sail to the Falklands, we could have got him one more vaccination and he would have been allowed ashore. It just shows that we should always be prepared for every eventuality as our plans always change !!

Roger couldn’t wait to get to the Pub for a decent pint of proper English Beer and we found one - ‘The Victory’ - that also did proper "Pub Grub". So, a couple of pints and a "Liver & Bacon" later, we wandered around the Port getting a feel for the place. We felt we had now completed our collection as Port Stanley is the "Southernmost Capital in the World"….



The "Seaman’s Mission" run by Betty & Lewis – a couple of Cruisers who were taking a few years Land time – was a real find. They had a washing machine, wonderful Chocolate cakes AND the most amazing Book swap we have come across. All the books were like new and Vicki wasted no time at all in swapping all our old, damp, musty paperbacks for over 100 lovely, clean, sparkling, modern ones…

The Supermarket stocked ‘out of date’ Waitrose and Brand products so we "filled our boots" with Baked Beans, Marmite, Bisto, Colmans Mustard, Twiglets, Boddingtons, Guinness, John Smiths, Cadburys sweeties etc etc. In fact, all the things we haven’t been able to buy since we left the UK – marvellous !!!



Unfortunately, the fresh produce was ridiculously expensive and we refused to pay £3 for 2 potatoes… Conversely, the meat was really good value. Before we left Port Stanley, we got the Butcher to deliver £35 worth of Vacuum packed Lamb and Beef which kept us going for weeks. Surprisingly, there were few Chickens around and it was very difficult to get hold of any eggs. We bought Monty a lovely Sheepskin rug to keep him warm on our trip North and the lady in the shop gave us a dozen fresh eggs from her Hens as we were unable to find any in the supermarkets – very generous of her.

Another joy was English speaking Radio - We listened each day to catch up with the news and were intrigued by the announcements during the weather forecasts of "Sheep Chill Factor" and "Risk to Newly Shorn Sheep" being moderate, high etc. We actually thought we had misheard the Announcer the first day but clearly these announcements are necessary to the Islanders for whom Sheep Farming is an important part of their economy.

We were tied up at the floating Dock belonging to FIPAS (Falkland Islands Port & Storage) alongside Skip Novak’s "Pelagic" which had just finished a trip with a Film Crew down in South Georgia. The Skipper, Chris, was a native Falkland Islander and we had a most enjoyable Supper aboard Pelagic with him telling us all about the Islands and what Sealife we might expect to see and where.

After we had been in Stanley for a few days, Roger was off visiting the Library and Vicki heard her name being shouted from the shore – very odd… When looking out the hatch, there were a couple of smiling faces and it turned out that John & Alex knew Neil & Tracy (S/v Adonde) and had, in fact, bought their old Beneteau from them. They had cruised in the Med with Squander, Y-Knot and Malarkey and now had their Halberg-Rassey in Grenada. Alex was a Radiographer and she was on a 3 month contract to the Hospital in Port Stanley so they had popped over for a chat as Neil (or it could have been Tracy) had told them we were there – small World, huh ? Alex kindly cooked us a lovely Sunday Roast after playing Pool in the Pub (as you do on a Sunday) and they were great Company.

We were getting too comfortable here so knew it was time to move on. We took one tour with Fin’s Taxis to see our first Falkland Penguins and, not only did we see hundreds of Magellanic Penguins, we also saw a SeaLion chasing a group up the beach, catch one and then played with it until it was dead – nature at work…

Magellanic Penguin






The wind had been quite gusty on the dock but Chris had advised us that Stanley is one of the windiest places on the Islands with a funnelling effect in the Harbour so we were hoping for calmer weather once we went to the Western Islands…













We left Port Stanley on 2nd March after almost 2 weeks and made our way West towards the small, outer Western Islands. These are privately owned and we had telephoned the individual Farmers beforehand to request permission to anchor and visit. All our calls had been well received and we felt very welcome at each Island we visited especially Carcass Island where we were treated to a huge array of home baked cakes and goodies which had been left over from the previous day’s CruiseLiner visit.


Initially, we sailed to Big Shag Island in Salvador Waters for our first night away from Stanley and then on to Pebble Island early the following morning. En route the Warship ‘Scott’ was firing live ammunition off their stern next to us which was slightly off putting to say the least… We also saw 3 Whales blowing in the distance but they were too far away to see which type. We timed it right to pass the Tamar Passage and managed to whiz along at 91/2 knots. We were greeted at the entrance to Ship Harbour, Pebble Island by a pod of Dolphins playing around us and it was hard not to drop the anchor on top of them- there were so many!! 

Just playing around...

Monty checking out the neighbours...

Still playing...


We rowed across to the Island in the morning for Vicki to visit the Penguin colonies and got so close to them – truly amazing. They are such funny little creatures. The Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins are very timid but the Rockhoppers are really nosy and will come up and tweak your shoelaces if you stand still for long enough… It was fantastic to be so close to them in their natural habitat. We got quite carried away and spent hours on the island watching their antics and taking many, many photos…

 

Gentoo Penguin






Rockhopper Penguin
















After 4 days, we moved on to Carcass Island owned by Rob & Lorraine McGill. We had previously bought a copy of the book "Falkland Islanders at War" which was written from the Islanders’ perspective and which had mentioned Lorraine’s role in evacuating the Children from the School in Stanley during the 1982 conflict. She was happy to reminisce and her experience with the SAS landing on their Island was fascinating. (Carcass Island being one of the few Islands with it’s own landing Strip).






We walked across to the NW corner of the Island to see the enormous Sea Elephants who were absolutely huge. We didn’t like to get too close in case they didn’t like the look of us but we managed to catch a few good pictures. Needless to say, there were more Penguins here for Vicki to watch !!




































Our next stop was Grave Cove about 10 miles West of Carcass Island. We stayed for a couple of days watching the Penguins frolic on the beach and fishing in schools just like miniature dolphins. We walked across to the Windward side where there were numerous SeaLions cruising just under the surface of the water waiting for the Penguins to come by for lunch…







Our final Island was New Island which is now owned by a Nature Reserve Trust and managed by the Donor’s daughter, Georgina.

We walked across the Island to the Rookery where there were thousands of Penguins and Albatross. The Albatross chicks looked like they were wearing feather boas around their necks and made an awful lot of noise trying to attract their Mum’s attention for food !! We had been warned that the chicks could spit projectile vomit some distance and we were grateful for the warning when we were photographing them and could see them retching and getting ready to spit – we quickly moved back 10 feet before the vile smelling white goo headed our way…

Black-browed Albatross Chick










By this time, we were getting a bit blasé with all the fantastic wildlife surrounding us and got to the stage when "It’s just another Penguin" was being said rather than "Ooh, look over there at all the Penguins" !!!!

One last Rockhopper



Our 2 week cruise around the Western Islands had turned into nearly 4 and it was time to leave before the winds got any stronger. Having arrived from the South of the Eastern Islands, we had almost circumnavigated the Archipelago but we had to leave the southern Western Islands unexplored as we wouldn’t have been able to avoid a masochistic sail back to Chile which would have taken forever… 




As it turned out, we still had a horrid sail back to Puerto Williams. It was a really mucky trip with huge seas and Vicki felt so Seasick she just wanted to die… It took us 3 days to cover just 260 miles and we missed our tidal box for the Maire Straits. The weather was too severe to wait for the next tide meaning we were going to return to Puerto Hoppner. We arrived there at Low tide and there were massive surges through the chicane-style entrance. We both held our breath even more than on our last visit and "phew" we were through.

By now, there were savage 70 knot winds blowing outside so we decided to put on extra lines to the shore. 2 anchors and 6 shorelines later we were sitting tight and weren’t going to move anywhere - We then fell fast asleep and promptly forgot our "trip from Hell" !!!

Roger & Monty adding yet more shore lines...


As we had spent longer than planned cruising in the Falklands and we had an extended stop at Hoppner, we were beginning to run rather low on certain foods. It was 2 months since we had been in Puerto Williams and while we had a huge supply of baked beans and marmite (ready for our Pacific crossing), we had totally run out of Potatoes, Carrots, Peppers and Onions – basically, anything fresh. Vicki did try using Pickled Onions to cook with but believe us when we say "Don’t try it"… We were rationing our last 4 eggs and bread was becoming a luxury as we had used over 8 kilos of flour in the last 2 months and were down to our last "emergency" bag which we had bought in Bonaire (yep – nearly 2 years ago) and completely forgotten about in the back of a Cupboard!!! Luckily, we still had enough rice and pasta to feed an army for at least 6 months although what we would have done for a banana…. 

At least drinking water wasn’t a problem as we had a lovely waterfall just around the corner so Roger & Monty disappeared in the dinghy regularly on their water runs.

We ended up staying in Hoppner for 9 days before we saw a weather and tidal box and could venture out to cross the Maire Straits. We had a lively sail across averaging 71/2 knots and, stopping again at a couple of anchorages along the Beagle Channel, we arrived back in Puerto Williams on 11th April. Our Falklands detour covered 1, 047 miles and took us 9 weeks.