Thursday, January 15, 2009

4th January

Having finally done all our prep and organisation for the trip we spent the day getting the boats and all our kit to the water.

On arrival at the beach as we were getting our departure snack out of the boat it became apparent that one of the fuel bottles in the back of Fiona's boat had leaked over most of the contents, the O ring had prolapsed. The bags were quickly cleaned off and boat repacked.

We finally got going at about 4 pm with following wind, past some really stunning beaches with Magellanic penguins. We were not able to stop at any of these beaches as these still have mines on them. In fact for our first few days landings were going to be limited because of mined beaches left from the 1982 conflict, we had got maps of these from the bomb disposal unit.

On reaching Cape Pembroke we decided to land, this area was marked blue on our mines map – meaning that there was no reason why there should have been mines there!!!

We got our first insight into the size of wildlife we were going to meet there was a dead sea lion on the beach without its head the rest of the carcass was about 11feet in length.

5th Janaury

Fiona and Tom both struggled with the planned getting up of 2 am, we delayed the get up until 4 am meaning we were on the water by 6am.

On one of our snack stops along the coast we landed on a tussac island, there were several live versions of sea lions and the groups of females and pups. They were as predicted very smelly and very loud, Tom and Fiona were not going to be going near them.

We also had our first introduction to the thick kelp there is here which at times goes miles out to sea and is extremely hard to paddle through, picking our line was crucial.

We landed at the end of the day on East Island, there was quite a bit of wind and the only place to put a tent up was on the end. There are alot of geese and ducks here and they seem to keep and area of grass for themselves on each island, you could say 'where there's ducks there's grass.

6th January

We woke up a few times in the morning to check the state of the wind which was still blowing at 5am. Tom had a sore back so we decided to stay put for the day.

One of our missions for the day was to look for water, we are aware that it is a scarce commodity throughout the islands in fact most islands are tinder dry, with fires not an option in case of setting light to them. Most islands are peat and can burn for a while, some islands have recently been set alight by lightning.

The only water we found was an extremely peaty lake at the top of the island, in fact it was a good look alike for black filter coffee. We took some anyway just in case we had no other option.

We had lunch on the beach in the lea of the island, it was here that Tom and Fiona started there "twitching" career. We had a book of birds and mammals of the islands and we started to tick off sightings which were numerous. A sighting of two Hour glass dolphins going past the bay was a highlight, their natural behaviour is to project themselves forward acrobatically through the air in a rifling action.

The other noticeable thing were the nests on the beach of the Giant Southern Petrels with their chicks which are on the venerable list.

7th January

We moved today not because the weather was good but to get to the main land. We at best managed to move forward at about 1 mile an hour, which meant that our 5 miles travelled took about 5 hours. It was a head wind paddle, there were a few squalls that came through which at best can be describe as halting any progress and at times it was all we could do to try and hold position and not to go backwards too quickly. We reckon that these may have been force 8 or 9.

We stopped at the first available landing spot on the main land and put a tent up for shelter. Hoping that the wind would drop we decided to go in search of water to fill in the time.

We found water in what you could very loosely describe as a stream the trickle was about three inches wide but running, we made sure we filled up the bottles above the dead sheep lying across the trickle further down.

On arriving back at the tent we decided as conditions were not improving we would camp for the night.

Weather forecasting is interesting here, there is a shipping forecast put out each day on the radio on MW, however this can only be used as a rough guide and monitoring the barometer aids in helping to forecast what will really happen.

8th Jan

We stayed at the beach at Pleasant roads for the day as the weather was a little windy still. Fiona put hygiene at the top of the list today washing her thermals and having a good wash, Tom chose to sleep.

We collected water at the end of the day to make sure we had as much as we could carry which is approx 22 litres in preparation of leaving the next day.

9th January

We had a good paddle today managing 22 miles our longest day so far taking 12 hours. We haven't really had any favourable winds. We paddled past Bertha's beach which was our first chance to see Gentoo penguins we had only seen Magellanic penguins up to this point. The beach gave us the first insight to how beautiful some of the beaches can be, miles of white sand and crystal blue water.

We managed to get to Philimore island to camp, again full of wild life. We have now gained a good repertoire of Falkland bird knowledge being able to identify 26 different birds.


10th January (Margret Thatcher Day)

We got up at what is now our usual time of 4am, this is because the winds tend to blow slightly less at this time in the morning and gradually increase before becoming too hard to paddle at about 10am. The wind then tends to drop at about 5pm so after a long siesta you can resume paddling for a quite a few hours.

We got on the water and headed out of the shelter of the Island and headed over towards Lively Sound, we stopped for a quick rest on Kidney islands. The paddle over had been quite exciting with some good sized wind waves and a quartering wind to the bow of the boat. Once on the island Tom and Fiona had a discussion about the conditions, we got out onto the Island to have a look. After fighting our way through the tussac grass to a vantage point it was clear that there were some good conditions out in the sound. We decided to hold up on the Island for a few hours to see if the weather would subside to that which was predicted.

Whilst waiting for the wind to drop we had the opportunity to see why Toms boat was still leaking. After a soap and bubble test, we thought there maybe water coming in around the hatch rim.

Indeed the NW wind did drop to about F4/5 so we decided to get on and resume our paddle. Within Half an hour the wind dropped completely changed direction to a SW and increased to about a force 6/7, we returned to Kidney Is to rethink our strategy.

On hearing the forecast on the radio a few hours later they described the day as slightly windy with a steady 60mph wind and not a good day for putting washing out, this explained the conditions we had been experiencing!!!

We found a nice patch in amongst the tussac and set up camp for the night.

11th January

We got up at our usual time and inspected the conditions and it was still quite windy so we went back to bed for a few hours.

On getting up a little later we had to have a think about the big picture plan of our journey. We had left Stanley with 15 days of food it was now day 8 we reckoned that it would take at least 6/7 days to get to Fox Bay where our next food drop was so we would have to make a decision today as to whether continuing south would be a viable option. We decided that by 5pm we would need to make a decision as to whether we could cross over lively sound and continue to head south or we would head to the settlement on Lively Island to fill up with water and then make our way to Goose Green where we could get some more food or at least top up our food capacity to 20 days and then portage over the narrowest part between the east and west side of the Island approx 500m to Brenton Loch and continue the journey over to West Falkland.

5 pm arrived and it was still blowing old boots, so we made the decision to head down wind for Lively settlement.

On arrival there were some people sorting the sheep, so we headed up to the building there was a memorial to those who had died on a landing craft from HMS Fearless during the '82 conflict. We met a couple of the farm hands and went up to the house to fill our water carriers and have a tea and homemade cakes.

We spent quite a time talking to the owners and then once replete we climbed back in our boats and continued to our camp spot for the night.

12th January

We left camp early, only after being kept awake all night by the noise of the sea lions on Green Island and the Penguins up wind of us. We paddled over to Mare Harbour which was another passage of interest due to the conditions. Once hitting land on the other side we got out of the boats for a little stretch, before another push into conditions towards Goose Green.

Once the wind got too much (ie going less than 1mph) we set up for a siesta out of the wind and then lunch.  This also gave us time to continue looking for the reason for Tom's boat leaking in the back hatch. Looking at the pre exisiting damage to the skeg box, we found another small crack. We cleaned it out, let it dry and then filled it with resin. We returned to the water at about 5pm paddling until almost sunset at 9pm, this was the best sunset we had seen since starting the trip.

13th January

Another eventful day to be had on the water due to the wind, the wild life was by now mainly limited to Rock shags and Falkland steamer ducks. We got off the water as usual for our siesta, the birds were giving us some good entertainment.

The Chilean skua's were picking on the South American terns and the rock shags as they surfaced from the kelp, the giant southern petrel was standing its ground. We were waiting for the Falkland steamers to display one of their behaviour patterns which is to swim under the water and come up underneath the skua's, and hence we were witnessing a full circle of survival of the fittest.

After this exciting lunch break we got back on the water to fight our way up to Goose Green. Approaching Darwin Harbour there was a little wind against tide so hence a few waves which gave us a bit more excitement for the day as we crossed over the narrows to land on the mine free part of beach at Goose Green.

We spoke to the manager of the farm settlement there, Keith, to ask where to camp and he offered a roof over our head for the night. It was a heated port a cabin connected to the sheep shearing shed, this had a subtle aroma but was great as it had now started to rain quite hard.

We moved into our accommodation which was fascinating we had toilets and hot water so we could wash before dinner at the settlement's cafe where everything is home cooked from local produce.

14th January

A full cooked breakfast was had in the cafe this morning this included lamb chops off the farm. Definitely beats breakfast out of a bag!!!! They have lots of home cooked things we will also be picking up later to supplement our lunches for the next couple of days.

The rest of the day was spent sorting our kit, shopping for extra supplies in the small settlement shop and visiting the museum before making our way over the island onto Brenton Loch.

The shopping was a bonus for Fiona who since having the petrol leak in her boat has been eating snacks and chocolate that have a petrol lilt to them, some may say an aquired taste.

We had an added bonus this evening Keith the farm manager let us clean our selves up with a shower in his house and a cup of tea from his wife as well as the use of the internet, so thanks alot for that.

All being well we leave early in them morning for darwin and then over onto brenton Loch, the wind is forcast SW so hopefully some surfing to be had.

Our blogging updates are limited to finding someone in a settlement with a computer that is connected to the internet, we hope we should be able to do another update when we get to Fox bay.