Monday, December 23, 2013

Cape Town, South Africa to Ushuaia, Argentina, with imvubu

Imvubu arrived Ushuaia, Argentina around 22:00 local time Sunday December 22 as the sunset lit up the snow clad mountains of Tierra Del Fuego and Isla Navarino.   It took us over a day to get here from the Strait Of Le Maire (between Tierra Del Fuego and Isla De Los Estados and where we first spotted land after a month at sea) as we had tidal streams and ocean currents against us for much of the way. As we approached The Straits, we saw the Dutch schooner OosterSchelde which was quite a sight in the grey afternoon. The next day we got a closer look and I took this photo:
Tall ship Oosterschelde near Straits Of Le Maire

 The Beagle Channel was very mellow as we motored in flat seas and light headwinds and enjoyed the scenery. 

Ushuaia is stunning. That is to say, the scenery surrounding the town is stunning. The town itself is not anything to write home about. Like Punta Arenas, Ushuaia features a garish casino on the waterfront as a contrast to the natural beauty all around. There is a small, friendly community of sailors down here. Most from elsewhere and many of them running charter businesses, taking customers to Antarctica and the area around the soutern tip of South America. All the sailboats here look like serious expedition boats, so Imvubu fits right in. 

Total distance sailed: just over 5000 nautical miles
Total time:   34 days and some hours (this was both Ralf's and my longest passage time and distance-wise)
We sailed ca 2/3 of the time and motored the rest (the majority in the first 10 day. 

A few days out of Cape Town we passed directly over the Vema Seamount which rises to just 11 meters(at the shallowest) below sea level from the surrounding ocean which is ca 5000 meters deep. It being dead calm, we decided to drop anchor, wait for daylight, and go for a swim if we could find somewhere sufficiently shallow. Unfortunately the shallowest we saw was ca 40 meters which is too deep to anchor properly with Imvubu’s 100 meters of chain, so onward we went.

Heading west northwest, we got as far north as 30°35' south on day 7 before leveling out and heading more or less due west for the next two weeks which saw us motoring quite a bit  as we skirted the top of the South Atlanitc High.  At 31° 11' S, 36° 8' W, ca 700 miles from the Brazilian cost, we turned left and followed a course parallel to the South American coast until we neared The Falkland Islands. 

We hit a couple of small low pressure systems which gave us near-gale and occasioinally gale force winds, but onboard Imvubu that barely causes a ripple in one's martini. That was while we were still in the latitude of the 30s.  Surprisingly the Roaring Forties did not roar at all, and we did not encounter winds above 25 knots between latitude 40 and 50. In the 50s, the weather was more Souther Ocean-like, but not bad. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, we bypassed the Falklands and that might've been a good thing in the end. The Argentinians are still a bit sore about losing The Falklands War, and yachts have been fined for sailing directly to Argentina from The Falklands (which The Argentinians consider part of Argentina) without first getting a permit to go to The Falklands (which of course is English territory and populated by English people) from Argentinian authorities.

The whales that took such a liking to Imvubu were False Killer Whales, not Pilot Whales, I found by consulting a guide (a book, not a person nor a whale). At least that's what I think. See photo:
False Killer Whales (I think)

Around Dec 18 a pod of Commerson’s Dolphins played in Imvubu’s bow wave for a couple of hours. They are entertaining, sometimes getting airborne as well as swimming upside down and spiraling.  In The Straits Of Le Maire some Peale's Dolphins came to play for a few hours. 

Cooking:  To say we ate well is an understatement. Two main meals were had each day, and each person cooked both meals every other day. If there was a little friendly competition augmenting the cooking, Ralf won it hands down.

Sailing:  On one hand, being on Imvubu feels like being on a ship.  She displaces around 35 tons and is 57 feet long. I was surprised to find, though, that sailing and sail-handling was not that different from Twister. The sails are bigger, the sheets thicker, forces probably orders of magnitude greater, but still basically the same animal. 

Fishing: Ralf caught a large (over a meter long) Yellowfin Tuna near Vema Seamount . That one was let go as it was too large and we had no freezer space. Later, I landed two smaller Albacores which we honored by eating them.

Birds: lots of Albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, fulmars, and LBJs. 

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