We had an elegant and thrilling sail from Stanley to South Georgia, so inevitably we’re encountering the reverse on the way home. The wind’s coming from the west, 35+ knots of it, and we’re beating into it under engine power. The rolling motion of the outward journey has given way to a brutal sawing, in which the bow lifts, shivers and then smashes down again with a bang like hitting concrete. But we’ve covered 359 nm in 40 hours, and by this evening we’ll be halfway to Falkland and the pubs of Stanley. The sun is glimmering after days of murk, and it’s always interesting to sit and watch our retinue of cape petrels and Antarctic prions. An hour ago there was a sooty albatross.
Other than birdwatching and cooking there’s not much to do except stand watch, read and sleep.
Stugeron and strange hours have made everyone drowsy. On either side of me Gavin and Tom are asleep on the saloon cushions. Dick’s head is nodding over his book. Up the steps in the pilot house, the current watch are sitting in silence. Laura is leaning over the chart table. Everyone else is in his bunk. As I’ve been in mine for most of the day I know it’s not a bad place to be, half-braced against the dip and crash, listening to the rattle and creak of the boat, slap of water and rush of wind as the engine powers us steadily into the weather.
If the James Caird party hadn’t succeeded in bringing help, the men stranded on Elephant Island were under orders from the Boss to take one of the two remaining boats and try to reach Argentina. Heading straight into wind and weather like this, it’s hard to believe they would have got anywhere. It makes the South Georgia achievement seem even more magnificent, because it was the only real chance they had.