Sir Ernst – Expedition

Tuesday 11th January – 45o South 

We have spent today 45o South and felt the impact of the Patagonian climate for the first time.

Last night a southerly wind topped 35 knots making a bit of a racket, time to take in a second reef and swap the genoa for the staysail. It abated as the day progressed, turning northerly in the evening so we were able to continue our route at a better speed. The air is much fresher and fleece jackets and woollen hats are out. The further south we go, the longer the days. Day breaks between 04:00 and 05:00 and twilight lasts until about 22:00.

Albatrosses and petrels are around. They have been escorting us since this morning in organised gangs! Masters of flight, they are at one with the wind gradient (wind acceleration with the first metres of altitude) combined with the swell.  They fly without flapping their wings following a similar trajectory, swooping down level to the waves downwind, the tip of their inside wing brushing the surface on the turn, before gaining height into the wind and then diving back down again.

They are often alone in their trajectory but sometimes fly in concert, wing to wing. Their flight technique and unceasing figure of eight curves lead them to keep coming back to the boat and away from it again. We never cease admiring their majestic sweeps round Sir Ernst. We are fascinated by their agility in the great Atlantic swell where sometimes they disappear from view for long moments to reappear again ever more graceful.

Always offshore, how do they survive? How do they rest? The way they are adapted to the marine environment puts humans in the shade for needing so much equipment and assistance just to sail on the sea. The spectacle of their ballet is in perfect harmony with reflections of sun and clouds on the crests of the waves.

Tonight the wind has risen to over 30 knots but this time from the north. It is accompanying us. For the first time we closed the “Dog-House” door as it’s starting to get chilly.


Wednesday 12th January 

François took in a third reef at dawn as the north wind was blasting over 40 knots.

At 08:00, I got up for my watch. The wind is now 25 knots at 310°. We are sailing more calmly now on a reach. What a pleasure to be welcomed by a bowl of hot coffee and breakfast prepared by Hervé who’s just finished his watch. On Sir Ernst, breakfast is a sociable time as we talk about manoeuvres done during the night, the weather and the programme for the coming hours.

Fabrice, Pierre-Etienne