Big winds prevent departure to South Georgia aboard Adele

One reason I’ve been a bit slow to post these blogs can be put down to the weather. We’d been ashore for a bit of touring on East Falkland, but by the time we returned to the yacht the wind was howling at a steady 50 knots and Andre Engblom, Adele’s captain had recorded prolonged gusts in excess of 60 knots. There was no way back aboard – we were marooned in Port Stanley and I was temporarily parted from my Mac.

If you are ever down this way, the Falkland Islands that is, try to hire a guide by the name of Tony Smith to take you on a four-wheel drive excursion to a rarely visited spot on the north coast of East Falkland called Cape Bougainville. The last 10km were off road and it took special local knowledge to pick our way across the peaty terrain. We1d transferred ashore from Adele in a rising westerly and climbed aboard our Land Rover ready for a two and half hour drive across the island. The aim was to reach a Rockhopper penguin colony and hopefully photograph sea lions lounging around in the tussac grass atop the cliff at Bougainville. Albatross, turkey vultures and upland geese would also be on the ‘menu’.

The going is relatively slow along Falkland Island highways – mind you before the roads were built it would have literally taken all day to reach our destination. But the time flew as Tony regaled us with an astonishing account of the Falklands War.

He was a 22 year old mechanic living on a remote sheep farm when 10,000
Argentinian troops poured into Stanley on 2 April 1982 and since then he has built up a remarkably detailed account of the conflict. As we drove across the country’s spectacular terrain he pointed out the battlefields of Tumbledown, Mt Harriet, Mt Kent and talked about the notoriously bloody events at Goose Green. We passed large areas of land around Stanley still mined, the remains of Argentinian helicopters destroyed by Harriers and as we drove along the track taken by the advancing troop of the Task Force as they made their incredible 90-mile yomp from San Carlos Bay to the capital, a poignant picture was painted of how the war unfolded. It was riveting stuff.

We spent lunch with the amusing looking and remarkably unfazed penguins as a couple of battle scarred sea lions kept an eye on us from a healthy distance. Looking through binoculars at their long teeth one didn’t want to get too close and Tony warned us not to stride through the thigh high tussac grass without keeping a careful look out. With vultures and geese on the fringes this was indeed an enthralling wild life interlude.

We re-traced our steps under a brilliant blue sky but a disconcertingly
fresh breeze had built with it. Indeed, as we swung round the flank of Mt William we looked down on Adele straining at her two 300kg plough anchors in a spume swept Stanley Harbour. Water was being whipped up in clouds across the anchorage as Adele heaved and heeled into the massive gusts – ashore it was all we could do to remain standing.

Captain Andre, calling via VHF from the yacht, made it abundantly clear that no attempt should be made to get back aboard as 2m waves were running past Adele. “If I were you I’d go to the pub.” We didn’t need to be asked twice. We descended on the extraordinarily modern Falklands Brasserie and over the next 24 hours worked steadily through the menu.

With no let up in the weather we resigned ourselves to a night ashore. Jan-Eric was somewhat mortified to have been marooned ashore, the first time he’s been unable to get back to his yacht and for that matter his wife Jennifer! As I write this late in the afternoon of our second day ashore we’re still holed up in Stanley although we’ve changed venue to the faded but comfortable Upland Goose Hotel which seems to be base camp for Fleet Street’s representatives listening into their latest taped interviews.

Every day here means a day less in South Georgia so we are really hoping for a let up. Andre tells us via VHF that the latest GRIB files are indicating an easing of the wind with the direction moving more northerly. Could be a bumpy 800-mile ride east to South Georgia.