What turned out to be our last day in Antarctica was also the most beautiful. Perfect is, in fact, the only word to describe it. After a rendezvous with the other three Millennium Odyssey yachts at Port Lockroy, each skipper had the option to pick his own time when to start the pursuit leg to Cape Horn. We all spent a highly enjoyable time at Port Lockroy, the site of the very first British base in Antarctica, now a museum run by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Two of its members spent the entire summer there, welcoming visitors from cruise ships and also yachts. The former dominate both in actual numbers and in that of visitors landed. The logbook kept at Port Lockroy recorded this season the arrival of 17 yachts, nearly half of which were engaged in charter work and are regular visitors to the Antarctic Peninsula. Because of its strategic location and excellent shelter, every yacht stops at Port Lockroy, so the numbers give a fair indication of visiting yachts to the Antarctic Peninsula. If we take off the four Millennium Odyssey boats, the number of cruising boats is only about eight, which is indeed the average recorded in recent years. Among this year’s visitors was Trevor Mackenzie, an Australian singlehander who had sailed nonstop from Littleton in New Zealand and was planning to spend next winter in Antarctica having laid in stores for a stay of well over one year. Singlehanders appear to be attracted to the frozen continent as on the day we were leaving we heard that a Brazilian singlehander had just completed a circumnavigation of Antarctica, the first to do so, and was resting in the bay next to Port Lockroy. Dave Burkitt and Nigel Millius were the ideal hosts at Port Lockroy and were a font of information on Antarctica. By profession a shipwright, Dave is an old Antarctic hand and has been working for the British Antarctic Survey since the early 1970s when he was in charge of a dog team. The departure of the last huskies from the Antarctic in 1994, under pressure from environmentalists, is deeply regretted as it wiped out at one stroke the true spirit of adventure of the overland explorations by sledges pulled by teams of huskies. “They were replaced by noisy smelly skidoos – a poor replacement for the hard working huskies, and an odd way to protect Antarctica from pollution” commented Dave with a bitter smile. Nigel is an ornithologist, spending now his third season in Antarctica observing the life of penguin colonies, and the impact of human visitors. In spite of their steady increase, this does not seem to have affected local wildlife at all, although Nigel stressed the fact that keeping a check on the size of groups that are landed by the cruise ships, and the groups being always accompanied by a qualified guide, has helped minimise the potential risks. From Port Lockroy we followed the Gerlache Strait towards the Melchior Islands, our chosen point of departure. In brilliant sunshine and on a background of towering snow clad mountains painted onto a porcelain blue sky, the beauty of the Antarctic scenery was breath-taking. With a light breeze on the quarter we hoisted the spinnaker, gliding silently past icebergs and surprising several pairs of humpback whales feeding or resting in the calm waters of the mountain ringed fjord. By early evening we had reached our destination, but as the weather looked nice and settled, we decided not to wait, like the others, for a weather window but carry on without stopping. The crossing of the Drake Passage is the price one has to pay for the privilege of visiting Antarctica, so with no depression showing close to the west on the daily weatherfax, we all agreed that we’d rather swallow the bitter pill sooner than later. Indeed, with depressions passing through at an average of one every tree days, it is almost impossible to do the 500 odd mile passage to Cape Horn without getting a pasting – a risk we were ready to take. The tactic for the northbound voyage from Anta