Our 15-day journey to Antarctica and Patagonia came to a close Monday morning as we departed Ushuaia, Argentina at 09:00.

After our various Penguin, Whale and Iceberg experiences of 10 days ago, we set sail for the Antarctic Circle, 66 35 degrees South latitude. We crossed our “goal line” at approximately 18:00 on Sunday, January 20 and celebrated with some of Shackleton’s Whiskey and cigars, outside, on the upper deck of Rosehearty.

On the Horn

From there we chartered our crossing of Drakes Passage. Captain David Hutchison and I monitored the weather forecasts for several days. The weather analysis was reminiscent of my Round the World Racing days. We found a good “window” and departed, weaving our way through the low-pressure systems on a 60-hour, 600 nautical mile passage. We had up to 48 knots of wind one night, fortunately, aft of the beam. So while we still pounded and rolled quite violently at times, I appreciated the comfort of being on a 180 foot, 500 ton, yacht compared to my previous experiences. We made landfall at Cape Horn on Wednesday, January 23. For me this was a special visit. Having sailed past the Cape 3 times while racing, I was intrigued to go ashore. We visited the lighthouse and various monuments commemorating the sailors who sailed passed and those who perished at the Horn.

From Cape Horn, we cleared customs in Chile in Puerto Williams and made our way up to Yendegaia Fjord. There we visited an abandoned cattle ranch and saw lots of flora and fauna on a 5-hour hike. After the hike a few of us tried our hand at fishing and come up with nothing. The crew put down crab pots and caught several which made for a tasty lunch the next day.

In the morning, we were on the move again to Pia Fjord, first the western arm with its three glaciers and then up the eastern arm where we anchored and went ashore. Again, we hiked up into the nature and arrived at the base of a giant glacier. Naturally, the ice pieces that calve off the glacier float out into the fjord. When the tide goes out, a lot of the ice gets stranded on the beach and creates quite a strange dichotomy of “ice on the beach”.

We then proceeded back to Puerto Williams to “check out” of Chile and then onto Ushuaia, Argentina, where we spent Sunday afternoon visiting the town. You could tell from the type of shops in the town, that the purpose of Ushuaia was to serve as a launch pad for various expeditions, both on land and by sea. Ushuaia, with a population of 80,000 now, is known as the southernmost town in the world.

The 15 days we spent on Rosehearty, with her extremely professional and well-organized crew, was spectacular. The things we saw you can see in picture books. But experiencing first-hand, makes a world of difference! This was truly a trip of a lifetime and I thank my friend Joey Kaempfer for the fabulous opportunity!

I am back in San Francisco this week to, among other things, attend to my responsibilities as Chairman of the Board at St. Francis Yacht Club. On Friday I will be heading out to Miami for the Star Masters this coming weekend where I will be sailing with my longtime friend, and Olympic Gold Medalist, Magnus Liljedhal. I am also very excited to get time with my son Danny who will also be in Miami training for the Star Junior World Championship which starts on February 4.

Day 4 of our Antarctic adventure-Position 64S x 62W. 
Our general itinerary is to travel southwest to the Arctic Circle, 66.5S, through the Palmer Archipelago along the western coast line of the Antarctic Peninsula. Yesterday we cruised down the Gerlache Straight and overnighted at Melchoir Island. 
Since our departure from King George Island on Sunday, we have traveled 180 nautical miles southwest, visiting Deception , Trinity and Melchoir Islands. We have seen a Chinstrap Penguin colony of 160,000, Gentoo Penguins, Fur Seals, Humpback Whales, Giant Petrel, and of course countless ice bergs. Today’s agenda is visiting Port Lockroy and kayaking to an overnight camp site. We will build a fire and cook dinner ashore. Tomorrow we will up anchor and head to Palmer Station, a U.S. research base and hopefully get a tour of their activities.  

St. Francis YC South
Chinstrap Penguin
Moon over Melchoir Island

As we continue south, the ice will become our challenge in achieving our “summit” of crossing the Arctic Circle. Report are that the inside passages of Lemaier Channel, French Pass, and Grandidier Channel are fairly well blocked with ice. However, things change fairly rapidly down here, so we will get the latest reports during our Palmer Station visit and hopefully be able to attempt the inside route. If that is still blocked, we will have to take the outside, 180 nautical mile, Southern Ocean, route. The weather window for that looks to be Sunday night Monday. The landfall south of 66.5 degrees would be Detaille Island, Crystal Sound. Again, we may or may not be able to get in there. We may just pierce the 66.5 circle and be forced turn around and head back to Palmer. The furthest south I have been is 63 south in the 2002 Volvo Ocean Race. This would be 210 nm further south!
Toward the middle of next week, we will begin our 600 nautical mile sail back to Cape Horn and then onto Porto Williams where we will disembark.

You can see many more photos on my instagram page-@cayardsailing