Westside Stories — Cape Renard

We set off the next morning, wanting to continue our journey south. We quickly leave the Argentinean station Almirante Braun in our wake. It’s still gray and cloudy, but the sun comes out in the Ferguson Channel. And soon we have a good 20 knots of wind from the SW. We set sail and the Selma is in her element. We enjoy the sailing between the peninsula and Wiencke Island and cruise south, tack after tack. At last we have the opportunity to practise this in good conditions and without any permanent risk of ice collision. It’s great fun. We sail into Flanders Bay and then westwards to Cape Renard. The wind decreases, the ice increases. We swap the sails for Mr. Perkins, slalom again and marvel at the countless ice formations and icebergs around us – one more beautiful than the next, shades of blue so deep you could sink into them.

At Cape Renard, the endlessly beautiful scenery is completed by jagged alpine peaks and glaciers, a few penguins and the odd Weddell seal and leopard seal on a floe drifting by. Later, we take the Zodiac through a labyrinth of dense and moving ice to get a closer look at the seals. The effort is rewarded – although they are snoozing comfortably, they take notice of us, raise their heads and give us a quick glance before resuming their cozy slumbering pose.

Cape Renard remains our anchorage for the night. The sun slowly gives way to dusk, the clouds in the sky glow a dramatic orange-gold over the peaks.

As calm and beautiful as the evening ends, the night is unfortunately exhausting. The combination of lots of ice, strong currents in the bay, the tide and constantly shifting winds keeps the ice watch constantly on its toes. Icebergs come in, and as soon as they have been guided past the Selma, the wind shifts and/or the current changes and they drift back and towards us again. We only concentrate on the bigger chunks. Every five minutes we use the pole and try to keep plaice and bergy bits at a distance. With such a strong current and the speed of the ice, this doesn’t always work. And above a certain size, you’re left behind anyway. That’s when the skipper and Mr. Perkins have to take over. There’s not much sleep to be had, neither on deck nor in the bunks, where the constant rumbling on deck and along the side of the ship robs some people of their sleep.

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