The quest for Ushuaia

Hey Virtual Voyagers – we managed to get a report from Captain Reeves. Team Figure 8 is working on getting the equipment together and Joanna’s going to wrap everything in her undies and hand carry it down to Ushuaia.

Dec 23


Pos: 55 50S 74 35w

On Drogue

Winds 40+ gusting 50

Day three of the quest for Ushuaia and I’m hanging out on a drogue 150 miles from the entrance to Bahia Cook. West winds predicted to high 30s started to build last night around 9 pm. Am getting 45. gusting 50 now and the barometer is still dropping. The rig wails. Waves breaking against the hull sound like cannon fire. Seas are very steep, one set west and one set northwest; piling and breaking frequently. (Sounds like the last blow.) Should begin to back off this evening.

The current plan is to attempt retrieval of the drogue at first light and get underway for Bahia Cook. I figure two days of motoring or sailing to get there, which puts me just ahead of some strong northwest winds I’d dearly like to avoid.

Thank you to Tony Gooch for helping to research anchorages inside Cook, most of which down here are plagued by williwaws and require warping lines ashore for stability in addition to the anchor. Not something I can do easily. The first best anchorage for Mo is Caleta Olla, 55 miles north and east up Bahia Cook and the into Beagle Channel and then Brazo Sudoeste.

Will remain there for a day recuperating and cleaning (the boat is a wet wreck and Randall’s not much better). From there it’s about 40 miles to Ushuaia.

Day one of this quest about did me in. Sailing Mo by hand in large swells is both delicate and brutish work. The rudder is large and the tiller is short; the swell (always at least 10 feet and breaking) wants me to go one way and the sail the other. I push and push on the tiller to get back to 60 degrees, my mark, and the next wave knocks me to 90. Pull hard. Pull, pull, pull. Sail gybes. Repeat. I had to focus every moment on the compass and on not oversteering while putting serious arm strength into the tiller. Within half an hour I was endowing Mo with a rich stream of expletives and was hoarse by the end of the day. Still, I got in two 4-hour shifts on the tiller and one of two hours for a total of 55 miles.

Yesterday I needed to charge batteries and so decided to motor for a while. To my surprise, in settled weather, motoring takes about half the energy as sailing, and the stream of expletives didn’t start till afternoon. I was able to knock out a 6-hour shift at the tiller, take a break at noon, put in another four hours…and admire the numerous albatross to boot. I’d gone 60 miles by day’s end.

One of my worries was staying warm while doing such long tricks at the tiller. But I’ve layered up something fierce, got out the triple warm ski-type gloves and put on insulated rubber boots with two pairs of socks. The result is I’m fine at the tiller for hours, but if I go forward to do any work, I’m overheated immediately.

Unfortunately, we are stuck here on drogue until this “little blow” blows out. Then the quest will resume.

10 Comments on “The quest for Ushuaia

  1. You’re beyond first place in the Iron Man, and I always look forward to your next report. You’ve truly mastered the art of keeping your audience on the edge of their seats.

  2. Keep going, get some rest and Christmas can’t be all that bad in Ushuaia! Thinking good thoughts and hoping for an uneventful landfall.

  3. I am no expert on this type of self steering system. I have used it twice. But if the tiller is that hard for a man to move it must also be difficult for the self steering system. It was stated the tiller is short. Curious if a longer tiller would help???

  4. There with you in Spirit, Randall, giving strength to push on to Ushuaia. Merry Christmas Eve.

  5. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! We know you are tough and you can get through this with flying colors! Merry Christmas – you will never forget where you were and what you were doing! Aloha,

  6. Wishing you a safe entrance into Caleta Olla, Randall. We are thinking of you on this Christmas Day! Chris and Rani

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