SKIP NO­VAK

PRE­PAR­ING FOR SUM­MER IN THE FAR SOUTH IN­VOLVES A SUP­PLY RUN TO CAPE TOWN FROM THE FALKLANDS AND A BOAT LOAD OF BUREAUCRACY

Yachting World - - Comment -

Pe­lagic Aus­tralis, the flag­ship of my two-boat fleet, which in­cludes the orig­i­nal Pe­lagic (my ‘Pe­la­gians’ call me the Com­modore), was back on sta­tion in the Falk­land Is­lands at the end of Au­gust af­ter our an­nual re­fit in Cape Town. While the big­ger of the two boats made this an­nual 4,000-mile voy­age from Chile with char­ter crew on board, Pe­lagic sat de­com­mis­sioned in Stan­ley for the south­ern win­ter. The high lat­i­tude char­ter sea­son has now be­gun in the far south. When this goes to press I will be on South Ge­or­gia with both boats en­gaged. Al­though I have never been one to fol­low a rou­tine, this is a rou­tine nonethe­less and one that we have been keep­ing since Pe­lagic Aus­tralis was launched in 2003.

Plan­ning for such a sea­son is es­sen­tial. Yacht ser­vices could be de­scribed as prim­i­tive in the Falklands, not due to lack of ex­per­tise on the ground – the Falk­land Is­lan­ders are a re­source­ful bunch – but rather be­cause of the con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic and lo­gis­tic stran­gle­hold Ar­gentina keeps over this Bri­tish out­post since they fought the war of pos­ses­sion in 1982. A bi­lat­eral agree­ment al­lows only one over­flight of Ar­gen­tine airspace per week from Chile. The al­ter­na­tive is a twice weekly ser­vice from Brise Nor­ton in Ox­ford­shire with the RAF ‘air bridge,’ sub­ject to avail­abil­ity from the UK Min­istry of De­fence. Hence, there are no spare parts for yachts kept in stock in Stan­ley.

This goes for Puerto Wil­liams in Chile, a charm­ing venue at the ‘ends of the earth,’ where it is im­pos­si­ble to buy a spark plug. Ushuaia is bet­ter sup­plied, but what­ever ser­vices there are in that city of 70,000 peo­ple get un­der­mined by ar­cane reg­u­la­tions and bu­reau­cratic in­con­sis­ten­cies for cus­toms and port clear­ances. There is not even a fuel jetty for small craft in Ushuaia – we roll 200-litre bar­rels down the dock, one by one and siphon the diesel into the tanks.

Con­se­quently, re­fit­ting Pe­lagic is done by re­mote con­trol to a great ex­tent. This means an end of sea­son au­dit, then load­ing Pe­lagic Aus­tralis with things like her lif­er­aft for the an­nual in­spec­tion, out­boards, in­flat­a­bles, any mo­tors and al­ter­na­tors for ser­vic­ing and of course the sails for loft in­spec­tion and re­pairs. Without our

‘walk in’ fore­peak on Pe­lagic Aus­tralis, which is a virtual cargo hold, this would be im­pos­si­ble with a full con­tin­gent of char­ter crew. On the re­turn ‘dead head­ing’ jour­ney the big boat is full to the brim with spares, sup­plies and pro­vi­sions, plus, more of­ten than not, spares and sup­plies for my col­leagues on other boats in the area.

I am left on the dock in Cape Town. My other moniker is ‘The Cheque Book Cap­tain’ – I do the rounds and pay the bills. The pre­sea­son check­list is also a sub­stan­tial of­fice job. Cruising per­mits with the South Ge­or­gia govern­ment must be fi­nalised. Same for Antarc­tica with the For­eign Of­fice, which pro­cesses our Antarc­tic Treaty per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions. All our char­ter guests are sub­ject to bio-se­cu­rity re­quire­ments to pre­vent the in­tro­duc­tion of alien species to these frag­ile po­lar en­vi­ron­ments, so sev­eral re­minders are sent out to make sure ev­ery­one is on side with their equip­ment and cloth­ing.

The In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Antarc­tic Tour Op­er­a­tors also has pre­sea­son checks in­clud­ing log­ging our ap­pli­ca­tions and per­mits with our flag states. Ver­i­fy­ing things like our com­pany in­for­ma­tion, ves­sel call data, shore side emer­gency con­tacts, cri­sis man­age­ment plans and our sched­ules for the en­tire sea­son are nec­es­sary for a smooth op­er­at­ing sea­son for the or­gan­i­sa­tion, and for us.

Like many things to­day, it has be­come more com­pli­cated with more and more due dili­gence re­quired, at least if you play by the rules. Some­times it is hard to stom­ach, es­pe­cially hav­ing been south in the golden pe­riod, decades ago, when we asked no-one and just cast off and went.

How­ever, hav­ing jumped through all these hoops, whether it be for your first time, or in my case 27 sea­sons later, there is al­ways that re­ward on mak­ing land­fall: snowy moun­tains and ice­bergs.

“THERE IS NO FUEL JETTY FOR SMALL CRAFT IN USHUAIA. WE ROLL 200LT BAR­RELS DOWN THE DOCK AND SIPHON THE FUEL OUT ”

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