Now that everyone has returned home safely we can tell the full story of our trip to South Georgia.
Previous blog updates have told some of the story of the many anchorages we visited during the 5 weeks we visited the island but did not go into detail regarding the conditions we experienced.
Both at sea and on land the weather is ferocious, the island is merciless and unforgiving of even the smallest mistake. The stories are many of boats blown off their anchors, dragging out to sea or ashore and even the most experienced have had problems with the williwaws that blow down from the high mountains and funnel through the valleys below.
Having left Grytviken we spent our first night in Ocean Harbour where we spent a relatively quiet night with winds below 25kts before moving on to Gold Harbour.
En route we experienced winds of 45+ and gusts of 65+ as we passed the entrances to Royal and St Andrews Bays with 4m breaking waves coming out of the bays, presumably kicked up by old terminal moraines across the entrances to these two large bays.
We were unhappy that we were on a lee shore created by the the SW winds so moved to a more open part of the bay before dark and lulled into a false sense of security from the previous night set only one 45kg anchor and 85m of 12mm chain in a depth of 14m, some 450kg in all. With the anchor alarm set we watched as winds built to over 50kts and gusts in excess of 70kts before one particularly fierce gust blew us off our anchor and out to sea.
Frantically pulling on warm clothes and foulies we had dragged over 350m out into the mouth of the bay before we could recover the anchor and head back into shallow water to find a safer spot.
Somewhat chastened by the experience we resolved to use the double anchor technique that we had tested out during our passage south through the Chilean channels.
This involves the use of both of our 45kg bow anchors, connected in series by 10m of 10mm chain and having found the best way to get both anchors to set correctly never had any issues in any of the other anchorages we visited despite encountering winds of 70kts or more.
This technique does require both practice and patience but in the conditions we encountered gives a peace of mind that would be difficult to achieve otherwise.
In Cooper Bay we had little swinging room and had to trust to our double anchors and only 30m of chain. With prevailing winds from the SW and gusts funneling down from the mountains around this small, almost enclosed bay the boat around was pushed around in an arc of over 200 degrees.
Kelp was also a constant issue and although we tried to stay clear of the kelp beds as much as possible the boat would swing around its anchors and on occasion weave a natural anchor that took some time to clear before we could move on.