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January 1999

Return from South Georgia

By Hamish Laird

Stanley, Falkland Islands

t was something of a record that is unlikely to be beaten in a hurry -- four and a half days back from South Georgia to Stanley, Falkland Islands. We did not tack even once and the only time we gybed we were motoring with little wind. We had allowed nine days to get back to the Falklands, as our client has a plane to catch. Freaky to get that easterly gale just when we needed it (although it didn't need to be quite so vigorous).

The wind kept on building and building so gradually that one hardly noticed the increase. I remember thinking that it was a bit like hitching a lift with some little old lady you'd never imagine topping 30, and suddenly you're driving along at 110 with no way to get out. The wind was gusting over 60 knots on New Year's Eve: it was just a question of driving straight downwind -- luckily on a good course for here -- and hoping for the best.

Pelagic did us proud as she came through some thundering great surfs. White water spraying out to the side right back to the cockpit with a great roar added to the vibration through the hull from the propeller shaft screaming. I could feel the water pressure on the hull through my feet, as I looked down the steep slope and wondered what was going to happen at the bottom of the wave...

I lost it on one of them, fortunately right at the end of the 'run,' and the wave that filled the cockpit took the 'quarterdeck' (a wooden step) and deposited it in the scuppers but luckily not lost.

It was therefore sweeter than usual to get in last night and smell the warm air coming off the peaty soil with an aroma so like a Scottish summer that it threw me completely and I imagined I was back in Scotland..

© Hamish Laird 1999

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