Last December we got a message for our friend Morgan, a born-and-bred cruising yotty who currently earns his living sailing other people’s boats. Morgan told us that he and his girlfriend, Cheryl, were passing through Buenos Aires on their way south to the Falklands. He knew that we were in the area, and he wondered if I would like to join them for this voyage.
Last time I visited the islands I was four years old, and we arrived by helicopter… Naturally, I jumped at the chance to have a second try at getting there under sail.
The yacht that Morgan and Cheryl are managing is a brand-new 72ft aluminium cruiser-racer, designed and built specifically for her owner. She has a lifting keel and draws 4m with it down and 2.5 with it up.
You might think that a brand-new € 5 million boat would be completely problem-free, but it isn’t so! When I joined Louise, the crew were busy dismantling the deckhead to fix some leaks. She also had problems with her water pump, and there were various design faults. The fact of the matter is that boats, no matter how new and shiny, always need work!
On the 6th of December we set off for Peninsula Valdez, which lies roughly half way between the Rio de la Plata and Cape Horn.
Louise sails very differently to Mollymawk. She’s fast and very lively.
Even in a light breeze she heels very readily. Her owner, Grant (on the helm in this photo), is a very keen sailor and loves getting the best out of the boat.
Louise’s sails are very high tech. They aren’t made from panels of cloth sewn together; they’re made in one piece on a custom form, laminated from carbon, kevlar, and aramid. They’re the sort of thing you’d expect to find used by America’s Cup racers, and not on a cruising yacht! The full suit of Louise’s sails cost ten times as much as it cost us to build and fit out Mollymawk…
Looking aft along Louise’s beautiful teak deck.
Looking out from the saloon at sunset.
It took us just three days to travel the 760 nautical miles to Peninsula Valdez. From there we sailed to Caleta Horno, 200 miles further south, which took less than 24 hours.
Caleta Horno is a beautiful desolate fjord, far from any settlement.
We tied the boat to the rocks on either side of the inlet and went ashore in the dinghy to explore.
When we left for the Falkland Islands the weather was calm and so, because the owner likes to keep moving fast, we had to motor. (During the whole voyage we used a tonne of fuel – which is as much as we would use aboard Mollymawk in 20 years.) Fortunately, on the last day of our trip out to the islands the wind came up and we had an exciting sail, blasting along at 10 to 12 knots.
Arriving in the Falklands I was reunited with Patrick Watts, whom I last saw when I was just four years old! Patrick is famous for his part in trying to resist the Argentinian invasion of the islands. He used to run the local radio station, but he now does tours of the island.
Patrick Watts is extremely knowledgeable about wildlife, and he took us to see the local penguin colonies.
We also saw elephant seals.
Patrick Watts also takes tourists to visit the “battlefields” – he can recount every detail of the campaign to retake the islands – and he also took us to visit the wreck of this old, ill-fated Cape-Horner. Patrick’s tours are half the price of ones booked through the tour agencies, and his knowledge of the islands is undoubtedly unrivalled.
The Falklands aren’t the warmest place int he world even in mid-summer… but they are certainly rather special.
I’m hoping that one day we’ll visit the islands aboard Mollymawk.