Cold Climate Sailing

Sea Journal: New Year in Iceberg Alley & Paulet Island

Sea Journals: A New Year off Paulet Island,  Weddell Sea

I have been to Antarctica 3 times on a Dutch tall ship. Once as a guest and twice as a seafarer. It is always trying to lure me back. Antarctic Fever for sure. This irrepressible desire to live life on the edge and experience nature at its most raw is not a cheap obsession to satisfy. Debbie Purser, Co founder Classic Sailing

Not helped by the fact there is a place going on Barque Europa’s Christmas and New Year sailing and wildlife expedition this winter.

15th Dec 2019 – 7th January 2020 (Punta Arenas – Ushiaia) – one male place due to a cancellation on a 24 day sailing expedition through the Chilean Fjords, past Cape Horn, across the Drakes Passage to South Shetland Islands and the fjords and islands of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Only bookable through Classic Sailing – details and application form


Or Keep dreaming for the next Antarctic Season

Here is a daily snippet of the ship’s sea journal on the 31st December 2011 on Europa’s 100th Anniversary.

Scaring the penguins with 300 ton sailing ship
Scaring the penguins with 300 ton sailing ship

New Years Eve – Sailing in the Weddell Sea and arrival at Paulet Island, West side of Antarctic Peninsula

Noon position: 063 degrees 59.9 minutes South Latitude by 055 degrees 14.3 minutes West Longitude

Wind: SW by S Force 6-7

Sea temperature: -0.4 C

“The day begins with some of the toughest watch conditions we have seen on watch. Gale force winds and heavy squalling snow. For the lookouts it is nearly impossible to gaze forward without ski goggles. The breaking seas are heavy enough that spray carries to the high foredeck too. So rotations are dropped to changing lookouts every 15-20 mins, as every ounce of concentration is needed to see the growlers (small low icebergs that don’t show on radar) amidst the sea foam.


This is a bit different from her day job. Forward lookout
This is a bit different from her day job. Forward lookout

The dance begins as the course starts to change every 20 mins or so to avoid the increase amount of bergy bits and large tabular ice. This intensive course of ducking and weaving under sail on a 100 year old square rigger continues from mid morning right upto when we reach our anchorage at Paulet Island. Visibility improves as the snowfall stops but the sailing action in this lonely place, blows even the professional sailors minds.

Captain Klaas Gaastra finding a way through under sail
Captain Klaas Gaastra finding a way through under sail

Sail Plan for Iceberg Dodging

At breakfast we were sailing with – Mizzen, Aap, Mizzen topmast staysail, Dekswabber, Main topmast staysail, foretopmast staysail, Inner jib and lower topsails. At lunchtime, Captain Klaas reduces sail by changing from mizzen to storm trysail.

Klaas continues to weave through iceberg alley under this sail arrangement on a port tack all the way to the anchorage. As we get closer to this dark volcanic island the icebergs get more densely packed and more fantastical……

The pinnacle of the entire day comes in the last 3 hours under sail, before reaching our anchorage. Klaas puts on a true show of ship handling, weaving between bergs, rounding up beyond their edges, and sliding between brash ice with grace.

Iceberg weaving under sail. Photo Debbie Purser
Iceberg weaving under sail. Photo Debbie Purser

A dance with our elderly lady in her 100th year.

As we approach the east side of the island, we begin taking down sails and furling. Klaas manouervres the ship close alongside the beach, drops anchor, and then eases Europa back right between two icebergs. A perfect parallel park you might do in front of a street side restaurant in town. Our anchor chain drapes right past the iceberg on our bow, which has a perfect window in it and an icy bathtub awash with turquoise water.

Anchoring between two icebergs for New Year
Anchoring between two icebergs for New Year

What a setting for our New Year Celebration

After dinner with a desert of Oliebollen and Appleflappen, Jordi and Mike announce the winners of the Photo and Film competition with wine and champagne as prizes.

We send off the last evening of 2011 with hundreds of thousands of nesting adele penguins, and hundreds and thousands of icebergs.

Happy New Year

Photographing Icebergs in the weddell Sea
Photographing Icebergs in the weddell Sea

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