After spending part of the night anchored at Saunders Island, on clearing skies, a full moon shining and easing winds, Europa starts her way to Pebble Island, at the northern shores of the West Falklands. The way to the third largest offshore island is about 40nm.
In the early morning, we passed on our way to the northern cliffs and pocket beaches of Pebble Island, and by breakfast time she found good ground for anchoring.
With the wind blowing from the Northwest up and down the 15 to 20kn, and a slight swell breaking over the shallow boulder beaches of the area, the landing promised to be not the easiest one once more. Nevertheless, soon we set foot ashore at the island that gets its name after the rare and attractive agate pebbles sometimes found in some of its beaches.
The land has been owned by several families since 1846 when the settlement on the South Coast was established.
For many years Pebble Island was one of the most important wool producers in West Falklands, and nowadays still holds about 5.000 heads in its livestock, which is comprised of cattle, horses, and even a pig farm.
Ashore, a short stroll started up the green hills, zigzagging between Magellanic penguin burrows and the edge of the spectacular cliffs that guard the East coast of the peninsula where we landed. Views from up top were pretty dramatic and impressive. The ideal terrain for the adventurous Rockhopper penguins to gather together in rookeries.
Accustomed as we already are to see them mixed up with Black-browed albatrosses, here they nest together with the Imperial shags. Spread along the edge of the cliff in several rookeries, some of them count more shags than penguins while others show the opposite. But in this tight cohabitation of course quarrels and fights are a continuous hassle between and amongst the species.
Even a solitary Macaroni penguin was spotted hanging around its Rockhopper relatives. Even though this is a typical South Georgia species, a handful of individuals or nesting couples seem to be spread from Falklands to Antarctic Peninsula. Skuas and Caracaras always keep a close look at the bird colonies. On the inland pastures in the background, cows graze in areas burrowed by Magellanic penguins.
And there we head, hiking westwards to have a look from a slightly higher ridge over the waters of the inner narrow bay that characterizes the Southeasternmost tip of the island, called Ship Harbour. A few horses approach us on our way before we pass by an isolated Gentoo penguin rookery amongst the shrubs and grazed grass.
A Crested Cara-cara flies past us and in the low vegetation Siskins, Finches, and a single Two-banded plover wander around.
We were making our way back to the landing beach, where one of the landowners, Alex, waits for us. A couple of hours ago he paid a visit on board while we walked his lands, and now he was ready to show us how to sheer a sheep using traditional methods of the hand scissors. In fact, that’s the only method used in Pebble, instead of any machine. In no time he cuts and readies the wool off the tranquil sheep while chatting about life as a farmer here, wool types and qualities.
While all this was happening ashore the tide quickly dropped, the wind started to turn more northerly, the seas had been gradually growing all making for a wet zodiac embarkation amongst the rounded boulders of the beach.
Soon Europa is on her way again, now heading towards Stanley. We set sail towards the East, making good progress with the help of the engines too. First bracing sharp to Port tack and then setting the head rig, Lower and Middle Staysails. Top sails follow and now doing 6kn and now over 8, all depending on how the tidal currents flow, we head straight to the Port Stanley, where the plan is to go alongside already tonight, dodging if possible the forecasted strong northerly winds for later on and tomorrow.