Still during the dark hours of the early morning the wind shifted more Northwards and we braced accordingly to keep our course towards the South. That meant start sailing downwind, with the yards set square. As the wind blows from the aft, some sails are shadowed by the ones in the front and start flapping. At daybreak we find ourselves taking away and furling Flying Jib, Main Upper Staysails, Dekzwabber and Gaff Topsail as the Europa experience some more rolling than before, but still sailing smooth in low swell. Under those wind conditions we have to keep extra attention to the steering, that becomes more demanding being more difficult to keep the ship on course.
Less birds were spotted today but interestingly several Atlantic Petrels were around and even a solitary Soft plumaged petrel passed by the ship chasing away a Skua. As the hours pass and still sailing almost downwind, the swell increases, and with it the rolling of the ship, intensify by small steering mistakes when Europa gets slightly off course. Sun shines during the whole day, and our bosun Emma thought it could be a good moment to give an introductory talk on classical celestial navigation. In the morning she explains the sextant, its parts, how it works and some of us even take some sun sights. After coffee time Lex also gives a talk on history of whaling, first part of his long lecture on this interesting subject, very relevant to understand better the history of South Georgia and the several derelict abandoned whaling stations that we will see during our landings at the island.
And then after coffee time in the afternoon, Jordi gather the ones off watch in the lounge for a talk on Subantarctic and Antarctic seals. We were introduced to seal evolution, biology and to the different species that we are most likely to meet during our voyage, paying special attention to the ever-present Antarctic Fur seals occupying almost every available beach in South Georgia at this time of the year. During those months close to the beginning of the Austral summer, Fur seals appear in great numbers at South Georgia for their breeding season. The population is estimated to be between three to four millions of them, with 95% of the breeding colonies being in South Georgia.
When he finished today’s talks the wind started backing Westwards to come back a bit later on to NW-ly, slowly decreasing from 24kn to 16kn. We braced to Broad Reach sailing from being Square downwind and we got some action on deck setting the remaining canvas but te Fore Top Mast Staysail. In this way we all gave a hand to hoist the Gaff Topsail again together with Main Royal and Top Gallant Staysails, Skysails, Dekzwabber and Flying Jib.
We sailed in that fashion until right after dinner when the wind died to under 3kn, time to take all sails down again but the Mizzen, Gaff and Inner Jib, with the help of almost all hands. Starboard engine was turned on to keep some speed towards our goal, South Georgia, and to keep the ship more steady from excessive rolling. Many of us practised furling sails aloft. The windless period lasted until before midnight, when it increased again to about 15kn, moment to start over with the process of unfurling and setting sail. Luckily the heavy rolling gradually diminished during the afternoon and evening, but still concentration on the wheel was needed to keep a steady Downwind and Broad Reach point of sail.