FROM 1-8. Horn to Falkland Islands

Mar 14, 2005 – 1400hrs UTC │In Praise of the Brolga

1400hrs 14 Mar 2005 UTC 52’38”S 059’17”W Map Ref 122

Passed Beauchene Island about 15 miles to starboard about 2 hours ago and we are in contact with Harbour Control Stanley, with the help of a relay from Sigma. Battery was a bit low and suspect we were not transmitting at full herbs. Have caffeinated, dunked with unrestricted access to Mr McVities finest and we are now consulting the Dublin Doctor about the perils and tribulations of the last 82 miles to Cape Pembroke at the entrance to Stanley harbour. Lots of floating kelp, seabirds in abundance (can you have an abundance of seabirds?). On the lookout for Sea Lion Islands 15 miles ahead. It looks like about 15 – 16 hours to Cape Pembroke, or after nightfall. We will talk to Herbour Control later and decide whether to try to enter StanleyHarbour at night. It looks pretty easy, but a bit of local help is always wise.

Thanks by the bucketful to everyone who has written since we rounded – it’s been a sustaining joy throughout the voyage to get your messages and encouragement. Must have been really lonely in the early days of this stuff.

Not sure how many more of these there will be before we get close and I have to do some real work but at least one. It’s been a bellyful of laughs, a wonderful gig, and thanks all y’all for coming along for the ride. Hope you’ve had as much fun reading this nonsense as we have putting it together. We will keep it going while in Stanley and let you know when the next big episode is due to commence. Noreen, I hope there wont be any evictions – even the boot ferals are getting to be  kind of family.

Tony – thanks for info – we were talking to all those boats on the way through on the Patagonian Cruise Net. I think Pelagic skipper is Steve Wilkins who I know – wish I’d known all those heavies were on board.

Richard at Fastnet, thanks – looking forward to a cold ale with you.

Judy – we’ll check out the pub and report back.

Malcolm R and Chris Palmer, seems you might have been in the same boat inshore skippering over the w/e and not known of the connection. Is that a coincidence or isn’t it??

We’re surrounded by dolphins – lots of them, spearing out of the short steep waves around us.

[Brolga Update from Pete]

To all the Brolga owners out there.

What perception you had, what a superb choice of sailing vessel you aspired to. What volumes of yachting knowledge both practical and theoretical led you to this exquisite boat or did you – like most of us – just get lucky? Alex, I know, chose carefully, with this trip somewhere in his mind even in 1993 when he bought Berrimilla.

With less that 50 miles to go to Port Stanley I feel I can crow a little about what a  good boat these are.

Berri kept us cocooned and safe through the worst seas I have ever experienced. The boat did everything right. She is extremely well balanced and well mannered. As long as we could get the sail off her in time when hit by strong rain squalls, Berri sailed beautifully in heavy weather with not much pressure on the Fleming self steering gear. Brolgas are  how can I describe it? – slippery. They slide through the water easily and need very little sail to do this. At times the boat is moving so well you cannot ear the water passing the hull while down below.

Brolgas are well ballasted with a deep keel and low centre of gravity. Unlike most other boats, then look as good out of the water as in – there’s a photo in the ‘Preparations’ doc on the website. The first time I stepped on board one, the deck didnj’t move with my weight. With most 33ft boats, the gunwsale drops a few inches on boarding. When we sailed it, the tiller could be dropped to leave hands free to adjust sheets etc without the boat diverging from its course.

I was suitably impressed.

I’ve been sailing Brolgas for about 12 years now and a couple of years ago bought one for myself. My love of these boats has never changed in all these years.

A Brolga is a boat for life. There is no need to change. It can take you comfortably anywhere you reasonably want to go.

After last year’s Hobart, I met the designer, Peter Joubert, in Hobart. I told him about Alex’s plans to sail Berri to England to compete in the Fastnet race., Not much response to that information. I asked him about my boat, which is called Zoe. He said he’d never heard of it, so I went back further with names – Western Rambler was on a plate with a radio call sign and I found an old life vest with the name ‘Dorothy 2′ on it. His eyes immedisately lit up “Dorothy 2 – that was my  physiotherapist Eddy Wall-Smith’s boat – she used to race out of Sandringham, he sailed her very well.” Now we had established some common ground, I was keen to move on to cockpit design but before I could, Peter wished us good luck and said he was off to see Thorry on Tilting at Windmills. He’s a hard man to lock into conversation but I may have better luck next time.

A few people have asked us about the Brolga’s cockpit and how it coped with the conditions. For all those non Brolgaphiles, some background. The Brolga does not have a b ridge deck from cockpit to cabin entry. Most boats have a cockpit well – i.e. the cockpit floor is enclosed on all sides by seats etc. modern boats sometimes have no rear side to the cockpit so that any wave that enters simply washes over the back. The downside of this is thsat you are terribly exposed in following seas when waves can simply wash in. The Brolga has a keyhole shaped cabin entry with the bottomof the entry only a few inches above the cockpit floor.’ leaving a well enclosed on three sides but open on the forward side to the interior of the boat. Not a good look to have if a wave fills the cockpit. We always have the bottom washboard in which seals the cockpit to about an inch above the cockpit seats.

After a long talk with Gerry Fitzgerald who sailed Spirit of Sydney from Eden to Ushuaia via the Horn, Alex and I decided Berri needed washboards that completely sealed the cabin entry. I made 2 washboards, the bottom one I’ve just mentioned, the top one has a hinged flap about 20cms high that can be locked o unlocked from inside or out. The flap ventilates and allows conversation, and food and rink o be passed out to the person on watch in bad conditions. I extended the width of the two washboards to enable two waterproof rubber seals to be fitted to thew outer edge, one sealed the the back of the cabin the other to the teak trim which lines the entry, so water has to get past 2 seals with a step of about an  inch between them. The boards are sealed by strong wooden lugs with a tapered leading edge which pulls the board in against the seal when turned to lock the board in. There are 4 lugs and a lockwood night latch  on the top board and three on the bottom and we put large grab handles inside and outside each board. These are invaluable in heavy rolling conditions while trying to quickly secure the boards. This has worked well and very little water – about half a bucket – came in during the knockdown and most of this through a taped up vent.

A lot of people would like a bridge across the cockpit entry with a sliding hatch. This is easy to get in and out of but I have no idea how you can completely seal a sliding hatch. Only when you have been in an inverted boat can you appreciate fully how all openings need to be fully sealed.

The wave that got us was a freak very hollow and right behind a large wave in front. Wrong place, wrong time. Berri lifted herself beautifully to the millions of other waves that passed under her.

We have had a huge response from people congratulating us on our efforts – many thanks for that but  want to congratulate the boat. Berri has put in a huge effort – she’s nearly thirty. I’m 59 and alex is 62 and we need a boat that can look after us and not demand attention. Berri is all of that. The boat does all the hard work she accepts most of the wind and waves punishment we pull the strings and point her in the right direction. To Peter Joubert, thank you for designing an immensely strong seaworthy boat, to Geoff Baker and all who worked on building Brolgas with and after him, thanks for the extra effort thats required to build a top boat.

To anyone out there thinking of doing a trip like this, as well as an excellent boat you must have prudence and patience. The southern ocean is very unforgiving and you can only do what it allows you to do, not what you want to do. Its ability to dominate a small boat lets you know quickly who runs the business out there.

Finally, to everyone who took the trouble to write, your encouragement and humour revived our spirits and eased us through the bad patches Cheers and best wishes Pete.



Its 0200 local and we’re just sailing into Port William, the outer harbour for Stanley. Stanley opens at 0800 but we have permission to go straight in.

K, Alphonse says Hi and he wants to get off El, adversity choc survived the Horn storms but not the long days run up to here. Nice – thanks.

Comments are closed.