21 March, s/y Katharsis II, the Antarctic, at sea
On 20 March 2018 at 5:44 p.m. (by the yacht’s clock, UTC+4) we closed the Antarctic loop, crossing the wake Katharsis II had left behind on 7 January at 12:11 p.m., at 62o 00’28 S, 064o 53’66 E. It took us 72 days 5 hours 33 minutes and 43 seconds to circumnavigate the Earth’s coldest continent. The chief purpose of the Expedition was to circumnavigate Antarctica while not leaving its waters, i.e. sailing south of the 60th parallel. Our loop proved even tighter: we journeyed south of the 62nd parallel. We travelled 10,180 nautical miles!
The moment of closing the loop was hugely exciting. We were counting off the miles from the early morning, awaiting the big moment. Such events are always full of joy and emotion. Our entire crew, me included, were deeply moved by accomplishing what we had set out to do: circumnavigating Antarctica in its waters!
This, however, was also a time of reflection and memory. I couldn’t help but glance back at the disease I had suffered. A fleeting thought: Antarctica could have passed me by – I myself could have been no more – had it not been for pre-expedition medical tests and the early cancer diagnosis. Yet I have left all that behind me. And made another great dream come true into the bargain!
While my beginnings were far from easy, and there were days when my strength failed, I could feel myself toughen week by week. Before the Expedition, I was concerned whether I could actually meet all the challenges of such a demanding voyage: if I could do my share of work as a full-fledged crewmember. I managed. The Expedition is extraordinarily exhausting – yet I feel truly stronger, physically as well as mentally.
Our Closing-the-Loop feast was naturally restrained by provisions aboard. For a long time now, our vegetable treats have been limited to onions, garlic, and the few remaining potatoes. Thankfully, the freezer still holds some frozen carrot. Eggs are but a distant memory, not counting the few frozen ones kept safe for Easter. We prepared the Skipper’s Dish for our gala dinner: beefsteak tartar. Replacing egg yolk with mayonnaise proved a magnificent idea. We also served brawn of turkey we had pasteurised back in Cape Town: a perfect solution for our dinner jars. The traditional Olivier salad had to be modified in view of a certain shortage in ingredients: no eggs, no apples. After 87 days at sea and over ten without vegetables, however, it left everyone ecstatic. Dessert was as ingenious as it was tasty: cheesecake served cold, based on breakfast cream cheese, no eggs. Necessity is the mother of invention indeed.
We have begun the final stage of our Expedition: reaching the Hobart harbour. Caution and focus are still a must: quite a stretch of ocean in difficult conditions lies ahead.
It’s a magnificent feeling: when your strength returns, and everything seems possible again. Gazing at the map and the 3,000 nautical miles to Hobart, I am happy to be no longer afraid that my organism will fail me, that illness will prevent me from performing as planned.
And still, that thought: how lucky that I got tested early, and had time to overcome my illness.