17.12.2017. V&A Waterfront Marina, Cape Town, South Africa
The continuous preparation of the Katharsis II yacht for this voyage took more than a year but in such exceptional projects there is still a lot of work to be done until the very last minute. During the last voyage from Madagascar to Cape Town, the radar appeared to show some signs of damage. Captain Mariusz Koper decided that taking part in a difficult Antarctic cruise without 100% efficient and reliable navigation equipment was too risky and decided to replace it. The installation of a new generation radar has also led to replacing the chartplotter, a device that integrates the GPS data with an electronic navigation map. There are now two independent navigation systems on Katharsis II: the existing Raymarine and the new Furuno. A second Iridium Open Port satellite data transmission system, a new Class A AIS system, and a desktop computer that works with Furuno system have also been installed.
Navigating the Antarctic waters bears the risk of encountering many icebergs as well as smaller growlers, which are hard to detect by radar. Therefore, in order to improve the safety of navigation, the Captain decided to have a special thermal imaging camera installed on the mast. Its imagery will make it easier to detect icebergs and their smaller fragments – growlers. Purchasing such advanced equipment in a relatively short time was not small feat. A special license was required, because this type of camera is considered military equipment.
For almost 2 weeks, the entire expedition crew have been on board of a boat moored in Cape Town in the beautiful V&A Waterfront marina. Preparations take more than ten hours a day. Even seemingly simple activities take up a lot of time. During the last voyage from Madagascar to Cape Town, one of the genoa return blocks was damaged. Spindles fell out of the bearing as though knocked out teeth. In order to avoid the risk of the damage happening again, which could make difficult or even impossible to operate the front sails, the Captain decided to replace all large blocks in the main sail and genoa system. The last block arrived only a few days ago. Unfortunately, such parts are only available on request. It took 6 weeks for LEWMAR, the manufacturer, to complete the order.
Under Tomek Grala, the 1st Officer’s supervision, an overhaul of all the equipment, which requires periodic inspections, is carried out. Another task, for which Piotr Kukliński volunteered, was to clean the hull and replace the anode under water. Low temperatures did not discourage marine creatures, which decided to settle on the boat’s keel, rudder fin and submerged part of the hull. The work under water took several hours.
A huge challenge is also to supply the yacht for the length of the entire expedition. The Antarctic voyage is planned for about 100 days. But how much time will it take us to make a loop around the Antarctic continent from Cape Town to Hobart, we will see in the coming months. To be on the safe side, there are food supplies for 9 people for 100 days of planned navigation and a several weeks’ reserve. This means preparing more than 1,000 lunches, 1,000 breakfasts and 1,000 dinners. And yet Christmas is approaching and Easter will come in March, while the boat will still be at sea. Other celebrations such as the birthdays of some crew members will also take place during the voyage. An allowance for dough and special dinners must be included in the inventory. The accumulation of so much food requires a lot of planning and work. During this voyage, external assistance or resupplying is practically impossible. We shall depend solely on ourselves. The on-board freezer can hold about 80 kilos of food, which is only a small part of the demand. That’s why we prepare most of the dinner lunches using the method tested on previous voyages, i. e. pasteurising food in glass containers. After pre-treatment, the meat and vegetables go into scalded jars, where they are then pasteurised in an oven for three consecutive days. Each jar is inventoried, described and secured. In these latitudes, due to the low temperature of the surrounding water, the coldest place on the yacht is under the floor. In this way, we have prepared and already secured more than 900 lunch portions in a dozen or so variations, not counting vegetable servings (beetroots and carrots) or dinner specialities such as bigos, letcho, or beans in tomato sauce. Keeping butter fresh is a different story. A few kilos will be stored in a freezer and the rest will go into the jars. The butter is first melted (not clarified), then hot spilled into jars and sealed. While the jars cool down, they must be shaken regularly and the butter stirred so that the bottoms are sucked in airtight during cooling. The butter prepared this way will be stored in a cool place, of which we shall have plenty, i.e. under the floors.
On the last days before the start of the cruise, we planned to buy eggs and fresh vegetables. We also have seed for sprouts, which we shall grow during the voyage. It will be a great source of vitamins bringing variety into our diet.
Preparations for the expedition are in full swing. On 16 December, we managed to refuel the boat. Primary fixed tanks were filled up with 2000 litres and additional soft tanks now hold extra 2,700 litres of diesel. Katharsis II also sailed on a trial voyage with fuel tanks installed on board. The stability of the yacht has thus been tested. Weather conditions were ideal for testing, a gale blowing at the speed of more than 40 knots offered a good test environment for the yacht and crew. They passed the test with flying colours.
On 18 December, a pre-start inspection of a referee (Commissioner) appointed by the World Council of Sailing Records (WSSRC/ISAF) is planned, after which we start counting off the time until take-off. Everything will depend on the weather.
Keep your fingers crossed!
From V&A Waterfront Marina, Cape Town, South Africa
– greetings from the Katharsis II crew.