Pelagic Australis, a 74-foot aluminum sailboat and my home for the next month, was just tying up beside Victory, a 75-foot wooden schooner, which was rafted on the outside of Micalvi. Laura Parish and Miles Wise, the first mate and captain, respectively, who are also partners, sat in the pilothouse and drank a welcome aboard cup of tea with me. The boat was strangely quiet since most of the crew was still in the classroom—finishing up the final days of their RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Yachtmaster certification course. The plan, said Miles, as the pale, winter sun started its early descent, was to watch the weather forecasts and head up the Beagle Channel to do some exploration as soon as classes had finished. After that, we’d sail for Cape Horn, and from there, on to the Falklands, and across to Buenos Aires.
I dragged my seabags below, eager to get my gear stowed before my roommate returned. The cabin was comfortable enough, but not large. The bottom berth had already been staked out, but I had no trouble finding enough room for my stuff, and I liked that my berth, though narrower, had a small porthole. Laura gave me a tour of the rest of the boat, with specific instructions on how to pump out the heads and the shower trays, where to find provisions, etc. We finished up as darkness fell, and just as the troops returned, boisterously stamping their feet in the cold. This was a big moment: With an LOA of 74 feet and less than 20 feet of beam, 11 of us would be sharing this small, floating space for the next four weeks. When you think about it, it would be nearly impossible to share 1,480 square feet with 10 of your very favorite people for more than a day. Now imagine doing it with strangers for a month. Luckily, we had plenty of rum, beer, wine, and good food aboard—and we shared a common goal—so we didn’t stay strangers for long.
Pelagic Australis is a solid ship. Comfortable but not luxurious, she is purpose-built for cruising southern latitudes, and she tends to draw the kind of adventurous charterers who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and doing some chopping, cooking, washing, and deck-swabbing. On our trip, which was the end-of-season delivery to Buenos Aires for lifeboat and other safety inspections, we were crew, so we also took turns at the helm, on deck, and navigating.