This morning the crew cast off lines and we set sail out the Strait of Magellan to the Atlantic ocean. Our trip will take four to five days, depending on weather: one day down to the tip of South America, two days to cross the Drake Passage and then, depending on the sea ice, one or two days more to Palmer. The boat travels at a relatively slow pace, about ten to twelve knots (15 miles an hour).
It had been cloudy in dock but once we got underway the clouds cleared and it became a simply gorgeous afternoon. The deckhands went to work on all sorts of outdoor tasks and I wandered the deck just taking in the sun and sea. In the late afternoon a gorgeous group of dolphins joined alongside our bow. Everyone called them "oreo dolphins" but I looked them up and they're called Commerson's Dolphins. I have never seen animals with so much playful energy. There were about six of them and they leapt and spun out of the water, dancing along our wake.
Towards dinnertime a small boat pulled up alongside us and the captain of the Gould put our engines in reverse, stopping the boat. An athletic figure jumped from our boat to the smaller one. This was the Chilean pilot who had been aboard to guide us through the narrow strait. His departure was our sign that we were in open ocean and on our way.
As I climbed down to the galley for dinner I reflected on the people aboard with me. In addition to the dozen crew members of the Gould, there are fifteen of us aboard who will be staying at Palmer. What's remarkable is that we form a complete little community. Most all of the jobs you might need in a small town are represented: leader, doctor, cook, electrician, carpenter, engineer (that's me), mechanic, crane operator, trash collector. We also have a couple of jobs unique to where we are going including a boating captain and two artists. Together, we have the skills to form a very small but adequate little town. It's an interesting thought.