Richard Hudson spoke to the Shellbacks on "The Cold South", his trip from Argentina to the Antarctic. With his 80,000 miles of sailing experience, and having completed a circumnavigation of the Americas in 2016, Richard has a uniquely well informed perspective on polar sailing.
Originally from Toronto, at 13, Richard began sailing via free sailing lessons for kids offered by Harborfront in lug-rigged, converted lifeboats. He followed this venture by going through the Toronto Brigantine program (he was a Watch Officer on Pathfinder). He has lived for five years in Yukon & the North West Territories, and fifteen years in New York City.
Richard is a true sailing handyman, having refitted and sailed a 12m/35' steel gaff-rigged schooner, Orbit II, along eastern US, Bahamas, Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland, Iceland; then restoring a classic, gaff-rigged schooner, Rosemary Ruth, and sailing it along eastern US. After that, he flew to France, bought a 15m/50' steel staysail schooner, Issuma, and refitted and sailed her over 55,000 miles from France to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, to USA, Canada, Greenland, through the Northwest Passage then south to British Columbia, Mexico and Chile, then to Antarctica, South Africa, St Helena, New York and Newfoundland.
Usually, he lives aboard Issuma, so "home" is generally where the boat is; however, this winter, he is living aboard a Grampian 26 in Pickering. Between trips, Richard works in the computer industry to pay for his sailing passion. Most of Richard’s voyages, including this one, are sailed with people he finds for crew.
Richard described an unusually easy passage from South America to Antarctica across the Drake Passage, usually marked with high winds and rough water. In this case, the going was easy, and Issuma arrived at Deception Island, an active volcano that also offers an excellent anchorage. The beach is heated by geothermal action, and it's possible to bathe in the water at the beach's margin.
The next point in the travels was along the South Shetland Islands, ending up at Elephant Island, where Richard's ancestor had been as a member of Shackleton's expedition in the Endurance in 1912. It was here that while attempting to set a line mooring line for Issuma in advance of a storm that Richard, in a rowboat, lost an oar and ended up drifting offshore while his crew on Issuma struggled to weigh anchor to rescue him.
Richard's account was riveting, and emphatically made the point that a chain of small problems can built to a possible disaster. In this case, all ended well.
At points the trip faced 6 to 8 metre waves -- even in deep water -- and force 9 winds. Even when in harbour, 80 knot williwaws played havoc with several boats there, though Issuma avoided problems.
Richard supplied interesting images of the wildlife on his route, including seals , the southern giant petrel, skua, and penguins, which sometimes crowd the beaches in vast numbers.
The trip then headed to South Africa, where the approach required heaving to at night to reduce the risk of hitting ice. High waves made avoiding ships in the area a tricky business, but eventually the warm Angola current made life easier. Capetown was the final stop on the voyage.
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