The Drake Passage lived up to its reputation for big weather on our two-night passage back to Ushuaia from the Girlache Strait. We experienced 33-40 ft (10-12m) seas with winds blowing steadily 60 kts and gusting to 70. We didn’t, however, experience the dreaded “Drake Shake”. The National Geographic Endurance handled the conditions remarkably well, with surprisingly little boat motion. Jennifer, who normally gets seasick in big seas, didn’t feel any symptoms at all.
The captain put the ship into stage 2 for roughness preparation, meaning loose items on board need to be secured. This includes chairs and tables in the public areas, and the cabin deck furniture. The public area furniture was strapped to the floor in a way that still makes them usable, while all the cabin deck furniture was stacked and tied against the dividing walls. The highest roughness level is stage 3, where guests are restricted to their rooms for safety. A few weeks earlier, on December 10th, the Endurance entered stage 3 with 65ft (20m) seas on a Drake Passage crossing. That must have been a little scary.
Conditions were at their worst off Cape Horn as we approached the entrance to the Beagle Channel on our second morning at sea. Prior to that, we’d been dining in the restaurant, attending seminars, and moving about the ship as usual. But on that morning, we briefly entered roughness stage 3 and were all asked to stay in our cabins until we reached more sheltered waters. And even in the worst conditions, the ship still felt solid and stable. We’re just glad not to have been out in that in Dirona.
Below are highlights from December 27th and 28th, 2022. Click any image for a larger view.
The public area furniture can be attached to the floor with loose straps that allow limited motion for use, but prevents them from moving very far. Nobody wanted to be out on the deck though.
Above: Our current location about halfway across the Drake Passage. Below: Conditions in the storm that will hit as we approach the Beagle Channel (click image for a larger view).
The wind blowing the tops off the waves in the Drake Passage. While we were having dinner, a huge wave hit high on the bridge and exploded down the side of the ship.
Left: A 10pm sunset over halfway through our Drake Passage crossing. Right: Conditions had worsened considerably by the next morning, but we’re almost in.
Cutting fruit from our cabin fridge for breakfast. We’ve been asked to stay in our cabins until conditions improve.
Quark Expeditions Ultramarine, left, and Poseidon Sea Spirit heading out into the Drake Passage as we enter the Beagle Channel. They are in for a rough ride.
Our pilot arriving by boat just inside the protected Beagle Channel waters.
Left: With calm conditions in the Beagle Channel, we enjoyed a piano concert by a talented crew member. Right: The Endurances‘s burgee took a real beating in the storm. It was signed by the crew and auctioned off for the crew fund.
The repaired Viking Polaris at Ushaia. A rogue wave hit the ship on November 29th and broke several cabin windows, killing one passenger and injuring four others. In the picture above, the broken windows at lower left have been boarded over (click image for a larger view). That will dramatically reduce the appeal of those cabins.
On deck watching as the Endurance comes onto the deck in Ushuaia. At left, Jennifer is standing inside one of two geodesic domes that can be booked for overnight stays under the stars.
Left: The Nat Geo Resolution moored opposite the Endurance at Ushuai. Right: The Endurance taking on a load of diesel.
For our final night aboard the Endurance, we were invited to a special chef’s dinner at Charlie’s Table. The elaborate six-course meal is modeled after the dinner that expedition cook Charlie Green prepared for Ernest Shackleton in 1914 before they departed Buenos Aires for Antarctica. At each course, the chef explains the significance of the dish. The meal was delicious and we had a wonderful time.
Very impressed at the stability of the ship in those seas! I recall (dimly, I was a kid) a winter trip to Bermuda from NY aboard the Queen of Bermuda circa 1955 when dining room chairs were sliding, plates were crashing, the ship was heaving and rolling and everyone (except my parents!) was seasick.
I am lucky to own a stunning print of a painting by Montague Dawson of Sir Francis Chichester hove-to in a howling storm rounding the Cape where you were. Rough indeed.
Yes, the combination of size and active fin stabilizers allow the Nat Geo Endurance to be remarkably comfortable in rough conditions.