Silver Explorer, Antarctica: Day 9 – Drake Passage Redux: Calm Before The Storm?

Day 9 – Drake Passage Redux: Calm Before The Storm?

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The red on the map will move directly in front of us Saturday morning. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

“The fire is out of control. Crew, please begin with evacuation of guests.”

Captain Adam Boczek’s words came over Silver Explorer’s public address system at around 10:30 this morning. Thankfully, the command was a simulation, part of Silver Explorer’s routine — and mandatory — crew safety drill, performed at least once during each voyage.

It is comforting to know that Silversea Expeditions takes safety so seriously, especially with what may prove to be a challenging day ahead crossing the Drake Passage.

The forecast now shows surface winds directly in our path as high as 45 knots per hour at 6 a.m. Saturday. That corresponds to nine on the Beaufort Scale, which indicates gale force winds and waves up to 30 feet (about 10 meters).

So far this morning, the sea has been calm, almost flat, but at 14:00 (Argentine Standard Time) the sky appears as an ominous gray and the sea is showing some white caps as the low pressure system increases.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Calm seas this morning on the Drake Passage. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
View from my veranda on deck 7. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

There is a chance that we can beat the storm, reaching the safe shelter of the Beagle Channel at around midnight tonight. If we were able to do so, we would likely avert the storm’s wrath.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Maintaining 15.1 knots in an attempt to beat the storm moving into our path ahead. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

In a valiant attempt to reach the channel, Captain Boczek and his bridge staff are pushing Silver Explorer to full speed, 15.2 knots. We joked that he need not slow the ship for whale-sightings, as he did all through the Antarctic Peninsula, although we have seen many whales on both the port and starboard sides of the vessel today.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Captain Adam Boczek shows our location on the map. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Meanwhile, Silver Explorer is sailing along smoothly. Captain Boczek told me that the stabilizers were active and that without them, we’d be feeling a lot of movement. In fact, there is little, if any, discomfort among guests. Walking is possible without holding on to the railings in the corridors. Both the lectures (there are three today) and the International Lunch were well-attended. There’s plenty going on today and most guests are out and about. Here’s a look at today’s activities featured in the Silversea Expeditions Chronicles newsletter.

  •  6:00 – 8:00 Early Riser’s Breakfast, Observation Lounge
  • 8:00 – 10:00 Breakfast Buffet
  • 10:15 Emergency Crew Drill
  • 9:30 – 11:00 Late Risers Breakfast in Panorama Lounge
  • 11:00 – 12:00 Bouillon is served
  • 11:15 “Demon Fish — The Ultimate Predator” presentation in the Theatre
  • 12:00 – 14:00 International Lunch
  • 14:30 “Climate Change — The Global Experiment” presentation n the Theatre
  • 16:00 Afternoon tea and team trivia
  • 17:00 “Polar Phenomena: Inspirational Icons Of Earth’s Ice Realms” presentation in Theatre
  • 18:00 – 19:30 Tapas are served in Panorama Lounge
  • 19:00 Captain Adam Boczek invites guests to his Farewell Cocktail Party
  • 19:30 Captain’s Farewell Dinner
  • 21:15 The smooth sounds of Lou in the Panorama Lounge

In addition, all facilities are operational.

  • Jacuzzi and Steam Room on deck 6 are open from 9:00 to 20:00
  • Fitness Center, 07:00 to 20:00
  • Hair Salon 08:00 to 20:00
  • Library/Internet Cafe 24 hours
  • Spa Treatment Rooms
  • Medical Center
  • Boutique

At the salad station during lunch, I asked Silver Explorer’s doctor about ways to mitigate motion sickness. I had not suffered during the initial Drake Passage crossing, but I wanted to be prepared for the storm ahead — if we did not beat it to the Beagle Channel.

“Drink soda,” she told me. “It’s the only time you’ll hear a doctor telling you to drink sodas, but they help with motion sickness.” She also advised consuming ginger (which can be found at the sushi station in Silver Explorer’s restaurant — or, if confined to your room, ask your butler to fetch if for you) and green apples. I’ve taken Meclizine as a precaution, although I feel no motion sickness at all.

Safety and comfort are paramount during this voyage. All during this week, the expedition team took precautions to prepare guests for safe zodiac exits (sit on the sides and swing your legs around), hikes (when given a choice between stepping on ice or snow, always choose the ice — you don’t know how deep the snow will be) and walking around the ship during rough seas (always leave one hand free and use the railings).

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The dreaded Drake Passage is forecasted to show its violent side tomorrow morning. Will we make it through before the tantrum begins? © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

I’m optimistic that we’ll beat the storm, and if we do, the captain will slow Silver Explorer, and we’ll pick up the harbor pilot at about 14:00 on Saturday, arriving in Ushuaia at around 19:00, ahead of schedule: Sunday at 8 a.m. “If all goes well,” the captain said, “you will be able to experience Ushuaia’s nightlife on Saturday night.”

Silver Explorer: 10-Day Voyage To Antarctica
Still a long ride ahead to beat the storm. We are the dot near the bottom of the screen. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

At this moment, nothing would make me happier than the prospect of being in Ushuaia on a Saturday night, but not to experience the nightlife in this town at the end of the world, but rather for beating what seems to be a fairly nasty storm ahead. Stay tuned.

Cruising Silver Explorer to Antarctica. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
On watch in the bridge on Silver Explorer. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

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December 12 Ushuaia, ArgentinaCharter flight from Buenos Aires; Embark Silver Explorer5:00 PM
December 13Sailing The Drake Passage
December 14Crossing The Drake, Day 2
December 15Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 16Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 17Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 18Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 19Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula
December 20Sailing the Drake Passage, Redux
December 21Sailing the Drake Passage
December 22Ushuaia, Argentina8:00 AMDisembark Silver Explorer; return charter flight to Buenos Aires.