28th December 2016
Well, it’s finally here, embarkation day! We can’t present for boarding until 4pm and I had to leave the comfort of Hosteria Patagonia Jarke by 10 in the morning. Oh well, I got to see lots of Ushuaia’s streets and cafes and found gifts for family and friends, if nothing else. I was heading to the museum but a heavy downpour and having left my jacket at the drop-off point put an end to that plan, so back to more coffee and sketching until it was time to go.
I met my first fellow passenger at the port, a lovely English woman travelling with her husband and 3 adult children. They have lived in the US for the last 18 years and were a lovely family, we caught up often the boat.
At the gangway, the expedition staff were waiting to greet us and I met my roommate, Marijke, who is a marine mammal specialist. Apparently it’s quite unusual for staff and guides to share, however, the numbers and gender mix colluded to give me this lovely present. We were sent to meet the hotel manager and his assistant, Johnny and Katie, given our cabin allocation, and shown the way by one of the house staff, lovely Filipino girls.
A little while later it was time for the first of many briefings in the lounge area on Deck 5, safety and lifeboat briefing first. Next we head back to our cabins to don warm clothes and take our life jackets back with us to try and get them on and secure. Just more than 100 newbies every trip, we must make the staff laugh, an absolute shamozzle, with arms and life jackets going in every direction while we work it out. After we were safely jacketed, it was roll call, which again, hopefully we can perform better if there is a real need. The fact we have a group of 50 Chinese passengers, most of whom don’t speak English, was an added bonus to the hilarity. Poor Dutch Johnny did his best but some of the names really had him in a twist at times.
Off outside to the lifeboat deck next where one of the ships officers, Gavin, with a great Scottish accent, scared the pants off us with graphic descriptions of what would happen if we had to abandon ship to the lifeboats. 63 people per lifeboat, the need to sit on your defined black strip so we could all fit, no food or drink for 24 hours and mandatory seasickness medication was just the tip of the iceberg. All I could think was, it’s a good thing the mv Plancius is a nice dependable ship! A quick look inside the bright orange life saving vessels and we could escape the howling cold wind and go back to our cabins to untangle ourselves from the life jackets and extra warm clothes then head back to the lounge.
Johnny then gave us a rundown of life on board from his perspective, meal and bar times, internet access, all the usual things. Andrew Bishop, our Australian expedition leader was up next to introduce the expedition staff and give an insight to our daily program during the voyage. The ship’s doctor, Jelte from the Netherlands, had his turn next and advised he would set up shop in the bar after dinner to dispense the famous ‘behind the ear patch’ or tablets to those who thought they might need them. Then the most important man on the boat, Captain Evgeny Levakov joined us for an introduction and a toast with Proseco to a good trip.
Dinner followed all this activity in the dining room on Deck 3, wow, the food was delicious, the staff were fantastic and conversations that started off quietly this night got louder every night after. Rather than risk being seasick I headed up to the bar and bought one of the patches, had a chat for a while, wandered outside for a few pics and went to bed before we entered the dreaded Drake Passage. During the night though, I started sliding up and down the length of my bed, the weirdest feeling ever. Apparently, the waves were coming from the side of the ship so she was rolling from side to side more than up and down.