Ice Pilot Captain Ashley Perrin talks to Sam Fortescue about prepping 41 metre superyacht Destination for an Antarctic adventure.
With lines by Dubois, an aluminium hull from Alloy Yachts and originally named after an outpost in Nova Scotia, Destination was always meant for sailing high latitudes. Skipper Mike Lawrence says that preparations for the expedition to the Antarctic made in consultation with ice pilot Captain Ashley Perrin focused on storage and heating.
“We wanted to [increase] our cruising range, so we emptied our tender bay and constructed a large storage locker, which housed two fuel bladders,” he explains. As the fuel was drained, the locker was available for storing rubbish.
“We added heaters to the lazarette so we could use it as a drying locker,” he adds. “This was done with heater pads stuck to the captive winches and also diesel heaters.” They kept the locker at a toasty 27°C, despite the freezing temperatures. Then there were heaters on the engine block, hydraulic reservoirs and raw water intakes for the watermaker. “This eliminates problems with low water production in cold temperatures.”
The final prep was to take on extra crew so there was manpower available in case anyone got hurt. “You need to have crew that can think in the worst kind of situations, not someone that’s just spent their short career in the Med where help is a quick phone call away,” Lawrence says. This wisdom came into its own during the 24-hour anchor watches that were necessary to keep an eye out for encroaching ice. “We were chased out of one anchorage by drifting ice the size of a football pitch.”
In Antarctica itself, they encountered good conditions – the toughest part was the 700-kilometre crossing of the Drake Passage, where waves and winds roam endlessly around the bottom of the world. Every day they were presented with vistas that took their breath away.
The boat’s owner found it a near-poetic experience. “A destination on the map is never just a destination – it’s a place of knowledge and fulfilling the fantasy of life. Our voyage to Antarctica was just that, a fantasy fulfilled,” he says. “Antarctica took us away from the madding crowd and allowed us to rebalance with Mother Nature in all her splendour. The sheer magnitude of space shared with the wildlife was beyond expectations.
“This is not a trip to be taken lightly; safety is a factor 24/7. As guests and even for our experienced captain, the elements and challenges we faced could only be dealt with by the expertise of our guide. The real privilege was to be on our own yacht and share with all those who travel with us, from guests to our amazing captain and crew. Antarctica should definitely be put at the top of your bucket list, as it, too, is changing.”
Polar tips from ice pilot Ashley Perrin
- Travel between November and March, with December to February best for novices
- Apply for Antarctic Treaty zone permits four months in advance from the FCO in the UK, or the US Dept of State, National Science Foundation or EPA
- Include a detailed itinerary of stops and activities. Some may require impact statements
- There is no bunkering in the Antarctic zone. Order Antarctic fuel (-6°C cloud point minimum) two to four months in advance at Puerto Williams, Punta del Este or Punta Arenas
- Carry 20 to 30 per cent more fuel than you expect to use
- For the best guest experience, have them fly to King George Island to join the yacht after it crosses the Drake Passage
- Stock float suits for guests and crew, plus thermal everything!
- Flat-bottom inflatables are best for landings
- Carry 24-hour survival packs and multiple VHFs when you go ashore
- Bring provisions with you; flying them in is expensive. Expect to pay £23 per kilo for transportation of food from the mainland