However with every passing hour the winds seemed to raise, whipping up the waves and buffeting our progress. This gradual decline in climactic conditions continued until around 2pm, the wind picked up to around 50 knots (blowing a force 10 gale) and it became pretty clear we wouldn’t make it to shore. When we were just around a mile off the dock the decision was made to drop anchor, the pilot was ferried ashore and we had to wait it out until the winds eased. It’s incredible, we’ve been at sea now for over 6 weeks and the thought of not being able to get to land hadn’t really crossed my mind. However sat within reach, watching the people of Punta go about their daily lives whilst we were unable to join them was crazily frustrating.
This delay was only brief, but wallowing at anchor was not fun, there are just only so many times you can re-write your packing list or check your emails! Thankfully by 9.30pm the winds had dropped sufficiently for us to come alongside and take another step closer to home. Docking for us seems easy; it’s as simple as walking down the gangplank. But to ensure our successful entry onto Chilean soil the ships purser has been working hard behind the scenes to make sure all the correct visas are in place and the right legislation in adhered to.
I hope that through the blog I have been able to convey how diverse the crew is with respect to nationalities represented. Whilst this makes life on board more interesting, and means we are all able to experience elements of many new cultures, this also means that for the ships purser, Graham, there is a bit of a diplomatic nightmare! Each country has different rules of entry and different levels of understanding with other nations. Understanding these, and making sure we each adhere to the correct legislation, can be the difference between boarding your flight home or an extended stay on Discovery on her onward journey to Panama! No pressure then. Thankfully Graham has assured me he has never failed to gain successful entry for any of his crews, and also that there isn’t any pressing matter that might have me stowing away for another 3 weeks.
As well as entry into the country Graham is in charge of all the ships statutory paperwork. Discovery is a Royal Research Ship, and as such it is deemed we are representing the British government and the monarchy in the research we undertake. Because of this his paperwork must be meticulous; it would be rather embarrassing if the powers that be back in the UK received a phone call informing them of any nautical faux pas or a failure of a government research ship to adhere to any strict legislation. Again, rather Graham than me!
Lastly, as if this wasn’t enough, being responsible for vittling the ship, he needs to make sure there are enough stores on board to last the crew until they return to the UK in March! That’s a lot of bacon; apparently Discovery carries 200 kg of bacon at anyone time to make sure nobody goes without a hearty full English. How would any work get done otherwise? It’s just lucky the next voyage for the RSS Discovery is a passage to Panama; if the trip was a scientific expedition this would involve a rather laborious turnaround of 60 scientific personnel in Punta. A logistical nightmare when it would have to be achieved in a 3 day layover, it just doesn’t bare thinking about!