Brazil to The Falklands – Day 6

Reading: Meantime (Frankie Boyle) (finished)
Weather: Sunny and still not a lot of wind but slowly building …..
Thought for the day: Do wandering albatrosses think “I wander, therefore I am?”
Evening meal: Pizza
Course: 190-205oC
Distance covered: At 1200 we had covered 785 miles (Log 4,970)
Wildlife headcount: Sooty, yellow-nosed and wandering albatrosses ….

As well as an A-Z of wildlife, it now turns out that I also need to do an A-Z of albatrosses (or should that be albatrossi?). Today really was the day of the albatross …. We initially saw lots of sooty albatrosses. These are quite small (in albatross terms!) and the name is clear from the colour – they do literally look as if they nest in chimneys though some of them have a marked white and black patch around the eyes giving them quite a haunting masked look as they fly past. During the morning we had around half a dozen flying around the boat and they are apparently known for congregating around boats. It would be too bad a pun to say that the sooties were sweeping around the boat, but that is almost what they were doing! They apparently breed in the South Atlantic on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island, but they spend the majority of the year at sea and return to their colonies in July and August. They were joined occasionally by a couple of yellow-nosed albatrosses and I spent around an hour in the morning sunshine trying to get a decent photo of them. If I crop the photos enough then there are one or two that are OK, but a 4x zoom on a camera really isn’t enough. Just occasionally they flew close enough past for a good photo, but this was always when the camera was just out of hand or I was steering. It felt like they were just preening themselves at that point – look at me ….

They were just the warm-up act though. The big guns came out in the afternoon. After lunch a wandering albatross came wandering past. Now I thought that the yellow-nosed was spectacular, but that simply means that I have run out of adjectives to describe the wandering one. Their bodies are up to 115cm – that is over a metre long. To support this in flight, they have a wing span of around 3 metres – 10 foot …. The one we saw was probably a juvenile though we could only establish this from the photos Jet took. She brought out a DSLR with a decent zoom and got some great photos. The slightly brown colouring underneath almost certainly indicated a juvenile and the adult wandering albatrosses are quite similar to the Royal Albatross. Like the sooty ones they nest on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island and return to their colonies in August/September. So I just spent an adjectivally-challenged half hour or so watching it, before it eventually wandered off ….

The sailing took a back seat to all this, not least as we were motoring for the whole of the first part of the day. However, around 10.30am the wind started to build a little (from dead ahead!) and so we put the staysail up. Around 2.30pm the engine finally went off and we were sailing again, albeit slowly without the mainsail initially. At the 6pm watch changeover Erik went up the mast to fit the new topping lift and we hoisted the main. Great to be sailing again ….