A glimpse of Gough
go! - South Africa|October/November 2021
Gough Island, in the middle of the South Atlantic, is one of the most important seabird nesting sites on earth. It’s also one of the most remote places on the planet! Join James Lowe on a two-week sailing trip from Cape Town to the island and back.
James Lowe

We hoisted the mainsail and immediately the Pelagic Australis caught the breeze and picked up speed. Our destination was Gough Island, a speck in the South Atlantic Ocean, about 2600 km southwest of Cape Town. Gough is on the edge of the so-called Roaring Forties, a zone of notoriously fearsome westerly winds.

It was going to be a bumpy ride.

I normally work as a geology lecturer and tour guide on expedition cruise ships (See James’s Portfolio in go! #167 – Ed.) and I have occasionally taken groups around Gough on excursions in inflatable Zodiac boats, but I had never set foot on the island.

The Pelagic Australis’s expedition – in March 2021 – was to transport seven scientists to Gough to assist with the Gough Island Restoration Programme (see sidebar on p 64). I was part of the four-member crew on board the yacht.

I had no sailing experience, but the captain assured me that I could learn on the go. And what a learning curve it was – racking upmore than 3000 nautical miles on my first trip!

Life on board was interesting. My duties included helping with sail changes, cooking meals, the odd bit of cleaning when conditions allowed, and designated watches for weather changes or other hazards like passing ships.

The day was divided into three-hour time slots, and the crew and scientists were divided into three groups. Each group had a three-hour watch, followed by six hours free, followed by a three-hour watch and so on.

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