Sailing to Antarctica: An Interview with Federico Guerrero
One of the things that I like most about my job is having the opportunity to meet interesting people from around the world. I’m lucky enough that some of these people have become close friends.
This is one of those cases. I met Federico a six years ago at a “Thanksgiving ” dinner here in Ushuaia, thanks to his proactive wife Laura, who is constantly networking and organizing dinners.
Below you will find a piece of the interview that he and I had during the 2020 quarantine.
Federico Guerrero grew up four blocks from the beach, and at age 12 he went to sailing school with his dad. From there, the family explored the coast of Argentina and Brazil in small sailboats. Fede went to university at the National Maritime College in Argentina and holds a Master’s unlimited license. He has worked on nearly all of the worlds’ oceans on many vessels including seismic research vessels, fishing vessels, supply ships, and cargo vessels.
FreeStyle: How did you start guiding trips to Antarctica? How many trips have you done?
Fede: It all started in 2013 when I sailed with my wife to Antarctica for the first time on a sailboat that I built, as a dream project. This trip to Antarctica was also our honeymoon! We realized we loved Antarctica and that one day we wanted to start a business taking tourists and scientists to Antarctica on small boats. That project started taking shape in 2014 when a bigger and more suitable sailboat suddenly came up for sale. So, I quit my job at the time in a multinational company, bought the boat and created the company called Quixote Expeditions – the name is in honor to my previous sailboat named Quijote (Quixote), which is in honor of Don Quixote, a silly nit-wit who was wandering around looking for adventures and having funny stories to tell. Our first commercial trip to Antarctica on the SY Ocean Tramp was in January 2016. During the summer season 2016/17 we made two voyages with tourists. In the season 2017/18 we made 4 voyages and we introduced the Fly-cruise idea for small boats, so out the of 4 voyages, only the first and last were sailing across the Drake, and the two trips in between were Flying both ways . This idea was very well received, and for the season 2018/19 we added a second little vessel to our fleet, the Hans Hansson, and we added more trips, so we made 6 trips on Ocean Tramp and 4 trips on Hans Hansson, this also meant increasing our team as Ocean Tramp now had her own crew, and I was the skipper on Hans Hansson. This past season 2019/20 we increased to more trips and we made 7 trips on Ocean Tramp and 5 trips on Hans Hansson, where we had crew on both vessels and I moved to Shore Support, Logistics, etc…
FreeStyle: What is it like to cross the Drake Passage in a sailing boat?
Fede: The Drake passage has rough seas no matter on which boat you cross it. The good news is that when you are small you always are more cautious, so we actually always look very closely at the weather forecast before we set sail to cross the Drake passage, as opposed to bigger vessels that cross no matter what. The other good news is that we do fly cruise, so you only need to cross the Drake once, and you return flying across the Drake which is done in just 2 hours! Finally, the last good news is that our trips are long, so if we have to wait a day or two for good weather across the Drake, we can make it without losing much time down in Antarctica!
FreeStyle: Why should passengers consider traveling to Antarctica in small yachts?
Fede: Antarctica is a great place to be explored by small yachts!. It’s like traveling on a bicycle where
you get to see so many details, smells, sensations, feelings! Plus, small yachts anchor very close
to shore, so you are surrounded by glaciers and wildlife all the time. The fact that we are
maximum 7 passengers on Ocean Tramp makes a huge difference in the experience that you
get. If you want to experience an intimate exploratory trip, where you get to choose along with
your crew mates the destination and the plan for each day, then a small yacht is the way to go.
FreeStyle: Is previous knowledge required to join a trip in a sailing boat?
Fede: Passengers joining a yacht don’t need any previous knowledge of sailing, as we have a crew who
takes cares of every aspect of sailing. You need to be physically fit and be in full control of your
body and have average balance. If you can walk one mile without losing your breath, if you can
climb a 2 meters /6 feet vertical ladder, if you can be standing on a bus holding with only one hand,
if you can disembark on a beach from a little inflatable boat, then you are probably good to
come! Everyone coming with us need to fill out an online personal and medical form, which has
to be reviewed and signed by a doctor. Ah, by the way, if you do want to help sailing the boat,
steering, handling lines, our crew will welcome you and teach you as much as you want to learn
FreeStyle: What’s life like onboard the yacht?
Fede: Life onboard is a bit like going to a summer camp -there are activities all the time, although only
if you want – if you prefer to stay on deck just absorbing the beauty, taking pictures, relaxing, or
whatever, that’s totally fine. If you want to go on a hike, go exploring in kayaks, take a zodiac
tour, help the onboard crew steering the boat, talk to our Guest Scientist onboard, etc, that’s
also very good! It’s also like those books “choose your own adventure”, as we made the day to
day plan around the table with the Captain, based on weather and passengers wishes.
FreeStyle: Any nice anecdote you could share?
Fede: On this one trip we arrived to Antarctica and our first destination was Yankee Harbour. We
landed with all our passengers and it was an amazing day, blue sky, calm, the ground was all white with snow and the place was full of life -penguins everywhere, seals, birds, it was just amazing! We were standing there watching all happening when this woman came to us crying – she hugs us both and said “thanks for bringing me here”.
FreeStyle: Favorite place in Antarctica?
Fede: One of my favorites places in the West Antarctic Peninsula is Cuverville Island – if all conditions
are good, which happens often, it’s just an amazing place full of activity of all sorts, happening
all at the same time -where we anchor is on a protected basin surrounded by land and icebergs
and you see penguins on shore, seals swimming around the boat, small icebergs passing by,
penguins jumping here and there, icebergs moving, rolling, changing shapes, you hear the sound
of distant glaciers carving -every direction you watch something is going on! You can just sit on
deck with a cup of coffee and see it all happening! It’s like been inside a giant zoo where you are
part of it!.
FreeStyle: Why do travellers enjoy sailing to Antarctica?
Fede: With no doubt they like the most the amazing flexibility that a small yacht offers. We make our
plan day to day based on the weather forecast and on what our guests want to see and do.
Everyday the Captain will lay a map down on the table and show the potential next places to go,
and every one will express their interest and wishes.
FreeStyle: Any message for travellers who are thinking in sailing to Antarctica?
Fede: If you want to explore Antarctica choosing your own adventure every day and be part of it, and
feel like you are a real member of an Expedition Team, come with us!
FreeStyle: Any other piece of advice for future travellers?
Fede: No matter what way you choose to visit Antarctica with, be very flexible and open, and let things
happen in whatever order Antarctica present it to you -whatever Antarctica throws at you, take
it on that very moment, don’t wait for the “second time” -it might never come. Antarctica is
usually the last destination