WE lived on the edge through several enormous waves prior to rounding Cape Horn. The winds were a steady 40 knots and gusted up to 50 knots. It was turbulent and through our ships various violent gyrations in, around, and through the waves, I would like to say I was not afraid or nervous. But I was. And frightened - but there was no going back.
The Rounding at 2241hrs, 16th February, 2018, exceeded all expectations.
And then, as if by magic, it seemed like we had entered the garden of Eden - without Eve or any apple trees - not long after turning the corner. It warmed up, the winds became lighter, the seas were flatter in the lee of Tierra Del Fuego. Yet, down at the Horn, it was still howling. To boot, the South Atlantic Residents Association gave us an imaginary champagne reception and it was party time and eureka!
From this experience, it drove home to me the fame and reputation of Cape Horn. The Roaring 40ies, the Howling 50ies and the Screaming 60ies - are not age related (though in my case could be!). Rather they are bands of latitude around the bottom of our planet. Here the winds and oceans roll around the World from West to East almost uninterrupted.
These winds are exacerbated at the horn by the funneling effect of the Andes and the Antarctic peninsula. The waves also encounter an area of shallower water which has the effect of making them shorter and steeper - increasing the hazard to ships. Notorious also for rogue waves which can attain heights of 30 metres - 98 ft. And of course the ice hazards
The Cape was discovered and first rounded by the Dutchman Willem Schouten who named it Kaap Hoorn after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands. (1615 - 16 voyage of the Eendracht) And Drakes Channel, South of the Horn, was discovered by accident in 1578 when Sir Thomas Drake was blown off course. He was on his way around the World trip through the Straights of Magellin - a passage further north through the bottom of Chile and Argentina.
And it was the Straights of Magellin that Joshua Slocum, the great American singlehanded circumnavigator, used. He was smart and I always recollect his narrative of anchoring at night in the Straights with no guard against the local Indians. Instead he used thumbtacks, his secret weapon. He described how he awoken suddenly in the middle of the night with screaming and roaring as the barefooted robbers discovered the hidden tacksů.
For decades Cape Horn was a major milestone in the Clipper route by which sailing ships carried trade around the world and for US ships going between coasts.
Traditionally a sailor who had rounded cape horn was entitled to wear a gold loop earring - in the left ear, the one which had faced the horn in a typical eastbound passage. He also earned the right to dine with one foot on the table. To boot, a sailor who had rounded the Cape of Good Hope could dine with both feet on the table!
The need for ships to round Cape Horn was massively reduced with the opening of the Panama canal in 1914 and with the opening of transcontinental railways However it remains one of the most elusive and is in Chilean territorial waters. The navy maintain a station close by and it is part of Antarctica Chilean province. There are no trees. It rains 270 days of the year and the average winds are close to gale force with 100 knot squalls.
One historic attempt immortalized in history in the attempt of the HMS bounty in 1788 and subsequent mutiny on the Bounty which was fictionalised. Bounty made only 85 miles of headway in 31 days of East to West sailing - before giving up and going around Africa instead!
Actually the first small boat to sail around the Horn was said to be 42 footer Saoirse, sailed by Limerick man Conor O Brien. With three crew, rounded it during his circumnavigation of the world between 1923 and 1925. The first to do it singlehanded was Argentine Vito Dumas in 1942 on his 33 footer.
And wrapping up this Log, the Horn for your Skipper was a very emotional turning point. It was euphoric after the tribulations of the vast pacific over the past year getting there. On land, it was the equivalent of a good night out, making love; being with friends, and helping someone make their world a better place, and a good meal and you name it..
Subsequently it was back to the reality of removing and repairing a massive mainsail. And getting this great ship, I have the honour to command, the 8,000 miles up the Atlantic to finish. Each one to count for Le Souffle du Nord - Project imagine. And of course the Atlantic Youth Trust. Home boys home.
And of the many stories of poets and adventurers, telling of hazardous journeys around this iconic landmark I quote:
"One sight of such a coast is enough
To make a landsman dream for a week
About shipwrecks, peril and death"
- Charles Darwin
" Cape Horn that tramples beauty into wreck
And crumples steel
And smites the strong man dumb"
- John Maesfield: