FROM 1-7. Near the Horn

Mar 06, 2005 - 2315hrs UTC

Sitrep: 2315hrs 06 Mar 2005 UTC 54’21”S 084’34”W Map Ref 103

Pete: Greetings from the frozen south

Alex has been without the computer for 3 days, during which time the wind has been light so a certain member of the team unable to vent his spleen on the keyboard has been pacing, scratching,k eating too many mars bars, minties etc.

The only answer to this early morning problem is a shared draught of Dr Coopers remedial elixir. I unscrewed the cap of one and sensed this lovely smell of malt, hops and barley. It was really strong – I don’t know whether when opening some atomised beer hit my nose or that my nose is sensitive to the different smell. This led me to a few thoughts on the olfactory system which you, gentle reader, may be able to answer.

It’s now about 40 days since we last showered, we both obviously smell pretty bad yety my nose tells me it’s not so bad. Does cold inhibit the sense of smell? I dont know how cold it is inside the boat but it must be seriously cold.

the wind is now back with us, the breeze is southerly, 40-50kts straight off the antarctic, now not that far away.The last sail change took us down to storm jib only. Piston hank, standing rigging, pulpit, mast,boom, winches feel like ice to bare fingers.

As I sit here, I breathe in through my nose and try to smell the air. Nothing. the only sensation is that the cold air has now frozen the tip of my nose. As you spend extended periods of time with a particular smell, does the olfactory system desensitise that smell to make life a bit more comfortable? Kim and others, vI need answers. 40 days in the tropics awaits us and I suspect showering arrangements will become a priority. Cheers and best wishes to all Pete.


A little bit trepidatory out here. Looks as if we will get a bit of a lull as a ridge goes through over the next day or so and then it’s on. The previous grib indicated 45 kt from the NW (in our experience, that means 70+ for a lot of the time) for several days. Not a pleasant prospect, given the likely size of the seas. The latest file says 35kt from the west – again for several days. This is a big improvement but still very nasty. Things change so fast we are not counting any chickens yet. In any case, we’re not going to get it easy for a bit. The hardest part is sitting here without any real control over what we can do except cope with what arrives, and waiting for it to arrive. Still getting 50+. Now very big seas, occasionally breaking over the boat. Can’t point towards the Horn any more – tracking about 040m, Horn bears 082m. But now less than a Hobart to go. The consultation is occurring as I write.

Small change later – we’ve got the main up again with 3 reefs and we’re back on track. Seas abating slowly and ok for a day or so.

From Ann G.
Cape Horn Adventure

Thought you may find earlier adventures around the Horn of interest to
read. I have to say it was a little unnerving reading this earlier
account from 1948. If this email is too long, I apologize. The
Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long-Cours Cap Horniers – St.
Malo (AICH), is a unique maritime organization. Captain Martin Lee
tells their tale, and his own……..

Cape Horn lies in Latitude 55º 58′ 28” South, Longitude 67º 17′ 20”
West of Greenwich and marks the point where the Atlantic and Pacific
meet. The Dutch navigator Schouten is said to have named it in 1616,
either after his home town of Hoorn or after one of his ships. The
Cape consists of steep black rocks rising to a height of 1390 feet,
the cliffs looming up and stretching away to the north. It is now
marked by a lighthouse and a monument to all Cape Horn sailors, placed
there by the Chilean Section of the AICH in 1992.

These bald facts belie the inescapable truth that Cape Horn is
synonymous with bad weather and tremendous seas of great and sometimes
overpowering length. The east-going Atlantic Drift and the Cape Horn
current, overcast skies and a constant series of depressions – not to
mention the icebergs in summer time – make life under sail in these
waters both uncomfortable and dangerous.

My own rounding was in 1948 on board the four-masted, 330 – foot
barque PASSAT, now preserved in much altered state at Travemunde in
Germany but then owned by Gustaf Erickson of Mariehamn, in the Finnish
Aland Islands. I was at the latter end of my apprenticeship, having
joined PASSAT in the Baltic in 1946, loading timber for South Africa.
We were now on our way to Falmouth for orders from Port Victoria in
South Australia, with a full cargo of 4.900 tons of wheat. Erickson,
as well-recorded elsewhere, * was the last man to operate a commercial
fleet of sailing ships until just after World War II and I take up the
story from my records of the time:

“”So we sailed from Port Victoria, May 17th 1948, wearily beating out
of the Spencer Gulf, trying to clear the land that tried to grasp us
if we came too close at the end of a reach. Tacking ship every four
hours: a laborious business with a small crew and PASSAT’s heavy
spars, needing all hands on deck and a great deal of violent
persuasion from the mates. On May 19th we saw the last of Australia.
Kangaroo Island slipped by on the port beam, we were free at last and
now we could get down to the business of sailing.

Course was set for the Roaring Forties, where the westerly gales rage
round the world, building up that long, heavy, Southern Ocean swell
which has to be watched with such care by the sailor running before
the wind. Three days later we spoke the British M.V. PORT CHALMERS
homeward bound to London. She would be home before we reached Cape
Horn and outward-bound again before we arrived in Falmouth but life on
her would be dull and uninteresting. I almost felt sorry for them as
we sailed by in the cool evening air. The flickering morse lights
talking across the sea were that last contact we would have with other
people for over three months””. (By a strange stroke of fate, my first
ship as a newly qualified officer was that same PORT CHALMERS and life
on board was far from uninteresting). “”As the nights drew in PASSAT
rolled and plunged south-eastwards, the weather became colder and more
harsh, oilskins and seaboots were the order of the day. Twenty days
out the weather worsened. It was overcast with occasional snow
squalls. A bitter gale coming up from the ice howled and boomed in the
rigging but the ship was going well, rolling and crashing her way
through the seas, sending the spray flying over the catheads and
shipping volumes of water over both rails into the well decks, which
were untenable most of the time. We had been looking forward to this
Cape Horn weather but life was very uncomfortable. We were wet and
cold working on deck and turned-in still wet but not quite so cold.
The fore and after decks were continually awash, the main braces had
been led up onto the midship deck for safety and lifelines were rigged
along the bulwarks.

The wind was not kind to us that year; it was not until we were within
a few days of the Horn that it came away from the west and we reeled
off the miles more steadily. PASSAT made no record runs; she had not
been drydocked for over a year and was very sluggish, steering
heavily, often taking two men at the wheel and needing never-ending
vigilance when running before the wind.

On July 3rd we passed Cape Horn, leaving it 88 mile to the nor’d,
seeing nothing of the land and wondering if the “”dreaded Cape”” would
ever watch a tall ship pass that way again. It was doubtful, the
modern world has no time for the windjammer. As if passing the Horn
was the herald of better things, or perhaps just being kind to the
last of the square-riggers, the weather became warm and favourable
winds were the rule and not the exception. For the first time in fifty
days we set the royals and other fine-weather sails, felt rather
pleased with ourselves and sat back to enjoy the good weather. This
complacency was soon shattered. We were in the region of the dreaded
pampero, which set in on July 20th about 600 miles east of the river
Plate. The pampero brings disaster to the unwary with its sudden
arrival and the violent rain squalls and sudden shifts of wind which
have been the cause of the loss of many fine sailing ships in the

So much for the personal record of what it was like, running our
easting down, round the Horn on a routine commercial voyage. There
was, however, a lighter side to the Cape Horn story. In 19th –century
Liverpool there was a famous sailors’ boarding house called Paddy
West’s. The “”packet rats”” (landsmen and criminals on the run) who used
this establishment were at some stage led into the tap room where they
paraded round a bull’s horn mounted on the table. There was also a
compass which they had to place in a nearby wooden box. They could
then tell any hard-case mate who engaged them that they had “”rounded
the Horn three times and could box the compass””! West also provided a
packet rat’s “”kit”” for the voyage-traditionally a top hat and a
lantern to see him through the winter passage – with a collection of
discharges, faked or stolen from a dead man, to say that he was a real
“”AB””. In return his advance pay note settled Paddy West’s bill! These
paper sailors were a danger to themselves and to their ships, though
cold Cape Horns weather is said to have had one advantage – it got rid
of their bed bugs! I won’t comment on that but I do know that it had
little effect on the armies of resident cockroaches.

Fingers and toes crossed for your safe return.

From Kristen M.
Alex my Friend,

You have independently hit upon a topic which I have been floating past uncomprehending stares for years. At what point does technology devalue exploration?

My experience and contemplations come from dry land, which, even in the wilderness appears to be much more hospitable than the surroundings of your washing machine. I first began questioning whether technology was infringing upon the wilderness experience when people began placing rescue calls from their cell phones. Next came omnipresent GPS devices, and now EPERBs (which are still less common in the US—to the point where I don’t know the correct spelling).
Which are intelligent safety measures and which are crutches? It all depends on one’s point of view.

I’m a somewhat wimpy traveler—I have limited my explorations to places that are either well populated or within a few days walk of civilization. In these circumstances, I view a cell phone and/or EPERB as somehow cheating. My theory is that I should be responsible for myself or I shouldn’t be in the woods. However, a legitimate counter proposal is that the more technology I can use to assist in my own rescue, the less I endanger others who will attempt to rescue me.
Should I someday need rescuing (touch wood) I will be very grateful to the people and organizations who assist me.

Part 2 of 3 — Kristen M

Another of my pet theories is that as a society we have organized ourselves to remove too much risk. Many members of our society who share ancestors with your boot ferals and other animal species require the stimulation that danger brings. It is my belief that the discrepancy between the risk we routinely incur and the stimulation we crave has led to the exponential rise in “”extreme”” sports. I think that we’re desperately trying to massage our adrenal glands. Those fast boats that go whizzing past you are another manifestation of the same need for stimulation. Worse yet, the owners use technology to fine tune the rules so that they can believe that they are doing something that hasn’t been done before by many people. My fond hope is that our society will eventually direct these urges in constructive ways—perhaps this need for stimulation is what will drive us to explore off the planet.

Meanwhile, I too feel an albatross emblazoned with “”What’s the Point?””
hanging around my neck. My friend Karl taught me that there are at least two ways to approaching any project. In addition to being goal oriented, there is the process oriented method of experiencing life.
I have come to believe that life is inherently a process oriented sport. Particularly for those of us who live in the first world, survival is rarely an issue. For those of you currently living in washing machines, survival is a bit more challenging, but you must admit that the new bit is your personal experiences—the process in which you are engaged.

Part 3 of 3 — Kristen M.
I admire you for having the gumption to undertake a journey that involves so much hard work and tedium. I’m trying to goad myself into undertaking something hard and I’m resisting greatly [what’s the point?]. Meanwhile, your dedicated journaling is allowing us electronic bystanders to partake of your adventure in a small way. As a girl in front of a keyboard with a nice glass of cognac at my side, I’m able to glimpse a wee bit of your experience. Usually it’s a cup of tea instead of the cognac so your reports of tea make me feel a tiny bit more connected to an experience which I very much doubt I will ever have. However, were I to be a boot feral along for the ride, the experience would still be purely personal, with some entertainment thrown in at interacting with the boot and its owner.

Ok, enough theory. IMHO the intrinsic value in what you are doing is what you are learning about yourself and the world, and what you are teaching the rest of us. I am a strong advocate of the idea that one gets out of an experience what one puts into it. I recently learned that the reason that Thai cooking and architecture are so complex is because one of the concepts of Thai spirituality is that the significance of an offering is relative to how much the donor had to give up to make the offering. Thus, a crust of bread may be more worthy than a banquet. Complicated cooking involves effort. Sailing around the world on/in Berri involves a great deal of effort. I believe that the rewards will be proportional to that effort, and that they will be intrinsically valuable.

I’m in danger of using up my share of bytes. I’ll proof this and send you more thoughts (and my dental dilemma for your $.02) another day…ok cognac is influencing my proofing abilities but I suspect you’d prefer mail with errors sooner rather than pristine mail later.

From Bruce & Sue B.
I take it you’re getting emails on-board.
Been following progress with interest – great website.
Up till a few days ago, I could also look at the weather you’re experiencing from NZ Met, however you are now out of their coverage!
Do you know of any others that give good mapped coverage in your area?
Not far to go now for the big one – Cape Horn.
Take care.
All our best wishes

From David H.
Missive from the nations capital
Gooday Pete,
I sent you a hullo a while ago, don’t know if you received it, but I
will just continue to send short missives along periodically. Life in
the washing machine sounds rather damp and cool at your latitudes near
the big Convergence Zone in the sea. But ‘the Horn’ is progressively
appearing on your ‘radar’ and that is good news and you are making good
progress. Your journey is a lifetime adventure and one that only us
‘landlubbers’ can wonder about what you are experiencing. I enjoy the
prose on the updates and while life in a small craft is cramped your
world is huge indeed.

I will be going to Tweed in late March to visit mum who still struggles
on in her home and hopefully to do some fishin’. Life in the
mono-climate (office) trundles along. We are going to WA in April for a
survey of the waterways around Albany. It should be a hoot.

It’s a beautiful sunny day in Canberra. Friday it was 33 deg, Saturday
it was 20 deg and today is a balmy 25 or so. I am drawing some plans for
the deck at the house. I think it has been at least 10 yrs drawing these
plans. I wonder how long it will take to build the deck.
Hullo to Alex

Cheers & keep laughing

Eleanor, I have the bar of Adversity Chocolate at the ready – I think we may need it!

Ann G thanks for AICH stuff – interesting and we’ll have to check it out.

Kris – if you want to do these things as personal adventures, you can’t avoid the fact that – out here anyway – there is an international legal requirement to go to the aid of someone in distress and therefore, if you get into trouble, others may have to put their lives at risk to save yours. So, a big responsibility a) not to get in to trouble and b)if you do, then you must minimise the risk to others.

In both instances, whatever works – just try to get it right and especially, don’t take rescue services for granted. Their people all have mortgages and kids too. The only way to avoid the responsibility you have to those others is the purists dream – don’t tell anyone you are going, don’t tell anyone you are in trouble and be prepared to die alone if you cant sort it out for yourself. There have been a few of these and there is a book by someone – a Frenchman, I think. Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon is what the letters stand for.

Beales – there’s a weather map on the website, probably the SPAC MSLP anal. from Try any Chilean met website too – we get a fax every day at about 2300UTC.

Heggie, thanks – yes, we’re getting you.

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