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May 2002

Dear Friends:

We met Marina and Galileo in the Azores as they were homeward bound to Italy after two seasons of charter work in the south of Chile and Antarctica on their purpose-built steel cutter. Galileo is a sailing instructor and noted mountain climber. "Cape Horn is the Mount Everest of sailing." he commented, "Other mountains are technically more difficult to ascend, what is hard is getting to the final base camp with all your supplies and yourself in good condition for the actual assault on the summit." Now that we have actually done it, doubled Cape Horn, going against the prevailing winds, we can see the wisdom in his words.

Many of you who followed our previous newsletters probably guessed we were going to try to reach the Pacific by way of Cape Horn (An old friend Jimmy Moore once said, "if there is a harder way, Larry will find it.") We did not want to lock ourselves into any set plan and always left open the option of turning east toward the Falklands and South Africa in case we found the going too rough. After our first attempt, which we described in the last letter, I was glad we had left the options open. But I had promised Larry I was willing to make four attempts before calling "Uncle" and on the second attempt we got the weather breaks.



Taleisin is tied alongside the yacht club Micalvi at Puerto Williams, just 60 miles north of Cape Horn. The two boats astern are Sina and Wanderer IV. The Deintes de Navarino are snow covered most of the year.

We met Marina and Galileo in the Azores as they were homeward bound to Italy after two seasons of charter work in the south of Chile and Antarctica on their purpose-built steel cutter. Galileo is a sailing instructor and noted mountain climber. "Cape Horn is the Mount Everest of sailing." he commented, "Other mountains are technically more difficult to ascend, what is hard is getting to the final base camp with all your supplies and yourself in good condition for the actual assault on the summit." Now that we have actually done it, doubled Cape Horn, going against the prevailing winds, we can see the wisdom in his words.

Many of you who followed our previous newsletters probably guessed we were going to try to reach the Pacific by way of Cape Horn (An old friend Jimmy Moore once said, "if there is a harder way, Larry will find it.") We did not want to lock ourselves into any set plan and always left open the option of turning east toward the Falklands and South Africa in case we found the going too rough. After our first attempt, which we described in the last letter, I was glad we had left the options open. But I had promised Larry I was willing to make four attempts before calling "Uncle" and on the second attempt we got the weather breaks.

We set the drifter at 0700 as we approached Cape Horn (which you can just see in the background).

But on to our Cape Horn Voyage. Larry gave me the privilege of selecting our departure time. I watched the web sites mentioned in the last letter and after only five days at the Micalvi said, "we got to go tomorrow." I was looking for a chance at light winds near the Cape as my dream has always been to sail past the Horn contrary to the prevailing winds, flying a nylon drifter just as we have past the other great southern capes. After a rather intense grilling by the Commandant of the Chilean Navy, we were given clearance to sail back to our original track, then south around the Horn and directly outside to Chiloe l200 miles from the Horn. He was reluctant as we are the only boat he has given this clearance in his 7 years in charge. (All of the rest have gone through the canals.)

To get down to the Horn to take advantage of the forecast light winds, we had to set sail at 0500, while it was completely dark with winds blowing from the southwest at 35 to 45 and intermittent snow and sleet. Larry was amazing, tacking Taleisin through the rocks and islets and around huge patches of kelp for l6 hours as the winds gusted to 50 knots and the temperatures hovered just a degree or two above freezing. I was the sewer man, plotting bearings and tracking our course on the charts below decks, passing out hot drinks, nose wipes and fighting the first bout of seasickness I'd had in a year. Yes it was rough going, the boat driving into tide increased seas so hard we actually shattered two drinking glasses right in their secure three inch deep rack. But she kept going under staysail and double reefed main, making 90 degree tacks and 6 knots through the water. We re-joined our inbound track, east of the islands surrounding the Horn. Then at 0700 the next day I heard Larry calling me, "Sorry to wake you, but if you really want to fly that drifter, you had better get out of the bunk. Not sure how long this light southeasterly will last." So we did it, and we have photos to prove it. Our nylon drifter stayed set all day as we coasted past Cape Horn, pinching ourselves and not believing our luck.

Never thought we would still be carrying the drifter late that afternoon as we actually rounded The Horn.


The southeasterly persisted for four days at 8 to l0 knots from the south or east. I wanted to head directly on our course, North West toward warmer weather. (We were able to keep our cabin temps up to about 55 degrees, but that was the best our little heater could manage as outside it was often at or below freezing.) But Larry reminded me that we needed sea-room saying, "Remember 22 percent of the time in this area the pilot chart predicts gale force winds." So we headed west for almost 260 miles until we were at longitude 79W and had what Larry called a safe "offing" and I felt was a bit over the top with at least l20 miles of sea-room at all times. Then as we got north of 50S in the Pacific we got out the champagne to celebrate. Five hours later at 49 degrees 40 minutes south we lay hove to in 50 knot northwest winds that gusted to 60 for 46 hours. As the winds backed to southwest we got underway and Larry got two sun sights that confirmed we'd lost about 22 miles of sea-room. So we sailed offshore for five hours to regain our sea room, and the wind eased off until dark when it came roaring back at 60 to 70 knots to hold us hove to with a reef in the trysail for l8 hours more. In fact, this is the first time we ever felt the need to put a reef in the trysail. Taleisin was grand, riding beautifully and steady enough that we could cook up a warm meal. We had every floor board and locker secured, the hatches dogged in case of a knockdown and each time Larry or I went on deck we used a safety-line. The only damage we sustained was five broken glasses, and the upper arm on our wind vane shattered when Larry was reefing the Dacron wind vane cover in the midst of a violent squall. We later learned that two other boats (one 53 feet long, the other 85 feet in length) had fared less well. When we met the captain of the 85 footer he said, "Fifty knots of wind is a lot, but 70 knots! That's too much!" A comparison of our charts showed these two boats were about 75 miles south east of us during that blow.

 

Taleisins storm trysail was given a real test during the 46 hours we lay hove to just north of 50 degrees south latitude in the Pacific.

When the winds eased off to about 40 knots, we found the plywood portion of our vane, sans cover, worked fine as we reached north under storm trysail and staysail for two days. But five days after the blow, winds lightened and the vane did not have enough area to keep us on course. Together Larry and I came up with an in-elegant but workable solution. I got out all of the cardboard I save to pack photos and we duct taped it together to add area to the vane. It worked okay even after two rainy nights made the cardboard look a bit ruffled.

Seventeen days out of Puerto Williams we made our landfall at Isla Guafo at the entrance to Chile's Gulf of Corcovado and as the sun began to set, realized the clouds on the horizon were actually snow covered volcanoes. We short tacked into a protected tiny cove surrounded by rain forest, just inside the gulf the next morning and set our anchor in 60 feet of water, sand bottom, feeling elated beyond belief as we realized we had successfully completed the dream of a life time.

Larry got the vane working quite well by increasing its area with taped together cardboard. Note that he is wearing a safety line as he works over the boomkin, beyond the security of the lifelines.


The numbers, 21 days to sail around Cape Horn contrary to the prevailing winds, l800 miles from Puerto Deseado, Argentina to Isla San Pedro, with 9 days of winds over gale force.

Sincerely,
Lin & Larry Pardey








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