Cape Horn Approach

3 Dec

November 28, 2018

Day 55

Noon Position: 55 54S  71 58W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 7+

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 27 – 31

Sea(t/ft): NW 10; very steep and breaking

Sky: Overcast, low gray deck

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1007+, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f): 40

Relative Humidity(%): 71

Sail: #2 working genoa, two reefs, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 172

Miles since departure: 7329

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

All morning I study the seas from the the pilot house. They are northwest, as is the wind we are taking on the beam, not too high, but steep as walls and breaking often. If there are three kinds of wave break–a) a slow, lazy mushrooming at the top and down the back of the wave; b) a pitching up and then forward only to fall down the front of the wave, sometimes with heavy water behind; c) a curling and pitching forward with speed often greater than the wave and with heavy water behind–then these are between the latter two.

Once in a while, a breaker catches Mo on the flank. Thwap! Water explodes into the sky. Mo heels sharply to starboard. The windows go in once.

The big question: what will these look like in the coming shallow water? Is this a silly risk, pulling in close to Cape Horn when south about Diego would be safer? What is “just to see it from sea” really worth?

It is worth all, says a voice. I keep our heading due east for the Horn.

This was my fear last year too. As I made slow way hand steering east for Bahia Cook, I knew the last twenty miles would be over continental shelf. I’d be entirely exposed to westerly wind and sea in water 200 feet deep, not to mention the shallows of the bay itself. The day I made approach, seas were 8 and 10 feet from the west. I watched as the water shallowed, as it went from thousands to hundreds in a couple miles. I could not notice any change to the sea state then.

And now? These seas are sharper. How large a wave is needed to touch the shallow bottom and stack up? I don’t know, but not these. These are not gray beards; these are not the wandering giants we had but a few days ago.

Mo can manage. I keep our heading due east for the Horn.

Cape Horn: 158 miles off at noon.

At 3pm, land how. The day has cleared, the wind is easing; my sea is falling rapidly. The water has turned emerald green, a sure sign the coast is near. I look up to the north and see what I think are tall thunderheads hull down on the horizon. But the black smudges intermixed are the clue. In binoculars, I can see that the thunderheads are the snowy peaks of Tierra del Fuego; the black smudges are the black mountain faces.

Tierra del Fuego. My heart races. To stop, to spend years exploring the canals and fjords where Magellan, Drake, Cook and Fitzroy all made discoveries.

But not this time. I keep our heading due east for the Horn.

Wind is easing still. Light wind is not in the forecast, not for now. Please don’t let the wind die here. The large genoa is already out. I pole out the #2. So close. So close.

Cape Horn: 113 miles off as I type.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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