To read the story, go to Landing on Cape Horn .
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Cape Horn landing is one of the climaxes of the voyage of Aomi. At that time (1983), there was almost no example, no information, no hope for a small (7.5m) single-handed sailboat like Aomi.
Let's check the location of Cape Horn.
Until 1914, when the Panama Canal opened, the route between the Atlantic and the Pacific for ships had been limited. They had to sail far south and round the southernmost area of South America.
All trade ships or battleships had to sail in the Strait of Magellan, or south of Cape Horn. However, the sea known as "screaming 50s" is an unusual sea. Many ships wrecked there, many sailors were frightened, and many of them were lost. They said that the word "Cape Horn" had been a symbol of fear at sea. (One of the reasons why the wind blows stronger in the Southern Hemisphere than the Northern Hemisphere is described in the middle of the page, "Exploding Waves" )
After the Panama Canal opened, the importance of the "Cape Horn route" became less, and people seemed to have forgotten even the existence of the cape at the end of the world. Just the legend of Cape Horn was left.
The above is Cape Horn, a part of the Sailing Directions issued by the U.S.Navy.
Many years before I started the round-the-world voyage, when working for a computer company in Japan, I put a cutout of above drawing of Cape Horn in a small plastic case and had it in my chest pocket. Every weekday morning, as soon as arriving at work, I took the plastic case out of my shirt pocket, put it on my desk, and after work I put it back in my chest pocket and went back home. Cape Horn had always been with me.
I had yearned for Cape Horn very much. I hoped to go there at any cost. I wanted to see the cape of legend with my eyes.
However, I didn't think that I would be satisfied even if I saw Cape Horn. You can see it on TV, in a photo, or a dream as well. What are the differences between them?
For that reason, I had to land on Cape Horn, feel the cape directly with my own feet and get a small stone as evidence of landing.
By the way, was that really possible? I was going to not only round the cape of fear but also land on it. That sounded just a dream even for me myself.
Aomi, heading for Cape Horn, dropped in Punta Arenas on the way sailing down the Chilean Archipelago. There, I tried to collect the information for the Cape Horn landing.
Until the Panama Canal opened at the beginning of 20th Century, this town had flourished as a supply base of coal in the Strait of Magellan. Punta Arenas had a population of about 120.000 in 2002 and is the second-largest city in the Chilean Archipelago. Punta Arenas is also the only city in the Strait of Magellan, which is about 600km long and connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Each time when I stopped at a port, I made much effort to gather information on Cape Horn. Here, I made Aomi go alongside the Chilean Naval ship Lientur to talk with the officers and make corrections of nautical charts I had. They are very kind enough to give me not only the information but also free lanch, shower, engine oil, and 50 litters of fuel. ( I didn't ask them to give! )
However, they had gone to Cape Horn just once, and every time I asked the details, they opened the Chilean Sailing Directions. I didn't get enough information there.
I had a Sailin Directions issued by the U.S., but there was little information around Cape Horn in the book. The Chilean Sailing Directions seemed to have more detailed information.
Fortunately, I had copied some pages of the Chilean Sailing Directions when visited Chilean Navy base in Valparaiso a few months before. I dashed into a book store and bought a Spanish-English dictionary. ( Spanish-Japanese dictionaries were, of course, unavailable. )
Another purpose of visiting at Punta Arenas was to tune up Aomi's 3.5HP diesel engine for Cape Horn. I was to receive a parcel of piston rings there. There had been something wrong with the engine because of the low-grade engine oil I had.
The port of Punta Arenas was far from a comfortable place.
The satellite picture above is the port of Punta Arenas. The strait is about 30 km wide at this point, and a jetty was sticking out to the sea. There were no breakwaters at all. It was definitely a port of severe conditions for small boats.
The winds in the Strait of Magellan are mostly strong. I had days with steep triangle standing waves more than 1m high in the port while staying there. Aomi at the jetty was shaken severely and bumped against Fishermans' boats. The stainless-steel handrails of Aomi were bent, and a window broke. I had to leave the port as quickly as possible. (The severeness of the wind and the scenery of the strait is described in Strait of Magellan)
After sailing down the uninhibited area for another two weeks, Aomi arrived at a small town of Chilean Navy base called "Puerto Williams."
It was about 150km to Cape Horn, the target. The photo below is Puerto Williams taken from the Canal Beagle.
You can see antenna towers in the center, houses and a church with triangle roofs to the left. Mountains look reddish because of autumn color. It was in April, and the winter in the Southern Hemisphere was just around the corner.
I collected further information for the landing there. What I did is described in the story, Landing on Cape Horn
Strictly speaking, Cape Horn means the southernmost of Horn Island, but the Island Itself in most cases. It is located at the southern end of the Wollaston Islands.
After leaving Puerto Williams, Aomi sailed south about 130km and entered in a small bay called "Lientur" to wait for good weather to go to Cape Horn. The symbol "①" indicates the bay in the map above.
The photo above was taken after leaving Lientur bay (at ② in the map). Wild rocks of the islands at 55°S are reflecting the morning sunlight. The weather was surprisingly good, and it was really a refreshing morning.
The water, between islands, was protected from swells but kelps, giant seaweeds. It might have fouled the propeller of Aomi, and great caution had been necessary. Though Aomi was running with sails, the engine was ready and idling in case of emergency. Strong gusts of wind sometimes blew and heeled Aomi considerably.
The above is a view from the north-west end of Horn Island. In the center-right of the photo, you can see the summit of the island in the distance. Commandante in Puerto Williams adviced me that the water around there was unsurveyed and required great caution. Paying much attention, Aomi continued to sail ahead fearfully.
I took this photo from the west of Horn Island. There was only light wind but some swells of the open sea. The cape I had been longing for looked something like a huge animal to me.
By the way, what is the fine weather today? Is it really the Cape of Fear?
Aomi approached SW of Cape Horn. The cape rose on the water showing its wild, rocky, dignified and dreadful appearance. Aomi tried to sail to the cape as close as possible to find a place good for landing. Paying much attention to uncharted rocks, Aomi proceeded.
Though sailing closer to the coast might cause hitting on rocks, I had to find a good landing place. I took the photo above in front of the cape from the South. The mountain, 406m high on the Chilean charts, became silhouetted against sunlight. (The height was 424m in the U.S. Sailing Directions.) Watching the water ahead and depth sounder alternately, I let Aomi go very carefully.
In the meantime, the first possible site for landing appeared on the coast. It was a small bay with numerous round rocks like human heads on the beach, and waves were breaking white violently. I gave up the bay.
Rounding dangerous rocks at the SE corner of the island, Aomi sailed to the east side of the cape, and there, the second possible site appeared.
I checked the seabed with depth sounder and put an anchor for a test, but I was unable to land on the coast and had to dush back to Lientur bay in the wind getting stronger. The storm of Cape Horn was back. The fine weather of the day seemed to have been just like a dream.
When landing on Cape Horn, the most important thing to consider is preparation for a sudden storm. If a strong wind began to blow, It might be impossible to get back to Aomi with a small rowing boat. Furthermore, if the wind got far stronger, Aomi would be blown away unmanned. A perfect anchoring was needed to prevent accidents.
For that, I had dropped anchors in many bays and brushed up the skill, while sailing down the Chilean Archipelago for more than four months.
These anchors shown above were onboard Aomi. Why do you need many types of anchors? Isn't just one anchor enough?
You have to select anchors depending on the seabed.
① is a CQR anchor, suitable for mud but rocky seabeds.
② is a Danforth (type) anchor, said to be good for sand but rock.
③ is a Fisherman anchor, relatively good for the bottom of rock or seaweed but having less holding power due to small flakes.
You have to check the type of the seabed and select the best anchor. Furthermore, you need to check the shape of the seabed with the depth sounder before anchoring. Why?
The above figure shows the general way of anchoring. The length of the anchor rope is said to be more than three to five times of the depth. The angle (θ) between the rope and seabed should be small. If the angle is not small enough and you pull the rope forcefully, the anchor will get out of the seabed.
That is the description of the correct anchoring in most textbooks, but it isn't always true.
The reason is that seabeds are not always flat. In the figure above, the rope ① is longer than the rope ②. However, the angle between the rope ① and the seabed is bigger than that of ②. The anchor will come out of the seabed easily when you pull the rope. On the other hand, rope ② is shorter but nearly parallel to the seabed, and the anchor holds the seabed securely.
That's why you have to check the shape of the seabed before anchoring. Be careful of any submerged objects such as wrecks, trees, anchors of other ships, and so on.
Though I was unable to land on Cape Horn on that day, I made Aomi run in the bay lengthwise and breadthwise to check the seabed with depth sounder and made a map of the bay. After that, Aomi went back into Lientur bay and had to wait for good weather for landing.
A few days later, Aomi left Lientur bay (shown with the symbol "①" on the map below) for the landing place on Horn Island (③). Sailing between islands for about two hours, Aomi arrived at point ②, where Horn island appeared forward. After another one hour of sailing, Aomi got into the small bay selected for landing (③).
The photo below is Aomi anchoring in Lientur bay.
The small bay was surrounded by mountains and protected from the storm at that time. The summits of mountains were covered with snow. There was a lake between mountains nearby and those in the distance. The water of the lake was running down into the bay making a fall (center left of the photo). I felt like walking around on land.
This is a view from point ②. Getting through between islands, Aomi came into the open sea. You can see the summit of Cape Horn in the center of the photo above. It was lit by the spotlight of the sun coming through a small hole in the cloud. I had a breathtaking moment.
This is the photo of the landing place. There were just a light wind and waves in the bay because the cape itself had blocked them. That was exactly what I expected. I chose that day for landing because of the favorable wind direction.
On the right-hand side of the above photo, Aomi's mast is leaning, and the water there looks whitish. There must have been much wind off the coast. Aomi's engine was running in case of an emergency though nobody was on board. On the rocky beach, you can see a plastic folding boat for landing.
There are successive two small bays look like "w" in the center of the satellite photo above. One on the right is the landing place. I found the exact location just after seeing the satellite picture recently because there hadn't been enough information and the shape of the land was uncertain on the chart at the time.
After one hour of landing, Aomi left the bay. The water in the bay was partially covered with Kelp (giant seaweed) as seen in the photo. I had to pay close attention to the propeller.
And then, the wind got its force and hail began to come down from the nasty sky. Aomi had to dash back into Lientur bay. The storm of Cape Horn was back again.
* To know more, read the story, Landing on Cape Horn.
Please help me translate the site.
Free checks on the writing by native speakers are needed.