Rounding Cape Horn

Nova Scotian
3rd January 2010, 20:27
I am currently reading a book by Dallas Murphy called " Rounding the Horn ". It's an interesting read too(ISBN 0-465-04759-9). Murphy gives a history of the area from the times of Magellan to the present day and gives a vivid, first-hand, account of the area as he crews a sailing vessel around the passages and islands that make up The Horn. He quotes a saying attributed to old Cape Horners regarding the weather in the region:

"Below 40 South there is no Law, and below 50 South there is no God"

Although I have sailed in southern waters I have never been anywhere near the Horn. How many of our members have rounded the Horn, sailed the passages, or operated in the general area?

6th January 2010, 00:12
Good weather doesn't sell books.....
I've been spending six months of the year in the Patagonian channels since I sailed over from New Zealand in early 2004 ( 39 foot boat) . The weather can be truly shocking but for much of the time it is quite reasonable. Mind you if you are in the channels you don't go out when it is nasty... the old Cape Horners had no such choice.
Two winters ago ... May 2008 took us 14 days to work our way 100 miles to windward up the western half of Estrecho de Magallanes from Cabo Froward to Canal Felix/Isla Fairway. Lots of 'waiting on weather', temp not above 2*C for more than 6 weeks, etc...
To sum up summer in the northern channels...wet and windy , winter in the southern channels...cold and windy
I have my gallery here if you want to see some pics

6th January 2010, 04:11
Great Photos Cisco, my atlas is not detailed enough to locate the area that your boat is in.
Is it near Canal Cockburn and Canal Beagle?
I have the book "Evolution's Captain" and recall the book's description of the arduous times spent in these waters by Robert Fitzroy and the "Beagle". It is a couple of years since I read it but if you are near there and with Jessica about to blithely sail by I might just re read it as I seem to recall some pretty harrowing descriptions of the ship's times in Tierra del Fuego.
You are a bit of a dark horse, are you A Kiwi, An Aussie,one Edwin Moro?
How about expanding you profile a bit, you sound a pretty interesting man and one that could share a little more with us.


6th January 2010, 06:11
Aussie I guess.... Boat is in BA at the moment.... heading south again in March. Puerto Williams is in the Beagle. No settlements in the Cockburn area... it is wide open to the south west and can get pretty bad there at any time of year but sit out the bad for a week or two and you can get a flat calm for a day or so. Like Bahia Cook it is pretty much 'injun country'
One feature is how rapidly the fronts can follow each other through that area.

6th January 2010, 20:44
You are right - Cisco is a dark horse. The area he sails in would frighten most people to death. I have circumnavigated under sail but near the equator and in a 250 ton , airconditioned, ultra modern (80's) ketch. Some are REAL sailors with little fear and a capacity for hardships whih would crease lesser mortals.
I have been fascinated with the S of S America for some years and about 5 years ago did a cruise BA to Valparaiso which was great. There are 2 books which are a great read - CAPE HORN by Reisenberg- gives the history of the area from Magellan to Drake , Anson and so forth. It was written in the 20's and is available still 2nd hand. There is also a book - The Uttermost Part of the Earth by Lucas Bridges - son of the chap who tried to "civilise" the Fuegans. It is great read. The family still live in Harberton , a ranch near Ushuaia.
There is website - Victory Cruises - based in Puerto Williams which is full of interesting info.
I would write more but I am a casualty of the snow having broken my lower leg badly and are hopping about for the next 6 to 8 weeks.

6th January 2010, 21:06
Bloody hell, doesn't sound good about the leg....I hope it mends quick.
Looking at the wx in the northern hemisphere just now I reckon Patagonia at its worst is positively balmy...

It doesn't get that cold at sea level... -6* is the worst I have seen overnight... but it doesn't get that warm either... in winter you can go quite a time with nothing over 4*C... Factor in a bit of wind chill and some would consider it rather bleak. Deepest layer of snow I have had on deck is maybe 5 inches.
You don't go sailing at night cos the wx is too changeable and the risk of getting slammed by a racha and losing your rig is fairly high.

Nights are spent tucked into caletas with lines ashore to trees. If the waterfalls are going uphill rather than down you don't go to sea that day. We spent 4 days in the anchorage the pic was taken from.....

6th January 2010, 21:37
Hi Cisco. I am very interested in your travels, not just because I have a yacht and you are exploring the 'bottom of the world' but particularly because my mother was born down there on Estancia Condor in 1917 (I have a photo of my Grandfather standing at the base of one of the Glaciers and my mother sitting on a model T Ford on the pampas). I believe it was a 2 day horse ride from the estancia to Punta Arenas. Her uncle also spent time with them having rounded the horn as a 'Windjammer' junior officer, he then settled in Chile where I believe he built boats. My Grandfather was managing the Estancia and raising sheep for export. I havn't visited there myself, I am uncomfortable about the 'settler or coloniser' aspect of all these early pioneers, it seems most of our ancestors have something unacceptable about them according to modern media. I doubt if at the time you were considered that way, more of an adventurer aka pioneer perhaps. Good Luck. Martin.

6th January 2010, 22:35
Interesting to hear... they are currently increasing sheep production down there but it is seriously hard country ( link for them as wants to see where Estancia Condor is hereóndor ).

This photo was taken at dawn in late autumn looking from the anchorage at Punta Delgado to the north... reminded me of saudi with snow.

The treatment of the indigenous peoples down there was pretty bad but it was much the same everywhere on the planet the whiteman went.

Punta Arenas is well worth a visit.. lots of 'old' money there. Anyone thinking of seeing the waters around TdF could do worse than booking on the 'Mare Australis' or 'Via Australis' or if feeling really adventurous book a passage on the 'Bahia Azul' .. Broome's cargo ferry that does the weekly Punta Arenas Puerto Williams run

7th January 2010, 17:09
Thanks for the info and interest Frank, my cousin visited on one of the small cruise ships and sent a postcard saying 'it's pretty bleak here' but I would still like to visit myself. There was a program on tv here (uk) recently diarying a group of youngsters on a 'training' holiday in the straits on a white steel ketch and finishing with a trip round the horn. Wonderful video of the area. I doubt they will ever forget that. I personally thought it was a bit extreme for kids of their age). I believe some of the descendents of the folk out there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries still bear the names of the ancestors e.g. Waldron, Wood etc. Cheers. Martin (Kittijay).

7th January 2010, 20:04
There was a program on tv here (uk) recently diarying a group of youngsters on a 'training' holiday in the straits on a white steel ketch and finishing with a trip round the horn. Wonderful video of the area.

I was in P Williams when those kids came through after they had made that BBC doco.... the ones I spoke to were good kids... pretty much just plucked off the street and sent to Patagonia. Strange to relate I called on a friend yesterday and their children were watching it on ABC3 ... I felt inclined to cancel my appointments for the day and sit and watch it with them.
That was filmed in December... mid summer.....

You having a yacht and all this may be of interest to you

8th January 2010, 11:26
Can one of you wizzz kids tell me how to view Cisco's photos which are on panoramia etc.
I have put it in Google and it just comes round again to the mention in SN, highlighted in yellow. I can't get it in Gallery either.
Any help for a geriatric of the steam age appreciated .

8th January 2010, 11:35
PM just sent,

9th January 2010, 20:08
to Cisco. Thanks for the web links Frank, those pics. have a wistful beauty about them but reading your accounts of the changeable weather you must be a tough cookie to 'enjoy' the area. Mind you, looking at the map and how the roaring forties are funnelled through that gap its not surprising. Years ago I applied to work for the British Antartic Survey as a wireless op. I must have FELT strong. (I didn't get the job after filling in a medical form!!). It would have to be ship now me thinks to see the area although being constrained to the 'tourist trail' would be hell. Anyway, thanks for the fascinating facts and good luck with your next trip. Martin. Sorry I'm not up to speed with putting pics on the web yet. By the way, I looked on the site to get view of Condor, and I am sure the larger house you zoom down on is the one my Grandparents and Mother lived in between about 1912 and 1919, i.e. the then managers house. I have old pics. of it. My Mother is 92 now and lives near us in Kent. My GF became very ill out there and was brought home by GM with the children in 1919 and he died shortly afterwards. Uncle Mac. married a Chilean girl and had his last child when he was in his 80's and died in his 90's. Chile (near Santiago) must have agreed with him !!

10th January 2010, 21:02
Cape Horn

This thread and Cisco’s adventures into the territory plus Jessica’s imminent passage round Cape Horn has lead me to re read some of Peter Nichol’s book “Evolution’s Captain” about the man Captain Robert Fitzroy, master of the Beagle during Charles Darwin’s exploration of the Patagonian area.
The ship was weather bound in the region for months and this following extract from the book text gives a good description of the weather that prevails


All the following day the ship lay hove-to South of Cape Horn drifting slowly back over the sea miles she had won with so much effort.
It war 24 days since they passed the Horn and they were now barely 20 miles from west of it
The storm steadily worsened until it reached a pitch of screaming intensity around noon on the13th.
It was the worst weather Fitzroy had ever encountered. The waves had grown to such heights that he remained on deck in driving wind and rain unable to do nothing but watch them anxiously, feeling a sense of imminent catastrophe. At 1.00 pm three great rollers bore down on the ship

From Fitzroy’s dairy-
Their size and steepness at once told me that our sea boat, good as she was, would be sorely tried. Having steerage way, the vessel met and rose over the first unharmed, but, of course, her way was checked; the second wave deadened her completely, throwing her off the wind then the great third sea taking her right abeam. It turned her so far over that all the lee bulwark, from the cat-head to the stern davit was two to three feet under water.

In other words the ship was knocked right over on her side, capsized
Water burst over doors and hatches, cataracts tumbled below into the chart room where Darwin lay in his misery and spread through the cabins. The Beagle tried to rise but wallowed on her side, listing with the weight of the water now trapped against her bulwarks. “Had another sea struck her” wrote Fitzroy, “the little ship might have been numbered among the many of her class that had disappeared”
Lieutenant Sulivan struggled up on to the deck from below (as he later described the event to his son) to find the Beagle on her side. Carpenter Jonathan May was already sliding along the near vertical wall of the deck struggling with a hand spike to open the hinged wooden ports at the edge- now at the bottom- of the deck to allow water to drain off. Sulivan helped him and with the doors open the water drained off and the ship came upright


There are pages and pages of descriptions like this, a God forsaken spot by all accounts


11th January 2010, 10:40
"The Log of the Centurion"
This is another excellent account of a passage around Cape Horn. The Centurion was Admiral Anson's flagship. It is difficult to find a more harrowing tale of hardship.