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Eye of the Wind - Newsletter No. 12
10 DECEMBER 1991 - CAPE HORN, THE TIP OF THE AMERICAN CONTINENT HANGS LIKE A PENDANT FAR INTO THE SUB-ANTARCTIC OCEAN - POSITION:- LATITUDE 55 DEGREES 59'SOUTH, 67 DEGREES 12'WEST OF THE MERIDIAN OF GREENWICH.
During the 12-4 watch the wind freshened to Force 5 out of the nor'west. The island of Diego Ramirez with it's welcoming light was slipping astern of our starboard quarter. At 0230 the first glow of predawn began to creep above the eastern horizon. One could sense the tension and excitement, as this was to be the day we would round Cabo de Hornes. As the sun rose higher, the snow-capped mountains of Tierra del Fuego became visible amongst the craggy land mass to our north. Under full sail, albatross and cape pigeons soared above our swaying masts, eagerly leading us onward.
As the miles lessened, the watches scoffed down their celebration breakfast of eggs and bacon, to be on deck to witness this moment in the mind's eye as well as to capture it on film. On our final approach towards the Horn, we sighted the superstructure of a vessel rounding from the east. The 'World Discoverer', which we had met at Pitcaim Island and the Marquesas, could not believe their eyes, that they could actually see and photograph a square rigger rounding the Cape.
At 1343 UCT, we crossed the longitude of Cape Horn, passing 1.5 NM to seaward. Glasses of hot rum toddy were raised; forty five days at sea and 5,820 miles from Auckland.
With the exception of Søren Larsen, which rounded the Horn the day before us, one wonders how long ago it was since the Chilean Lighthouse Keeper last recorded details of a passing square rigged vessel.
After reading numerous accounts of Cape Horn passages, the six weeks in Sydney was used to prepare 'Eye of the Wind' for the arduous voyage ahead, which included a new suit of sails, two new topgallant yards, new bowsprit, new monkey poopdeck, new watertight door and hatches, new pinrails, strengthening of the foreward deckhouse, installation of weatherfax, GPS navigation system and desalination plant. We were extremely grateful for alll the assistance we received from many good friends of the ship. 'Eye of the Wind and 'Søren Larsen' eventually sailed from Sydney on Monday 8 October 1991, on the first leg to New Zealand.
After twenty four hours of motor-sailing, the wind came from a favourable quarter giving us an extremely good passage to North Cape and the Bay of Islands, where a pleasant day was spent at Robinson Island before our arrival at Auckland, where we had a further week of preparation as well as official commitments.
On 26 October 1991 an official farewell was held at Princes Wharf after which the two ships set sail for the voyage to Europe and the Columbus celebrations. Alter anchoring overnight at Waihekea Island to do final securing, we got underway at first light the following day. Clearing Cape Colville at 1800, we made sail with a fair breeze for the next two days, with one days run being two hundred and sixteen miles.
The Chatham Islands were proposed to be our next port of call, but unfortunately, head winds made this impossible. As experienced on our voyage to Pitcaim two years before, a massive high which lay from the west coast of South America right across the Great Southern Ocean to the Chatham Islands, dominated the weather pattern for nearly ten days. We became known as the 166W degrees club, as we sailed seven hundred and thirty four miles in seven and a half days along this latitude, trying to achieve some easting.
One Sunday afternoon, 'Søren Larsen' and 'Eye of the Wind' made a rendez-vous for the first time since leaving Waihekea Island, swapping crews for afternoon tea. At long last, the high moved off and a series of lows brought favourable winds. Two of these lows produced winds of 45-55 knots. These winds had the seas and swell whipped up into the fabled 'Cape Horn Greybeards'. Running free under reduced storm sail, with two men at the wheel, the watch was kept on their toes working the mid-ship braces, as the occasional greybeard broke aboard. Quite a few hands had oilskins and boots full of salt water.
Sightings of whales and dolphins brought all hands on deck and into the rigging, whilst the ever present flocks of albatross and cape pigeons awaited the galley scraps, unbelievably, only one fish was caught. This turned out to be a special sub-species which our marine biologist would not allow us to eat. The lowest temperature recorded was 2 degrees on the 12-4 night watch and 4.5 degrees during a daylight hailstorm, which left the deck white and the scuppers full, making sail handling treacherous. An ice/snowman appeared rigged out in the appropriate gear. There will no doubt be many garage sales featuring cheap thermal underwear.
For your interest, we have included the log abstracts with appropriate statistics. (Well, not here yet, I'm very sorry. Apparently it did not survive the last 11 years of living in Townsville shelves. If you still have a copy, I will gladly publish it! - Ina, your 'webber')
The Falkland Islands were a welcome landfall, after being dogged by headwinds for the past few days. The engine was started for the first time since Cape Colville as we powered up Port William to Port Stanley. A very enjoyable three day visit was spent with various groups heading off to inspect penguin colonies and the numerous hulks of not so lucky ships which ended their days on the shore after trying to round Cape Horn. The Falkland Islanders were extremely hospitable and the local agents, Sulivans Shipping Ltd, were fantastic. The Falkland Island Post Office issued a First Day Cover featuring stamps of 'Søren Larsen' and 'Eye of the Wind' as well as two Columbus stamps. In the late evening, under full sail, we left Port Stanley and pointed our bow towards Montevideo.
At 1104, local time on 18 December 1991, the countdown began. A great cheer arose as we crossed 50 degrees south under sail. It had been 18 days, 10 hours and 24 minutes from 50 south to 50 south, one hundred per cent under sail.
There will be more about our adventures in Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension Island, Acores and the Columbus Regatta in our next newsletter.
Our itinerary for the return voyage to Australia is enclosed.
For those of you have sailed with 'Eye of the Wind' before, please contact Adventure Under Sail as a discount may be applicable. Enquire about our Take a Mate' programme.