Getting There -Without Getting Rolled
06 January 2011
Every day - while on passage - we report our position to the Pacific Seafarers Net. This a ham radio net which covers all ham licensed mariners making passages in the Pacific. Today on the net I heard the story of a woman single-hander rounding Cape Horn. Her yacht, Nereida, was knocked down 2 days ago and did a complete 360 degree rollover, ripping off the fiberglass dodger, and much water went below, but the mast was intact and she was not injured. A rope wrapped around the prop, which must have been cleared by now, because she is reported motoring toward the nearest port. Word is the Chilean Navy is standing by, as is also a fishing boat. Brave woman.
Her boat is in the latitude 58 degrees; as one approaches Cape Horn, most likely with westerly gales heaping up huge seas behind the vessel, a boat can go too quickly down the face of a wave - trip and pitchpole, or be broadsided by a breaking sea and rolled.
Miles Smeeton tells his story in Once Is Enough, where the Tzu Hang is rolled once, then after getting to shore under a broken mast and jury rig, and doing the repairs, and after setting out once more - Tzu Hang is rolled AGAIN. Me - I would not venture into the southern ocean, let others do that. We have done around 9,000 sea miles, with no heavy weather, from Panama to Australia via Mexico and French Polynesia. This is exactly what I set out to do, and with the help of angels - or you might call it good luck - we had that experience. It means good weather information gathering, and waiting. I am not an experienced blue-water sailor - at least I wasn't when I set out - so I asked help of experienced cruisers. There are heaps of them out there, and they are more than willing to help.
So we approach Tasmania in the closing stages of an adventure, a teenager's dream conceived half a century ago, and I find that it is enough. Once IS enough, to borrow Miles Smeeton's phrase, and I will not be seeking more excitement on the high seas. Bluebottle (then named Aura) was a great choice - she is a fine sea boat and very comfortable to live on for years at a time; I will get her in good trim and tidied up, and sell her, and maybe buy a smaller sailing boat for coastal cruising, gunkholing. I want to take my grandchildren sailing! And whoever else wants to come. Thank you Bluebottle! And thank you Adrienne, you had a dream, too, to cross the Pacific Ocean, and you are a good and brave sailor; without you it would not have been accomplished. Bless you!
Next time, dear reader, you fly across the Pacific, to or from LA, or wherever, I want you to look down at the waves and imagine our petite bateau pushing her way across at the speed of a brisk walk, or jogging pace. See us, as night comes on, as we switch on the nav lights, reef sails, prepare dinner on the gimballed stove and arrange the watches. There are no other boats out there, no-one else, just you and your companion, your boat, and nature, wonderful nature. Why do you do it? You don't really know, but it is something you could never otherwise experience, except by doing it.