Thursday, January 11, 2001

Cape Horn, Chile

We cleared the southern tip of the world just as a single beam of sunlight struck the cliffs, and soon rain and clouds obscured the view. Just before land faded from view, Henk intoned “Ladies and gentlemen, behold the horror of mariners.”

As if on cue, a squall blew in hard and fast, and upon leaving the last protection of land, we took it right in the chops. Forty knot winds whirled the sea into ugly chaos.

Nearly all the non-sailors suffered a speedy return of yesterday’s distress. Out of sheer stubbornness, I sat on deck for ten full hours, eyes glued to the horizon, growing wetter and colder.

As we plowed through the 15-foot following seas, Sarah lurched and fell in endless repitition. The northerly wind drove sleet and rain under the meager protection of the small cockpit canopy. It grew steadily colder and stronger, until another squall around sunset brought a 62 knot gust.

The rain and spray blew into a mist across the ocean’s face. I reached the point of cold and exhaustion where hazy dreams began mingling with reality. Time began to blur and I drifted in and out of seemingly random dreams, waking each time we rolled off a wave and heeled over past 45°.

Jurgen finally convinced me to go to bed, but not before I was shaking uncontrollably. I stepped out of my rain gear, struggling with wooden fingers to open zippers. Crawling into my meager, borrowed sleeping bag, warmth returned only slowly, but sleep was right on its heels.

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