Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Evanston: left turn
December 8, 1975
THERE is a real question as to whether we will make Cape Horn before the chart gives out. Every wave that breaks over us—and they are many—manages to find its way onto the chart table. Perhaps the Naval Oceanographic Service should produce heavy-duty charts for such conditions; but then charts carved in granite might be a bit awkward to work with, and even they wouldn’t survive more than a single passage round the Horn.
Speaking of charts made me think of pilot charts, one of which I consulted this morning to see what lies it might tell me about the currents here. I have long known that pilot charts have no statistical relevance to a single voyage. None whatsoever. But I thought I would look anyway. This was just after we had a shower of sleet. Sleet in midsummer! Then I noticed at the foot of the pilot chart a red-dotted line that marks the extreme limit of pack ice. It is only a few hundred miles south of us, so I suppose it can sleet anytime it cares to.
Yesterday I removed the jib from the foredeck after leaving it lashed there for the past week in the vain expectation that I would re-raise it when conditions improved. My present thinking is that conditions are never going to improve—or at least not in the foreseeable future—and that when I have the double-reefed main and storm jib set, we are under full canvas.
I have pulled or twisted something in my back, which makes sleeping difficult, as it eliminates one of the few possible positions in which I am comfortable. Also, from the all-too-regular exposure to the water in the bilge, which I believe to be just above freezing temperature, my hands and feet have become swollen. Removing my sea boots is excruciatingly painful.
A flock of petrels follows us, more than a hundred of them darting about in our wake. An albatross comes over at intervals to see what the commotion is about, but apparently he can tell no more than I.
Because with these west winds the ironbound Chilean coast is a lee shore—the most formidable lee shore in the world—we dare not approach it closely until we are almost as far south as Horn Island itself, which is 56° South 67° West. At noon today, by dead reckoning, we were 55°South and 80°West. Under a solid grey sky, I changed course. We sail east directly for the Horn.
The significance—momentous significance to me—of that turn to the east a few hours ago just struck me. It is one of the two great turning points of the voyage. So far our course has been basically south. Now it is east. East to the Horn. East, east, east, with the soaring albatrosses and the petrels and the shearwaters and prions. East fleeing before the shrieking gales, running with the foaming waves. East across the South Atlantic, across the Southern Ocean. East past Africa. Past Australia. East past Tasmania and the Tasman Sea. East with the hissing, driving spray. East toward the rising sun. East, east, east past New Zealand. East halfway across the Pacific. East for 12,000 miles. East for days and weeks and months. East until finally at long last we can turn north, we can leave the Forties behind and perhaps be warm again.
(In later years I offered sailing directions for rounding Cape Horn from San Diego: Sail south until the rigging freezes over, then turn left.)
I wrote a few days ago that the maxi-tri SPINDRIFT 2 reminded me of a space ship. The U.S. Navy’s newest destroyer, the USS ZUMWALT does even more.
She also reminds me of Civil War ironclads. This is the USS ESSEX.