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Antarctica & Cape Horn

By webmaster last modified Aug 19, 2002 12:50 AM

Published: 2002-08-19 00:50:45
Countries: Chile , Antarctica

From Puerto Williams we sailed across Drake Passage to Deception Island, a distance of about 500 miles. Weather conditions in mid-February were - for this part of the world - acceptably good. We kept an eye on the daily weatherfax transmitted by the Chilean met office and found it relatively accurate. Deception Island makes a good starting point for a cruise along the Antarctic peninsula and we spent nearly three weeks there sailing as far south as 67°S. Aventura III had been built with just such a voyage in mind. It is well insulated down to the waterline, and has an efficient diesel heater. Also, drawing less than 3 ft with the board up we could tuck into shallow bays where we had little to fear from drifting ice. Having first sailed there in 1996 on Skip Novak's Pelagic, I knew enough about the place to pick the best route for the time of year. It is, no doubt, a most beautiful part of the world and any sacrifice is worth it for getting there! I must stress, however, that one must be well prepared for it, as we came across several boats that were simply not up to the tough sailing conditions that one encounters here. We had our own share of strong winds on the return to Cape Horn, when we were overtaken by a depression with winds of 50 knots and a huge swell from the west. Eventually we gave up, hove to and let is pass over us. The next day conditions improved and we made landfall near Cape Horn. Conditions were even better the following day, so we anchored in the small bay north of Horn Island and went ashore (albeit in survival gear). A Chilean family now lives on the island. They look after the lighthouse and sell various souvenirs. They also stamp your passport with an impressive Cape Horn stamp, if you are inspired enough to take the passport ashore.

Back in Puerto Williams we checked in again with the Chilean authorities, who regard not only the area south of the Beagle Channel as far as Cape Horn but also the Antarctic Peninsula to be part of Chile's territorial land and waters. Formalities are simple but strict, and this also applies to the Chilean canals. One is not expected to check in by radio while sailing to Antarctica, and while the Navy insists that this must be done at least once a day while in the Chilean canals, we were often out of range and so only checked in when convenient.

Jimmy Cornell, Aventura III