This blog is written by Joyce M., retired elementary teacher/counselor, world traveler and most importantly, my fabulous mom!
If it isn’t on your bucket list, put it there! I just returned from a most unbelievable and awesome travel experience – cruising around Cape Horn! (59⁰ S. Latitude) You will remember from your geography class in high school, it is the tip of South America and the passageway around South America that we heard horror stories about during class!
I have a very vivid imagination and the idea of sailing around Cape Horn brought images of sailing vessels with lots of sails battling their way through wickedly huge waves and strong winds. Also pictures of ships being dashed to pieces on jagged rocks and sailors being swept overboard came to mind! It was (and still is) an extremely dangerous route, but it was the only way to get from the Pacific to the Atlantic in those early sailing days. Now ships can safely slip through the Panama Canal (another cool trip by the way!)
The idea of cruising around the tip of South America really sounded like a once in a life time experience and peaked my interest, but with my out of control imagination, I also felt some major trepidation about whether I would survive the experience!
The seas and winds have not changed since those early sailing ships made the voyage! In preparation of the actual “coning” of South America, we had the opportunity to watch a 40 minute documentary filmed back in 1929 by Irving Johnson, then a trainee on a sailing ship but he went on to captain his own ship! Johnson’s documentary so entranced the British historians, it was placed in the British Museum and in 1980 they had Capt. Johnson himself narrate what was happening in his film. The film was an actual freighter sailing ship with several masts and at least a zillion sails going around Cape Horn. Johnson filmed it over the course of the voyage which took about 3 months. For those of us who love history, seeing the real voyage was incredible. There were many scenes of waves washing completely over the deck and the ship rocking and rolling violently. Capt. Johnson mentioned briefly that 2 bunks became empty after one massive storm! The name of the documentary is “Around Cape Horn” and can be found by googling this title or Capt. Johnson! If you want to sail vicariously around Cape Horn in the 1929, watch this film!
After watching the documentary of the voyage filmed by Captain Johnson, my anxiety rose a great deal, and I expected the worse! I slept restlessly the night before we were to round the Horn!
Early on a Sunday morning in February, our giant cruise ship sailed around Cape Horn! From the comfort and relative safety of my stateroom balcony, bundled in 3 sweatshirts and armed with my camera, I coned South America! We pulled right up to Cape Horn, which by the way is an island, and went “full on” to Cape Horn! The winds gusted up to 130 knots (80 mph) and the waves were cresting at 17 feet. We stayed near the Cape for 15 minutes as the ship rocked and rolled! Then our ship’s captain said he had had enough battling the sea and we headed on around the continent! Safely. And I survived!
I was overwhelmed by a feeling of having accomplished an enormous challenge, especially as I reflected on the history of sailing in the area and the documentary that showed the reality of what the sailing ships experienced as they made the voyage.
Definitely a Bucket List item!