Photo- In the Shadow of the HMS Beagle, Strait of Magellan, Chile

Here it is December 29th 2016 and I finally have a moment to update my blog. Thanks for waiting!

Ad Lib
Background on the video clip above
Well at least I did it, the pilot error thing that is. Five years of work culminated in the loading of my boat into her ship crate November 6th and 7th. It was harder than I thought and mid load, which was going well actually I pulled a rookie move and drove over Southern Crosses mizzen mast, which had been buried in a pile of leaves after a sudden wind storm. I didn't even feel it. Four hours later I picked it up to load it and discovered it was crushed beyond repair. I was stunned, shocked and for a brief moment I too was crushed but then it dawned on me. I was already voyaging and had to just get on with it for these things happen.

I immediately bucked up (as in seconds) and went into full voyaging "Ad lib mode." The crushing of the mast was a blow but the knock on impact on my overall program was huge. Because of it many other things that had to happen on that day could not happen. I knew I would face an even more complex challenge once in Patagonia with few resources. I tossed the broken spar in the crate and set off to source sitka spruce, more epoxy and the tools necessary to build a mast in the open conditions I would face once south. In the end I had to forego other elements of my plan such as the unassembled small trailer, a bag of navigation gear and about 40% of my provisions. I simply ran out of time to go and get them for shipping. I had less than 12 hours to make the truck and in the end after an all nighter I made it with 30 minutes to spare.

Now here in the cold and windy far south my pal John Welsford and I have built a mast in the open, in the shipping crate and in a magical shed on the shore of the Strait of Magellan in the shadow of a replica of the HMS Beagle and we did it in less than eight man hours. The spar is not as refined as my original birds mouth beauty but it will more than do. Yesterday I stripped fittings from the original spar and cut it into pieces, so long dear friend. As sappy as those words sound it is how I felt for I have poured care and thoughtfulness into every aspect of the build of my little yacht. Her mizzen was a work of art, a work of art I took a hand saw to in order to get it into a garbage can. So it goes.

The photo above was snapped yesterday at the shed where the new mizzen mast for my boat is being shaped. My pal John has offered to stay on here in Chile and I am glad for his company as he and I tend to laugh a lot and work together in the smoothest fashion. My boat shipped all the way from Michigan without a scratch but needs a new mizzen mast due to pilot error (ha ha). Thats a painful story for another day suffice to say I had a challenge loading the boat in the crate as time was short and ended up breaking the mizzen mast.

A Recap:
I finally completed Southern Cross this past summer and launched her into Lake Michigan for initial sail testing and my first overnight aboard. I was very pleased and glad to have finally gotten her in the water. September found me in Austin texas with my new boat for a film shoot and fitting of cameras for the documentary film. From there I drove west and north to Port Townsend for final fit out and sailing. Finishing the boat took a lot longer than I expected because she has a number of systems that had to be figured out before hand. I attempted to develop new concepts and incorporate older ideas from a life time afloat into the boat so that on launch she would essentially be ready to go. Finishing her also took longer because of my working schedule coming and going to and from Micronesia. I would find a few weeks here and there to work on the boat between ten months or more of work in the islands, this made for slow going. In the end I was pleased with how she ended up and am glad I took the time to work thoughtfully.

October found me in Port Townsend where I sailed some and spent numerous nights aboard, a good but incomplete test period. Time was short as I had work and the voyaging project to juggle.
 Having a bit of hiking fun with my pal Josh at the helm! No I don't normally sail this way but it was a hoot. (Deb Colvin photo)
 Final fit out at the Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend. Thank you to the NWMC!!!
First fitting of the dry floor. I am carrying two of these. Thanks to Cutwater Canvas for creating exactly what I designed!
 Emerging from the high wind tent, another collaboration with Cutwater Canvas.
 View from the helm.
Another night aboard a proper yacht, small but proper.

November 2016

Hello All

It's been awhile since I have updated this blog. Thanks for waiting. A hectic summer and fall complete with time challenges found me launching my boat later than originally planned. It happens. Managing a project like this without sponsorship and on a shoe string budget is always a challenge and I thank the many friends who have lent a hand!

A Refresher...............or a bit of back story
The boat I have built is a SCAMP sail and oar boat of the micro mini cruiser type. For the past few years I have been part and parcel of the growing SCAMP class in that I have been involved in the build of something like 75 of these neat little boats through the SCAMP Camp program. Builders who participate in this program purchase a kit from Small Craft Advisor magazine and as a group we build for ten days yielding a highly accurate hull for each participant. It is not only productive it is incredibly fun and I am very pleased to have so many new friends from the builds.

The boat in the photo above is my version or modified version of the SCAMP. I developed and built it specifically for the voyage I am now on. All design changes and the build are mine and in no manner imply the stock boat is not right. The stock SCAMP is a great near shore cruiser and day sailor.

I needed something a bit different for where I am about to sail when I set out south on the Strait of Magellan. I have been at this project for years and actually had penned my own design in collaboration with a naval architect but after going back and forth with him the SCAMP design came out and I decided to drop my design and investigate the SCAMP as an alternative as she featured some elements I had not thought of.
(Deb Colvin photo)
This is the stock SCAMP. In this photo I am headed out for the first open water capsize tests in hull #1.

I flew in from Japan for this and had the honor of joining a team to see just what my pal John Welsford had created. Lots of questions in my mind as I sail off in a breeze to flip her over. The day was a bit of a revelation for all of us. The boat performed really well and I (there selfishly to learn more) being the primary guinea pig was very pleased after eight purpose capsizes. Intuitively I knew what she was capable of yet proof of concept is what counts, so I flew in for one cold windy capsize testing experience. I developed the capsize protocol and luckily Josh Colvin (his new boat) gave me thumbs up for static and open eater testing. This is what friends get who trust each other.
Static tests to get the process underway.
About to capsize in open water for the first time. The dry suit helped....sort of, March off of Port Townsend is cold water/cold air a deadly combination.

After capsize testing I applied what I learned to the development of my own boat. I  believe all small boats should be first static capsize tested and then tested in real life conditions, not just a calm day. My friend Josh Colvin (Small Craft Advisor) was all about testing in wind and waves, good on ya Josh. Thanks for the opportunity to allow me to lend a hand Small Craft Advisor!

My original dream and vision was a voyage north from Goose Bay Labrador across the Hudson Strait to Baffin Island and then north coasting Baffin to Cape Dyer. From Cape Dyer I planned to cross the Arctic Sea to Sisimut Greenland. I ran into a challenge I had no answer for. Without going into details it was a major change in Polar Bear movements on the coasts of Labrador and Baffin Island. It seems global warming is real and Polar Bear encounters and a spike in attacks have become a genuine issue for anyone on land on on a boat near shore.

Some years ago I sailed a 15 foot sailing canoe through eastern Tierra del Fuego and south of the Beagle Channel and near the end of this 4 month solo I found myself in the far western Beagle Channel unable to go further due to the onset of early winter. I looked to the southwest and made a promise I would return to explore, little did I know it would be nearly 30 years later! So here I am in Santiago a few days from flying south to Punta Arenas to meet my new boat.

Sometimes Small May Be Better
I have been at the small sailing thing for many years and have built or modified a number of small boats to make them suitable for short cruises, make them safer and capable of being slept aboard at anchor or at the dock.

Small boats in the hands of a conservative sailor may offer a few advantages larger boats cannot.
1. They are affordable whether new or used.
2. They can be kinetically controlled by movement of body mass by the sailor when underway.
3. They can be easily self rescued if set up properly.
4. Perhaps most importantly they can be hauled on shore when nasty weather looms.

Below is but one iteration of my passion and pursuit, the modern sailing canoe. The photo below is a canoe I developed and have cruised and sailed for some 15 years.

Hugh Horton photo

Here is another. A Mirror Dinghy I modified and cruised for a number of years using a tent I built for it. Not a great photo but it does show my Mirror the "African Queen" on the hook.

Here is another of my small, well not that small cruising boats with tent, a 23 foot Dick Newick Tremolino Tri...........what a boat!...........and an upper limit stretch in size from micro mini cruiser.

A Complex Project
Developing and building a boat for a voyage through southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego is quite an undertaking but only one small part of the whole equation. This equation contains elements of feasibility, suitability, safety, very specific gear, provisioning, shipping, navigation, power generation and storage, just to name a few.

She Launches
On August 14th I quietly launched Southern Cross into Little Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan. She was only in for a couple of days as again my free time was short (headed for Port Townsend to teach a boat building course). She sailed much as I expected or I should say hoped for. Its always dicey to alter a sound design by someone else and expect good results. I have been very careful and stepwise in my modification process and I think, just maybe that with Southern Crosses split rig and other modifications that I may heave created a boat that I like, she sails well. I have sailed many stock SCAMP's (lug rigged) across a variety of conditions and although my initial sails were both in light air I just had this feeling I was on to something good. The boat was a lively and maneuverable as any SCAMP and seemed better balanced and steady with the split rig.

I had her rigged just to make a first sail, no tuning, furling system not set up, reefs not set up, jib leads not yet installed (I wanted to wait until I hoisted sail to determine sheet leads) granny knots here and there to test placements, etc. Still she sailed like a dream. Very excited to get back from Port Townsend for some windy September/October sail testing.

Here she is post sailing, jib housed below in the cuddy rigged on a deploy/retrieve system. The headsails and for that matter all controls including sea anchor (para-anchor) operate from the cockpit.

In this photo the seat cushions can be seen. Each attaches to the boat by strips of 2" velcro and hard fasteners to ensure they stay in place. Missing in this photo are the floor cushions. The entire cockpit is padded for safety, comfort and as a big part of safety extra fixed flotation. The floor cushions can be used in place or easily stowed forward in the cuddy. Each cushion has a tan slip cover to help keep them clean, a working surface.
The oars tuck in nicely behind the cushions without the need for bungee cords or tie ins. The cushions keep them locked in place yet they can be easily withdrawn for quick use. Each oar is on a leash attached to the boat.

The floating thwart is for trimming the main, flipped over it has a 3" thick cellular foam seat for rowing and snap the seat off and the thwart becomes they base for the galley, work bench, etc. It slides in and out easily for opening the floor space for sleeping.

Not a very clear photo but one that shows some of the hardware layout. While it all looks busy its really not. The pink line for example is the deploy/retrieve line for the staysail/spitfire jib. On the port side leading forward you can see the white line for the genoa deploy/retrieval system. 

The main and peak halyard are also color coded as are all lines for ease of instant identification and both are lead through a double clutch and backed with horn cleats. Any can cleat on the boat is also backed with a horn cleat. Could be trouble at the wrong moment to lose a halyard or other control line should it pop out of the cam cleat.

All fwd and aft lines go into their respective stowage bags (red pockets hanging on aft end of the cuddy). There is another pocket line control set up for the mizzen.

In the photo above you can see the genoa stuffed into the cuddy. I had just come in and retrieved the jib using the system and simply stuffed it ready to go again or to derig. There is a cloth closure door for the cuddy. The door is part of the cuddy inflation set up. Most sailing I will do in the south will be with inflated cuddy cabin as righting data shows she should not stay turtled if capsized.

A few screen captures from a video camera recording the first sail. Not much wind but like most SCAMP's she moved really well and in one slightly gusty time in the afternoon I put the padded hiking seats to work and was fully hiked out toes under the hiking strap. It was great sailing!

Like other SCAMP's Southern Cross will basically turn in its own length. If you note my height as 5' 11" and then look at the photo you can discern the value of the footwell I have designed in. I am standing in the three photos above, nice and low where my weight means something. The footwell gives the boat a completely different feel, secure, stable and for the sailor a feeling of greater protection. I like it and am glad I took the chance to follow my hunch on designing in and installing the footwell. In my opinion it really adds to the boat and with two drop in floor boards the foot  well goes away in seconds for sleeping or if I just decide to sail without it.

I went old school on some aspects of the build and quite modern in others, a good blend I think.
The mast hoops may seem an anachronism but in my experience there are very few simpler and faster sail attachment methods than hoops.
 In this photo you can see the yet to be attached anchor cover (red). Two of three anchors stow (are lashed) on top of the lazarette under the tiller. They are on their own mounted and hinged platform. The cover will keep lines from snagging on them. Two anchor rodes are stowed aft, one leads forward and one over the transom. A third anchor is located starboard just inside the cuddy. In the photo above I have temporarily lashed the tiller amidships with the traveler line ends so I could head up the dock for a cold drink. Velcro for floor cushions can also be seen as well as the 10gpm Whalegusher pump, electric switch for the electric bilge pump and cockpit mounts for pump handle, paddle and boat hook.
In this photo you can see the forward anchoring system mounted on the side of the cabin. Two of the three camera mounts can also be seen on the added cuddy cabin aft bulkheads.

 I will be utilizing two different cockpit tents on Southern Cross. The one in the photo above is the prototype (no pole, no bow) high wind or survival tent. The other tent is a taller affair (more living space) to be used judiciously given the weather/wind conditions in Tierra del Fuego. The larger tent is set up for a wood stove, the high wind tent is not. I am carrying a third land tent (a one man mountaineering tent able to withstand extreme winds. If I am land bound it means it is howling so I need a tent that can handle the extremes. On my last voyage to Cape Horn in a fifteen ft sailing canoe space was at a much higher premium than with SCAMP. I had to find the smallest, toughest tent possible and ended up with a Bibler ITent. What a fine piece of equipment so lo these many years later I am going with what I know, the same tent but new.

I did spend a first night aboard and it was so comfortable with all the cushions. The cushions also provide insulation from the cold of the Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel and the Southern Ocean.
The classic Bibler ITent. Easy to be fooled by its simple look but look a bit deeper and the brilliance of the design comes through. My Bibler has a bullet shaped vestibule. On my last voyage in Tierra del Fuego I would orient the bullet shape into the wind and hang on for sleep often a big challenge when its blowing over fifty knots for days on end.
Nice feeling to have the complexity of the build and all the head scratching modifications behind me. Now its time to test and sail the paint off the bottom before she goes in the shipping crate bound for Tierra del Fuego. In the coming weeks I will be conducting sea trials, capsize/recovery, loading and provisioning. Keiko now kicks in as we plan and begin preparing food stores for the voyage. All of this is very interesting, challenging and made all the better by the dedicated friends who have taken an interest and lend a hand. I appreciate all of you very much.

Here are a few other photos that may be of interest.

John and I at the Naval Mapping Institute in Santiago where I purchased topographic maps of southern Tierra del Fuego. Sofia Ortiz escorted us there. She and her family have become such friends, Chileans are like that, plain and simple open hearted and friendly. Thanks for all you have done Sofia!

Big news- John Welsford has teamed up with film maker Dave Nichols and through their partnership they will produce the film about my planned voyage. Dave was going solo on producing Below 40 South but now has allies in John and friend/sailor/writer Tom Pamperin. 

Southern Crosses shipping crate. The crate was built by friends Dave Chase and Marty Worline. Since I elected to delay to this fall the crate has been in storage covered and now features its own wheels. I purchased an old powerboat trailer and built a crate trailer from it. The trailer is the temporary means I will use to deliver the boat to a shipping terminal for the domestic road trip to Cargonauts (Chilean shipping company) in Miami. There it will be containerized for a six week ocean voyage through the Panama Canal and on to Chile. I will fly down to be there when the crate arrives. Game on!
This is the dock in Punta Arenas where a crated Southern Cross will arrive. This is the dock used to re-supply the Chilean Antarctic base and for deployment of ships to and from Antarctica. Lucky for me the one place John and I scouted that would be suitable (protected enough) for me to stage and prepare Southern Cross from is adjacent to the dock. This was quite a find in Punta Arenas, which is not a waterfront friendly place for ships or boats of any kind. Windy, rough, no protection. Well we found one little niche of a spot on the shoreline in town and at the dock. This makes for an easy move from the shipping crate to the water.
John and I will have to move the boat only about 100 yards from the customs dock to this spot where in spite of its relative ugliness is the best or only spot in Punta to stage and launch a small boat from.

Now that I am sailing I will get back to posting sea trial and preparation information as it happens.
Thanks for reading.

A Few Notes On The Boat I Will Be Voyaging In.
SCAMP #6- Steve Haines boat.  I am with a student teaching high wind handling including tacking and gybing. In this photo it's blowing a solid 25 and gusting up to 30 knots. Nice boat.

SCAMP #1- Debra Colvin photo

A Modified John Welsford SCAMP
I selected the SCAMP design over a wide range of possible small boats including one I had been penning for a planned voyage from Goose Bay Labrador to Greenland. I chose the SCAMP because the design followed a very similar concept to mine but was a nod better and ready to go. Before the prototype was started I was sent a copy of the original design with a solicitation for comment/input and understood it on first glance. 

I have a rather eclectic taste in boats ranging from my high speed Newick Tremolino MKIV trimaran, sailing canoes and my wood cutter Blueberry. I love to go fast and appreciate classic shapes, fine bows and overall shapely lines but most of all I appreciate designs that are truly functional. I have found the form/function equation works for most boats, if they look right they function well and vice versa. 
Pushing 18 knots aboard my Tremolino
For a cruise on the quiet side- Blueberry

I have sailed many boats throughout my life and several have been pram bow boats, a feature that on first glance may put some sailors off because they simply prefer a more common bow shape or perhaps might not understand the long history, function and advantages of the pram bow. On first glimpse of the SCAMP mini cruiser I recall acting almost immediately by contacting Small Craft Advisor magazine (they had hired John to design the boat as a kit) and purchased two kits (eventually hull 2 and 3) so I could build one as a stock boat to sail and learn from and the 2nd to modify for the planned voyage to Greenland. How things develop. As it turns out I have only built hull #2 because I became involved in testing and the refinement of the design and have ended up teaching over 60 builders how to build SCAMP's and also instruct SCAMP Skills courses. What fun, what great people! 

Back to first glimpse of the design what I understood about the boat was simple. It was (as designed) buoyant, quite strong and given its shape I knew it had the potential to sail well for its short length. I also understood the lug rig choice. I was impressed enough to purchase the kits before the prototype was even launched. In the micro mini cruiser genre SCAMP may be the best in class.

SCAMP is an under 12 foot boat and like most boats (multihull, foiling and planing boats are different) waterline length is the prime determinant in the speed equation. So she sails like a 12 footer only better than most in my experience. To my knowledge there is not another design in her genre/ size other than perhaps home designed and built boats I am not aware of that fit the designed for purpose criteria as SCAMP does. 

The boat is highly maneuverable and this is one key to why I chose the boat as much of my time in the Southern Ocean will be down wind/down wave, very big waves. In these conditions I want to wear the boat and instantly carve turns. Her ample rocker and large centerboard will help in this aspect.

Here is a short video depicting just how maneuverable these boats are. This video was not staged. I had no idea I was being filmed and was out having some fun. Note how the boat sails through tacks maintaining speed and is quite nimble. 
Standing up again- Exploring the Nan Madol neolithic ruins, Pohnpei Micronesia

I am going to be sailing with a heavy pay load meaning my boat will be even more stable yet she will remain maneuverable. 

I mentioned wearing the boat, this is a good way to describe my sailing style when aboard any small boat. This style of sailing offers great control and with my boats modified cockpit (footwell) I can keep my weight even lower yet still use my upper body mass for maneuvering. Nothing unique here, dinghy racers do this all the time, perhaps not as much standing up though. Take a look on utube with an Olympic Finn racing search. There are videos of Finn sailors standing, OK my dinghy sailing style is admittedly odd.

Back To Speed
How fast does a SCAMP a breeze she will sail in the 6 to 7 knot range at times. Down wind, down wave I have seen higher speeds in bursts. In middling air she will click along at between 4 and 5 knots, not bad for such a small boat. Where I am going speed is at least three notches down the performance priority list but I do consider it very important. There will likely be scant times when the wind is down enough to make progress so when I can I will sail as fast as I can, as far as I can and for as long as I can. To make this happen I will be sailing dinghy style using hiking straps and built in hiking seats.

A Boat of My Hand
This is an important piece of my safe voyaging puzzle. I not only understand the design and how to sail it I also know the boat I will sail better than anyone as I built her in a very step wise process.
Maggie- The boat shop hound

Southern Cross

Reprinted from the current issue of Small Craft Advisor magazine (issue 100!). In this issue there is a comprehensive article about Southern Cross titled "Anatomy of a Micro Cruiser." SCA is available as on line subscription, paper subscription or purchased at book stores, West Marine, etc. 

Sailing Small
I have chosen to voyage aboard a small boat for a number of reasons primary of which are, ease of use for the type of voyaging I prefer (some open water crossings to remote and interesting shorelines). Ocean passages are fine but in my experience they can be a bit boring. Most passages aim at getting boat and sailor somewhere to explore. I prefer to get there more quickly, perhaps by trailer and get right after the exploring part. In my case with this voyage my boat is being shipped

I also prefer small recognizing ease of handling given my “theory of thirds” approach and resultant higher degree of safety. Safety is often equated with larger boats but if one stops to consider the question it may be argued that for some applications small may be better than large and this is particularly true for some solo sailors. Safety ranges from handling while upright to the ease and ability of righting the boat if capsized. My boat does feature an inflatable cuddy cabin aimed at keeping her at least on her side when she goes over. I believe she can withstand a 360 roll.
Conducting static capsize test, SCAMP prototype. I was the testing guinea pig but didn't mind at all as I desired the knowledge I would gain from volunteering to be the test pilot err......pig. I was not paid to conduct testing by SCA and penned an independent report of test results. Good on the SCA folks for calling for tests and making the knowledge gained public. Well played!

A Big Change In Plans
The place I plan to voyage and explore changed from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego and for good reason, changes in Polar Bear movements given an apparent changing environment. As mentioned I enjoy some open water crossings but prefer near shore exploration.

My Greenland plan had me coasting Labrador, crossing the Hudson Strait to Baffin Island for more coastal exploring before jumping off at Cape Dyer to cross the Arctic Ocean to Sisimut Greenland. I couldn’t get past the recorded spike in Polar Bear encounters and tried to get around it by looking at options including carrying weapons, nothing fit. I knew I would be the trespasser and not the bears so I made a tough decision to give up at least for now and sail the second dream on my life list, the Southwest Islands of Tierra del Fuego, a very specific place, a very unknown and rarely seen place. 

Not only are the Southwest islands largely unexplored by modern sailors/explorers/the curious they are also located dead centre in the most challenging sailing environment in the world. I know this sounds dramatic and I don't mean it to depict the place that way but it’s true. I can attest to this statement made by so many others as being true as I do have first hand experience east of the islands in the Beagle Channel and south around Cape Horn in a different tiny boat.

A Small Boat Fits The Place I Will Explore
Sailing a small well found boat built of my hand will allow me options not open to those attempting to sail the waters of Tierra del Fuego in larger boats. I can handle the boat in extreme changing conditions by simply being a larger piece of the equation. 

As mentioned I think of small boats in terms of thirds, me, the hull and the power generated by the sail rig. In the smallest of boats I can kinetically over power and thus control the hull and power generated by the sail rig. This is common to dinghy sailors and critically important for where I plan to sail. In extreme gusts I can let the rig fly (no fixed stays/shrouds) and with my weight and movements control the hull and rig, therefore I am about one third of the control equation. When winds are fair and breezy I can sail hiked out keeping the boat flat and moving in a more controlled manner. Sailing small will also allow me to haul her up on the hard now and again as opposed to always having to anchor out. Anchoring out is the only option for large boats and the Chilean Navy has a long history of having to rescue crews from wrecked boats that could not keep a hook down in raging williwaw winds. 

I am also sailing engineless and this is one key factor in gaining permission from the Chilean navy. They also have a sad history of rescuing crews from wrecked yachts that are spilling fuel.

Where I Plan To Sail
I will set sail on the Strait of Magellan from near Punta Arenas Chile and head south, this is about as specific as I can get regarding an actual or intended route. The intended course for my voyage has to be open but in general terms, so it's south then east before heading north and then west again. 

The course has to stay open because there are many challenges and options and with changing weather and particular sections of the intended course being of some difficulty it is hard to predict just where I can sail. I rough terms I may be able to reach south on the Strait of Magellan before turning into the wind facing the “Roaring Forties” for a most long and challenging beat to weather through the channels of southern Tierra del Fuego to reach the Southern Ocean. This section of the voyage is extremely challenging and once through it then the seriousness of the voyage really gets interesting. 

I stay awake at night these days thinking of the long slog to weather to reach the forbidding Southern Ocean and have pored over charts trying to find the way to do this. Many a well found sailing boat has been defeated trying to beat west including Joshua Slocum aboard Spray. More on this in a later post about “Voyaging Strategy.”
The Southwest Islands are depicted in white to the left of the red Argentinean Tierra del Fuego

A Place So Remote, So Mysterious and So Staggeringly Beautiful
I am setting out to explore the lands of the vanished race of people known as the Yaghan. I believe recording the places they lived for some ten thousand years before first contact and being subjected to modern ailments such as the common cold, which apparently caused a quick extinction of pure Yaghan blood lines is a story worth recording and telling. What I hope to capture on film is the voyaging aspects of daily life on an under 12 foot boat in such an extreme place juxtaposed against the story of the Yaghan and in the broader sense the beauty and mystery of southern Tierra del Fuego.

The last time I sailed east of my intended course I was fascinated to spend time camped in ancient sites, which were the homes of the nomadic Yaghan. I was in a gossamer wood canvas sailing canoe and felt a deep kinship with the Yaghan as they were also canoe people. Virtually every place I discovered as a suitable take out or anchorage had also been home to the Yaghan.

It is hard to explain voyaging in such a staggeringly beautiful at times violent and harsh place in such a small boat. Having lived much of my adult life amongst simple indigenous tribal people whose ancestors not so long ago were subjects of first contact (Garifuna, Pingalapese, Kapingamarangi, Pohnpeian, Yapese, Kosraen, Chuukese, etc) means I have an innate deep interest in both the Yaghan and an age of exploration gone by. 

In Micronesia where I have lived and worked for so many years there are villages with skin color mixes and family names resulting from whale ships that hit the reef near quiet thatched hut villages, what ensued was a mixing of people, often not welcomed. My how time erases the now so quickly, I think of the island of Sapwauhfik and the horror of first contact and the Ngatik massacre. The known world is rife with such histories. 

I long to be back in Tierra del Fuego where the pristine wilderness, the roaring of the wind and the whispers of ancient people may serve as antidote to the noisy world I live today. Having just relocated to the US from the quiet simple life of Pohnpei is a challenge of culture shock. A call boat voyage sounds just right as antidote. 

Each day of the voyage I reckon will be simplicity magnified, prepare, set sail, be ever vigilant, each day may stretch time to become a life time made of few hours. This is the way of the small boat voyage and I love it. Backing life into a corner and feeling Thoreau's "full brunt of it" can be an enlightening act, a sobering act, a focusing act and above all a life enhancing act.

I may sail in the wakes of Cook, Magellan, Fitzroy (Darwin), Tillman and Slocum but know my insignificant place is pale by any comparison. What excites me about where I will go is the largely untouched nature of the places they explored, what an opportunity to learn, to self reflect, to cross the the long gone wakes and explore the shores seen by such explorers and above all by their predecessors the Yaghan.

A Few Logistics
My boat in its crate will arrive in Punta Arenas Chile where I will be pressed by time to unload and move it from the customs dock as they charge by the day for cargo left standing.

John Welsford has offered to join me again for this crucial step. Thanks as always John! I think John is living vicariously through me and I am so glad to have my friend along as his knowledge and experience is deep. He and I share a common understanding of small boats and we speak the same language. He listens and comments when he understands and never before, I appreciate this trait. He and I spent much time together last February combing the water front of Punta Arenas looking for a proper staging spot for my boat and I ran my voyaging strategy by him. John also joined me for the final meeting with the Chilean Navy and offered good information to the navy.

In the shipping crate I will not only have my boat fully set for voyaging (all gear on board and in place) but will also have a small folding trailer, which I have modified, it will arrive unassembled. John and I will open the crate, remove the trailer and reassemble it. Then we will move the boat out of the shipping crate and onto the trailer, this will be a bit of a trick. If all goes to plan the boat will then be moved out of the customs yard to a side street in Punta Arenas and we will then (possibly) disassemble the collapsible shipping crate and figure a way to move it to the storage location or leave it assembled for transport and storage.

We will then move Southern Cross to a beach on the Strait of Magellan we have scouted in Punta Arenas and launch. I will then winch the boat up on to the beach where it will be staged as I provision. John and I scouted the public street markets and stores and I now know provisioning should be relatively straight forward. I am trying to avoid shipping more weight in the form of provisions. One of the objectives of my scouting trip this past February was to determine just what food I could find in Tierra del Fuego. Although I was in Chile years ago I actually didn’t provision there, I brought 3 months of food with me.
One of the shops where I will provision
One of the base staples of my diet, ancient grains, Millet varieties, Amaranth, etc

I plan to spend as little time in Punta Arenas as possible in spite of it being a lovely place now chock full of fashionable backpackers from around the world, my how times have changed. It seems young hip travellers make their way to Punta Arenas to take penguin colony bus tours and have passports stamped with the ever sexy Punta Arenas, Tierra del Fuego mark.

The Chilean Armada will inspect my boat and after that happens my plan is to set sail to land just south of Punta to one of three small remote bays. Once I arrive at one of these spots I will again winch her up on the beach or anchor out (using my dinghy) and acclimate to life aboard until I feel ready to go. Setting out will be a dicey proposition as immediate conditions may not be the real issue. The real issue will be what is two weeks or so to the west across the windswept southern latitudes home of the infamous “Roaring Forty” winds. This is a gamble I will have to take as when setting out I will have a task at hand getting to the tip of the Brunswick Penninsula before crossing the intersection of the eastern and western arms of the Strait of Magellan from Cape Froward home of the notorious “Pantenero” or cemetery wind, which historically blows hard enough to upend headstones in cemeteries.

Then I will beat west into the wind through a maze of channels (there are three optional routes) and out into the southern ocean before heading south to explore the southwest islands on the way to False Cape Horn. From False Cape Horn I plan to explore north before I make the dangerous crossing to the Wollaston islands. From the Wollastons I plan to head north again into the eastern Beagle Channel and then back west. In essence I think of the course in terms of sections or legs, each with its own distinct set of challenges. In my next blog post I will write about the voyage strategy.

A Rig For Southern Cross

By Southern Cross Designer- John Welsford (aka- The Pesky Kiwi Pun King)

“Howard and I collaborated on a different rig for his SCAMP, one specifically designed for the environment in which he will be using it.  After much thought he settled on a split rig utilizing a gaff main and I drew it from his base design. Howard has a strong like of a gaff rigged main from experience and suggested the value of the split rig for a number of sensible reasons. His innovation of the running shrouds (not back stays) is a key element to the safety aspect of the rig.

So why not use the lug rig that moves SCAMP so well in her normal waters?
Lets have a look at that.

With that single large sail SCAMP won't heave to in the conventional sense, they “Park” (Howard coined that apt phrase). That’s broadside on, and they will sit there happily as long as you want, not going anywhere.  SCAMP's are safe “parked” in waves up to about a meters and a half  high.  That’s close to five feet.  Big wave for a little boat and very few small boats will ever be out on the water in those conditions.

Where Howard is going there can be waves up to ten times that high. ( that’s on a good day) The boat has to be able to sit hove to head to wind and, the single big sail wont do that.

Sail Reduction- 
We normally put three lines of reefing points onto a SCAMP sail,  if the wind is such that there is still too much sail up when on the last reef, its pull the sail right down and sit in the bottom of the boat to wait out the squall.  But where Southern Cross is going ,control in sustained extremely high winds is imperative and the single big sail doesn’t give the choices in sail reduction that are needed. IN addition hoisting and striking the single lug sail in extreme or gusty conditions could prove problematic for Howard.

With one big sail the loads on that sail and its systems are high, SCAMP has extraordinary stability for a small boat but the loads on the rig are higher than you’d expect. Any failure leaves the boat drifting with little chance of improvising a jury rig, and Southern Cross is going where no small boat has ever been before ( I tried to work a Star Trek quote in there but that has to be near enough), and there is no chance of support or repair, so there has to be a lot of redundancy in the setup.  The ability to create a rig out of the wreckage should she be rolled and dismasted is beyond important, it may be the only answer in a life or death scenario.

So with all of this and a few other criteria in mind I set out to draw the rig that Howard called for and that would be ‘fit for purpose”.

The gaff yawl is a powerful rig-
It is not particularly close winded but it generates a lot of drive for a given heeling force.  In simple terms, that’s more drive for the amount of stability that the boat has.  In heavy weather few boats will sail close to the wind anyway,  and small boats more so than big ones so I drew a rig that would produce the most thrust at the wind angle that will be practical in those conditions.

A gaff mainsail means a relatively short mast, strong, easy to manage should it need to be pulled out for work, with low windage and light in weight.

With three sails, reef points on the main and the ability to change jibs there are many different combinations available.  Dropping  the mizzen and main for example will work when reaching or running before a squall, the small jib being easy to control at any angle to the wind.

When sailing across or upwind the main can be reefed, reefed several times until its time to drop it completely, and with jib and mizzen the boat is still balanced, easy to control and able to heave to if needed.

The Mizzen Sail
In spite of what some write about mizzens that little sail is really useful, it enables the boat to be hove to head to wind, can be used to manage the weather helm enabling the boat to self steer, a huge help on long days, and remember, summertime in the deep south means that there can be daylight for 20 hours. The ability to let the boat sail herself is a real help to the singlehanded skipper wanting to rest, navigate, eat or make repairs under way.

With the jib on a roller furler, that sail can be “disappeared” when needed (down and all the way back into the cockpit until needed), and a bigger drifter set flying, all without leaving the safety of the cockpit. There are days of calm weather in the region and Howard’s strategy is to sail as quickly as possible to take advantage of these breaks. Southern Cross can set a lot of sail in those conditions.

Now here’s where one of the big differences appear. The mainmast is not stayed in the normal sense, in fact it does not need stays at all. When capsized, or overpowered running off downwind, the mainsail can be pinned against the stays, in the former case that makes it very difficult to manage when righting as it will try and drive the boat forward or capsize her again as it comes up. In conventional boats its necessary to swim the boat around head to wind to prevent this, but in these cold waters, and in the sort of conditions that might capsize this little ship that’s not a good thing. Should Howard capsize and chances are he may and more than once time will be of the essence. He has to my knowledge tested and learned from some 60 SCAMP capsizes both solo and with crew in teaching and demonstrations. Howard was also a key player in the initial capsize tests conducted on the prototype SCAMP #1. He knows the boat both upright, turtled and on her side likely better than anyone else. He and I have had the opportunity to really understand the mechanics of avoiding capsize and how to execute fast righting and re-entry should it happen.

With the free standing mast, the sail can swing downwind wherever the boat lies relative to the wind and with the main luffed, the mizzen and job sheets free, she will lie quietly.

Going downwind in a heavy squall can be dangerous, and believe me this area is prone to them, walls of spray hundreds of metres high, appearing out of nowhere,  coming at you at 60 knots is not uncommon!

The ability to let the main “flag” forward is a real help, round the boat up to about 45 deg off dead downwind,  let the running shroud on that side go and dump the mainsheet  then point her back downwind again and the main will swing around fully depowered off the bow.

With the jib rolled up or fully struck and the mizzen also swung around its unstayed mast the boat is unpowered, just being pushed along at a controlled rate by the windage of her hull and spars, but is still able to be brought under sail in an instant to clear a lee shore or sail into a confined space.

The mainmast is supported by a running shroud on each side. It’s strong enough to stand unstayed, but the inevitable flex affects the luff tension on the jib, so she has the “running shrouds” there to control that. An aditional benefit of those is to facilitate a jury rig should that be needed. 

Damage Again
In case of a broken mast, the main boom is long enough to make a replacement, the mizzen mast is long enough and with the jib, and the running shrouds to hold it up its tall enough to allow the reefed main with its gaff to be set as a loose footed lugsail which will power the boat sufficiently to make some progress.

Again, sailing along the Pacific coast south of the Straights of Magellan is extreme sailing and plain risky, there is little or no chance of assistance should anything go wrong. The skipper has to be able to fix, or rejig the rig in case of breakage minor or major so the rig which Howard has developed has much redundancy built in. I was honoured to have him send me his version of the rig asking that I examine it, refine it and finalize it. We can’t plan for every eventuality, but have done our best to anticipate what the brave little ship will meet, and are confident in her abilities.

Southern Cross goes in the water this month, testing and familiarization begins. She has been carefully thought through and I’ll be meeting her in person for the first time in about 5 months time, helping to rig her in the shadow of the hulks of the several square riggers that lie dreaming of better days on the beach in Punta Arenas.

In Closing
What a thrill for me to be able to help such a friend fulfil a song of his soul exploration and adventure aboard the tiniest of boats. Don’t be fooled into thinking the application of such a small boat to such an infamous and dangerous place, the southwest islands of Tierra del Fuego is a fools errand. Sailing a small controllable boat may be a stroke of genius and the answer to why adventurers and sailing explorers have steered clear of these remote windswept islands, one of the last true largely unexplored regions and adventures left on the planet.”
John Welsford

Below 40 South 
The Documentary

I support the Below 40 South documentary and am recently a financial donor to the film. I have made a small donation as that is what I can afford. The documentary Below 40 South is being produced by Dave Nichols and John Welsford with coming technical work by a wide range of editors, video experts, audio people, etc. 
John Welsford filming in Chile- A man of considerable talent

Big news. Recently author and sailor Tom Pamperin has thrown in with Dave and John to assist in fund raising and authorship of proposals for the film. Tom is a friend as are Dave and John and I am glad this team is making the film.

I am not a partner in the film or have any say in how it moves along to release. Early on I explored taking on a role but it was not the best way forward. I just want to go sailing and exploring.  This said I do have a role in the film as I am the person sailing and documenting what I experience in the form of a video diary. In the end I will likely shoot more than 90% of the footage. So in simplest terms the film company Lutra Productions asked me if they could make a film about my voyage and I finally after much hand wringing said yes and the one stipulation I made was that it had to be a very real and not contrived in any manner. 

There is not an ounce of reality TV in my bones (I don't own a TV, haven't for years). Instead I am excited about the opportunity to see and then share a place so few humans have seen. 

I believe the real story is about the voyage of a "below 12 foot boat" exploring such a place and not about the sailor, granted I have a role but really its the boat up against such a place. 

So I see the film as a testimony to the possibilities of sailing small and not about the sailor. Tierra del Fuego north of where I will explore has been explored by a few sailors and some were solo, so my doing so is nothing special, the boat is the story as I see it.

Please consider supporting the film by purchasing a hat, a shirt, a poster or by making a donation. One idea is to band together with a few sailing friends to make a group donation.

Dave and John have organized the film production financial needs into two parts and their first objective is to have the boat equipped with cameras and to get a two man film crew to Chile to record the launching and trials of the boat as well as my set off and then its just me filming. I'll do my best to sail safely and to record what I see. The second phase will be the production of the footage I shoot after I return. I wish them the best in their ongoing effort to produce a documentary about a small boat with big dreams. I can't think of another small boat documentary, so perhaps its time for one.

Thanks for reading, look for another post soon.