I snapped the photo above as I descended a cliff down to my wood canvas sailing canoe on Cape Horn. About thirty minutes later I was underway into the Southern Ocean to sail around the Horn. This was the best day I had after waiting for more than a week on Cape Horn, a bit of a lump in the throat sort of day. During this rounding I capsized and was sure glad I had been so thorough in my preparations.
I wish to note that what I pen here is not meant to be an act of self promotion as this is not my intention. I decided to post this blog to let friends know how the project is progressing and simultaneously to assist Dave Nichols with his documentary film "Below 40 South."
I believe Dave's film initiative is a worthy effort.
Perhaps a film about a small boat voyage, the human aspect of going solo, the challenges faced and solutions, etc may serve as inspiration for others, many of whom might not be able to do such a thing for any number of reasons.
Each of us faces life with all of its freeing opportunities, limitations, fears, dreams and personal challenges. I am acting on my dreams and throughout my life have tried my best to live my them as best I can, so far so good.
So I hope what you have read over the past weeks has at a minimum been informative, perhaps inspirational and at best of some value.
Sterling Hayden best sums up my personal why for any adventurous endeavor I have had and will have in my life of aspiring to be "Out There."
"To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.
"I've always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.
What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.
The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.
Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?"
- Sterling Hayden (Wanderer, 1973)
Cape Horn as up close and personal as can be. Large yachts never have this sort of experience, only a well found small boat can manage it.Please check out "Below40South.com." If you are interested enough to read here about an unfolding bush league adventure and if you might like to see a "real" not contrived or reality TV style documentary film then Dave needs a hand.
Apologies for sounding commercial, any support generated for the documentary is strictly for getting the film footage shot and back in the hands of editors, writers, sound people, visual effect folks, etc. I am not involved in the film other than agreeing to shoot film as I voyage and none of the funding he raises goes to me in any manner. All of it will be for cameras and video support gear for the boat (SD cards, multiple hard drives, lap top, etc) plus getting a small film crew to Chile.
In Chile the crew of two or three will record the arrival of the boat, un-crating, launch, provisioning, final sea trials on the Strait of Magellan, the set off and a number of interviews of Armada personnel and others. John Welsford will be coming back again out of his own pocket to join me in final prep of the boat, hows that for a pal!....................friends, Wow!
I have promised myself I won't let, can't let the film crew be a distraction before I set sail. Once underway I will attempt to record a daily video diary with the stipulation to the film crew that I am 100% on my own. There is a very real possibility if all goes well that they will be able to go up in a helicopter to film my setting sail. More on that via the "Below 40 South" web site. There will be no support boat, film boat or meet ups with a film crew during the voyage. Should be an interesting experience as I will be exploring one of the last little corners of the planet virtually unseen and untouched by humans, the Southwest Islands of Tierra del Fuego.
Above is a video Josh Colvin shot of the first day of capsize testing the prototype, SCAMP #1.
I offered a series of capsize test scenarios and feel fortunate to have been a part of the testing team (Josh Colvin, Simeon Baldwin, Kees Prins, Eric Wennstrom). March 2011
In the video above we are learning, which is why the conditions are so calm. We are gently playing with stability. Before this video SCAMP had been sailed twice, once for an hour on launch the previous November and next by me in a two day test.windy cold overnight.
I believe the video above is illustrative of one of the main reasons why I selected the SCAMP design out of the wide array of boats I could have chosen from. She is stable and if over easy to right and re- board. I had chosen SCAMP as the development platform for a voyage in Terra del Fuego. I may have been part of the team but I was also quietly proving to myself whether my purchase of two kits before the prototype was launched was a good decision. Intuitively I knew it was but wanted to prove it for if the boat was the right one then spin forward to a day in the future when my own modified SCAMP would be put to the real test, a test my life would depend on.
The video above is day one of testing, day two was open water and both March days were a bit on the cold side.There is another video of the second day (open water) testing (Russell Brown joined me aboard for some of the 2nd day testing). Always good to start in controlled waters such as a slip or near shore. This 2nd video can be viewed on tube by searching "SCAMP Capsize."
Get To Know Your Boat
Respectfully, I suggest anyone sailing a small boat consider capsize testing starting in a slip or near shore on a calm day. Have fun, get to know it by climbing all over it. Then with new knowledge in hand, self rescue gear set up head out into open water preferably with a good breeze and a standby boat and get to know your boat even better.
I did this sort of testing before my first 3 month solo voyage to and around Cape Horn in a sailing Klepper Aerius 1. My friend Ann Carolan (Hi Ann) let me bring my boat into a particular high school pool after hours ( we sort of snuck it in) and I did everything possible aboard it, capsizing, righting, climbing all over it.
Real World Testing
Later I took the boat out in winter gale conditions on Lake Michigan and fully loaded conducted capsize tests on my own (on one day with the boat deck coated in ice and very top heavy) without support. My friend Eric Stiller and I also did tests on the east coast. He and I also experienced deck icing. Eric has been reading this blog and I hope (hint, hint) that he might post some insight/experience comments. He and I learned so much together as we trained and tested.
One of the most important lessons I learned from this mid thirty degree temperature testing was the hand issue. Hands and the ability to work with them in wet freezing conditions is a challenge. As odd as it sounds I began a regimen of sitting and soaking my hands in ice water for periods of time in the two months before departing for Chile. This sounds like the acts of a crazy man and it was often excruciatingly painful but I am glad I did it. Still my hands took the biggest hit of all during my three months out and they were constantly an issue due to wet, cold and salt water. This time the wood stove should help them dry. Not sure how often I will be able to use the stove but even occasional use should help.
When I arrived in southern Chile I was ready because I knew my boat and what I had to do to self rescue, glad I did because I self rescued twice. In a capsize situation moves cannot be thought through or done in ad lib mode they should be imprinted muscle memory steps.
Beagle Channel on a good day. It is blowing in excess of forty knots, I am in the lee of a cove. Photo by a german paddler I met.
Very soon I will conduct solo fully loaded capsize tests aboard Southern Cross, again on my own because that is where I will be soon. It's time for unassisted tests because I have now purpose capsized and righted SCAMP's in teaching situations more than fifty times, I have actually lost count. I have also taught many people how to prevent capsizing and how to recover including the use of a re-entry system I have developed.
Every one of these experiences has been new information for me, I try to stay open and learn every time I go out on the water. I have learned from sailors with skills far superior in skill to mine and from students I have taught. I wish I was an innately talented sailor but I am not so I stay open.
I was also involved in one surprise capsize with my friend Dana Holsclaw in a windy scenario. After we managed to gather ourselves from fits of laughter we had the boat up and underway in something like a minute. Yes she is a chuckle head!!