Thursday April 7th, 2016

For a bit on the light side. John had this idea about riding horses through Patagonia as we made our way south into Tierra del Fuego.........;-) I voiced the concern that food for the horses might be an issue given the nearly 2000 mile journey. So we each selected our best bet for fuel efficiency and ended up with a pick up truck rental.
Hmmmm...........he looks hungry....(the horse). John took to him, I overheard him ask, "Why the long face?"
Looks like my choice wouldn't eat much!

A Voyaging Strategy
If all goes well with planning and preparations I hope to soon set sail to and through the southwest islands of Tierra del Fuego. Such an endeavor requires a foundation of thoughtfulness and purpose. From these two elements comes a strategy for just how one might go about doing such a thing.

Thoughtfulness in my case means careful consideration and attention to detail as I build a boat and equip it to meet what I think of as the F squared equation or "form equaling function."

Good form typically translates to good function and vice versa. I believe I have selected the right base design from which to develop a proper small yacht. The base boat is the SCAMP design and as a base it is already an excellent small boat and through thoughtful modifications I believe I have managed to not muck it up. 

Am I a babbling rabid SCAMP proponent? Nope, she is but one boat I appreciate as in the (for lack of a better term) 'Micro Mini Cruiser' genre she is the best I have seen to date.

My second sail aboard a SCAMP (hull #1) on a cold December day. 
Later I learned the temperature with calculated wind chill was 18 degrees above zero F. The day before was my first sail aboard a SCAMP. I anchored out for the night in snow squall weather under a quick and dirty poly tarp tent. I was warm, dry and well fed thanks to friends Russell and Ashlyn Brown.

The photo above speaks to my confidence in the boats stability in spite of the cold air and cold water.
I may be smiling but my feet were really cold due to poor choice of foot wear. I had flown in from the happy isles of Micronesia, jet lagged and thin blooded but what a chance, what a sail!

The purpose of such an endeavor has to be clear lest one prepare and set sail aboard a boat that is not suited nor equipped to purpose. My purpose is simple. I am by nature curious and wish to see a place few humans have seen aside from a few intrepid explorers and the indigenous people who once lived north of most of the islands I wish to explore. 

One would guess the indigenous people made small boat forays south and west into the islands in spite of the dangers that lurk there due to the many lee shores and inaccessible coastlines. The last time I sailed in Tierra del Fuego the places I would find as the best take outs or anchorages often had remnants of the canoe people who long ago used these same places as nomadic homes. 

A few others have explored a few of the southwestern islands such as the HMS Beagle and HMS Adventure in 1823 and a French survey expedition in 1888. The Chilean navy patrols some of the bahias and islands but tend to stay north and east of most of the islands.

Strategy: How will I manage my moment to moment existence while keeping a positive outlook even when all seems lost?
Not to sound dramatic but this is a logical question I ask myself quite often these days. Where I plan to sail is quite extreme and this means I will with some certainty meet with adversity. The adversity can come out of the blue in many forms from being swept south and east once at sea to the Williwaw or even a serious injury. The answer to the question is many faceted but really comes down to right boat, right gear, right plan and a willingness to accept discomfort (just not minding). Self awareness, staying in the moment and knowing why I am there will be important. 

I believe self awareness and self reliance quiets the mind and in my case will become the foundation strategy each day. Self reliance is far deeper than preparation, the ability to ad lib, to repair, to navigate and to steer a true course. Self reliance also means managing attitude and outlook for these key elements have to stay on the positive side in order to allow a modicum of good decision making leading to a higher level of safety. Good decisions can only float up from a positive outlook enabling my voyaging strategy to play out. I hope I am up to it.

I find sailing solo and in this case through a place of such stunning grandeur and danger to be an opportunity for a sharpening and honing of focus. It is a chance to come out the other side a better person, someone who has learned from his mistakes and from the few things that may have gone right. I just have to keep my mind clear and make very conservative decisions when appropriate. I embrace this two part statement, "When in doubt don't" balanced against, "When in doubt speed up." As odd as this sounds there are times when one has to press faster to survive balanced against knowing when to dial back. A positive attitude and clear mind are important when making such decisions. Rest, good nutrition and the physical training to press on when exhausted will be key.

I Believe Solo Voyaging Is But A Metaphor For The Examined Life. 
A life built on years spent locked in daily routine can be the slipperiest of slopes, poof so fast, where did it go. I find that dreaming and then enacting the dream slows the pace of the ticking clock down allowing me to function a bit better when I am in the routine. The dreaming and the doing quicken the pulse and like any good passion feeds the soul. This voyage has been percolating away for more than ten years, ten very enjoyable years.

Once I shove off to the south I will have no choice but to hone, to pare away, to get down to the core of my heart beat and the meaning of my existence. By circumstance the whittling away of clutter due to such a tiny boat should help me attain fleeting moments of enlightenment or Satori (Japanese). These moments may help me stay focused on my voyaging strategy and in times of danger and self doubt stick to it. Keeping my head in the moment will be a minute by minute process of heading up in a gust over the next wave face, boiling water for a meal, avoiding injury, easing sheets, making a dangerous surf landing to name but a few. There will be thousands of "in the moment" moments defined as success and precious few allowable failures. Most important of all is staying positive in all circumstances, particularly when a good outcome is in doubt.

The Modern World is Loud
It shouts at us from sun up to sun down. It invades our souls from the screens we live in, neon signs, traffic, crowding and plain and simple the never ending noise. So many of us cannot quiet our souls, it's too hard and can be scary (that'd be me). My life on tiny islands in simple villages juxtaposed against the crush of Tokyo, Beijing, Manila, New York, Barcelona and so many other fascinating yet numbing hives has in a sense propelled my life forward in an ongoing longing for peace, a peace so hard to find in our blaring look at me world. I find it in fleeting flashes when aboard small boats.

I know I will soon face a series of challenges, moments of peace, moments of disquiet as in being alone I will have to face myself, my human fears, failings, misconceptions, illusions and precious few life accomplishments. All become stark in the face of a new noise, the noise of adjusting to being alone, to the immensity of it all and the wind, the ever roaring winds of Tierra del Fuego. Not to sound flaky but there is in a sense a cleansing of the mind and soul that takes place in the face of  alone and in adversity. This has been one of the classic themes in literature from Conrads "Youth" to modern film.

"Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. In that moment he finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."
Hal Holbrook

Punta Arenas
When John Welsford and I hit Punta Arenas we were greeted by a dark cold, wind blown, driving rain night. During the 2am taxi race into town (whew she could drive) along the shore of the Strait of Magellan my mind raced, I felt split in two. I was happy to be with my friend who honored me by making such an effort to be there and at the same time drawing in, getting down to my game face. My mind full of thoughts, exhilaration, excitement, and yes I admit some level of fear of what was to come. Many a night I have lain awake going over what if scenarios such as being blown off anchor or caught out in the Southern Ocean by an unforeseen front with few options, capsizing and the like. I preferring a positive outlook in life sometimes have gone out to the boat shop and worked some answer out, rearranged a piece of hardware and on several occasions have found new solutions to nagging questions. This is very interesting to me. 

Another Influence On Strategy
Being back in Punta was both exhilarating and at times overwhelming as I felt propelled forward, in a sense unable to turn back, to say no in the face of the challenges ahead. Never before have I gotten out publicly about any small boat voyage I have planned as doing so eliminates the most important option, to privately say no, I'm not able. Chest beating doesn't fit with me, it's self serving, foolish and dangerous. Going forward for any purpose other than pure thought, inner drive and personal curiosity can influence sailing strategy and in so doing be a danger. Success or failure cannot be driven by a camera or the expectations of others. Engage the public and lose options.

In this case after much reflection I gave my word to help Dave Nichols promote his documentary of the voyage before I have done anything. I am all in for it after many doubts and much reflection. For the longest time I was stuck half in the "who needs more hype, look at me and promotion" mind set and half in the "I would like to share my experiences from the cockpit." So I post a blog, support his Below 40 South web site and fund raising efforts and am going to film as I sail. 

Dave is training me in the use of cameras and I will attempt to shoot raw unedited footage in real time, nothing staged and on my return a post production team will take the footage and marry it with footage already shot (of the build, interviews, etc) to create a documentary. 

I hope the documentary might have some value as inspiration and certainly as a technical piece. Yet it has me pinned to setting sail no matter what because I have said I will. I have to be careful as this can if allowed to run unchecked influence my mind set and strategy. 

I recognize that filming can actually be dangerous as it requires time, effort and a focus away from what is at hand at any moment. Cameras require care, SD cards and batteries have to be switched out, images down loaded, etc. Cameras and support equipment take up precious space and require an elaborate battery bank and charging system, which I have built into the boat. So I fully embrace the film and press on with the promise to myself to march only to the time clock I have and to no other. I hope Dave is able to raise the small budget he needs so that my filming while voyaging effort comes to something that can be of value to others.

Meanwhile Back In Punta Arenas
Together John and I poked and probed the waterfront for a place to stage my boat, he lost in his thoughts and me in mine. We talked about what was to come and how it might feel to cast off into the complete unknown of the next moment. Our takes by circumstance had to be different as one day soon I will set off into the complete unknown and he will on waving goodbye to his friend turn to home. Dave and the film crew will do the same. It was sobering and exhilarating to be on the beach with John envisioning my tiny boat staked out against the wind as I loaded provisions, gauged the weather and finally pushed off to the south. Soon Dave will put up video footage shot (on the Below 40 South web site) on the shore of the Strait of Magellan at Punta Arenas. It was a relatively nice day, sun out and blowing well over 30 knots.

The Place
George Slight who was in charge of building the Evangalista lighthouse on the Strait of Magellan wrote in 1934:
"I never imagined seeing something so wild and desolate as those emerging dark rocks in the middle of the raging waves. To see these stormy craggy rocks was frightening. With a dim light on the horizon we could see large waves crashing heavily in the western part of the islands: a vision that hardly anyone can imagine ...

Joshua Slocum had serious adventures as he voyaged the waters ranging from being boarded to being caught in the southwest islands, a confusing jumble of islands with rocky exposure and few safe anchorages for a large boat such as the Spray. 
The painting above depicts Slocums Southwest islands near miss. In the painting the southwest islands are referred to as the "Milky Way", which refers to the jumble of cliffs, crags, bahai's, cuts, lee shores and islands notorious for wrecking ships and boats. Slocum had a serious near miss and was forced to turn back into the Strait of Magellan. This is precisely the area I am longing to explore by small boat. The dangers are many and so the strategy must be just right. I would prefer to be aboard an 11' 11" open boat than Slocum's Spray or pretty much any other larger boat even one specifically set up to navigate the region.

When times get tight on a big boat in Tierra del Fuego they red line very quickly. One of the best reads on the area is Hal and Margaret Roth's "Two Against Cape Horn." Their beloved Whisper was blown off anchor just north of Cape Horn in the Wollastons and wrecked ashore. The Chilean navy came to the rescue and the boat was salvaged and repaired. This is but one of many stories.

Before my previous voyage I called and talked with Margaret Roth and she thought my choice of sailing small was the right one particularly given their experiences.

Cape Horn is one of the geographic icons on the planet and throughout history many sailors have rounded it far out to sea with the Horn being but a speck in the distance. Ships, yachts and in this era round the world racing yachts mark their momentous passage around Cape Horn as a significant 
milestone and it should be. Up close and personal is a much different challenge as land is always a danger for sailors. 

In my mind the greatest danger to sailors is not open water but land. Next in line is human error and then gear failure but first and foremost is land. Where I plan to sail the natural elements and geography have lined up to make for a dangerous place. 

Roaring forty winds blowing unimpeded around the world are constricted between one giant ice cube (Antarctica) and a relatively warmer land mass( the tip of S. America) and this causes a wide temperature differential made worse by the constriction of the Drake Passage. Add to what is already a weather machine the relatively shallow depth of the Drake Passage and there you have it.

Up close and personal departing to round Cape Horn. (photo Marcello Chavez)

From Wikipedia- Cape Horn
"Several factors combine to make the passage around Cape Horn one of the most hazardous shipping routes in the world: the fierce sailing conditions prevalent in the Southern Ocean generally; the geography of the passage south of the Horn; and the extreme southern latitude of the Horn, at 56° south. (For comparison, Cape Agulhas at the southern tip of Africa is at 35° south; Stewart Island/Rakiura at the south end of New Zealand is 47° south.)
The prevailing winds in latitudes below 40° south can blow from west to east around the world almost uninterrupted by land, giving rise to the "roaring forties" and the even more wild "furious fifties" and "screaming sixties". These winds are hazardous enough that ships traveling east would tend to stay in the northern part of the forties (i.e. not far below 40° south latitude); however, rounding Cape Horn requires ships to press south to 56° south latitude, well into the zone of fiercest winds.[18] These winds are exacerbated at the Horn by the funneling effect of the Andes and the Antarctic peninsula, which channel the winds into the relatively narrow Drake Passage.
The strong winds of the Southern Ocean give rise to correspondingly large waves; these waves can attain great height as they roll around the Southern Ocean, free of any interruption from land. At the Horn, however, these waves encounter an area of shallow water to the south of the Horn, which has the effect of making the waves shorter and steeper, greatly increasing the hazard to ships. If the strong eastward current through the Drake Passage encounters an opposing east wind, this can have the effect of further building up the waves.[19] In addition to these "normal" waves, the area west of the Horn is particularly notorious for rogue waves, which can attain heights of up to 30 metres (100 ft).[20]
The prevailing winds and currents create particular problems for vessels trying to round the Horn against them, i.e. from east to west. This was a particularly serious problem for traditional sailing ships, which could make very little headway against the wind at the best of times;[21] modern sailing boats are significantly more efficient to windward and can more reliably make a westward passage of the Horn, as they do in the Global Challenge race.
Ice is a hazard to sailors venturing far below 40° south. Although the ice limit dips south around the horn, icebergs are a significant hazard for vessels in the area. In the South Pacific in February (summer in Southern Hemisphere), icebergs are generally confined to below 50° south; but in August the iceberg hazard can extend north of 40° south. Even in February, the Horn is well below the latitude of the iceberg limit.[22] These hazards have made the Horn notorious as perhaps the most dangerous ship passage in the world; many ships were wrecked, and many sailors died attempting to round the Cape.

To sail a small boat that comes close to what I think of as a game of thirds or for lack of a better term "The Thirds Equation." In this equation I try to be about one third of the working mass and sail power force of the boat I am sailing. This is impossible on a large sailing boat and in being impossible the large sailing boat often takes over at the wrong time dwarfing the ability of the sailor to respond quickly or effectively through the use of body weight as balancing force against hull weight and rig power. For the solo sailor setting up the boat for quick reefing, easy anchoring, etc is critical. IN the waters of southern Chile even this may not be enough as the windage of a large boat in a sudden williwaw can spell trouble.  

Tierra del Fuego is notorious as one of the worlds ship and yacht grave yards.

The Chilean navy is highly tuned in to those who come to their waters in large yachts, whether prepared or not. Many come unaware and often unprepared to counter being blown off anchor or simply blown ashore because of the size boat that are sailing. Dangerous rescues (for navy personnel) ensue and often fuel spills and wreckage follow, not a good thing in such a pristine place. Another of the big changes I noted since I was last there was the declaration of vast national parks throughout the region, a very smart move by the Chilean people. In Punta Arenas John and I met with the Armada Zone Commander, the head of Maritime Security and the head of the Armada's Maritime Environmental Protection wing. They were surprised when I rolled out my small boat plan and pleased with my preparations and the fact I plan to sail engineless, no worry about fuel spills.
The Chilean navy now understands my strategy and concurs with it. I have a few hoops to jump through but now they are known. The spirit of the meeting boiled down to the fact I had come all that way to inform the Armada and through informing them I demonstrated respect for Chile and their navy. The feeling of respect came right back to us at the end of the meeting. The officers we spoke to when asked "Do other sailors wishing to sail their waters come in with an open hand to inform them of plans?" Their answer was no, I was a first.

Here are three examples of almost perfect "thirds" boats:
Photo Aquamuse, Japan...........this was a ripping great January sail in Japan, cold and windy!  

Photo Hugh Horton- I am sailing aboard his Bufflehead
Sailing my canoe Sylph off Nan Madol, Pohnpei Micronesia. Shallow water, strong breeze.

In these photos the thirds theory is apparent. My weight, the weight of the hull and the force of the sail rig are in a sort of balance meaning I can kinetically sail the boat by overpowering both the hull and the sail rig with my 180 pounds of weight. Small boat racers know all about this and the racing rules even address kinetic movements. This rough thirds of weight and power leads to a balancing act, greater stability and most importantly control across the wind range. In a sudden hard blow aboard a SCAMP or other small boat means I can de-power and use my weight to advantage as I think of sailing small as almost wearing the boat, I move and it responds. 

Boats that meet this criteria are also typically able to be hauled up on land by one person, another key benefit of the small boat. One of the down sides is ability to stow enough provisions, exposure and long term comfort. 

The last time I sailed in Tierra del Fuego I sailed using this theory by selecting a Klepper Aerius 1 expedition boat because it met my theory and I was able to man handle it up on to land as needed. However it was very uncomfortable over time and discomfort can lead to bad decision making.

This Round
The boat I have built is in some ways not as ideal as the boats in the photos above given my proclivity to sail in balance with hull and rig but offers other advantages that more than make up for the heavier hull weight. I can still over power the boat in a pinch and therefore keep it upright, under control and moving. It is critical when sailing in heavy air to keep a boat moving and to be its master at all times, much harder to do in a large yacht. The advantages Southern Cross offers for load carrying and comfort are very important. I need a boat capable of carrying provisions for several months and one that offers comfort both while sailing and at anchor. 
SCAMP #6 in a 26-28 knot and gusting higher breeze. I am teaching heavy air technique to a student.

My boat is a highly modified SCAMP. At 11' 11" she is stable, able to be heavily loaded, hauled up on the beach, can stand up to wind and most importantly my body weight becomes "almost" one third of the power/control equation.SCAMP is an excellent boat as designed and the modifications I have made are specific to rough usage and very demanding conditions.

What I Discovered 
February found me in Tierra del Fuego with John Welsford. It had been 28 years since I was last there and much had changed. Punta Arenas is still a charming small city but in the 28 years the population has tripled and as mentioned earlier the town had more than its fair share of designer hikers who had flown in or come buy bus to say they had been there................well that's how it seemed. We met Italians, Germans, Japanese, etc. What had not changed of course was the weather, cold water and even a mile out of Punta Arenas the wilderness and remoteness of the Strait of Magellan and beyond..............well sort of. 

Now there is a ferry that runs between Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams and cruise ships also make there way south from Punta through the Beagle Channel. Punta Arenas is the jump off for the pricey Antarctic cruise ships and this takes place from a very out of place glass hotel complete with small casino. The streets are loaded with small boutique restaurants and shops catering to the tourists on the adventure of a life time who fly in to catch a cruise ship. This isn't Nassau in the Bahamas by any stretch, still its a bit commercial for my taste. That's progress. There was nothing even remotely like this when I last visited. 

Puerto Williams is still a small remote Chilean navy base but is now host to the few neon clad tourists and yachtsmen that manage to make their way there. There are even super expensive excursions out of Puerto Williams for an hour on Cape Horn. I have read that these luxury excursions don't always make the Horn due to rough weather, spend your money for no guarantee. 

So what bearing does all this have on my strategy? Not much other than for the leg south on the Strait of Magellan and partially during the course I follow west into the Southern Ocean I may see occasional ship traffic aside from cargo ships on the Strait. These cruise ships have inflatable boats on board that run tourists in close to the glaciers and so in a very few cases I may be anchored out or sailing under the lens of binoculars. This activity takes place on the western Beagle Channel and I am not headed that way. I will only enter the Beagle east of Puerto Williams late in my planned voyage. Well thats life. 

During my last voyage there I did see one boat other than Argentinean and Chilean gunboats. This was the Pelagic (Skip Novaks charter boat). I ran into them near the glaciers on the Beagle Channel and they were as amazed to see as I was to see them. I was invited aboard and treated to a fine meal and company for a few hours and then off I went. I had rounded Cape Horn by then and the four paying passengers were full of questions and apprehension as in full expedition mode with game faces on they were on their way for an attempt at visiting Cape Horn. I have to say after being alone for so many weeks being invited aboard for a meal and company was quite nice. 

The Plan
My boat in it's crate will arrive in Punta Arenas and after unloading, commissioning and provisioning I plan to move aboard and get out of town. It looks like I may sail south and make camp for some days until I am fully acclimated to the cold weather, to being alone (except for the film crew) and into the routine of life aboard a 12 footer. I want to be in the swing of the small open boat life for several days before I set sail. 

Final shake down sailing will happen during this time south of Punta Arenas along the coast of the Brunswick Peninsula and I may choose to cross the Strait to Porvenir as a final shake down. Once I set sail and am south of the infamous Cape Froward I will head west and will choose one of three routes out into the Southern Ocean. This will be the first real test of how well I have prepared and likely the last time I will see any ship traffic. This will be a true challenge as I will have to beat to weather into the roaring forty winds in order to make my westing. 

Turning the corner to the west at Cape Froward will be an eye opener I am sure as I will have to continue to beat to weather into the same Milky Way Slocum faced, became disoriented and lost in

There are several options for getting west into the Southern Ocean. I may opt to sail north up the western reach of the Strait of Magellan to Canal (channel) Abra or Canal Barbara. I may get lucky and be able to transit the Magdalena Channel to the Cockburn Channel and into the Southern Ocean. There is one other option that is notoriously hazardous for larger sailing vessels (ships are too large to pas through) and this may be the route I end up choosing as being small I may be able to short tack it, this is Canal Arcena.

Cruise ships and yachts who make it west on the Cockburn Channel turn east into the protection of the Beagle Channel and this is where I will continue west and south into the Southwest islands and beyond to explore on my way to False Cape Horn and possibly the Wollastons.

Back To Small
Sailing small aside from allowing me the ability to over power and control my boat under sail also allows me to sail in shallow water, to land where no larger vessel could and to explore tight places where again no larger vessel would dare to go. 

Small Craft Advisor Magazine
The next issue of SCA (the 100th by the way) will feature an article detailing the anatomy of a micro mini yacht, my boat. I am collaborating with a technical artist on a detailed drawing of the boat showing all of its linked systems and features. For anyone interested I suggest this might be the place to truly understand how the boat I have chosen with the modifications I have made might make sense for where I am planning to sail. I do not recommend the modifications I have made be made to other SCAMP's. 


  1. There is one other option that is notoriously hazardous for larger sailing vessels (ships are too large to pas through) and this may be the route I end up choosing as being small I may be able to short tack.....

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