Thursday, February 24, 2011

Returning from Battle


Since rounding the horn the sailing conditions have been, ummm... different!  After averaging 13 knots from the start in New Zealand to the Horn, in a classic Southern Ocean drag race and experiencing the rounding of a lifetime, the change of pace feels something like I imagine it must feel like coming back from battle to civilization.

At first the quiet was welcome and I tended to many boat a personal chores that had been neglected. Then I had the next awesome chance of a lifetime and slowly tacked my way through the Straits of Le Maire.  The Straits are a channel of water that separates the final little island, that is the extreme tip of South America, and the mainland.  The currents and crazy winds are notorious and getting the chance to go through there is always only a small percentage of likelihood.  It turned out when I got to the mouth that the tides were right, so I went for it.

I had done the same thing downwind during the night my first solo adventure through this area, on Balance Bar, and was really jazzed to see it in the daylight. By the time I shot out the other side and into the green waters of the South Atlantic I had a whopping 4 knots of boatspeed through the water in nearly no wind, but was doing 11 knots over the bottom!  Yikes, if you aren't well set up for that current it could be a very bad day and I can see why there are so many shipwreck icons on the charts of the area.  I might add tourism is alive and well in the Cape Horn area and 2 cruise ships not only graced my presence but broke the virgin wild nature of the moment.

Then after a couple hours of watching the swirling eddies, overfalls and whirlpools of the crazy tides the show was over and I was officially flushed into the Atlantic with as much fallen timber and kelp as I have ever seen.  So as I slowly proceeded and sailed upwind dodging the flotsom the excitement of the whole episode wore off and now I am really ready to get back at it.  Suit me up and throw me back in the battle!

I have cleaned, eaten and slept and want my 13 knot averages back!  Unfortunately it doesn't work that way though and I will be battling all sorts of new weather from upwind to downwind light and moderate (hopefully not too heavy) and ticking the mellower miles off, and dreaming of the very bitchin barbecue the Uruguayans have figured out.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What a 24 Hours


What a 24 hours!  Last night all seemed fine for an approach to the horn with 35 knots of westerly wind.  Then as I approached the shallows the wind filled in to a solid 50 knots which in itself isn't too much and should be fast sailing, but then the seas.  Oh the seas at the Horn have a reputation for a reason and I am thankful I didn't see it in 70 knots like so many have. Some of whom rest in the graveyard of the seas below where LP and I struggled along.  One minute I needed more sail to keep up with the swell that was so steep and short and then at others I would be going too fast and slam into some weird swell from the other direction and feel the boat shudder as the bow went under the swell. 

On 2 occasions the bow felt like someone who was trying to come up for a breath of air desperately and she just couldn't break free until the boat was buried to the mast as the sail plan wanted to keep going and so it did.  Then the stern rose until the rudders got the breath of air the bow needed and let go of the water.  The boat would sit in this tenuous spot for a second although it felt like a year and then would fall on it's side to expose her under belly to the fury of the wave on the surface.  No wonder Derek got rolled in 70 knots trying to get around in 2003!

Then things began to abate as forecast and after a day of gybing to the Islas de Hornos I got the payoff.  I got to pass by the famous outcropping within a few miles at sunset under a mellow 20 knots reaching along with a beautiful southern sky coming and going with the rock bathed in periodic sunshine and even a rainbow.  The picture perfect moment for my 3rd time around the infamous landmark.

Now I am expecting to watch the breeze continue to diminish and by the time I am truly clear and in the South Atlantic on the other side of the Straits of Le Maire I will be parked and if the forecast is accurate patiently waiting for the others to round so we may re-start this leg for the final push.  Ughh! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hello Cape Horn - 3rd Times a Charm

Getting here has been brutal, with conditions last night that really reminded me how unforgiving this place can be. As I was coming up on the shelf the waves were very dangerous. You can hear more in the audio file below, but I will say this is a remarkable feeling. I'm going on deck to enjoy it!

Cheers, Brad

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Be Good to Me Isla de Hornos

I have been working really hard to stay in front of a low pressure system as I make my way to rounding the infamous Cape Horn. It has not been terribly easy, with a ball joint that broke free on my steering system, forcing me to put in several hours of repair. I did take some video of the situation and hopefully you will be able to see that soon at I’m currently about 150 miles from Isla de Hornos, the actual rock, or landmass, I will see if I am lucky enough to get a glimpse of it as I pass through this corridor for the third time in my life. How many people have rounded Cape Horn three times? I have no idea, but I can’t imagine it is many.

My mission has been to stay in front of this weather system so that I continue optimum downwind conditions and also keep the intensity of winds and waves under control. Well, I have accomplished ½ of my mission. I’ve remained in front of the low pressure system, so the wind direction is good, but it is gusting to 50 knots and the waves are huge. I was hoping to hang on to 25-30 knots of breeze, but it is hootin’ out here and I am paying close attention to everything onboard. Le Pingouin is wiping out once in a while and I am just hoping to get through the next 6-8 hours unscathed. It is freezing cold and at times I can’t feel my fingers. Despite the conditions, I have to try my best to be gentle with LP. Preserving this bird that can’t fly, means preserving my own well being and also keeping me in the race.

It is emotional coming upon such a landmark. I really hope I get at least a short visual of The Horn. Right now I can only see about three boat lengths in front of me due to the mist and waves. Although it is very intense right now with the wind amped up and towering waves, I believe it may mellow out a bit by the time I am there. My best guess right now is rounding The Horn in the afternoon or early evening tomorrow, Feb 21.

Thanks for checking in and following the race. If you have not joined the Team Lazarus/Le Pingouin Cape Horn Crew, this is your last chance. In addition to the obvious duties I will be attending to, Meg has supplied me with about three dozen beautiful photos of Le Pingouin and a Sharpie for personal messages as I reach Cape Horn. Check it out at:


Some Background/History (from Wikipedia):

Hornos Island (Spanish: Isla Hornos) is a Chilean island at the southern tip of South America. The island is mostly known for being the location of Cape Horn. It is generally considered South America's southernmost island, but the Diego Ramírez Islands are farther south. The island is one of the Hermite Islands, part of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago.

The Chilean Navy maintains a station on the island, consisting of a residence, utility building, chapel, and lighthouse;[1] A short distance from the main station is a memorial, including a large sculpture featuring the silhouette of an albatross, in honour of the sailors who died while attempting to "round the Horn".[2]

The island is within the Cabo de Hornos National Park.

Mean Temperature: 5.3° Celsius

Maximum Temperature: 20.5° Celsius (February 1996)

Minimum Temperature: -14.5° Celsius (June 1992)

Mean Relative humidity: 86.4 %

Mean Wind Direction: 264°

Mean Wind Speed: 84 knots

Maximum Wind Speed: 119 knots(August 1995)

Rainfall (yearly mean): 697.5 mm.

Maximum Rainfall: 1263.2 (1990)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cape Horn Here I Come

Cape Horn here I come! I’m guessing I am 5-6 days from rounding the nautical summit of Cape Horn. It will be my third time around the horn solo, and it is never the same – a place impossible to predict. There is nothing to stop the winds and waves racing around the bottom of the globe unimpeded by land, until you reach Cape Horn. This is where the vast South Ocean and all of its fury is squeezed into a small corridor between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica. To add to the drama, the sea floor quickly jumps up to be much more shallow. The place is extreme and can be extremely dangerous. It has been called a sailor’s graveyard, because so many boats have gone down. Considering this dramatic but true description, I am of course looking at the weather data very closely in anticipation of the upcoming milestone.

From what I can see right now, it looks like it will be fairly rough and a bit of a challenge. There are three low pressure systems to deal with between now and The Horn. I’m looking closely at one of them, because it is one I should encounter immediately before, during or after the rounding. Ideally I will get there right after that system rolls through. If I had to guess now what conditions will be like on my special day, it looks to be 40 knots of wind that feels more like 50 and 30 foot seas. I’ll try and update that as we get closer to the moment.

What some may not realize is that rounding Cape Horn can be quite spectacular and awesome. For one, the accomplishment is like summiting Mt. Everest for sailors. If you are lucky enough to actually see it (usually masked in fog or too stormy to get the visual) it really does look like a rock sticking out of the bottom of the Earth. I am hoping for that beautiful clear shot, and no surprises. We’ll see.

On the Cape Horn subject, my team has launched an initiative tied to the occasion. It is a fundraising campaign and intended to offer some nice perks to those that get involved. The sponsorship scene has been pretty brutal so we are required to get creative! So while rounding this magnificent corner of the continent, I will have a Sharpie in hand and take some time to write personal notes to some special folks on photos of Le Pingouin. You can learn more about the Cape Horn Crew and how to get involved at

A special thanks goes out to some of the great folks already onboard the Cape Horn Crew, including Don Gearing/AlpineAire Food, Dennis Ledbetter, Charles Duell, Jeffere Van Liew, Ken & Anne King, Dr. Sheri Hunt, Mary Denis Cauthen, and Scott & Tracy Strother. I very much appreciate your support and look forward to sharing some great moments together in Charleston.

Thanks to all for checking in.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Birthday at Sea - 49 South

It is tough trying to decide when to celebrate my 43rd birthday, so now is the time.  A number of days ago I passed over the date line while my family has stayed in New Zealand.  This means that yesterday was my birthday for Meg and the kids, but really as the calendar goes today is my birthday.  So somewhere along the last little space of time I have turned 43 years old and I am shocked to even hear those numbers roll off my lips.  I am happy Neptune has delivered a 25 knot reach as a birthday gift. The last couple days were good mileage but tough on me and the boat.  It was not quite upwind but upwind enough to be very wet and loud with unnerving bangs and groans from the faithful Le Pingouin. The harsh environment and “noise” is especially intense while so far from anywhere. 

I have a couple gifties from Meg and the kids and am looking forward to enjoying them in my new living room.  After complaining about the status of missing bean bag space Meg was able to convince a New Zealand company called Coast ( to outfit Le Pingouin with one of their Marine Bean bags which has been the coolest addition to the boat ever.  We are talking a super bonus comfy bean bag chair or bed depending on the moment.  So much of my downtime and today’s gift opening will be in comfort.  I will report on that and birthday dinner/desert later.

It is really true that the older you get the nature of a birthday truly changes?  As a child it is a joyous time.  I guess when middle aged it is sort of a reality check.   I would guess when older than that it becomes a bit of a celebration again, almost a triumph to get another one in the books. 

All the best from a grey and cold Southern Pacific,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lots of Wind from Tropical Cyclone

February 9, 2011 00:00 UTC

45 degrees 32 minutes South

168 degrees 04 minutes West

16 Knots Speed Over Ground

Hi There,

I’m currently dealing with 40-45 knots of wind from leftover tropical cyclone ZACA. This could have been a very bad weather system, but fortunately it is dissipating quickly. The seas and wind direction is tricky. The rotation created from a tropical system creates an uneven swell from many directions as the system rotates. Also the wind direction is now steadily backing from the North to the Northwest, which will not last long as the winds will diminish in a sloppy and confused sea. It is not comfortable, but manageable.

Best from Le Pingouin,


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bizarre Setting for the Start

Apparently, Kiwis are very into their rugby. In the last 24 hours I think about 50,000 people have descended on Wellington in anticipation of the NZI Sevens Tournament and they are not your normal tourists. Don’t get me wrong, they are spending plenty of money on food, booze and everything else. They just look a bit different.

There is a tradition of Kiwis coming to Wellington in groups and wearing the most outrageous costumes you have ever seen. It is quite impressive. Better than any Halloween I have seen in the States in fact. We have grown men in pink ballerina outfits and so much more. I am sharing a couple photos below just to give you a small peek at the wacky scene happening right now around the docks. As I try and get serious and prep for the Leg 3 journey, it is a huge contrast to have all these people letting loose around me.

The boat is ready and I am ready. My shore crew has worked so hard to make sure of this and I thank them with all my heart. Jeffrey, JC, Tim, Willy, Hannah and all the additional volunteers deserve big kudos for getting the boat prepared with multiple challenges. Wellington has been a spectacular port and the Awards Ceremony last night was the best we have experienced so far. It was a classy event and great to spend a bit more time with my fellow competitors before we dive south in to the Southern Ocean.

The weather is looking good. It should be a very fast transit to Cape Horn with strong winds powering us down there quickly. I am hoping the weather during this leg of the race is more consistent than Leg 2. Right now it looks like more traditional Southern Ocean conditions and I look forward to the fantastic sailing I have seen there before.

What have I packed?

Food: Loads of AlpineAire dehydrated food, Grawnola, coffee from a local company here in NZ, and a small amount of fresh food

Clothes: All my stellar Gill clothing including a new set of foulies that look and feel awesome, Ondeck team gear, Dubary boots, and some cozy New Zealand socks that Meaghan bought me

Technology: Autopilots and instruments from B&G and Simrad, an itouch with music and books, and digital photos on a keychain

Other: A new bean bag from Coast New Zealand which will be my new rest/sleep area on the boat. It is called a Marine Bean.