Sun 01/01-2012 Day 125

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Arriving in the Isla Hornos landing bay, with the first cruise boat of the year, plus the Russian yacht "Scorpius"

Pos: here
Loc: Isla Hornos
Acc: Navy Station
Dist: 11,2 km
Start: 5:05 End: 7:05

After I wrote my update yesterday, the knot in my stomach didn’t really decrease yet by watching the still crashing surf from about four different spots of my asylum beach. It surely decreased, and the open water looked all right , but it was not enough to safely launch from any corner.

– I had basically four choices to launch: The main “beach” with about 20-30 cm diameter rocks, in the furthest deepest corner, had the biggest surf rolling on it. This was the place where I already carried my kayak the day before, just in case I may stumble and fall and break it again…and to have it a bit easier on the launching day.
It was decorated with huge boulders, and had just one narrow straight line to go out. But the few lulls were not safe enough to make it that far out where the still 2-3 m breakers started to roll and crash. If one would have caught me, I’d be crashed as well. It did look different that early Thursday…

– The second choices would be on the very last corner, in a tiny lee of some rocks, where the surf was not rolling in so high. But it was still high enough, to not be safe. Sometimes the surf built on that corner, sometimes not. This corner was not possible to calculate in any way – too dangerous as well. And I’d had to carry my kayak even further over huge boulders and around two rock nose walls.

– The third choice I discovered last night – the southern, very first end of the “beach”, where I really had to climb over huge rocky boulder and around rock walls even more. An enormous balance act with my kayak, and an even longer way. This beach had 20-30 cm boulders as well, and I first thought it was a bit sheltered from the west south west rolling surf. But getting closer, the breakers crashing on it were not much different to my first choice. By the way, I spent the European “New Year’s Eve” just there around our 8 pm, just reconnoitering…

– The last and fourth choice was actually yesterday night after a lot of watching and comparing the different spots my favorite. It was a bit south of my campsite, and had about a meter high slippery boulders on low tide, with a tiny belt of kelp, being a tad bit sheltered behind a huge offshore rock. There was still surf rolling even on that corner, but it seemed to be a bit broken, lower and having more lulls. But yesterday, when a big wave came, it still would wash so high I could not hold my kayak in a reasonable distance position. Still a no go that night, but it gave me the most hope to one day get out of here…I was so convinced to take that spot, that I already yesterday carried one bag of wet gear and paddles away from my kayak and back to my tent…but not fully sure yet, I left the kayak on the first possible launching spot.

Spending almost all evening wandering from one of those corners to the next, watching, I almost forgot to call my boyfriend at 8 pm – Danish New Year…when I called him to say I won’t launch this night, I could barely understand him from all the firework noise in the background…and I was close to tears, remembering our last New Year’s even together.

But when I decided this night would still be a no go, though the seas and wind were all right, I again had to force myself to eat, not to lose too much energy, and to sleep a bit. I read my e-book, until I fell asleep around 9 pm for about an hour, waking at 10.30 pm again to listen to the waves. They sounded less! By now, I could judge their hight by just the sound…
I stuck my head out of my tent, and saw I was right – catching new hope for tomorrow early morning. Somehow the knot in my stomach, tied tight since Tuesday night, loosened up a bit, knowing I’d make it out tomorrow morning.

I now knew the torture would be over soon…and yes, the stay on this beach on this island, though it saved my life on Tuesday night, was a horrible torture!

– First, I didn’t know when I’d be able to launch, after I had to let go that lovely Thursday due to repairing my kayak in low to no wind and rain. I had to household with my resources – food, sat phone batteries, even toilet paper…but the latter was the least worry. I fortunately found a bit larger stream down the beach to refill my water bags, so water was not an issue. Plus I could catch rainwater any time…

– Second, the shocking news of the death of Alejandro on a similar trip weighting heavily on my mind…I had only a few minutes to talk to my boyfriend on the sat phone, having to mourn all the time by myself. And it could have easily caught me as well…

-Third, my kayak, my tent or myself could be hit by a falling rock, or even worse, by a landslide at any time on any spot on this beach.

– Fourth, the constant noise of the crashing, up to 4-5 meter high surf on the coast, was mentally extremely tough, day and night. Knowing one day it had to go down, or no one could get me off here. Even a helicopter may have been in danger, the beach was too narrow, and the prop wash may have blown down rocks or a landslide.

– Fifth, the constant wind ripping on my tent – would it hold up? Thank goodness to a rock solid Hilleberg Staika tent…The worst day was obviously Wednesday, with wind speeds up to 100 knots – yes, you read it right – I checked on the Navy logbook today…and my tent was really marginally sheltered behind a big boulder.

Yes, the legendary infamous Cape Horn wind speeds – I was writing on my update when I eventually had to turn around that Tuesday, 1.1 km short to reach Isla Hornos, I estimated I probably paddled in 30-40 knots – the logbook of the navy said, it was 60 knots at 6 pm, gusting to 80 knots…and I landed at 8.30 pm…and I stayed upright, and landed somehow somewhere…should I be proud I made it through those winds and accordingly rising huge sea states? No, I was rather ashamed I made the mistake to get into it…but yes, I must be somehow eventually after all those km some kind of skillful paddler…and have guardian angels. But I never, never want that experience again…and don’t wish any one to get ever into it.

These high numbers for the wind speed are really shocking…for tonight, the Navy officer said, they expect 130 knots…thank goodness I’m safe and sound.

I woke about every hour last night, checking the time and listening to the surf…at first light, I would be ready to go!
I rose at 3.20 am, my gear was mostly packed already. I stumbled with the first two heavy gear bags to my kayak, as the surf on the first possible launching spot seemed to be all right from the distance.

Arriving there, I went close to the water’s edge, and had to admit to myself this was still not possible to launch from here this morning…disappointing…so loading the two gear bags on my shoulders again, and stumbling back to my tent.

I then walked to the other direction, to launching choice number four, my last night’s favorite, and this was the spot for this morning! Not 100% safe, but maybe 80%, safe enough for to risk it.

So walking to the kayak, loading it on my shoulders, carefully stepping from boulder to boulder with my sandals, already sweating in my dry suit…but I made the estimated 200 m without falling and crashing my kayak or myself. Good. I will just get some bruises again on my shoulder and hip…but thank goodness the epic 18x expedition kayak is still a light weight one, compared to some other kayaks…

The next walk was taking the first two gear bags to the new launching spot, more sweating and balancing…

Then it was time to take my trustworthy refugee, my tent, down. Means, I had to unload about 60 heavy boulders from the flaps and pegs…and to stuff the soaking wet tent into it’s bag. But then it was the last walk with the last two gear bags! My kayak was fully empty, so it were four gear bags this time…and though I had few food left and kept just a little water, it was still heavy…and I was quite exhausted from few sleep, few eating, strained nerves…

I loaded my kayak on big boulders, high enough to not get caught by the highest breaker. But fortunately they break fast on those meter sized rocks with a bit of kelp upfront.

The new worry was to slide the eventually heavy loaded boat over the big boulders to the water’s edge, and to get it afloat, without breaking the bottom or getting crashed by a high washing wave. Luckily, the rocks were very slippery on low tide, good for my kayak, but bad for my feet and legs..

But I was lucky, timed it right, slid the kayak in a reasonable flat line over the tip of the rocks, got just a tiny wash into the cockpit, jumped on and in, and paddled away, out of the danger zone…I was OUT! In one piece, myself and my kayak…

Now 11 km across to Isla Hornos – the water was almost calm, just a swell of 2 m running. The wind was this morning about 18-20 knots north west, and it was supposed to stay like that at least until noon…but who knows??? I paddled as fast as I could, but noticed, I was quite worn…two hours, that was all I needed…and I was on the water at 5 am.

I could have headed to Isla Hershel only, in the gap between the island’s shelter, but I decided the weather window was safe enough this time…

Plus I saw a huge cruise boat coming just out of this gap, heading to unload their passengers it Isla Hornos. Plus I saw a sailboat anchoring in the landing bay of Isla Hornos…would they have sent out a zodiac, just in case???

But the water and wind stayed like it was on launching, and I took two endless long hours to paddle the 11 km across. Though I was aiming probably 10-15 degrees against the wind off course, I lost 10 degrees on my bearing due to the north west wind…the pictures of  Tuesday came back into my mind, but I felt this chance was safe enough.

The cruise boat "Via Australis" was arriving with me together at Isla Hornos at New Year's morning
Shooting each other off with the zodiac captain of the "Via Australias"

I arrived just the same time as the huge cruise boat was spitting out about 5 or 6 zodiacs, ferrying back and forth about 130 cruise boat passengers, all dressed in bright orange life jackets, to the landing.

The "Scorpius" in front of the albatros monument
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I was knocking at the "door" of the "Scorpius" with no success on New Year's morning...too much vodka last night...

The sailboat was the big Russian “Scorpius” I met already in Puerto Williams.They were still all fast asleep, though I called them on the radio on passing it…too much vodka on New Year’s eve, eh?? They plan to circumnavigate Antarctica, taking two months, then head up through Fjordland…maybe see you again in Valparaiso?

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The landing bay at Isla Hornos, with Navy officer Ivan Cadiz

Cape Horn Navy officer Ivan, his wife Paula, son Ivan, daughter Daniela and puppy dig Wuff greeted me on my arrival. I squeezed myself onto the tiny jetty just in the gap after the first zodiac, quickly unloaded, and moved my boat on to a higher ledge of the wooden staircase jetty with the help of Ivan and three zodiac captains. More zodiacs, each loaded with about 15 passengers, were queuing up…

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I quickly squeezed in the line of zodiacs, landig comfortably on the mobile jetty
The first tourist cruise boat of the year, unloading the passangers with zodiacs in the Isla Hornos landing bay
An endless line of about 130 happy tourist are climbing the staircase now

I was sitting there about half an hour beside my kayak, hiding the writing on it actually a bit, still in my dry suit, and just watched the stream of orange ants disembark, climbing the staircase, without taking (fortunately) much notice of me. I was not in the mood to play the camera hero for a shed load of tourists, who paddles around South America, and finally made it to Cape Horn…

I was actually sitting there, with mixed emotions, close to tears again, being eventually safe, soon dry and warm, thinking of my friend Alejandro and his destiny, and thanking god for I eventually made it here in one piece.

I texted briefly to my website I arrived, and reached my boyfriend, son and mother on the sat phone to wish them a happy New Year from Cape Horn…

As soon as all tourists were done climbing up stairs, I took my gear bags, and Ivan escorted me to their beautiful, new house, built around the old Cape Horn light house. The hot shower felt as good as never, and I even could get all my clothes washed!

After Paula was done selling the tourists their Cape Horn souvenirs, she prepared a great breakfast, ad I was digging in heavily…I did step on the bath room scale after my shower – 65 kg… my usual home weight (too heavy!!!) is 77-79 kg…

But this was not all…lunch was a festive New Year’s lunch, with a choice of food I haven’t seen for months…even a fresh crab meat salad as an entrée…when I was eating like a horse, I think I was excused…thanks a lot to Paula!

Before lunch, the crew of the Scorpius came up, and good that I already bought some Cape Horn souvenir clothing, like a fleece jacket, scarf and hat…what the 130 previous tourists haven’t shopped yet, the Russian crew bought… 🙂

Life is good again, I’m staying in a lovely friendly European looking, x-mas decorated house with a very nice Navy family, am well fed close to bursting, and the forecast for Tuesday still looks good…but yes, things change fast here, and sometimes too early…the weather window did close again at 11.30 am here…

If Tuesday stays nice enough to paddle around Isla Hornos, I will do. So far, it says 20-17 knots west going down to almost nothing at night. I will make it to Caleta Middle on Isla Middle, stay there probably one day, and Thursday afternoon, latest Saturday, I may cross over the 30 km to Isla Navarino into the safety of Fjordland again. But again, the weather may change…

32 comments on “Sun 01/01-2012 Day 125

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Avi Glasberg

Dear Freya,
Wow…thanks for sharing all so quickly with us !
Hope to have you in our next year symposium in Terra-Santa Israel.
(we are just about to start this year symposium with Nigel and miss u)
Have a safe journey

Moin Freya,

Alles Gute zum Neuen Jahr und “Hol di senkrecht”.

Gratuliere Dir zu der Punktlandung neujahr am Kap Horn.

Und Viel Erfolg für die Tour Nordwärts – möge der Wind immer mit dir sein und moderat in den Rücken wehen.

Gruß aus dem Norden (aber von dir aus gesehen ist jetzt ja fast alles im Norden)

Steve King

Wonderful job timing your departure from Isla Deceit.
If you ever decide to write an article about how to approach land from a kayak and how to leave land for sea, I would be first in line to read it and then send it to all the kayakers on my list.
In the meantime, I am learning a lot from your postings.
Enjoy the food, the rest, the showers and the the time to repair. You have earned it!

Eric Stanton

Amazing reading!! So glad you made your break at the right time and did not sustain injury to yourself or the Epic in the process. Happy for your healthy recovery meal and shower. I will paddle my Epic in your honor today…..albeit in tranquil Florida waters. Looking forward to your next post.


Freya, congratulations for your succesfull arrival. Your writings are very interesting, and you can share your feelings so good.
Happy you are safe, keep enjoying your trip.

Fritz Borchardt

Liebe Freya, Alles gute aus Punta del Este, Uruguay. Wir folgen mit Freude deinen Blog und paddeln hoer schön in Sommer herum. Mein Patenkind Juani hat heute ca 30Km von der Plaza Brava bis Punta ballena gerudert in 3 Stunden. Das Meer is wie ein Spiegel See…wünschte es würde auch bei dier schön Flat sein wenn du die nächste Strecke kreuzt…
Sende Dir viel Energie und gutes paddeln!

Juani Borchardt

Congrats Freya!!! Happy new year and good luck on the crossing of the cape!!!

Meike Michalik

versuche jetzt etwas zur Ruhe zu kommen. Geniesse, dass du in Sicherheit bist und das Paula dich verwöhnt. Alles Gute

Impresionante!!! Muchas Fuerzas para lo que queda. Mucha Suerte!! Reañmente lo que haces es admirable! Te sigo el relato. Un gran abrazo!!

Jörg Hofferbert

That was one of your sensitive reports and i´m happy to know you in secure.

George Nestojko

Happy New Year Freya!! Very glad you made it safely leaving Isla Deceit. Enjoy you stay in Isla Hornos, thank you for all the updates. Best wishes for a safe passage.


Frances Price

My friends and I went for a New Year’s Day paddle today, a “first” for us. My heart was light, knowing that you are off Deceit Island and now safe at the Horn. You are an amazing woman, Freya. Rest a bit, and allow them to continue to spoil you.

Great writing Freya. Good to hear you are soaking up good company, food & accommodation, a fitting reward after such a tough & dangerous time.

Don Frampton

Happy New Year! Congratulations on your escape from Isla Deceit. I wish you continued success on your return to Puerto Williams and your journey through the fjordlands. I look forward every day to reading your posts.

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