Tue 03/01-2012 Day 127

My helicopter escort, buzzing for an hour around my head at Cape Horn

Pos: here
Loc: Isla Wollaston
Acc: Navy Station
Dist: 72,2 km
Start: 7:00 End: 20:50

Paula made empanadas and fresh bread yesterday night – as there is no bakery and supermarket next door, the wives of the Navy stations do have to be very practical, organized and great cooks! Plus teachers for their children! The supply boat is coming once a month, but the Cape Horn station has the advantage of getting fresh fruit and vegetables from the cruise boats coming in about four times a week. So life for the stomach here is not too bad!

On Monday, a huge cruise boat was passing by, the one where Paula her family once spent a holiday cruise on – this one had 2500 passengers and did (fortunately) not unload all their guests on Isla Hornos for a short visit and invasion in to the souvenir shop, those would simply be too many.

But for today, another cruise boat of the same size of the one arriving on Sunday morning when I also arrived, was expected at 7.30 am.

Navy officer Ivan Cadiz and myself in front of the albatros monument

But I expected to be on my way around Cape Horn by then! I rose at 3.30 am, and the whole family was so nice to get up with me that early! We still wanted to take pictures outside in front of the house and by the albatross monument, which was a perfect morning for this job! The sun rose over the cliffs, which was looking great. Though the sun did not stay all day… 🙁

Sunrise over Isla Hornos on Tuesday, 3rd of January 2012, the day I circumnavigate Cape Horn

Done with the picture session, we carried my gear down the staircase, and I was on the water at 6 am. The wind got already a bit down after midnight, but it was still blowing around 20 knots west. I was a bit worried about the sea state on the south coast, but starting later, meant I would possibly not reach Isla Wollaston tonight, which was my plan.

The "real" Cape Horn is to the right of the monument across the bay

With still around 20 knots west, I surely had to paddle around Isla Hornos anti-clockwise, starting with the sheltered north coast, and then reaching the west cape -y gut feeling said this was the worst of all three capes of this island, as the sea and wind was hitting it directly.

Approaching the western Cape, I paddled iside the big triangle rock. And yes, seas were quite BIG there soon.

And so it was…turning south, about 4 km the sea behaved like it should at Ilsa Hornos – about 3-4 m swell, plus the reflecting water from the steep and rugged cliffs, which created a soup really not for beginners. But with some concentration, it actually went rather up and down than it was really dangerously breaking – seasickness water -…but there was unfortunately no chance to take the hand off the paddle to snap a few pictures, or even barely to take the eye off the waves coming from south west.. I started the paddle already with PFD and being hooked to my kayak, so all precautions were taken to play it safe.

Cape Horn...regarding the rock formations, it looks basically just like another cape

The cliff scenery was really spectacular, with high steep peaked mountains! There were about three single conical ones, and I dared to paddle inside the two bigger ones, where the gap seemed clean and a bit sheltered. Just so…then, there came an area of very spectacular smaller, but needle shape high rocks – I barely could take a quick glance to enjoy, never mind pictures…but oh well, paddling safely was more important! I even refused myself on my start to put my small video camera on deck, as it would be distracting me…but now I felt sorry for missing that!

Being eventually successfully done with that western cape, all well, I reached the crossing of a deep bay, which became a tad bit less choppy, as the reflected waves from the steep cliffs were missing. None the less, the water was still quite big, and relaxing was not in reach yet!

At some point, I spotted a big sail on the horizon, and knew this must be the Russian Scorpius yacht, cruising around the Horn today as well. But how little they see from that distance, and how little difference in water conditions they probably feel…

I spotted also something like a big buoy close to the sail, but then I realized this was also a ship – the Chilean Navy couldn’t help but sending another honorable escort for me! I didn’t know, Ivan from Cape Horn Navy didn’t tell me when I left…and – actually, the most dangerous water was already behind me, I assumed, just in case I would have gotten into trouble there, I doubt their rescue zodiac boat would have fared better… But it was nice they cared.

Once they came near, I radioed to them that I saw them and that I was doing well, but they had to stay far offshore anyway, as the south coast of Isla Hornos is dotted with single dangerous cliffs quite far out.

Coming closer to the “real” Cape Horn”, the southern cape of Isla Hornos, suddenly a helicopter came up to me – big honorable Navy escort today! 🙂 The chopper pilot obviously had fun on his mission, and stayed with me for over an hour, buzzing quite close over my head! I waved quite often at them with one hand, but the other one needed to stay on my paddle, and my eyes stayed constantly on the offshore water where the waves came from.

I was hoping they had at least a TV crew inside, but I doubted that…hopefully they took some nice pictures! To be honest, the helicopter was quite a distraction, but I’m used to concentrating on my mission – paddling safely around Cape Horn.

The south Cape, “Cabo Hornos” became a bit more rough again, but not as much as the west cape, as the wind was giving me a bit of a push. But I felt some current going against me, which I had with me on the calm north coast. So the overall speed was moderate.

The helicopter with Commander Arellano, briefly landing at the Cape Horn light house

The chopper stayed, with a brief stop at the southern light house, the navy boat was out of sight – was the chopper’s job to instantly alert the boat to launch a zodiac in case I was swimming? Chances were again, if I was swimming, the guys in the zodiac may be too…

I felt rather within my comfort zone all day, but the south coast is really not a beginner’s or intermediate paddler’s place, at least not after a few day’s strong wind. And I really don’t know how many *low* wind days are here in a row, to even calm the south coast down a bit…

Second self-portrait across Cape Horn - not really relaxed either...

Once the “real” Cape Horn was behind me, I was in the relatively calm bay south of the Navy house, and could wave up to Paula to their kitchen window – if she’d not be busy with the cruise tourists in the souvenir shop this morning. It was a beautiful feeling, to see the house from the same view I had out of my bedroom window the last day, and the albatross monument form the other side, too!

Now last was the east cape, with a few rocks to navigate, but this was a walk in the park…

The albatros monument and eastern light house with the Navy station from the southern water side

People who may be telling me “I paddled Cape Horn”, I’ll ask the following: Did you just paddle *to* Isla Hornos, and not fully around? What wind and sea state? Did you paddle to the “real” Cape Horn around the east cape, and then back? Did you paddle around the full island? And did you paddle from Puerto Williams all by yourself, and back? There are a lot of possibilities to “make” Cape Horn :-)) – or just to jump off a cruise boat, walk up the staircase, and to proudly wear a Cape Horn t-shirt…

Probably, if there was a golden earring to earn for having circumnavigated Cape Horn solo in a kayak in the tough way, I may have deserved it…without having paddled 60 knots winds and 4 meters rough seas it doesn’t count! :-))

Approaching the "Le Boreal"

I paddled the few meters back to the landing cove, where another, even bigger cruise boat was busy unloading people, the “Le Boreal”. It was a modern newly designed cruises boat, and most impressive I found the two bundles of shiny exhaust pipes on the roof. They were looking like oversized organ pipes, and would have won any competition of styled Harley Davidson’s  🙂

A beauty of a cruise boat! And then the exhaust pipes on the roof...

But I actually just wanted a bit of shelter from the still 15-20 knots west wind for eventually having my breakfast and a pee…hard to pee when constantly zodiacs with shed loads of tourists are passing by you…I retreated into the kelp beds for doing those jobs…

Cruise boat "Le Boreal", please note the exhaust organ pipes on the roof!

I called Ivan on the radio I am back all right, and will cross now to Isla Herschel, and keep on going to Isla Wollaston.

Now the Navy boat stayed with me all the rest of the day, and the chopper flew on last good bye close over my head. The boat stayed decently in the background or far to the side of me (thank goodness…), but this last section was calm as a millpond, with low wind as forecast, and their job felt those long calm hours quite a bit surplus…but oh well…I haven’t ordered them to be there!

1603, my watch dog for thr crossing back to Isla Navarino

At some time, twice they launched the zodiac to have a quick chat with me about my plans (the plans were fixed this morning, and the weather didn’t change), and probably to practice launching…be glad guys, you were not to be seriously on duty with a rescue on the south coast! It would have been wet…the water looks different close to the rocks where kayaks paddle…Their order was to escort me safely to the Navy station at Isla Wollaston, and so they did. Thanks!

At some point, I asked them if they’d be ready for a night shift to cross over as well tonight, as the wind would stay calm at least until midnight, but eventually I was glad to call it a day, and not to paddle another 30 km, though I could have…but it was not allowed to. No problem…

I saw the Navy station form the distance already, a white house on a cliffy headland. Turning around the land spit on the north shore of Caleta Middle, I landed on a rocky beach through lots of kelp. Christian, and his son Christian, greeted me at the shore, and helped me to carry my bags up the wooden walk way, which was just in repair after some long years of use. So careful walking was required…

At the house, his wife Pamela and the other son Sebastian, plus the tiny young cat “Kitty” greeted me warmly as well! I stepped into a friendly warm home, smelling like freshly baked goodies – yummy!

This Navy house was not as new and modern as the one at Cape Horn, but clean and functional, and felt like a “real home” as well in those wet, chilly and soon windy again times out there! Thanks to Christian, Pamela and his family for hosting me!

It is always a pleasure to have a hot shower after a long and wet day, and to sit at a nicely laid family table, enjoying food I haven’t had for a long time, or even never in my life. Pamela made a great lemon pie which as so delicious I’d need to take the recipe home!

We checked the wind forecast for the next days, tomorrow is a no-paddling day. Thursday’s wind may be low enough with it’s beautiful south west direction, when I want to go north east. Or Friday is lower wind in general…but it may change…

I’d have to call Puerto Williams again, as the Navy likes again to send me an escort boat for the crossing. Thanks for that honorable service!

25 comments on “Tue 03/01-2012 Day 127

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What an awesome story!! Never mind that there are no pictures, the description is good and we shan’t make you do it again. You totally earned that gold earring 🙂


Freya, you’re truly an inspiration. “Amazing” is a word that doesn’t begin to describe you.

For everyone else, particularly those of you with motorized vehicles such as helicopters and boats that want to get a close-up view – Please be careful not to get too close! It’s hard enough to kayak in rough seas with 20km+ winds, but it makes it vastly harder when you’re fighting downwash from helicopter blades or a cross-wake from a passing boat. I’m sure everyone means well, just be aware of the effect you may unintentionally have on her progress.

Jacques van der Meer

Dear Freya, I am flabbergasted after discovering your beautiful blog. (I read about you in a dutch newspaper) Thank you for sharing your breathtaking life with us, keep the continent on your right and please take care!

Meike Michalik

Freue mich zu hören, dass es dir gut geht.Freya, du hast es mal wieder toll gemeistert. Toll, das die chilenische Marine so gut auf dich aufpasst. Hoffe, dass das Wetter freundlich gestimmt ist damit du bald wieder gut in Ushuaia ankommst. Bewundere dich 🙂

un saludos a la marina chilena que cuidan tan bien a Freya. Muchas gracias por la hospitalidad y la ayuda. Paula, las empanadas tambien me hubieran gustado a mi 🙂


Bravo Zulu. You’ve now got the bragging rights! I admire your mental discipline in trying conditions.

Ragnar Midtskogen

Congratulations Freya, I knew you could not resist going around Isla Hornos. A subconcious typo: “we carried my fear down the staircase” (:-)). BTW, fear is a good thing, it keeps you sharp. The key is to handle the fear, which you obviously do.

Frances Price

You paint such mental images, Freya, and I thank you. I found a website yesterday, which shows those western rock formations you describe here, so there was no need to worry about letting go of your paddle. Glad for this new shelter and good food for you. Amused at your escort; if they had launched a rescue, you may have had to try to rescue them, lol!

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