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It is mythical—the Everest of Sailing. Wedged between the Roaring Forties and the Screaming Sixties, Cape Horn’s Furious Fifties are the final resting place of hundreds of ships and thousands of souls. It is said to have the worst weather on the planet. YouTube has dozens of videos showing enormous waves, large ships getting battered, small boats burying their bows in green water. Of course, I couldn’t wait to go. So, it was the Cape Horn legend, in particular, that drew me—though I should have remembered that the truly sublime is always less touted.
Arriving in Ushuaia, Argentina, I felt like I had reached the end of the world. But that was before I boarded the tiniest plane I’ve ever seen, (in a life full of puddle jumper flights) with a prepubescent pilot, and flew about 30 miles, 500 feet above the Beagle Channel, to Puerto Williams, Chile. Those were 20 of the most beautiful minutes of my life and the perfect introduction to the journey I’d embarked upon. Snow-dusted mountains over either shoulder; beneath, the dark jade channel that must have looked exactly the same as when Fitzroy and Darwin charted it, nearly 200 years ago…As we approached Puerto Williams, the tiny airstrip’s borders lit up, emblazoned in twinkling greens and reds. A half-hour later, I stood on the dock that lead to the Yacht Club Micalvi—a listing, half-sunk, steel navy vessel...this, I realized, was the end of the world.