Saturday, November 10,
Bright and sunny, wind 30-40 knots. Here we hove-to in the middle of no place. The wind is dead ahead and blowing hard with large seas. We put up the staysail, backed to weather with a chunk of mizzen, and here we sit very comfortably. It looks like we are making 2 knots leeway, but happily.
For the next five days, Palawan VI encountered a variety of conditions, from variable, shifting winds, to a lot of motoring. They arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay on Thursday, November 15 at 1130. For several days the crew tended to the boat, took some R and R, and toured the capital city. They provisioned and used Watson’s IBM connections to speed up the visa-application process, reducing the red-tape affair from five days to 12 hours. The day before Thanksgiving they set out for Puerto Madryn, Argentina, the gateway to the wildlife sanctuary on Peninsula Valdés, arriving five days later. The weather along the way was wet and chilly, sprinkled with a few squalls, including 60-knot winds.
Wednesday, November 28,
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
We took on water, but it is impossible for us to get fuel here. Tom and Ben went ashore for groceries, but no beer. We have eight cases left, so I guess we’ll make it for a few days. I got up around 0500 for a personal drain on deck. While up there, I heard what sounded like a rifle shot, maybe a .22. I looked around, but didn’t see anyone blasting at us, so I went back to bed. About a half hour later, Tom got us all up with the news that the dinghy was sinking. So we hauled her aboard to find a small hole in the portside tube, out of the same, and into the starboard tube, and out of the same. No question, we were shot. Later we found a dent in the outboard also. I guess someone didn’t care for Yankees. However when we moved into the dock, they were very helpful.
On the way to the Strait of Magellan, the weather and conditions began to live up to their harsh notoriety with squalls producing winds of 60 knots. The passage consisted of heaving-to, motoring, and sailing hard on it, and the first rig failure when a U-bolt that secures the main sheet to the boom gave up. The crew shook it off and continued toward Cape Horn. Although Watson made sure he took a picture and sent it to Ted Hood, the noted yacht designer as well as the engineer of the spar system on board.
Wednesday, December 5
Headed for the Horn
We made it safely through the Strait and headed for the Cape. We have been motor sailing all day into 30 to 50 knots with hard snow squalls mixed with hail. It is now 2000 and Cape Horn is about five miles ahead. Still blowing a good 30 to 40, big Pacific swells whacking into us. We have the Horn abeam at 2115! We hove-to so we could take pictures.
The Chilean Navy contacted us on the VHF and was very friendly and helpful, even if a bit confused by our action. “You are there to look at the Horn?” they asked.
After rounding Cape Horn, a monumental occasion for any sailor, Palawan VI’s bow headed toward Porto Torro, the southernmost town in the world. The next leg took them through the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia, Argentina.
Saturday, December 8,
Tied up at 1400, the trip is over with 7,638 nautical miles behind us.
And with the same matter-of-fact approach that these intrepid sailors embraced this voyage, Jesse Bontecou signed off Palawan VI’s log, and settled in for a long journey home. Watson continued his adventures on Palawan VI, and later built Palawan VII, a Little Harbor 75. He was a recipient of the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal, having sailed farther up the Northern coast of Greenland than any non-military ship had done at the time. He actively sailed until his death in 1993 at the age of 79.
Jesse Bontecou enjoyed a few other adventures with Watson, but also actively sails his Concordia Yawl, Harrier, that he purchased from C. Raymond Hunt in 1956. He currently lives in Millbrook, New York.
The yacht log of sailor Jesse Bontecou brings to life the journey of venerable sailor and businessman Tom Watson, JR., and crew from Portugal, around Cape Horn, to Argentina.