Cape Horn Bound: Land Ho! The journey ends.

Land Ho! The journey ends.

June 16, 2010
38°35.’23.62S 58°25’49.68W

When I came on deck for the 0700 watch on Saturday, I was greeted with a rousing, full-crew chorus of Happy Birthday, which was only the beginning of the birthday love. There was a very special desert after lunch: Banoffee Pie—a graham cracker crumb base, layered with dulce de leche, bananas, whipped cream, and birthday candles—it is entirely responsible for the new bulge around my midriff. There were presents, too! My polar fleece hat from the Classic Malt Cruise had been secretly swiped and adorned with a Falkland Islands penguin patch. And a wood block print by a Falkland Island artist will be especially treasured because its depiction of Stanley clearly features the Globe Tavern, where I spent a memorable afternoon with Rudi and Lara. Thanks to my shipmates, I had a great birthday, and one that’ll always be especially memorable.

The last few days had seemed endless. We were so close to Buenos Aires and yet it seemed like we’d never get there. Bets were in on exactly what time we’d tie up at Yacht Club Argentino. They were supposed to be lightly considered, not figured with the help of the GPS or calculated precisely against currents in the Rio de la Plata, and they ranged from Laura’s estimate of noonish on Monday to Miles’s bet of noonish on Tuesday. Laura was widely scoffed at for her optimism but she nailed it. After a long slog up the wide, muddy brown, and shallow Rio de la Plata, we tied up at the Yacht Club Argentino at about 1100 on June 14. Our four-week, 1500-mile journey was over. I felt a peculiar mixture of elation and sadness. Eleven people sharing 74 feet of space for a month is…a special kind of cozy. I can’t deny that a hot bath and some crisp Egyptian cotton sheets sounded heavenly. And I was awfully excited about seeing my family in Brooklyn. But I was also feeling sentimental and nostalgic about horseback riding on the estancia, the majesty of the Ventisquero Guilcher, rounding the mournful Cabo do Hornos, the penguins at Carcass Islands…all my favorite moments came flooding back. And they were already living in that odd time warp where they seemed, at once, like they’d happened yesterday, and happened a million years ago…

Buenos Aires said Bienvenido with a downpour. The adjustment involved in going from seeing no other ships for the last 1000 miles to being in the heart of a busy metropolis was a wild sensory experience. All the way up the river we'd noted the "smell of land," which to be honest, was more the absence of saltwater to my less refined olfactory senses, than any particular terroir. Once tied alongside the Yacht Club Argentino, we were surrounded by lights, noise, people, pollution…In other words, we were a mighty long way from the Beagle Channel.

That night, we had pizza aboard the boat after sorting out immigration issues, and the corkscrew was back in action after more than a week of rest. But most of us (not to mention any names, Rudi!) hit the hay early, knowing we had a day of boat chores ahead of us. In the morning, we gathered in the saloon and drew lots for assignments. I got lucky, I thought, when I landed the job of the saloon. Every surface was wiped with cleaning spray: under all of the pillows, the walls; the Reflex was vacuumed and wiped; the biscuit locker was completely emptied, cleaned, and restocked (someone had put an open packet of cookies in there—oh, the horror of crumbs!), the floor was vacuumed and washed…Another group took all the foulies on deck and washed them thoroughly, then scrubbed the boat down. Two people labored in the forepeak, where perishables had been stored beneath the sole, close to the icy water (Pelagic Australis doesn't have a refrigerator!). Needless to say, the water temperature had undergone a pretty dramatic change in the last 1000 miles and we had started tossing beef over the side a few days earlier. The pilothouse and galley were scrubbed from top to bottom, the heads and companionways were cleaned until they shined. By mid afternoon, the boat positively sparkled and smelled of lightly floral disinfectants.

So we left the boat as all good sailors do—the way we found it. Then, seabags packed, I said goodbye to my home of the last four weeks, not without a big twinge of sadness. But it was greatly eased by the Egyptian cotton sheets and hot bath.

The whole gang got together last night, one last time. Everyone was showered, dressed in city clothes that hadn't been unfolded in a month. We were very nearly respectable-looking. Vast quantities of exceptional Argentine beef were consumed and lots of vino and cerveza. I got back to the hotel around 4:00 a.m. and I'm about to check out and head home.

What an unforgettable trip. Thanks for coming with me—and look for a full feature story and lots of photos in our August Adventure issue.