January 31, 2015
My respect for the captain grows. He saw the weather in the Drake Passage and decided to hold the ship in Ushuaia for several hours, giving us more time in the city. We pulled out at midnight and he went slowly through the rest of the Beagle Passage because the forecast showed improving weather and the Captain wanted to wait for it before heading into the Drake Passage. We keep our drapes open and at around 5:30 this morning we were awakened by a glorious sunrise. We passed Cape Horn at 8 AM, not in the middle of the night as originally scheduled. The cape has taken more than 450 ships and 10,000 lives. There are several rocks around the cape that historically eat ships. There is a memorial on the rock made from the plates of 10 of the ships that foundered. We could make it out at the top of the rock without binoculars, we were that close. Today was ok but I am not sure I would want to be the pilot who jumps onto the pilot boat at Cape Horn.
There is a sailor’s tradition that when you round Cape Horn you can wear a gold earring in your left ear. Suzi brought some cheap clip-ons so we could honor that tradition. Behind my right ear I had a scopolamine patch. This is the first time Suzi and I have used these seasick patches. We put them on as a precaution when the Captain gave us the Drake Passage weather report last night. I don’t think I needed it since mine fell off somewhere and I didn’t notice.
When we got to the cape the weather was windy but good. A sailing yacht was rounding the cape. The Captain got us unusually close to the cape, according to the naturalist on board. We were on the Atlantic side and the swells were coming from the Pacific side. He pivoted the ship so that folks on all sides got a good look and so we could see the cape from different angles. We were topside and outside for this passage, and at times the wind was strong, almost taking my glasses. By the time we were done at the Cape the wind and waves had subsided in Drake Passage somewhat (still 35 knots but…). We are now having an unusually smooth crossing and the captain tells us that the weather will improve, as far as seas go. As far as skies, we will trade or blue skies for clouds and rain. We should be off Palmer Station in Antarctica at about 1:30 on Sunday.
We have three excellent Antarctic interpreters, one on history, one on wildlife and one on the geology and overall ecology.