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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Encounters on approaching the Cape Horn

I always like to hear first hand account of an encounter with freaque waves. That's not very easy to come by. Here's one that was first published a few months ago by Ashley Ford of the Province just reprinted in canada.com. Granted that it's bordering as an article for a cruise ship advertisement, but the encounter part sounds quite real:

It's the deadliest tip of the world and, as we approach Cape Horn, it bares its fangs.

Howling, savage 40-knot winds, gusting to 50 knots out of the west- northwest kick the sea into a boiling pot of 13-metre waves that pound themselves against our ship.

And while equal to the task, Celebrity Cruise Lines' Infinity and all her 593 feet and 90,000 tonnes shudders, dips and spirals as the mighty southern sea sends out a not-so-gentle message of just who is in command down here.

The ship's master, Captain Dimitrios Kefetzis, calmly breaks in to give the latest navigational report and ends with his usual cheerful "this is the captain . . . out!"

Two hours later, he is on the blower again saying conditions have forced a course change to get into the Magellan Straits. An hour later at dinner we all get a personal message. A rogue wave smashes into us, sending food like missiles through the air -- food all over the place and some passengers literally under the table.

The crew act immediately and it is a case of cuts and bruises, rather than broken bones, smashed glasses and spilled wine -- sob.

Welcome to the most exciting and challenging cruising in the world.

One cannot feel but humbled by the likes of Ferdinand Magellan and Sir Francis Drake who exhibited amazing seamanship as their tiny ships clawed their way through this oft-inhospitable but enchantingly beautiful region.

The author also alluded to something many of us may have felt at one time or another:
Having grown up in the southern seas, "going around the Horn" had long been a personal desire. But advancing age ruled out the thirst to jump on a sailing vessel to do it the real way.
Later on she had this to tell:

Early next morning, we find ourselves deep into the stark but stunning fiord country as our trusty captain gently steers his behemoth amazingly close to the edge of the mighty Skua Glacier. The weather gods are with us and the bleak, early-morning sunshine is just strong enough to highlight the incredible blue ice of the glacier.

As we gently glide out to sea, reality hits and we see why four seasons can be experienced in a minute down here. A savage blast comes from nowhere and the Pacific churns up.

I duck inside only to narrowly avoid being beaned by a flying bottle of gin that was soon accompanied by many other flying bottles as I pass by the liquor store.

The pounding keeps up for hours until the captain changes course and takes us into the Straits of Magellan.

I guess "A savage blast comes from nowhere" can be interpreted as another freaque wave encounter also.

As one who's really "advancing" in age and always in need of Dramamin I think I am contented onland reading about these stories rather than venture the actuality of going around the Horn . Because freaque waves are out there can pop up any time any place, rain or shine, with or without any eye witnesses to account for it.

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