Into the Atlantic

The day after rounding the horn the wind died and left me becalmed. At this point in the trip (due to a general lack of diesel) if there’s no wind then I have no choice but to drift aimlessly. I sat there becalmed for a couple hours, and then I remembered that Don Backe gave me a bottle of champagne for the horn. I was too busy to drink it the day I rounded the horn but since I was going to be becalmed for 12 hours I thought it would be a good time to have a drink. As I sat there thinking about how long it’s been since I had a carbonated beverage an Albatross swam up to the boat and circled St Brendan just a few feet distant for a good 45 minutes. Albatross are too curious to be afraid. After my friend left two dolphins showed up and stayed for a half hour. I never would have guessed that dolphins traveled this far south but there they were. So I spent the evening no more the 60 miles east of the horn drifting around drinking champion and hanging out with the local wildlife. The next morning the wind picked back up slowly out of the west and I was able to sail through the day until I was 10 miles east of staton island, then again the wind died. I got a little sleep and woke up to an incredible site. At this time of year the sun only sets for a couple of hours but even when it has set you can still see some reds and oranges in the sky as the sunset never goes away. So I awoke at 1:30am again drifting aimlessly and stepped out into my cockpit as the sun began to rise. The water was near flat calm and I was surrounded by hundreds of birds of all varieties. I even had a few Magellanic penguins swimming circles around my boat and to top it off a whale appeared less the fifty feet away. It was as if all the local wildlife had come to visit all at once. It was even unusually warm and dry with a distinct fresh smell in the air. I sat in the cockpit and watched one of the most beautiful sunrises ever, surrounded by birds not far from a dramatic desolate island feeling a sense of absolute peace and tranquility. It was one of the most incredible mornings of my entire life. I assure you my words give such beauty no justice. Being that I was in such dangerous waters made it seem that much more unreal. The beauty you will find at the extreme ends of the earth is far greater than any tropical island near the equator. The danger is greater but so is the reward.

There’s a lot to be said about being at the right place at the right time of year. Four years ago before my first single-handed Trans-Atlantic, I spent a great deal of time studying pilot charts for the north Atlantic. I realized that the first two weeks of July had the calmest weather of the year (least amount of gales). So while planning for this trip I thought that the first two weeks of January would be similar in the southern hemisphere. So my good weather was part strategy and part luck. Don’t get me wrong you can get nasty weather by Cape Horn any time of the year. The incredible light winds lasted 5 days which is rather unbelievable. I had mixed feeling about the situation. On one hand I had beautiful blue skies, warm weather and calm gentle seas. On the other hand I was very anxious to head north and get out of the fifties. The bottom line is if there is no wind, theres no wind and St. Brendan gets reduced to a 27 foot piece of flotsam.

So here I sit becalmed and drifting for the fifth day. I just can’t believe these light winds and have begun to find them most irritating. I’m starting to feel like I’m back in the doldrums. This too shall pass and it looks like a gale is around the corner. Better a gale then to be becalmed for a sixth and seventh day. It looks like my trip north is going to be a bit more complicated then I originally hoped. At any rate I will head east northeast now while I still have the westerly winds to 45 south 30 west. The coast of Brazil continues east all the way to 35 west. As I get north the winds will be east and north east, so I need to make my easting now while I can. I’ll just be happy when the wind returns to normal and I can start making good time again. Back in the Atlantic!! again.

20 thoughts on “Into the Atlantic”

  1. I had my morning coffee and oatmeal while reading your report, Matt. Thank you. An inspirational description of your days after rounding the Horn and being visited by all the wildlife. And then that glorious sunrise! I know you said your words didn’t do it justice, but I think they were perfect. Hoping for strong, safe, winds to carry you home.

  2. I’ve enjoyed following your incredible voyage. I’m sure being becalmed for days is not much fun, but at least you can get some sleep in. Speaking of sleep, how have you managed your sleep during the trip. How long do you get to sleep at one time? It seems almost impossible you ever get more than a hour or so at any one time.

  3. Matt, enjoy reading your logs, and about the Horn. When you get back, you may be interested in this DVD about Jesse Martin’s sailing circumnavigation. His trip at the Horn seemed a lot like your experience. I do not think a lot of people realize what you have delt with “out there” and this video shares some of that. Hope you are shooting some video we can see when you get back.

  4. Matt,
    I should also mention Jesse Martin also wrote and excellant book that can also be purchased, believe it is out of print but try searching on internet for a used copy- book is better than the DVD and DVD is great.

  5. Thanks Matt for a really uplifting report. I am imagining all the birds and sea life that visitied you plus the beautiful sunrise all in that wild and remote location. I’m looking forward to seeing the photos, maybe in your book? Hoping the wind picks up really soon Matt.

    Ditto Casey re Jesse Martin’s book, it is excellent.

  6. An inspirational read, well done. Just picked up on your blog and in awe of your trip. Keep safe, thinking of you here in Scotland.

  7. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for the picturesque description of your experience around and northeast of the Horn. Very inspiring to imagine, through your words, what it’s like to be out there in that vast expanse of water, wind (or no wind), with the wonder of wildlife and the solitude of soul. Your spirits seem high with a hint of melancholy.

    Wishing you a safe journey home and wondering how your food supply is sustaining you at this point. God bless.

    Karol Harlan

  8. OMG, Matt, what an absolutely awesome picture you’ve painted for the rest of us to visualize, and experience in a vicarious way, your moments of deep appreciation for the natural beauty and wonder that surrounded you, and that we have right here on our glorious blue marble called “earth”!

    You have managed to transport us through your “perfect description” just as if we were right there on board St. Brendan with you . . . smelling the freshness of the air, feeling the peace and serenity was just as you said . . . incredible . . . and, if somewhat indescribable for it’s sheer beauty, it was definitely palpable!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing this enchanted moment with us . . . it’s also been quite spiritual for me as I truly appreciated the Source of your whole unique experience!!

    You may have felt your words didn’t give it justice, Matt, but it gave us the closest thing most of us will ever have to “being” at that spot on the planet, and would never have been able to experience without your own wonderful way with words!!!

    What a perfect way to start the day!!! Again, thank you, so, so much!!!


    Carol Florida U.S.A.

  9. glad to hear your safe around the horn,the sunrise,the wildlife,must be amazing.hope you get some wind.god speed

  10. A bit of bubbly is well deserved after the trek you’ve made. Simply amazing and inspiring!

    Much love,
    Aunt Betsy

  11. Way to go Matt!! Following your adventure makes me want to go back to sea (I was a merchant marine officer). Thanks for allowing us to participate and look over your shoulder as you make your way back to the Chesapeake Bay! Wishing you fair winds and following seas. Go Matt! Go CRAB!

  12. Better put you paintball helmet on — a bunch of space junk is about to come down possibly near you.
    Best wishes — sail on.

  13. “From 50 south to 50 south you won’t grow fat and lazy boys,
    For the winds that howl around Cape Horn, will surely drive you crazy boys,”

    Matt should be at 50S again today…..another milestone

  14. Matt that sounds like a beautiful morning. I hope by now your winds have picked up and and your making good speed northward. On a completely different subject the Ravens are playing in the AFC title game for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
    Fair winds and following sees

  15. I haven’t been to the high latitudes but your comments about the Albatross remind me how fearless many birds are. I’ve had birds visit that seemed almost tame with no fear of me.

    Safe passage Matt.

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