Jerry's Cruising Poems

Around the Horn Alone in “Sailors Run”

Jeff sailed around Cape Horn alone! His story should be told
By people everywhere who love adventures big and bold.
There still are sailors brave enough to dare the toughest test.
Here's how another joined the ranks of those we call “The Best:”

The “Sailors Run” is a Baba ketch, a sturdy cruising boat
Which Jeff and Debbie sailed for years – their lives a dream afloat.
He started living one more dream, to round the greatest Cape,
On December the eleventh of two thousand and eight.

He dropped his Callao, Peru lines with happy heart, all smiles,
Dodged hundreds of small fishing boats the first 200 miles,
Took only twenty-minute naps, re-stowed fresh food and cans,
Close-hauled on port tack smoothly sailed southwest away from land.

Away from boats he felt more safe, two hours he dared to sleep
While wind vane held the boat on course and radar watch did keep.
The SSB gave weather-fax, GRIB files and emails too.
Rough weather was a main concern. What would be coming through?

On days with light and fluky winds he readied for hard blows.
He battened down the hatches, stowed the Bimini below.
A fickle wind at 2am fouled genoa and sheets -
The mess was dark and dangerous - with care he made things neat.

The mainsail got a second reef in day ten's stronger squalls.
The furling line had to be fixed, so to the bow he crawled.
With tether helping hold him on for three cold plunging hours
In ten-foot waves he did the job, then coffee and hot shower.

Reports were sent every three days by Sailmail to his friends.
He rationed beers to one-a-day and hoped they'd last 'till end.
A high came through with wind so light he motored for a while.
On day 15 from boat to Horn was sixteen hundred miles.

On Christmas Day he was alone, a long ways out at sea,
But found the present Debbie hid - a good music CD.
The wind gods had a present too - the wind switched to southwest.
He tacked to aim straight at the Horn, put harness on his chest.

The roaring forties greeted him with winds that were so light
That sailing with a spinnaker seemed perfectly all right.
Great Albatross and fog and cold were now the daily norm.
He thought about old Indian tricks to keep both dry and warm.

The weather called for reefs again at 45 degrees
And “Sailors Run” began to buck in crazy confused seas.
So cold he wore two pairs of socks, wool sweaters and long-johns,
And looked for ice and penguins too. His motto was “Hold On!”

Day 22 was really rough. He took down all the main
In 45 knot winds which broke an eye off the wind vane.
With autopilot steering now in weather named “Whoop Ass”
He thought about the Vendee Globe whose boats would soon go past.

In 20-foot tall haystack seas the 30 knot winds wailed.
He kept a crashing six knot pace with just a reefed staysail.
A forecast storm just missed the boat, relieving some concern.
He jury-rigged the wind vane hanging head-first o'er the stern.

At 51 degrees there's light for 20 hours per day,
“Thank God” the darkness was not more for those who sailed this way.
The “Furious Fifties” must be fought for 700 miles.
Day 25 “the sailing's great!” Perhaps Jeff cracked a smile?

The squalls got worse, to 50 knots, it was a nasty ride,
Big waves broke often on the boat, some water got inside.
Jeff's GPS tore from its mount - continuing to work!
But he was thrown onto the stove and “Ow!” his hand was hurt!

Now at the Horn there is a gale 300 days per year.
Expect strong winds and giant waves or stay away from here!
A racing boat broke off its keel! Jeff was too far away.
Another boat turned from the race, and rescue went okay.

Day 28 the wind vane broke, and staysail shackle too.
A little genny was unfurled, but (gybing) it ripped through.
Bare poles propelled the battered boat while tired Jeff hung on.
A furious gale of 50 knots kept howling 'till the dawn.

It stopped at last, and for two days light winds blew many ways.
The sails were changed to match the winds quite often in those days.
The engine wiring caught on fire, but that was quickly killed.
Jeff reached Cape Horn 1/9/09, his wildest dream fulfilled.

Since Shouten and LeMaire passed by four hundred years ago
Naming this cape for their home town, its legends only grow.
Big clipper ships with clouds of sail dashed past in olden days,
But very few alone in yachts have dared to sail this way.

His celebration was quite short, there still was far to go,
But Jeff's emotions must have been the highest he could know.
He turned to north a happy man, though bruised and cold and battered.
There was no time to rest for he must fix some things which mattered.

Up mizzen, wind-gen blades he broke. It worked when all did match.
Genoa taken off, he made a triple-layer patch.
A finger badly jammed in gybe was nearly cut in two.
Peroxide and a bandage helped, but it was painful too.

Genoa back on furler, slow and tough work in a breeze.
Then up the mainmast, swinging 'round, a halyard he retrieved.
This was a rugged workout with great danger to the man
But now his boat was ready for the sea's next stern demands.

He left the Falklands just to port but fog hid them from view.
He fished and caught an albatross not wanted in his stew.
Too rough for diesel heating, he was cold and tossed around,
And thankful to Bob Perry who made Baba boats so sound.

For most of two days 50 knots of wind made him heave to.
A big wave broke the wind vane mount, so for this trip 'twas through.
When winds were less the sails went up to bash away the miles.
It was a beat, foul current too, without a lot of smiles.

While emails came full of “Congrats!” to him still far from land,
He thanked his mentor Clarence Plotts - great sailor, honest man.
He now was nearly out of beer - just wanted to arrive -
But strong headwinds for three long days left him with bleary eyes.

Day 45 the wind just quit. The motor ran, then seized!
The estuary must be sailed. For that he needed breeze.
In the Rio de la Plata the boat's CQR was dropped.
The anchorage was lousy but the wind had truly stopped.

He fell into exhausted sleep. Six hours he snoozed away,
But woke to find strong rising wind - he must get underway!
No motor meant he couldn't raise the anchor and its chain.
He slipped them (buoyed) with feeble hope of seeing them again.

Depth sounder dead, he used lead-line to dodge shoals in the dark.
Dredged channels often were unlit - this sailing was no lark!
Big ships came down the channel fast, and forced him to the side
In darkest night with thirty knots - a wild and scary ride!

Club Argentino in mid-night: Oh No! They'd closed the gate!
He dropped a Danforth, nylon rode, and settled down to wait
Until the launch came out to tow and brought his boat inside
Where “Sailors Run” with mooring lines at last was safely tied.

He broke his hand on that last night. It slowly healed okay.
The ruined engine was replaced, and Debbie came to stay!
They found the anchor and the chain which had been slipped in haste
And “Sailors Run” once more resumed its normal cruising pace.

They dream of crossing new seas now, this boat and tested crew.
Beyond the blue horizon they will make more dreams come true.
When sailors tell romantic tales of roaming far from home,
Remember Jeff and “Sailors Run” - around Cape Horn alone!

This was based on the emails Jeff sent during his voyage. This poem was included in the book Cape Horn Ahead or Behind Forever on My Mind by Jeffrey R. Hartjoy, published by in May 2014 in paperback and for Kindle.