Antarctica, Again (1992)

The crew of Cloud Nine makes it through a difficult passage across the Antarctic Circle.

Antarctica Again
Following our second circumnavigation, Cloud Nine returned south and crossed the Antarctic Circle. David Thoreson, John Tepaske, Bill Gilgis, and Dick Clarke were all on board for the eventful passage.David Thoreson

After finishing Cloud Nine's second circumnavigation—a round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina—we hoped to cross the Antarctic Circle, a goal that eluded us in 1988. This time we made it, but it was a difficult passage. At the party, crewmembers David Thoreson, Dick Clarke, John Tepaske, and Bill Gilges reflected on that adventure. John said, "We thought the weather was a little tough when we were down there the first time in 1988, but what we didn't know at that time was that we really were having good weather and didn't know it!"

During the 1992 trip, we saw the sun only once during the three-week passage, and it was cold, with rain, sleet, or snow nearly every day. Our diesel heating system had failed during the nonstop, 6,000-mile passage from Cape Town, South Africa, to Ushuaia, probably from salt water we’d shipped during rough weather. As a result, we were without heat the entire time, with cabin temperatures rarely above 40 F, and we constantly battled condensation. “We were off the wind on our trip south, so it was an easy trip down, although we did see a lot of ice,” recalled Dick. “But coming back, hard on the wind, was really ugly.” We spent three days hove to in scattered ice trying to return from the circle in 35- to 50-knot northeast winds, with gusts to 70 that were reflected off the Antarctic Peninsula. Of all my miles, these were probably the worst conditions I’ve encountered. When the wind finally eased to about 35 knots, we set sail again, although it was still foggy and sleeting.

“It sure is nice to finally be putting up sail in decent sailing conditions for a change,” David remembered saying. But it was a hard bash back across the Drake against the now prevailing northwesterlies, forcing us to heave to again during the night about 60 miles southeast of Cape Horn in very strong winds. However, 12 hours later, we rounded old “Cape Stiff”—one of our crew called it “the world’s most exotic windward mark”—under full sail in a 10-knot breeze!