Matt Rutherford Rounds Cape Horn

The solo sailor has passed another landmark on his non-stop journey around the Americas aboard a 27-foot Albin Vega.

Matt Rutherford Cape Horn

Matt Rutherford

Posted on January 5, 2012 by Matt

It’s taken me 208 days and 18,341 miles to get to Cape Horn, but finally I’m here. It’s an honor to be here. I think all blue water sailors dream of rounding the Horn. It’s a special place and it’s a privilege to sail these waters. 208 days is a long time to be cooped up on a 27 foot boat, I can’t even stand up without hitting my head. It’s been a long trip from the top of the planet down to the bottom. Heck, it was a long trip just to get to the place north of Alaska (Point Barrow) where I could finally turn south. I think I had grand tour of the open Pacific. Originally when I left Annapolis I estimated that I would round the Horn on January 16th so I’m 11 days ahead of schedule. I’m also only 1,000 miles from South Georgia (Island). How tempting is that? In 10 days from now I could be on South Georgia, standing next to Shackletons grave toasting “the boss” with my last glass of whiskey. It’s a nice idea but I’ve come too far to stop now. Now I can start thinking about my ultimate destination, the finish line at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and my first landfall in Annapolis.

My friend Simon Edwards did some reconnaissance work and sent me this on the Dec 30th (revised version). “Seas will be in the 15-20 foot range for the rest of today with a large W swell and rough wind wave chop. They will continue in this range into Sat before diminishing some late in the day. They will build back to 15-20 feet for Sun and up to 18-25 feet Mon (the 1st) with large NW swell and rough wind wave chop. It looks like a general but gradual decreasing trend in seas Tue. Waves will increase to 15-20 feet Weds and on Thurs waves will be 12-15 feet near Cape Horn, then higher seas developing after the Horn.” I couldn’t have asked for a much nicer day for rounding the Horn. I have 20 knots out of the SW, partly cloudy skies with spots of blue sky and sunshine. There are tons of squally rain showers but that’s not a big deal. What a beautiful day! It has been an on and off gale since the 27th, but considering where I am the weather has been fairly nice. I was actually becalmed for 10 hours on the 2nd/3rd and when the wind came back it was blew out of the east for eight hours (that’s right, east). I am almost out of diesel so it was slow going for a while. The winds turned west again on the 4th and I did 135 miles in 24 hours. I usually don’t push the boat that hard but this is no place to hang out. I need to move like I’ve got a fire under me. There’s a fine line between pushing the boat hard and pushing the boat too hard. Since I don’t race anyone, most of the time I have the luxury of reefing early and reefing often. Down in the furious fifties it’s prudent that a sailor gets his boat around the Horn and back up north to safe waters ASAP. But you must be careful, down here the wind builds quickly and the gusts are more extreme. Any carelessness is an invitation for a dismasting. It’s rainy, cloudy, windy and cold down here (it was 42 degrees this morning), but after 3,000 miles in the Artic the temperature and moisture is not that bad.

I brought in the New Year in a gale. I was in the mood for some excitement so it was entertaining. Sometimes gales are absolutely annoying but other times they can be good fun. I’m talking about a gale not a full ocean storm; a true storm is never fun. Anyway, I was thinking about wave patterns laying in my sleeping bag when a wave hit that filled my cockpit so full of water that water was pouring down from my companionway hatch into my cabin. I thought it was humorous, as I was just thinking about that right before it happened. I’ve become desensitized. It’s pretty funny to think I’m rounding Cape Horn without a dodger, or any canvas for that matter. My dodger was so badly damaged in the Bering Sea that there is no use trying to fix it. I don’t need a dodger, I have a paintball mask. Between my Paintball mask and my mustang survival suit I look like a heavy weather ninja (Karate chopping waves).

I’ve seen quite a few Albatross lately. They will fly through a gale like its blowing 5 knots. To live down here they must be rather indestructible. They remind me of avian jumbo jets. A week ago I had a small seal playing with my boat for hours. I was 400 miles from land and surprised to see him that far out. I must have seen two hundred seals in the Artic, but they never hung out with me before. The little guy must have been as lonely as I am; I’ve never seen a seal so happy and playful.

If you get the chance pick up a copy of the January issue of Cruising World magazine. An article I wrote back by the Bering straits is their featured article. This is the first time anything I've written has been published. Most of you already know the story and have seen the pictures, but it's still interesting. I would like to thank Mark Pillsbury and the Cruising World staff for giving me this opportunity.

It’s round Cape Horn we all must go, Bring ‘em down; 
Arms all stiff to the ice and snow, Bring ‘em down;
 Oh, rock and roll me over boys, Bring ‘em down; 
And get this damn job over boys, Bring ‘em down.
(19th Century Sea Shanty)

FORTITUDINE VINCIMUS

You can follow Matt's journey as he enters the home stretch at www.solotheamericas.org