Part IV of the “Our Big Bucket Cruise” blog series

By Guest Blogger, Captain Günter

Be careful what ideas you put into your head; they just might come true!

Back in 1998, Lois and I took a basic-training-for-cruisers course—a 1000-mile voyage from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands to American Samoa—on a 47-foot Hallberg-Rassy monohull.  At the time, we were interested in purchasing this brand of yacht, so this course seemed a good fit. Captain John Neal intentionally left Rarotonga in a gale to practice heavy weather sailing and we were both seasick for the first few days. We decided that sailing such a monohull was not for us.

When I discussed our plans to circumnavigate with John, he advised me that I might be too old to do that. (I was 63 at the time and not yet retired.) “A sailboat might be too difficult to handle for you two.  You should look into buying a trawler, like a Nordhavn. Then you could go around Cape Horn in a bathrobe and slippers!”

After returning home, Lois and I drove to a Nordhavn facility in Dana Point. We decided that a motorboat, no matter how convenient, was just not our bag.  We then checked into catamarans and chartered some. By the end of 1999, we had both retired. We had a Catana catamaran built for us in the south of France.  By the fall of 2000, we began our circumnavigation, always staying close to tropical latitudes. And by 2008, I had proven that I was not too old to sail around the world after all.

But one goal remained: to sail around Cape Horn.

Tradition has it that a sailor can wear a gold hoop earring in the ear that faced the Cape when he sailed around. From then on, he is allowed to put one foot up on the table. If he has also sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, he can put both feet on the table. But I already wear a gold anchor earring. And they would not want us to put a foot up on the white tablecloths of the Rotterdam dining room on the 720-foot Veendam. These traditions are not why I wanted to sail around the Horn.


March 24: Captain Frank announces that he intends to circumnavigate the entire island that is called “The Horn” late this afternoon. Lois prepares to go to the Crow’s Nest on the 12th deck to celebrate with 2-for-1 sangrias. She bundles up in her fleece topped with her Pacific Bliss sailing jacket, ready to take photos from the observation deck. “Why aren’t you getting dressed?” she asks.

“I am dressed for the Horn,” I tell her.

As we sail around the Horn, the most dangerous cape in the world, I walk out on the balcony of our veranda deck cabin—in a bathrobe and slippers.

Cape Horn and Drake Passage

Note: As it turned out, the wind was gusting to 100 knots at the southernmost side of the Horn. Captain Frank took the Veendam to the inside, (the north side of the Horn) and then turned the ship around to proceed back through the Beagle Channel and on to Ushuaia. I returned from the frigid observation deck to see the best view of the Horn, after the ship had turned around, right from our balcony! Lois