Pussycat Cape Horn

Article about the rounding of Cape Horn 1994/95

By Björn Karlin

Below is a rare photograph, taken at the Cape Horn on January 1, 1995 and

published in Yachting World as a very unique picture of 'Pussycat Cape


Sailing round Cape Horn is normally a both extremely difficult and

dangerous task. In the so called normal weather conditions the wind

force is 10 or more (30 m/sec, 55 kn/sec). The relatively narrow Drakes

Strait, between South America and Antarctica raises the wawes 40-50

feet. Rain or snow reduces the visibility to zero. Most of the few yet

living Horn-rounders have actually not seen the Horn.

Cape Horn is a rocky island, two times one mile, at the bottom of the

Patagonian archipelago on the most southern tip of South America. The

picture was taken from the south on the deck of the 49 ft steelketch

s/y Callas. She was crewed by three Swedes, one Finn, three


including the skipper Jorge Trabuchi, and one Chilean pilot. Callas had

sailed from the most southern town in the world, Ushuaia in Argentina.

She sailed first east in the Beagle Canal, of Darwin considered the most

beautiful place in the world, surrounded by glaciers and snowcovered

mountain peaks. Callas entered Chile at the navy base Puerto Williams on

the island of Navarino. She turned south on the Atlantic, rounded the


and returned to Ushuaia. The voyage took seven days.

The weather was mainly normal - stormy, rainy and bitterly cold though

it was in the middle of the summer in the Southern hemisphere - due to

neighboring Antarctica. Twice Callas was violently knocked down by

'williwaws', most feared tornados that suddenly hit you with a black

wall of solid water and wind.

But on arrival at Cape Horn in the afternoon of December 31, 1994, the

New Year´s Eve, the wind and wawes suddenly calmed, the clouds vanished

and revealed the midsummer sun enlightening the deadly ugly Devil´s

Tooth south of the Horn. The permanent screaming from the rigging


'It´s a miracle!' shouted skipper Trabuchi, nervously touching the image

of the Horn-sailors saint, Stella Mares, at the steering wheel. It was

unreal, almost spooky.

Due to the sudden extremely good weather conditions a sailing yacht was,

via radio from the Chilean Navy, for the first time in twenty years

allowed to anchor at Cape Horn, letting the crew ashore and stay over

night. The crew dinghied ashore between strings of thick kelp. They were

met by three young and very lonely Chilean soldiers who guarded the

island in 30 days turnes - and by Cape Horn´s only permanent resident -

a sheepdog named Bovitt, living on a daily penguin.

The soldiers guided the crew on a grand tour of the island, visiting the

old light house, the small Stella Mares-chapel, and the Albatrosmonument

of surviving Horn-rounders. The second photograph is taken at the

Chilean monument of the many drowned sailors. It shows from left Hannu

Olkinuora from Finland, Arne Mårtensson, Björn Karlin and Hasse Olsson

from Sweden. Then the visitors passports were stamped with the famous

and highly desired penguinstamp. Earlier during 1994 Cape Horn had been

visited by 20 persons.

The crew of Callas was invited to spend the New Year´s Eve in the

soldiers tiny hut. Callas could contribute to the New Year-festivities

with resources that are seldom found in the supply of remotely

commanded soldiers, namely a lot of tasty wine and a first class chef

(Senor Carlos). It became a fantastic party, dedicated to peaceful


among a mulitnational group of eleven men and one dog at one of the most

deserted and dangerous places in the world - The World´s End, as it is

called by the locals.

From natural reasons the crew woke up rather late on New Year´s Day

finding it still sunny and calm. The Finn improved his recovery by

jumping into the ice-cold water and swim! The South Americans regarded

him, of course, as perfectly insane being the first human deliberately

swimming at the Horn and surviving it. So, Callas rounded the Cape Horn,

slowly drifting pass it, hardly beating the current, while its crew

experienced emotions that continued to grow inside them long after

returning to, what some people carelessly call civilisation.







































© Arne Mårtensson 2012