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No plain sail

Your career Adventure

Sailing down the east coast of Argentina and around Cape Horn, Beth Harrison raised £900 for RedR through sponsorship from employer Tully De'Ath, family and friends.

Having worked in the construction industry for nearly 20 years, Beth Harrison, a graduate civil engineer and business development manager with Tully De'Ath Consultants in East Sussex, had been long aware of RedR.

'I always hoped I would be able to get involved 'on the ground', being acutely aware from travels around the world how important good infrastructure is for healthy communities.

However, having moved fairly early on in my career into a marketing role, I decided to use the Ice Maiden yacht voyage instead as a positive way of fund raising' (NCE 21 February).

Her e-mails from Argentina show that the venture was every bit a true RedR challenge.

Saturday 9 March 2002 I have run into problems here in the attempt at rounding Cape Horn on Ice Maiden. Departing Puerto Madryn, Argentina on Tuesday 26 February, after a pleasant first days sail heading due south at 5 to 6 knots, we sailed straight into a deepening low.

After interminable hours of thuds and crashes against the hull and the sound of breaking waves on deck, myself and cabin mate Sue are woken for watch at 3.50am. We struggle into our wet weather gear, drawing on sea boots, life jackets and harnesses and waddle up the companionway.

The winds had heightened to 50 knots plus. With one staysail alone, Sue struggled with the helm as we dipped in and out of the rollercoaster sea, slammed frequently by increasingly mounting and breaking waves.

After an hour, we changed places. I try to steer a course of 190¦, steering up and down the wave faces and trying to avoid breaking crests.

The sea has gone an odd colour, that of ancient glaciers, a deep emulsioned turquoise.

White spume whips in lines across its surface. Crests are breaking on the 40-50 foot waves and forming barrel rolls. The sky deepens to dark grey and black as a bank of squalls screams through the rigging. Every minute it seems we are knocked badly by rogue waves hitting the starboard bow. Icy plumes spin into our faces.

Alternately we are lifted in slow motion above the scene and just as eerily dropped down into the deep troughs as the sea forms its own ever changing landscape. Prion and albatross nonchalently skim the waves as if on wing tips and glide through the watery valleys, oblivious to the human concerns on the yacht. It is a frightening but fascinating sea. The decision is made to trail the sea anchor.

The crew are sealed inside the hull for safety, hatches made fast. With the sea anchor, we feel fairly comfortable. But half an hour later, we feel ourselves rising up a steep wave face. We see through the starboard saloon window a crest curl and white water rushes down toward us.

Bang! ! We are very nearly knocked over. A gut-wrenching, sickening moment; luckily, the yacht rights itself.

Once the weather has settled slightly, we find a trailed warp has wound its way around the propeller. We can't use the engine.

With few safe anchorages and entrances on this length of coast, the decision is made to turn back to Puerto Madryn where we can anchor without the engine.

I and two other crew decided to disembark. We have flown to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego and are joining a 20m aluminium French yacht Le Sourire to attempt the Horn, nearly 300km away, over the next six days.

Wednesday 13 March 2002 Latitude: 67 degrees 16.2 minutes West Longitude: 55 degrees 59.2 minutes South Rounded Cape Horn East to West. 12 knots Southerly wind.

Moderate swells.

After a 60 hour wait in an anchorage behind Lennox Island to afford protection from 60 knot headwinds, some 50 miles from Cape Horn, we finally got a 24 hour weather window to make a dash for the Horn. Now back in Puerto William, Chile, to clear tomorrow and make back to Ushuaia, Argentina.

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