We all celebrate the New Year in different ways. Someone considers this holiday home and family, someone goes to faraway places for vivid impressions and new emotions. The crew of the circumnavigation expedition of the Tomsk regional branch of the Russian Geographical Society, having broken through the freezing Antarctic winds and stormy waters of the South Atlantic on their trimaran, spent New Year's Eve at the very edge of the earth — Cape Horn!
The head of the expedition Evgeny Kovalevsky shared his impressions about this bright experience with the readers of the RGS website.
"It's unforgettable. This is a rare chance to merge with the greatness of the planet Earth. There are Antarctica, the South Pole near. We are at the epicenter of the key discoveries of mankind, we are in the territory where the Russian circumnavigators Kruzenshtern, Bellingshausen, Lazarev, Lisyansky, Kotsebu, Litke, Golovnin, Wrangel passed. This is the territory that was discovered 200 years ago by Faddey Faddeyevich Bellingshausen. There is a piece of Russia here!" Kovalevsky emphasized.
The Russians started the way to the southernmost point of the American continent on December 30 from the harbor of the Chilean town of Puerto Williams. On the trimaran’s board are Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin, as well as temporary crew members — blogger Oleg Prikhodko from Yekaterinburg and Russian Brazilian Egor Muzileyev with his little dog named Pasoka. Forecasters were not pleased with the forecast — they promised a wind that speed could reach 80 knots in gusts.
“The wind is in the forehead. It is unclear if we will be able to break through or not. We are preparing for this campaign as if for a military breakthrough,” Kovalevsky noted before going to sea.
According to the participants of the expedition, December 30, 2022 was the most exciting day of the whole trip. The trimaran moved westward through the Beagle Channel with a fair wind, then turned south before Picton Island.
“We're going without a storm mainsail. We are afraid of wind gusts. Gusts come here suddenly. The wind strength on gusts reaches from 30 to 40 knots. It's dangerous. Therefore, from the sails, only a piece of a 2.5 m2 staysail. The speed is 5.5 knots," Evgeny Kovalevsky recorded in his diary.
In the afternoon, the crew raised a dagger board on the portside — a retractable fin that prevents the ship from being blown downwind. And immediately there was a loud crack, something burst under the bottom of the trimaran with a loud noise.
“We are trying to look under the net — there is no half of the dagger board. It broke off from the left side, we need to make a new one, but there were no materials or time for this," Kovalevsky explained.
Three hours later, the wind changed direction and blew towards them, stopping the moving towards the destination. It was not possible to get to Cape Horn in one approach, we had to enter the harbor of the southernmost permanent human settlement of the planet — Puerto Toro.
In the local bay, the trimaran was met by the Chilean border guard Jose. He is serving in Puerto Toro and lives there with his wife and two children. The Russians found shelter from the rain, cold and wind in the gym of a local school. Dinner and tea prepared on a gas stove brought from the ship. The crew was waiting for the wind to weaken by night to continue their journey.
The small settlement of Puerto Toro is located on the island of Navarino. From March to December, about 50 fishing vessels catch crabs here. Fishermen keep their tackles in sheds under lock and key. There is a pier where ships dock. On the cape, according to Kovalevsky, there are pillboxes — caves with sandbags. Their embrasures look out over the bay.
By nightfall, the wind really subsided, and the trimaran left the hospitable village on the shore of the bay. Then they had to go on the motor. At about 23:00, a crackling sound was heard again in complete darkness. This time something broke in the engine area. The motor started to jump and moan feverishly.
“We used flashlights — we immediately cut into a giant field of algae. The motor couldn't work — the algae were hard, wounded on the screw. Stas took off the upper part of his clothes, climbed into the icy water with his hands, tried to unravel a monstrous living net," says Kovalevsky.
It turned out that algae entangled not only the motor, but also the rudder of the trimaran. The release process took more than an hour. As soon as Stanislav Berezkin managed to cut the stems around the motor and rudder with a knife, the ship moved on, but then everything repeated.
“Again, the rudder and the engine are absorbed by the green mass. We had been fighting our way through this quagmire in total darkness for more than an hour. Somehow we extricated ourselves by midnight. Stas's hands lost sensitivity — we rub them with whisky," Kovalevsky continues the story.
By 4 o'clock in the morning, the trimaran approached the Wollaston Island group. On the right, the stream was pressing at a speed of about 3 knots, making it difficult to keep the right course. The wind was weak and fair.
“We were going on the staysail, we were not putting the mainsail. At 5 in the morning, the engine exploded with a lion's roar — we drove into an island of algae again," says Kovalevsky.
Rigid stems entangled the screw, damaged the rudder control. The rudder poped up, until 6 in the morning they had to clean the engine from algae and do repairs. The circumnavigators managed to get to Cape Horn only in the morning.
"In anxiety and excitement, we approached the Hornos Island cautiously by 10:00. The famous cape is the cape that causes all navigators a storm of emotions. Cape Horn is one of the iconic symbols of humanity. And on December 31, 2022 we had reached the island from the north side and celebrated the New Year there. That’s cool!” admits Kovalevsky.
But even there, at the cherished goal, difficulties appeared. The crew was trying to moor to a narrow pebble beach. It was necessary to fix the trimaran’s head for the concrete supports of the stairs leading up to the albatross monument. The ship hit by the surf hard back and forth, to the right and to the left. Then it heaped on the rocks, then threw away from the shore. It became clear that it would not be possible to resist the disturbance, as there is a danger of tearing the balloon.
“At the next jerk, the main rope broke from the stern, the stern began to hammer hard against the stones. We decided to move 100 meters away and drift. Filming and celebrating the New Year right on the Hornos Island was transferred to the trimaran. We unmoored, moved 100-150 m away, got the trimaran into a drift. We poured tea into four mugs, cut oranges. We took turns saying what everyone felt at the historic moment. Toasts and congratulations to each other on the holiday sounded. After all, right now, when Chilean time was 11 am, the New Year had come in the east of our country. Hurray! We had been dreaming about this day for a long time. There were no decent words to describe this place where three oceans meet — Atlantic, Pacific and Southern. All Russian circumnavigations of the XIX century took place here. Our expedition “Following the paths of Russian explorers,” came here, said Evgeny Kovalevsky.
From Cape Horn, the RGS circumnavigation went to the Wollaston Islands. From there, after waiting out a strong wind, they returned to Puerto Toro, then to Ushuaia. On January 7, the trimaran sailed through the Beagle Channel toward the Pacific Ocean. The nearest target is Punta Arenas. The 250-300 mile way will take three to six days. We wish good luck to the participants of the expedition!
On July 1, 2021, Siberian travelers Evgeny Kovalevsky and Stanislav Berezkin set off along the route of the first Russian round-the-world expeditions of the 19th century: Ivan Kruzenshtern’s (1803-1806), Yuri Lisyansky’s (1803-1806), Otto Kotzebue’s (1815-1818, 1823-1826), Vasily Golovnin’s (1817-1819), Fedor Litke’s (1826-1829), Faddey Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev’s (1819-1921). The international project of the Tomsk Regional Branch of the Russian Geographical Society "Following the paths of Russian explorers" is dedicated to the 250th birthday anniversary of Krusenstern and the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian sailors. These events for a long time determined Russia's leadership in the development of the oceans and the discovery of new lands. You can learn more about the project and provide all possible assistance in its implementation on the website of the expedition.