01 Mar

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Southern Cross Update #5: “Southern Cross” May Be Lost

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Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 10.00.54 AM*Please note we did not get the following information directly from Howard, it was relayed to us through a third-party. As is always the case with these kinds of situations, new information may shed light on details we don’t yet know and some of what is reported might not be completely accurate. Naturally we will add an update as soon as we hear from Howard.

Apparently Howard lost Southern Cross on the rocks Sunday night after a 10-hour sailing stretch where he was, at some point, battling 9-foot seas and winds in excess of 40 knots. Howard tried desperately to save the boat but eventually had to ditch and spent an hour struggling to swim to shore.

As we understand it, his drysuit was damaged during the melee so after huddling for some time on the remote shore he started to feel hypothermia coming on, at which point he made the decision to alert the Chilean Armada of his situation.

The Armada dispatched a boat to effect a rescue and they were able to find Howard, who fired a flare to confirm his location, but the rough weather conditions and rocky bay forced them to stand-off several hours until daylight when they were able to bring him aboard.

We’re told Howard is roughed-up but not seriously injured. He is presently negotiating a way to return to retrieve Southern Cross. As I say, we’ll post and update as soon as we have it—hopefully we will hear directly from Howard. —Josh Colvin

16 Feb

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Southern Cross Report #4

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Just received another sat-phone call from Howard. The first part was clear, but eventually we lost the signal and I didn’t get the last past of his message. What I gathered is that he’d had another challenging day, but he’s anchored finally in a nice, mostly windless cove now. As he was talking to me he was finishing dinner in his cockpit tent, with the back flap open watching penguins splashing around near shore.

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Howard said the trickiest part so far has been the changeable winds, which he says will be blowing steadily at 10 knots then rapidly begin gusting to forty knots or more. He’s had to scramble to quickly reduce sail. Another significant obstacle, though he says he’s learning how to deal with it, is heavy kelp. The other night he arrived in a less than ideal 100-yard wide anchorage and was forced to move locations 8 or 9 times throughout the night—part of which he spent sleeping in his drysuit after dragging anchor close near the lee shore. Sitting awake in the cockpit in the middle of the morning he had to don his headlamp and winch the anchor to break it free while cutting away at kelp with his Spyderco knife. When we spoke he said he’d only slept a single hour of the last 39.

He continues to rave about the boat and her performance. The photo above was sent to me by John Welsford. I believe it was taken from the deck of the S/V Novarra, a research vessel. I’m sure they were more than a little surprised to come across Howard and his SCAMP at the mouth of the Magdalena Channel and Strait of Magellan. Howard says they checked on him asking if he needed anything. He told them he did not. When he responded by asking the crew of the big steel-hulled boat whether they needed anything, everyone had a laugh. —Josh

10 Feb

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Southern Cross Update #3

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Just had a series of broken up sat phone calls from Howard. He had just finished a hot meal under his cockpit tent and is, apparently, anchored in the Isla Jane group. Howard said he ended up rowing some 7 hours straight the previous night as the wind quit entirely and he was in the middle of the Straits of Magellan. After hours of rowing a light breeze came up astern and he decided to raise sail, only to be struck by a williwaw that heeled the boat so far he shipped some water. After that he doused sail and went back to rowing, having to pick his way carefully in the dark. He said the trip has been a real test so far, including a wild ride in 25 knot winds.

We both talked about how amazing it was that a SCAMP has now sailed the Strait of Magellan—who would have thought?
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Tomorrow he plans to take what the weather will give him. —Josh

08 Feb

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Southern Cross Update #2

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Received the following from John Welsford:

Progress report 7 Feb.DebraColvin_20161023_7500

Photo by Debra Colvin from sea trails in Washington.

Howard rang this morning, 4:30 am. I was a bit slow waking and missed the call, but he has sent me his position and track so I can describe where he is and what he’s up to.

He’s sailed across the Straits from just north of Puerto Hambre to Isla Dawson, the big island at the western end of Estrecho de Magellanes, which forms one side of the entrance to the Magdalena Channel. That channel runs south and west out to the Pacific ocean.

I’ve just this moment had a call on the satphone, so good to hear from him. Its about 6 pm there right now, and he’s about to cook a good hot supper.

The passage across from the mainland to Isla Dawson is considered to be one of the more risky crossings on Howards voyage, and he’s done the right thing in waiting in a sheltered spot for an appropriate weather window.

Looking at his track and the weather on the day, he’s had moderate quartering tailwinds most of the way across, conditions about as good as one could wish for. And winds on the beam as he ran down the coast of Isla Dawson to a little harbour on a little island called “Isla San Juan”.

On the way across he encountered two very large whales and “hundreds” of penguins, very interesting wildlife and not a concern. It was brisk sailing most of the way, but once across to Isla Dawson he sat becalmed for a little while, then as the wind picked up again he sailed down the coast to Isla San Juan. This is actually two very small islands with a narrow drying channel between them.

On his way though, a very large bull sea lion took an interest in him, following Southern Cross alongside only a few feet away, then coming up under the boats little boomkin and looking at him. He followed for a good half an hour. After a moment of concern that this creature, which was as long as the boat, was taking such an interest; Howard became intrigued and almost welcoming of the company.

He threaded the needle between the two very small islands known as Isla San Juan in pitch darkness using the GPS and that instinctive feel for the looming land that only comes when there is no engine running. He found a sheltered patch of water and put his anchor down.

When he woke in the morning he found himself in an incredibly beautiful little harbour. There are snow capped mountains all around him, forest, lots of birdlife, and colour. It’s a stunningly beautiful place and he’s captured a lot of video. The harbour is off a narrow channel which in itself reduces any wave action, is only about 120 yards across and 400 yards long. He’s tucked up against the weather shore and pulled up on a very small, stony beach. It’s sheltered from all directions, so he’s decided to rest up for today, make a couple of small repairs to damage on the rudder downhaul caused by running through heavy kelp. He’ll have a really good sleep after an 18 hour day at the helm yesterday, and be ready to be away at first light tomorrow.

One of the aims of this voyage is to explore the remains left by the now extinct indigenous peoples of the area. This would have been the area of the Kawesca peoples, a branch of the Yaghan who moved around their area by canoe, carrying their precious fire with them. Hence the name Tierra del Fuego, “the Land of Fires.”

There are a lot of whalebones and other signs of occupation. The spot where Southern Cross is anchored looks like a very good place for an encampment.

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