19 Cape of Storms

To face the elements is, to be sure, no light matter when the sea is in its grandest mood. You must then know the sea, and know that you know it, and not forget that it was made to be sailed over.

- Capt. Joshua Slocum

Across Islands

My ten-week layover in Natal allowed the southern hemisphere summer to settle in before I set sail for Africa's Cape of Good Hope. The weather, which in this region finds fertile waters for storm formation, was also the main concern of every sailor moored at the international jetty next to the yacht club. As the frequent spring storms gave way to milder summer gales, the dock became busy with crews preparing their boats for the passage around the cape to the Atlantic.

One evening the local yachtsmen invited us visiting sailors to meet at the Point Yacht Club to share strategy on making the passage to Cape Town. Here we heard stories of shipwrecks, sinkings and near disasters recounted by survivors who challenged these waters in the wrong season, with the wrong boat, had bad judgment, or just plain bad luck. John Sowden told us of his first rounding of the cape years earlier when he was caught in a storm offshore. His hands moved up and down like pistons as he described how the sea pumped itself up with storm winds blowing into the opposing current. Yet here he was, back to test the waters again in his little wooden boat.

An experienced local yachtsman informed, and frightened, us further, explaining how the weather pattern here is dominated by a succession of southwesterly gales sweeping up the coast in opposition to the swift-flowing Agulhas Current. Between the southwesters were brief periods of fair northeast winds. Winter storms here brought hurricane force winds creating some of the largest waves in the world, even threatening large, well-found ships. Now, during the two-month height of summer, was our best weather window to make the passage.

The usual strategy for yachts rounding the cape, as laid out by the resident experts, is to sail from one port to the next, ducking inside when each gale is forecast and departing with the next fair wind. The first leg is the longest, 350 miles from Durban to East London along the shelterless “Wild Coast” of Transkei. On the remaining 500 miles to Cape Town, there are five harbors offering refuge, provided you can safely approach shore in possible gale conditions.

The commodore told us about two yachts that sank in a storm during an offshore race the year before. A third yacht was heading inshore to escape the worst seas when it ran out of sea room up against the Wild Coast. Running blindly through the black night, a great wave picked the boat up and deposited it on the top edge of a cliff. The crew then stepped from the deck to shore, barely getting wet. The skipper, who had been asleep in his bunk at the time, was dumped, bruised but largely uninjured, onto the ground when the side of the boat cracked open, or so the story went. They walked to the nearest village to arrange their rescue and later a crane picked up the broken boat, set it on a trailer and returned it to Durban for repairs. Despite the horror stories of their mishaps along the coast, all the local experts agreed on one thing: the port-hopping coastal route was the least dangerous and most logical choice.

Once they had their say, to the bewilderment and disbelief of most of the sailors present, John Sowden pointed out that the coastal route was actually the most dangerous and that he would make his third rounding of the cape as he had his previous passages – nonstop and well offshore. The commodore and his crew countered that shelter must be sought during storms because the seas were unmanageable by small craft. John responded that a well-found small boat, handled with good seamanship and a cool head, could survive most any storm at sea. What it could not survive, he stressed, was being driven ashore by overpowering winds while the skipper is searching for a port of refuge. Leaving us with that last bit of advice, he walked out.

By their nature sailors are an opinionated group, none more so than the solo sailor who is used to getting his way with no dissenting voices. John probably felt there was not one man among us he would trust to advise him on a course across the harbor, let alone around the cape. I was left with the dilemma of whether to follow the advice of an eccentric old salt who survived many solo passages, or to listen to the voices of self-proclaimed expert authority with that all-important “local knowledge.” The lemming effect is powerful to those of uncertain mind. What it comes down to is that certain boats and certain crews are better suited to different tactics.

Cash on hand was getting low as I prepared for departure. I had waited in vain three weeks for my American bank to transfer $500 to a Barclays Bank in Durban. It was supposed to take two days. After numerous queries went unanswered, the Durban bank officer suggested that a third party bank in New York was stalling in order to make a few dollars off the rapidly dropping exchange rate. I couldn't wait any longer and just hoped the $300 I had would be enough to get me back home. That meant foregoing my planned stop in Brazil and staying longer at sea where money is not an issue. At any rate, a lengthy stop in Brazil would put me into the Caribbean during hurricane season, which was an unneeded risk.

The commodore of the yacht club was more worried than I about my vanishing funds and insisted on taking me to the local mega-market where he paid for a trolley filled with exceptionally low-priced food goods for my trip. Perhaps this was in repayment for the week before when he had taken me to see my first cricket test match, an excruciatingly slow game played over several days whose rules and purpose I never quite grasped.

This was the same commodore who some fifteen years earlier had a glass of beer hurled in his face at the bar by Robin Lee Graham, the 18-year-old solo-circumnavigator aboard Dove, who felt the commodore was behind the rumors and comments going around questioning the morals of his visiting live-aboard girlfriend. That was a time and a place when behavior of that sort was unwelcome at this conservative yacht club. According to the commodore, after tossing the beer in his face, Robin ran down the stairs with a gang of angry club members on his heels. They all rolled together into the club's lobby in a tangle of fists, arms and legs. I was surprised that the commodore was still so friendly and accommodating to solo sailors after that experience.

I was now as ready as I ever would be to set sail for the Atlantic. A rising barometer indicated a retreating atmospheric depression, confirmed by a weather bureau forecast for at least twenty-four hours of settled weather, which was the extent of reliable forecasts in this unsettled area. The port authorities proved as serious about documenting my departure as they were my arrival. After traveling to four different offices for various port clearance papers and a final visit aboard by immigration officers, on January 30, my South African friends cast off Atom's mooring lines.

I tacked offshore in light winds threading a course through several ships anchored and waiting to unload their cargo. Once I cleared the dangers near shore the wind settled in the northeast and I took some sleep while I had the chance. I stretched out on the leeward main salon bunk, and with what had become an automatic reflex, reached up and turned on the radar alarm.

This stretch of the African coast is notorious for congested shipping. But as long as a ship was using its radar, I was confident my alarm would detect its pulse and awake me if it approached too closely, in much the same way as motorists use radar detectors to alert them to a speed trap. This time, however, instead of awakening to the alarm's familiar beep tone, I awoke to the deep drone of a ship's engine. Barely a full second later I was on deck watching the black wall of a hull sliding by a few boat lengths away. I could clearly see his radar unit above the bridge was not rotating and told myself from here on I must sleep more lightly and keep a more vigilant watch.

A gradually increasing wind warned of more changes to come. By two o'clock the next morning, I was tying a third reef in the mainsail and hoisting the storm jib from a plunging deck. The disturbed sea whipped up whitecaps that glowed ghost-like in the beam of my flashlight. I knew immediately when we entered the Agulhas Current because the waves stretched out in length and doubled in height. The remainder of the night we set a fast stroke swimming down the coast, making a combined eight knots over bottom with the current's help.

At dawn a round of morning star sights indicated I was well off the Wild Coast somewhere along the Republic of Transkei. From late morning an overcast sky lingered and made the next day's positions all guesswork. In a compromise between John Sowden's advice to stay further offshore and the local experts who said to stay close to shore and run port to port, I steered a compromise route of about twenty to thirty miles offshore. Here I could catch a ride on the axis of the current and safely rest without risk of running ashore in my sleep, yet be close enough, in theory, to get into harbor within a half day if I felt the need.

By afternoon I was becalmed with the barometer pointing ominously to an approaching low. Rows of sullen black clouds swept towards me in wind-torn shreds from the southwest that seemed to scrape the masthead as they passed. The gale arrived all at once in a furious blast of wind and spray. We were deep-reefed and at first I was able to keep Atom mostly on her feet but she began to complain as we fell off the increasingly slab-sided waves. As conditions worsened I turned and ran downwind under storm jib alone. The chaotic waves flung their breaking tops aboard from all sides.

It was painful to think that a mere thirty feet below the water's surface was perfectly calm, and I found myself wishing I were commanding a submarine rather than a small sailboat. My periscope-like view out through the plastic dodger windows showed decks nearly awash, being swept stem to stern with foaming water. Each wire and line of the rigging moaned in the howling wind as I climbed onto the cabin top to secure the mainsail tighter to the boom. Bent over the boom, I looked up to see waves breaking above as we dropped into the troughs, giving me the feeling I was standing on the surface of the sea itself.

Our speed was too great for the sea conditions and I considered dropping the jib to run under bare poles. Too late! While dropping headlong down one flat-sided wave, the wind vane jerked so hard on the tiller that it snapped in two. The boat broached in a sideways slide to the seas. At the same moment, the lee spreader dipped into the sea and a sharp snap signaled a shroud had broken at its lower swaged fitting. Atom rolled with beam broadside to the pounding seas. The tiller stub slammed back and forth as I worked quickly with wrenches to bolt on an emergency tiller.

Since I had added extra masthead rigging in Florida, the mast thankfully stayed intact while I attached bulldog clamps and lashings to hold the broken wire in place. I also felt reassured that I had prepared for heavy weather by strengthening bulkheads and locker seals and reduced the volume of the cockpit footwell by installing storm shutters.

Across IslandsAt midnight the faint glow of a lighthouse confirmed my estimated position and I hove-to on the offshore tack for the remainder of the night. The motion was better with the boat drifting slowly and had the added benefit that I was not losing as many precious miles to windward. I even managed a few moments of near sleep that night as the gale died out.

By morning a gray mountain range revealed itself some five miles away. All day I worked at coaxing and urging Atom to gain sea room against a current pulling me towards the uninhabited shore. Under full sail in light wind we struggled against the different leftover wave trains that intermingled and engulfed each other in a confused pattern, causing Atom to pitch, yaw and roll at the same moment. Again and again, waves broke over the bow and stern at the same time, slowing our slight forward motion until steerage way was lost. Then she rolled, dragging her boom in the sea, slowly building up speed to the next double wave set. As the feeble breeze strengthened it shifted around the compass. The same sea-building power of the wind also lessened the waves as it shifted against them. Vigilant sail trimming eventually allowed me to make progress to a safer distance offshore.

Just after midnight, as I close-reached at three knots, I set the alarm clock for one hour and let the accumulated fatigue and sense of security lull me into deep sleep. I awoke five hours later at dawn feeling refreshed and surprised at my carelessness. It was hard to shake that shore-side habit of sleeping through the night. If an ill wind shift and change of current had caught me during those hours asleep, I'd have become bones for the jackals of the Wild Coast. As luck had it, I was instead carried far offshore during the night. My next two sun sights put me an unexpected fifty miles from land.

The barometer jumped up and a strong easterly wind sent me scurrying on my way southwest. The strengthening winds and fair current combined to push us 180 miles during the next twenty-four hours. The lively roll and flying spray were uncomfortable to be sure. But this was, as they say, a fair-weather gale, with following wind under fair skies and high barometer. Back under storm jib alone, I climbed to the cabin top as the only partly dry spot on deck and enjoyed the view of the sea's friendly fury. Heading in the opposite direction would not be so friendly. I braced myself, standing at the mast, watching the sea puff up its chest and blow us ahead and downward with foaming and hissing water engulfing the stern.

A wandering albatross glided past in the high winds. These denizens of the Southern Ocean are habitual ship-followers and have long been a sign of good omen for mariners plying the empty temperate southern latitudes. The stronger the gale, the more effortless their flight. This albatross viewed me with unconcern as he displayed his superior power and grace, swooping low over the tumbling waters, yet never wetting a wing.

A ship passed less than a mile away. Plowing directly into wind and current, its progress was laboriously slow as it hammered into the seas, sending solid sheets of water high above the bow. We glimpsed each other only when, by chance, we both crested a larger wave simultaneously. Most of the time there was nothing to be seen between us but great walls of water.

Using the sextant was a challenge despite my being as familiar with it as if it were an extension of my own fingers. I needed half my concentration and strength just to keep myself securely on board, with one hand holding and protecting the delicate instrument. If I banged it against something hard it would be out of adjustment, perhaps permanently. As I lifted it to my eye the pressure of the wind gusts caused the instrument to vibrate producing an unclear and bouncing image. To compound the predicament, wind and spray made my eyes water so that after a few seconds I couldn't see clearly. When by intuition I felt I had two reliable sights, the resulting running fix put me well offshore at thirty-five degrees south latitude. We continued running hard for the cape, 180 miles to the west.

With the port of East London lying well behind me I realized that even if I wanted to, it would be too risky to head for any port in these conditions and so proceeded nonstop for Cape Town regardless of vagaries of the weather. Old John Sowden was right, if you sail far enough offshore to be safe, you are too far out to come cowering in at every bit of threatening weather before that weather is already upon you. One of the reasons today's sailors choose ever larger and faster boats is to beat bad weather into port. This tactic is part truth and part illusion. You cannot outrun all storms, nor all your fears.

My hopes of rounding the cape the following day were dashed when the wind dropped and then shifted against me. Again I patiently sat hove-to for a full day drifting about, this way and that, as the wind made its cloying dance around the compass. Winds in these latitudes were particularly vexing after the relatively settled trade wind passages I had become accustomed to on the last two oceans. Yet even these tiresome days provided their distractions. I spent a good portion of each day studying not only the ceaseless flight of the albatross but also swift storm petrels, sooty shearwater, cape gannet and other birds appearing too fragile for this harsh environment. Each day one or another of these inquisitive or exhausted birds perched on Atom's stern rail for a few hours rest.

Another short-lived wind blew in from astern and I resumed my westerly course. The waters turned cold as I entered a region where the icy Benguela Current from the Antarctic regions meets the warm Agulhas Current. The air also turned cold and I dressed in extra layers, reveling in the crisp salt air after over a year of monotonous tropic heat. At night the cold waters put on a spectacular phosphorescent light show. On each breaking wave crest burned a sheet of cold fire. Atom's wake contained uncountable sparkling lights tracing a path to the horizon. The knowledge that this marine version of the firefly was caused by billions of tiny bioluminescent shrimp called meganyctiphanes, rising to the surface to feed at night, did not diminish the endless wonder of the spectacle.

When we were again becalmed, the weather pattern of this region became clearer. A falling barometer precedes a gale from the southwest that backs to south a day or two later. Then the barometer rises as the wind backs further to the east. A few days of variable winds follow until the pattern is repeated with another southwester. If the northeaster blows strong it foretells an equally strong southwester.

For another day I waited in a calm off Africa's southernmost point at Cape Agulhas. Here the two oceans met in a shoving match with me in the middle. In these turbulent waters on the edge of the Benguela Current, a curious seal swam alongside, cocking his whiskered face at me before wandering off to other games.

The fickle breeze scratched cat's paw ripples across the otherwise satin cover of the rolling water and gave a call to action for trimming sails. A small, light, easily driven hull like Atom is just what the solo sailor needs in conditions like this. A big and heavy boat that offers more comfort in a storm is mulishly stubborn in fluky airs and the sailor ends up relying on his engine more than he might want.

By early afternoon I was tacking into a light westerly with a full mainsail and genoa sail that gathered the lightest of winds and drove us forward. Creeping along from one cat's paw to another,Atom lay suspended motionless for minutes at a time until a new puff of air filled the sails and worked its magic. On what I considered the favorable tack, we sailed parallel to a shore of empty sand dunes and scrub brush. Plain as it was, my eyes feasted on the slowly changing scenery of the beach and behind it where a mountain rose into the clouds. Sailing less than a mile offshore, I risked grounding, but the coast seemed to beckon me. I crept in closer yet, until I saw the waters boiling on the reef only a few boat lengths away.

Along this indent in the coast between Quoin Point and Danger Point, I sailed up to the half-submerged wreck of a fishing trawler. It held an alluring fascination for me as I watched the sea heave and pound its fist against the rusted hull, seeming to punish it further for the crime of closing in on a forbidden coast. Beyond the wreck, a Jeep kept pace with me by stopping and starting along the otherwise deserted beach. Finally, the siren's spell was broken when the low sandy paw of Danger Point threatened me with its embrace and I tacked seaward.

As the day's light faded, a fishing boat hosting a cloud of scavenger birds pulled close alongside. Three fishermen leaned over the rail and shouted a hearty greeting to me then changed course and pulled away.

Throughout the night on the Agulhas Bank, Atom tacked into a stiff wind in company with a steady procession of ships running blindly into the night. In the mix as well were clusters of fishing boats out from Hout Bay and Cape Town. The bright lights of the fishing fleet lit up patches of the night near and far like floating Christmas trees reflecting splashes of colored lights on the water. Eventually, in the background, I picked out the flashing light from the long-sought Cape of Good Hope lighthouse.

The morning of my ninth day at sea I sailed within sight of the cape's cliffs where the winds deserted me again. With limp sails under a sunny, cloud-flecked sky, a gentle current pulled me past the rock buttress of the cape. Staring enraptured at the southwest extremity of Africa, thrusting its dark cliffs into the sea, I completely agreed with the old pirate Francis Drake who wrote, “This Cape is the most stately thing and the fairest Cape that we saw in all the circumference of the earth.” And even more fair for the struggle to reach it. For me, passing this cape marked more than a point between oceans. Having put the more dangerous passages behind me, I now had the confidence of knowing I was within reach of my goal, that my voyage could, and would, be completed.

While drifting past the purple-toned mountain range named The Twelve Apostles, I counted off their dozen weathered peaks. Beyond these saintly columns, flat-topped Table Mountain cut a horizontal slice across the sky. As I waited for the wind I knew would return, I used the day to organize gear and prepare for landfall.

During the night I coaxed Atom close to shore and found a light, cool, wind dropping off the mountains to fill our sails. Then, at sunrise, I sailed past a long stone jetty to enter Cape Town's Table Bay, behind which a sprawling city of high-rise buildings and Victorian-style homes stood between mountain and seascape.

At the Royal Cape Yacht Club I was given a guest membership and a spot on the dock to moor Atom for a small fee. At the club I met up with old cruising friends and sailors I'd met in Durban. An atmosphere of relief and satisfaction prevailed among the cruising community at the yacht club. The feared cape passage was behind us and we acted like climbers back at base camp after summiting our Everest. Ahead lay the South Atlantic with its kindly reputation for year-round trade winds. Unlike any other ocean, the tropical zone of the South Atlantic is generally regarded as having never hosted a storm of hurricane strength: a suitable reward for those having had the stuffing knocked out of them along the South African coast.

Within hours of settling Atom into her dock I discovered stowaways. The boat's interior and lockers were crawling with cockroaches regaining their appetite after their miserably rough passage. I had picked up a crew of roaches in New Guinea and though I had never quite succeeded in eradicating them with poisons and cleaning, we had developed a wary détente where they remained mostly hidden during the day. Apparently, another tribe of roaches came aboard in Durban and mated with their New Guinea cousins to produce a super race of roaches. These bold little vermin now began to roam the boat at will, day and night, laying claim to anything in their path. Again I offloaded every item from the boat and scrupulously cleaned out the lockers. Finally, I defeated them with a liberal sprinkling of boric acid powder, which kills them over time, apparently through dehydration and constipation.

During my Cape Town layover, I joined up with the Mountain Club of South Africa for some local mountain climbing. The next Sunday morning about twenty members met at the base of the Twelve Apostles where we prepared to climb to the summit and cross the tabletop of Table Mountain. I had done strenuous climbs on my own before, but had never tried a technical climb where I put my life in the hands of my fellow climbers, their ropes, harnesses and climbing gadgetry. We divided into five smaller teams, each group tackling a different route of more or less difficulty. I joined the beginner's group led by Mike, a rock-hanging veteran, who volunteered to introduce us to basic climbing techniques.

Across IslandsAt the base of Kasteels Buttress, we strapped on our borrowed harnesses and began the first pitch. Mike positioned a man as anchor, or belay, who payed out a line attached to Mike's harness. Mike pulled himself hand-over-hand up the near vertical face, expertly using each crack and dent in the rocks as a finger or toe hold. At strategic locations he stopped to attach a clamp into a crack in the rock through which he threaded his safety line. On his belt he carried five-sided aluminum blocks with wire leaders, called nuts, in several sizes, fitting the appropriate one into cracks in the rock and turning it until it jammed, more or less, securely. He also carried an ingenious gadget of four ratcheting aluminum half-wheels that rolled and locked into the rock cracks. Swinging himself over a narrow ledge far above us, Mike secured himself as top belay, calling down, “Off belay,” to the man on the lower end of the rope.

One by one, we nervously followed him up, trying to remember Mike's exact route and use the same handholds. Firmly anchored to a rock, Mike took up the slack on our lines as we climbed. For me, on my first climb, the thrill is unequaled – heart racing as I cling to a crevice by my fingertips, the toe of my boot jammed into a small crack, while my other hand searches for the next handhold out of sight above me. Even with the safety line, the higher I climb, the more slug-like my progress as I attempt to press myself ever closer to the rock. Once attaining the ledge, I'm rewarded with a rush of relieved satisfaction.

We ascended four of these pitches, resting on ledges at each interval as the other climbers caught up, until we were far up the mountainside and nearly to the summit. A cloud, locally called the “tablecloth” that hung over the edge of Table Mountain all morning, was now dispersing in the afternoon sun. Here the winds blow vertically up or down the mountain. As the wind blew down on us, we paused to observe the progress of the other groups. Across the ravine of Kasteelspoort, I watched five climbers ascend the broken face of Vaulken Buttress. They were on a tricky pitch with an overhanging ledge that looked impassable. “They're on a difficult F rated climb,” Mike told us. “The same one I did last week. It took us nearly an hour to get past that same ledge. A dangerous spot.” Beyond the Vaulken was another group of climbers moving slowly and steadily up Barrier Buttress, looking like a team of assassins scaling a castle wall.

On our final pitch I had trouble locating a grip. The wind tore at me as I hung precariously from a tiny dent in the rock. The cliff face overhung here slightly, making it a constant effort just to hold against gravity. I could see no other hand-hold available. Mike called out there was a slight ledge about three feet above me. To reach it, I would have to let go of my only hold, and with blind faith, quickly stand up from my crouching position and make a desperate grab while falling away from the cliff. If not quick and accurate with my grasp, I'd end up swinging from the rope with feet kicking in the air.

For a moment I hesitated. Looking up I saw Mike silently watching me. He would not coax me further, it was up to me to trust him and make the move. Like a human magnet, I pressed myself against the rock and reached up, catching the promised ledge to stop my backward fall. With this firm handhold I was able to pull myself to the top alongside the others. The man behind me misjudged his grip on the overhang and when he dropped off the wall, he called out, “Coming off!” We pulled up his dead weight on the belaying rope until he was on our ledge.

From atop Kestreels Buttress we sighted along the Twelve Apostles ridge line all the way to the distant cliffs of Cape Point. After rendezvousing with the other climbing groups we split up again and most of the others descended back to the base using a series of rapid rappels on ropes with hand brakes. With two other members of the club, I headed on foot across the top of Table Mountain and descended the other side.

Up close, we found the apparently flat tabletop was not entirely level and held within it a depression named the Valley of the Red Gods. In counterpoint to the bare dirt and rock around its edges, the small valley is bordered by a green pine forest. I was surprised to find this hidden valley crisscrossed by marked footpaths, a stone rest house and a ranger's station. There was even an ancient series of water pools and dams, cut by hand from the stone, to provide water to the city below.

At one edge of the mountain we passed a restaurant and cable car station which brings the mountaintop within reach of anyone who has the fare. Beyond the pine forest, the tabletop held fields of brown scrub brush and rocks punctuated by the striking bright blossoms of the King Protea, South Africa's national flower. By descending the winding Platteklip Gorge, we returned directly into the heart of Cape Town's business district.

Across IslandsSeveral days later back at the yacht club, I met Eric Clapham, a retired English South African, living with his family in Wynberg, a suburb under the shadow of Table Mountain. We struck up a conversation and within minutes we were in Eric's car on the way to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve where a grass fire had recently wiped out all visible life over a third of the park. We drove through extensive fields of scorched earth covered in gray and black ash, charred stumps of bushes and blackened rocks. The park had seen these fires before and the local naturalists expected the veld to recover within ten years. Meanwhile, a troop of baboons ran out onto the road in front of us screaming and grabbing at each other's tails. We parked and waited until the dispute was settled and then motored on. Near the lighthouse at the end of the road, another group of three baboons sat guarding a trash can as if it were their own.

At Cape Point I climbed the stairs to the lighthouse that, only a week before, had dutifully flashed its greeting to me as I drifted past in a calm. On this day a moderate gale blew in from the west, increasing in force as it funneled up the cliffs to the lighthouse. I gripped the circular steel railing and leaned into the fierce wind, thankful that I was not at sea that day. I looked down on the cape's long, rocky point where the sea smashed the coast, sending spray high into the air for the wind to blow back and I could taste the salt on my lips. Gulls tacked in winds alive with the sound of gale-driven surf.

Beyond the shoals offshore a ship rounded the cape, rolling heavily to the sea. Here, where no offshore islands give protection, the cape stands exultant in the embrace of restless surge from two oceans. Between the cape and the Antarctic Continent lie the roiling waters and ice of the Southern Ocean. Away to the northwest, beyond the Cape of Storms, lay the welcoming route home.