From Cape Matxitxako to Cape Horn FRA ESP  

2012 - 2013

Single-handed sailing from the Basque Country to Cape Horn (and a little farther).
Date: October 1, 2012- May 9, 2013
Boat: RM1050,  year 2007, refit 2011.


Leg 1. From Cape Matxitxako To Cape Horn. Single handed, October 1 - December 17, 2012
Start from Zumaia, Basque Country, Spain, ~20nm E from cape Matxitxako.
Stop at La Coruña (Spain). Minor repairs, waiting for tropical storm Nadine.
Stop at Mar del Plata (Argentina): Minor repairs, refuel. Official entrance in Argentina.
Heaving to S of Necochea (Pampero, SW front, winds up to 64 knts).
Heaving to N of Peninsula Valdés (NW front).
Running under storm sail front of Magellan (SW winds from 35 to 54 knts).
Anchoring at Puerto Hoppner, Isla de los Estados, Argentina. (SW winds > 50 knts).
Sailing Estrecho de Le Maire.
Stop at Ushuaia (Argentina). Official exit from Argentina.
Stop at Puerto Williams (Chile). Official entrance in Chile.
Mooring at Puerto Toro (Chile).
Rounding Cape  Horn.

7886 nautical miles
77 days, 58 1/2 at sea, 18 1/2 in ports and anchorages.
La Coruña 5 days, Mar del Plata 4,  Puerto Hoppner 4,
Ushuaia 4, Puerto Williams 1, Puerto Toro 1 night.
Performance ~134.8 nm/day at sea, average speed ~5.6knts.
Engine 379 hours, ~ 16 days ~27% of time
10 days with more engine than sailing.
Heavy weather:
 Winds force 8-9: 5 days
 Winds force 9-10 & more: 2 days
 Heaving-to 2 nights
 Running under storm sail 2 days
 Emergency anchoring 4 days.

More details: enlarge image

Comment. "Going to Cape Horn" from Puerto Williams is far easier than "Passing the Cape Horn" Like the clippers were doing. From Puerto Williams, we select a weather window to avoid dangerous conditions.

Leg 2. Sailing in Patagonian Channels. 2 persons. December 21, 2012 - January 4, 2013
Ushuaia, Argentina. Pick up a crew.
Puerto Williams, Chile. Official entrance in Chile.
Stop at Gable Island, Argentina (Pinguinera)
Mooring at Puerto Toro.
Anchoring at Picton Island.
Stop at Caleta Margarita.
Puerto Williams.
Anchoring at Bahia Yendegaia, Caleta Ferrari.
Anchoring at Caleta Olla.
Sailing Canal Beagle, Brazo Noroeste.
Stops at Ventisqueros (glaciers) Francia, Alemania, Romanche.
Puerto Williams.
300 nautical miles
14 days
Engine 36 hours
Heavy weather: none

No statistics, only beautiful landscapes and wonderful moments.

More details: enlarge image.

Leg 3. Drake Passage and Antarctica. Single handed. January 14 - January 26, 2013

I have no experience in Antarctic. However I transmit you the warning of experienced sailors:  the Drake Passage can be dangerous. Before crossing, I waited for a weather window for ~ 10 days. Sailing south, I had  ice warnings by a sailship crossing ahead  (Vaihere, thanks to Eric and his crew). The final part of the return trip was a race  for shelter before big winds.
Puerto Williams. Official authorization for Circuito Antartico Chileno.
Mooring one night at Puerto Toro.
Crossing Drake Passage, a few growlers in the middle.
Stop at Melchior Islands.
Crossing Drake Passage, icebergs in the middle.
Running under stay sail and 4 reefs in main before a W gale.
Mooring 2 days at Puerto Toro, waiting for the gale to fade.
Puerto Williams.
1219 nautical miles
12 days, 10 at sea, 2 in ports
Puerto Toro: 1 night going, 2 nights returning
Performance~122 nm/day at sea, average speed ~5.1knts.
Engine: 76 hours,  ~3 days ~33% of time
4 days with more engine than sailing.
Heavy weather:
Winds force 8-9: 2 days
Winds force 9-10 & more: 3 days
Emergency mooring 1 1/2 days

More details: enlarge image.

Leg 4. From Puerto Williams to Zumaia. Single handed to Azores, then 2 persons to Zumaia.
Canal Beagle westward, Strait of Magellan eastward. February 12 - February 22, 2013
Puerto Williams.
Anchoring at Caleta Borracho.
Sailing Beagle NW.
Anchoring at Caleta Voilier.
Sailing Paso Ballenero and Bahia Desolada.
Heaving to (NW winds above 50 knts).
Sailing Bahia Desolada, Canales Brecknock and Ocasión.
Anchoring at Caleta Brecknock.
Sailing Canales Ocasión, Cockburn, Magdalena.
Sailing Strait of Magellan eastwards from Cape Froward.
Turn back in front of 2a Angostura, wind against tide, waves too steep.
Stop at Punta Arenas, refuel.
Sailing through 2a Angostura and 1a Angostura (in 1 day).
Anchoring at Punta Delgada.
418 nautical miles
10 days, ~3 at sea, ~7 in ports and anchorages.
3 nights in caletas, Punta Arenas 5 days, Punta Delgada 1 night.
Engine 59 hours ~ 2.5 days ~ 80% of time.
Heavy weather
Winds force 8-9: 4 days,
Winds force 9-10 & more: 2 days.
Heaving-to 1 night  
More details: enlarge image

Atlantic - February 22 - May 9, 2013
Leaving Strait of Magellan, rounding Banco Sarmiento.
Emergency mooring at Puerto Madryn. Waiting for a Surestada (SE low)
Stop at Mar del Plata. Hull cleaning, sail drive repair, refuel.
Sailing towards the Mid-Atlantic route
Pushed back to Brazil by strong E-NE winds (St Helen's High absent, high pressures on continent)
Unstable winds front of Cabo Frio, then reaching the SE trade winds.
Sailing E to anticipate beating leg towards Azores.
Stopped by Equatorial Calms found S of equator (shifted S by several degrees).
North winds, then strong NE trade winds. Beating, progressively shifted west.
Azores' High absent, NE winds instead.
Heaving-to 150nm S of Azores, in NE winds force 8 (front winds).
Backing of wind in a new-born low, then direct sailing towards Faial Island.
Stop at Horta, Faial Island, Azores. Pick up a crew, refuel, wait for a gale.
Arrival at Zumaia.

8217 nautical miles
76 days, 58 at sea, 18 in ports and anchorages.
Puerto Madryn 4 days, Mar del Plata: 7, Horta:7.
Performance ~141.7 nm/day at sea, average speed ~5.9knts.
Engine: 422 hours, ~ 18 days ~30% of time
18 days with more engine than sailing.
Beating: ~ 35 days, 29 in transatlantic sailing, ~ 68% (29/43 days)
Heavy weather
Winds force 8-9: 10 days.
Tropical ondulation in trade winds, 40 knts for 2-3 hours.
Heaving-to 2 days.
Emergency anchoring 4 days.
St Helen's high misplaced, continental high instead.
Equatorial calms shifted south,
too few SE trade winds and too much NE trade winds
Azores'high misplaced (on Iceland), low on Azores.

More details: enlarge image

High times

Most exciting
Running gale-force winds under storm sail  (S of strait of Magellan; N of Isla de los Estados).
Sailing in front of Cape Horn under a bright sun, calms between hours of tedious beating.
First sight of Melchior Islands (Antarctica) in mist.
Icebergs (3) in the middle of Drake passage on the way back.
Running towards shelter under storm sail and 4 reefs in Drake Passage. 47 knots W arriving at Canal Franklin.
SW front, Necochea, Argentina by night, from 5 knots to 62 knots within minutes. Heaving-to under bare pole.
Sailing at night in Paso Ballenero with front winds up to 50 knots, narrow passages, and 1.5 knots under engine.
Most tiring
Southward: downwind in strong NE winds and big seas in front of Cabo Frio. Autopilot unable to steer correctly.
Northward: several days beating in F8 winds and big seas front of Brazil.
From equator to Azores, day after day beating unable to gain east.
Growlers in fog (a few) and touching ice (a small block) in the Drake Passage.
Sail drive failure in open sea, at 5 days from Mar del Plata. Seals broken, no oil left in sail drive.
Engine blocked suddenly, latitude of Canarias. Bundle of ropes in propeller. second damage to sail drive seals.
Most upsetting
Unable to sail upwind. The hull slams too much in chopped and rough seas.
Tearing off genoa leech time after time. The sail maker did not reinforce the leech correctly.
Blocking the genoa pole mid-height in 30 knots winds. Another lousy work of the sail maker.
Electrical failures at the worst moment: windlass, engine control box, instruments...
Heater failing at the worst moment (down south).
Sadness and happiness
Rounding la "rompiente del canal Ocasión" then heading east, returning to Europe.
After a night arrival at Zumaia, being awakened by my people.
Most enjoyable
Any moment, even the worst.
Dawns and night falls, clear nights and stars, clouds and seas, noise of the wind, the sails and the wake.
Beautiful storms and bright skies afterwards.
Fauna, dolphins and sea lions, sea birds (albatrosses, cormorants, penguins...), a few whales, one killer whale...
Wonderful landscapes, loneliness and peace, great people.

Preparation and equipment

Here is a detailed list, with some feedback. Although based on real facts, the comments are only the author's opinion.
RM 1050 sloop 35" twin keels, plywood epoxy, weight 4.7 tons (empty), < 7 tons (full load). 
Shipyard Fora Marine, year of construction 2007.
Complete refit 2011 at Chantier Naval Socoa after capsizing in front of Portugal (December 2010).
Robust boat,  lightweight, easy to steer, and well adapted to bad weather (panoramic view from inside) But
dangerous in big seas (twin keels capsize, see 'tackle effect') 
construction too weak for screaming fifties
slams a lot at beating in chopped and big seas (flat hull)
Sails and rigging
Radial hydranet sails, main 34m2 full batten 4 reefs, non furling genoa 33m2 1 reef,  furled stay sail 13m2.
Strong sails well adapted to this sailing but lousy details, e.g. non-reinforced leech hems.
4-reefs main sail extensively used, sailing under 2, 3 and 4 reefs, heaving-to under 4 reefs.
Non-furled genoa 100% reliable. Can always be lowered, even in strong winds, unlike a furled genoa.
Furled stay sail handy and versatile. Can be reduced as a storm sail, and the furler never blocks (small sail)
Experimental battens in main sail. Replaced by classical battens after 3900 nm (delamination).
Highly efficient: keep the sail flat even in gusts, no need for trimming the sail or reefing soon
Genoa rigging. Pole with bridle (tip given by a skipper), sheet with elastic barber (tress of technora elastic rope)..
The bridle prevents the bumps against shroud and stay, the barber damps the slaps of the sail.
Additional sails: gennaker (code zero), asymmetrical spinnaker.
Bad choice. Code zero: narrow range of use; exploded in trade winds, in 26 knots. Spinnaker almost not used.
Polyester halyards and sheets.
Too weak for this sailing. 3 broken halyards, shafed sheets, etc.
Recovery halyards on main sail and genoa
Very safe: allow lowering the the sails even in the strongest winds.
Additional halyard, dyneema 12mm
Used to replace broken halyards at sea, can be used as emergency stay.
Stainless steel wire rope rigging with crimped terminals
Terminals too weak for this sailing: 2 inner shrouds damaged (broken threads at crimped terminals).
Volvo Penta D1-30 ~600 hours. 30hp.
Consumption 1.7L/hour
(grand average)
Typically 1800 to 2000rpm, 5 knots and more, sail assisted whenever possible.
Transmission: sail drive, folding 2 blades Volvo propeller .
NOT suitable for this sailing. seals broken twice by tangled ropes, impossible to repair at sea.
Fuel capacity: 2 x 130L. + up to 10 jerrycans 20L
Used: 5 cans for N-S transatlantic crossing,  10 for Antarctica 5 for Beagle and Magellan, 10 for S-N transatlantic crossing.
Mooring and anchoring
Main anchor: 16kg Delta,10mm chain x 60m, 20mm polyester line x 50m
Secondary anchor: 16kg FOB, 100mm chain x 10m,  20mm polyester line x 20m
Ground lines: 4  x  50m each: 2 x 24mm polypropylene + 22mm polyester + 18mm polyester
Would have been easier with drums.
Inflatable dinghy, kayak paddle
Would have been easier with an engine
Beach sit-on-top kayak.
Fast way to tie ground lines, but requires diving suit, otherwise go naked.
Diving gear (7mm neoprene suit, weight belt, fins, snorkel and diving mask)
Would have been better with cylinder (frequent anchoring in 10-12m)
3 service batteries 100AH + 1 start battery 100AH
Alternator 115A
2 solar panels 100W high efficiency (back contact) on top of the dog house, tiltable, MPPT regulators.
1 mobile solar panel 70W high efficiency (back contact), MPPT regulator.
Wind generator Air X 400 on orientable pole
Energy production OK. Energy consumption and production were balanced (without engine) at any time except during leg to Antarctica (excessive electric consumption of webasto heater; see below).
Water capacity 2 x 250L (never loaded more than 250L) + up to 7 flexible containers 14L each.
Water consumption ~ 3 - 3.5L/day.
          Includes drinking, cooking (with 1/3 sea water) daily washing and clothes washing.
Water maker Katadyn power survivor
Not mandatory for this trip, unused during back transatlantic sailing.  In addition, requires maintenance when unused (membrane cleaning, etc),  and the efficiency is low in cold waters and/or when boat is heeling
Rain collector, "cockpit seat" made of squeezable blocks of foam
Used in tropical and equatorial rains. Up to 2 buckets in one night.
Heat and cold
Webasto thermotop heater with liquid heat exchangers and electrical fans.
Unadapted for this trip because of fuel consumption and additional electric consumption (requires engine to reload , thus additional fuel consumption).
Used only in ports and a few days at sea (for fresh food).
VHF Cobra. Mast antenna + pulpit antenna in case of emergency.
GPS Furuno.
Windmeter, speed, depth: Raymarine. internal display ST60 Raymarine
Not reliable. esoteric configuration menus, deceptive display messages, intermittent failures...
Autopilot ST6002 Raymarine
The autopilot does the job but too many limitations. Lousy steering in following seas, wind mode useless on long periods, remote control is a joke (no OFF button, no MOB function). In addition intermittent disconnections, due to tension drops, according to Raymarine but this is false.
Radar detector (Mer Veille) and AIS detector& calculator Ciel & Marine.
Both are a must. 100% useful and reliable,  low consumption.
Barograph-NAVTEX Moerer WIB2
Barograph is a must to see weather evolution.
NAVTEX is useful when it is available.
however, avoid WIB2. Internal antenna difficult to orient (causing poor reception),  noise in USB connection (bad electronic/software filtering), lousy drivers...
A must, specially in case of emergency.
Prepaid 250 minutes 1 year validity. Sufficient.
Would have been better with external antenna: reception is weak in bad weather.
Netbook Toshiba NB 200
Perfect for the job. Tough and cheap.
Instruments to netbook connection
USB-serial converter for AIS, 
Raymarine Seatalk-NMEA-USB converter for Raymarine instruments.
Converter unreliable. random failures and definitely out of service on way back. 
Used the AIS connection as emergency repair to get GPS, but instruments lost.
Seaclear (charts, AIS), 
ZyGrib (weather files), 
Basic Sea Logger (electronic log + instruments recording).
All the software has been 100% reliable.
Hand instruments: wind meter, GPS, VHF, compass, binoculars, sextant
Additional preparation - deck
Dog house made of panels of 5mm polycarbonate laced with technora elastic rope.
Supports solar panels.
Efficient protection against bad weather, good transparency.
Storm door made of panels of 5mm polycarbonate, laced with technora elastic rope.
Allows quick transit between cabin and cockpit, protects stair against rain
Transparent halyard box (at mast foot) made of a sheet of 5mm polycarbonate bent and laced
Personal safety gear
Plastimo IOR auto-inflatable flotation device (manual trigger), knife and flashing head lamp.
D4S self-rescue tether , allows climbing on deck alone in case of fall overboard.
D4S holding belt, allows standing hand-free anywhere .
Both safety devices were extensively used  (see safety rules).
Grab bag (papers, money, food for 3 days, emergency blanket, flare pistol, etc.)
Mast chair for climbing alone on halyards,  2 blockers, 2 ladder steps to work standing/sitting for long periods.
Deck safety
Stern ladder with fast link reachable from water
Additional handles, stainless + textile (strap) covered with reflective material for night visibility.
Deck safety lines secured at very strong points and covered with reflective material.
Textile lines (straps with reflective material) across the cockpit and at the mas foot, in order to work safely.
Deck safety  was useful, especially additional handle and reflective material for night visibility.
Boat safety
EPIRB Mc Murdo Smart Find + , Liferaft Viking RescYou, Flare kit, fire extinguishers.
Sea anchor: 110 series cones on a 100m line secured to main anchor and bow frame. ready-to-drop from cockpit.
Recommended with twin keels: risk of capsize in big breaking waves (my limit: 5m and above).
Tested in 3m- 3.5m waves: almost no drift, no shocks, boats "sails" a little but no risk. Luckily not used.
Helm blocker: loops of  technora elastic rope. + polyester ropes adjustable by means of the winches.
For heaving-to, or circling in water to prepare mooring or anchoring. 100% useful.
Additional preparation - cabin
Double glasses on deck hatches (thermal insulation, condensation)
Polyethylene foam under roof linings.(thermal insulation)
All lids, stair, doors etc. secured with sandow lacing or locks
No projectile in cabin in case of capsizing
Seats and mattresses on D4S polycarbonate insulating layer.
Insulating layer  efficient to prevent dampness and mold.
Missing: insulating internal part of hull, lot of mold. 
Also needed better insulation of ceilings.
Tools and spare parts
Toolbox: usual tools + electric multimeter and amperemeter, soldering iron, hand drill and small press.
Shroud shears and iron lever (to unblock anchor chain from windlass).
Complete autopilot
Has been used (drive, display, cables)
Computer: spare netbook, ready-to-use, USB cables, GPS USB antenna, USB hubs, USB-serial converter.
Electric, electronic:  wires and connectors, batteries for all electric equipment, fuses, spare lights,
12v-220v inverters (2), chargers 220v and 12v for netbook, radio, iridium
Engine: belt, turbine, filters, engine and transmission oil.
Missing: complete alternator, ready-to-use.
Sails:  spare stay sail, sail repair kit, adhesive fabric: insigna + carbon-reinforced + dacron.
Rigging: 1 spare halyard already mounted, set of new sheets,miscellaneous ropes
Stainless steel gear, fastlinks, pulleys, mail sail carts, roll of galvanized iron wire
Missing: a few meters of wire rope, hand-tightening terminals.
Plumbing: hoses and collars of different diameters (water, gasoil, pressure, complete gas hose), plugs.
Hull: epoxy + glass fabric and loads for composite & plywood repair,  small sheets of plywood, polycarbonate,
and stainless steel
General:adhesive sealant Sika 291 (8 tubes), non-adhesive sealant Rubson, contact glue, instant glue.
duct tape, electric tape, plastic collars, marine grease, 3-in-1, machine oil,  alcohol, gasoline,
dish washing liquid (to unblock sail carts etc.)
Textile snaphooks, loops & fixations: roll of 25m loop-back velcro strap, rolls of 50m dyneema braid 4mm and 6mm, 
rolls of  25m   technora elastic rope 2mm 4mm and 6mm. Very useful. Almost all the stainless shackles and 
snap hooks have been replaced by textile ones.

Problems and repairs

72 problems: failures, damages and/or dysfunctions.
21 problems potentially causing major inconveniences and/or risks
A majority of problems were fixed at sea or at the next stop, none of the problems stopped the trip.
Most important problems
Sails: gennaker exploded, genoa and stay sail: leech teared off (4 times)
Rigging: 3 halyards broken, 2 halyards untied,boom extremity broken, genoa pole blocked at mid height,
Shrouds: 2 inner shrouds + 1 back stay damaged (detected after arrival).
Rear window + main sheet pulley exploded (gybe under autopilot)
Windlass control box out of service (no windlass)
Engine control box out of service (no start), extractor fan out of service.
Sail drive: seals broken and important oil leaks (2 times)
Helm: became hard and noisy in cold waters.
Autopilot: pops into standby mode alone (Raymarine's version: dur to voltage drops. False according to my
observations: can happen at any time),
Wind mode unusable on long periods, remote control is a gadget (e.g., no off-button, no MOB).
Instruments: speedmeter, temperature, etc. episodically out of order; configuration is an ordeal, connection box
(sea talk nmea converter) out of service, navtex-barograph with poor reception and poor connection to laptop
Iridium: non-critical, intermittent failures (e.g., bad contact in battery), charger KO, poor reception in bad weather,
due to lack of external antenna.
Heating system: random failures and stops (up to 2 hours to start heating, closing to Antarctica), bad contacts
in fans.
Water maker: does not work when boat is heeling (entry of air).
Miscellaneous: pressure pump broken (2 times, electrolysis on terminals), important leak in front cabin
By type of repairs
32 problems solved at sea
15 problems solved at next stop
25 problems not solved - require complete replacement and/or additional element
All critical problems were fixed at sea except sail drive (2), intermittent failures of heater, autopilot and iridium, and shrouds damage (detected after arrival).
By category
Engine: 8 problems, 4 serious
Sails: 7 problems, 4 serious
Rigging: 15 problems, 9 serious
Mooring - anchor windlass: 2 problems, 1 serious
Mooring - dinghy: 2 problems
Autopilot: 4 problems, 1 serious
Electricity, electronics: 15 problems, 1 serious
Lights: 2 problems
Plumbing and water system: 5 problems
Heating: 2 problems, 1 serious
Deck equipment: 5 problems
Inside the cabin: 4 problems
By cause (multiple causes are possible)
9 problems caused by normal use (worn out equipments)
28 problems caused by hard sailing conditions
15 problems caused by dampness
2 problems caused by cold
28 problems caused by equipment: fragile, inadequate, too complex etc.
8 problems caused by sailmaker's mistakes
6 problems caused by shipyard's mistakes (constructor, i.e., Fora)
1 problem caused by Windows(r)
11 problems caused by mistakes in preparation
6 problems caused by skipper's errors

Books, charts, software

This is what I had on board and/or used.
Rolfo M.,  Ardrizzi, G. (2007) Patagonia & Tierra de Fuego Nautical Guide, 2nd Edition. Editrice Incontrio Nautici.
A must. Most of the boats I met in Patagonia have this book onboard. Simply referred as "the Italian's book". Useful and mostly accurate, but navigation concepts are sometimes awkward.
Buy directly at the editorial  or online.
Cornell, J. (2008) World Cruising Routes, 6th Edition, Publisher: Internal Marine.
Used to plan oceanic routes.
Buy online.
Coles A., Bruce P. (2008) Heavy Weather Sailing, 6th Edition. Publisher: Adlard Coles Nautical.
To read and re-read before facing heavy weather.
Buy  online.
Nautical charts & publications
Atlas Hidrográfico de Chile (2009). Publisher: Servicio Hidrográfico de la Armada de Chile (SHOA)
complete set of charts of the Chilean waters, including some of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Useful to plan navigation and as compliment of  electronic charts (not always trustable).
Buy at or directly at Capitanías de Puertos in Chile.
Tablas de mareas y corrientes, Publisher: Servicio Hidrográfico de la Armada de Chile (SHOA)
The only accurate source for tides (mareas) and currents (estoas). Universal tide software provides only approximate hours, and says nothing about currents.
Buy at or directly at Capitanías de Puertos in Chile, or borrow it to professional boats (tugs, pilot boats, fishermen...)
Electronic charts
see links
Comments. NGA charts (small scale) are OK for oceanic sailing,  Brazilian charts are free but imprecise. Navionics charts (version 2012) have flagrant errors.
see links
Navigation, AIS targets: Seaclear (freeware) or Open CPN (open source),
Seaclear is simple and reliable and it has a software to create charts from images. Old-style interface, however.
OpenCPN has more functions and has a correct interface.
Weather: ZyGrib (open source)
A must. correct interface + compression of grib files suitable for iridium.
Pilot charts and planning: Visual Passage Planner (commercial software)
Useful to plan trip, but statistical wind and current information not 100% reliable, because sometimes based on too few observations (not given in VPP).
Tides: WXTide32.
Useful, but old style interface and gives only approximate times (compared to accurate tables like SHOA's).
Instruments and log recording: Basic Sea Logger (beta version. unpublished; will be open source)
Useful, will be published.

Navigation and Weather

The following is what I did. There are indeed other/better methods.
Routes and waypoints
Theoretical route traced in advance, saved in both Navigation software (SeaClear) and VPP. Way points drawn
from Navigation guides (Cornell +  Rolfo, Ardrizzi).
Actual route plotted from daily positions, saved in Navigation software.
Estimate of next daily positions (3-8 days) appended to actual route and plotted on grib (Seaclear and ZyGrib)
Comment: easier when your have chart and grib overlay, e.g., OpenCPN, MaxSea.
Daily distance and progression computed from GPS information.
Progression=difference of distance to next waypoint~distance made good on the theoretical route.
Estimated times of arrival (ETA).
Initially given by VPP, then updated after a few days: remaining distance on theoretical route divided by average progression in 24h. Corrections for deviation of theoretical route and and expected wind/current (VPP + gribs).
This may seem imprecise, but my ETAs were always accurate (e.g., within 3 days, 1 month in advance).
Daily position and logging
Official Diary (paper book) updated every day at 1200UTC with daily situation.
position, instant velocity and route, atmospheric pressure, sea, visibility, etc., plus distance in 24H ,  progression in 24H, and engine hours.
Electronic log (diary) updated with daily situation, night fall situation, morning situation including summary of the
night and level of charge of batteries, plus a note for significant novelties.
Ship's hour
Starting from official hour in Spain, changing one hour every 15o longitude. Visible on ship's chronometer, netbook and alarm clock.
UTC hour always available from GPS and iridium
From Europe to Cabo Verde, Navtex used to get weather analysis and 24H forecasts.
my receptor was not reliable (WIB2), good receptor and external antenna recommended.
Warning: No Navtex in Brazil, and I could not receive clear messages in Argentina and Chile.
Grib files
Downloaded with iridium every 3 days, more often in case of unstable and/or heavy weather.
Cost: iridium charges 1 minute of time to download ~15k bytes. However, ZyGrib compresses the files. therefore
you can get up to 8 days predictions on large areas, at low resolution as well as 2-3 days local predictions with high resolution.


The following is  what I did and observed. There are indeed other/better communication systems.

Daily SMS (every 3 days when nothing happens)
send SMS to email addresses, not to phones (some operators are incompatible with iridium).
SMS to others are inexpensive,  SMS sent from ground are free at
Reporting position to authorities - SMS
If you sail in Argentina waters (see Formalities below), the authorities require a daily SMS with position, heading, velocity and novelties.
Vocal communications reserved for special circumstances.
It is costly to call others and extremely costly to call iridium from ground. Plus voice is distorted.
Emails with iridium: DANGER. any email with attached files will eat your prepaid.
Use a light email software (e.g. Eudora lite) + a private email address.
Other boats.we could communicate with boats equipped with sail mail relaying messages from ground and/or
directly, sending iridium SMS -to sailmail addresses and receiving SMS from sailmail.
Also, we could exchange SMS with other yachts equipped with iridium.
Note. all boats equipped with sailmail seem very happy.
Important in Argentina and Chile. Contact by ground stations requiring identification as soon as your
vessel is spotted. Tip. single handed,  always have a portable VHF at hand.
VHF is also used to contact with commercial vessels on close range (5 times during this trip)
VHF also used as auxiliary ship detector at night.
Note. Maritime English or  Spanish are almost mandatory. Or try your language and have fun.
Aground, wifi anywhere.
A good antenna would have been useful

Avoiding collisions and groundings

The following is what I observed and the rules I followed. They are by no means absolute truths or rules.
Stealth navigation
The ship  is equipped with passive detectors but no equipment that emits permanent signals.
Radar detector, AIS detector, VHF (used as detector),
Radar reflectors (mounted on halyard)
NO radar, no radar transponder, no AIS transponder
Other ships, platforms etc.
Merchant ships. The most dangerous in open seas and in channels. No problem. AIS always working.
Detected by AIS first, then at close range by radar detector (Mer Veille)... when their radar is working.
Offshore fishing boats. No problem. In Europe, they have AIS . In Azores, Argentina and Chile, radar and VHF.
Detected by AIS and/or Mer Veille and often by means of VHF activity.
Coastal fishing boats in Spain and Portugal. DANGER. No AIS, occasional radar, sometimes using
a flashing orange light (confusing) instead of navigation lights. By night, visual watch and radar detector.
Fishing boats in Brazil. DANGER. No AIS, no radar, often no lights, and wooden hulls hardly detectable with
radar.  Sometimes switching their lights on when they spot you at very close distance.Can be found as far as  70nm offshore. By night, visual watch  (radar is useless), be attentive at edges of continental plateau.
Sailships in open sea. No problem. There are very few and the probability of collision course is almost zero.
Offshore platforms and their service ships (Brazil, Strait of Magellan): no problem. They always have AIS and very
bright lights at night.
Any boat in Patagonian channels.  No problem. This is mostly day navigation, commercial vessels
 (the most dangerous) have AIS, and any boat has VHF watch.. Keep permanent visual and VHF watch.
Risks of groundings
Open sea: keep clear from the coast (Brazil, Argentina: between 70nm and 150nm). Rough seas but no traffic,
plenty of water for running in bad weather and no risk of being grounded by tidal currents.
In the channels, avoid sailing at night and in fog, therefore keep permanent visual watch, and be careful
with navigation software (some charts have GPS errors up to 100-200m).
AIS transponder? Radar?
I am strongly opposed to equipping small ships with AIS transponder. This produces a lot of noise.
On the contrary, reserving AIS to potentially dangerous ships make them easy to spot. To be convinced, try to use your AIS detector close to a port: moored ships mask the signals of dangerous ships.
A radar would have been useful to detect ice (growlers, icebergs) and big floating objects. However it would have
been useless to detect wooden boats (like Brazilian fishermen), flat growlers and semi-submersed obstacles, like trees and barrels (seen 3 times in open sea).

Food, water and sleep

The following is what I did. Indeed every person has different needs and tastes.
Food - quantities and menus
Establish weekly menus from previous test cruising during which I kept track of menus and consumed aliments.
In my case, 3 meals (breakfast,. lunch, supper) + snacks.
Check that the menus provide balanced daily intake, calculator
Make lists of aliments from the weekly menus.
Multiply quantities by estimated number of weeks at sea + 2 weeks for safety. Modulations
The menus that include fresh food last 1 or 2 weeks.
More food intake in cold climate e.g., Drake and Antarctica: 5 daily meals  instead of 3
Less intake in warm climate and the first days, e.g., equator,  light lunch and dinner.
Rule of the thumb: in rich countries, a person eats ~10kg a week (~500kg a year). This is the weight of the
prepared food, including cooking water.
Diet supplements. after the fresh food ends, daily vitamins+minerals (some people also need yeast).
Food - intake
Keep updated lists and control the stock periodically (especially with fresh food).
Control your food intake so that on average, you meet your previsions.
In case of shortage, find out substitution food e.g., instant polenta instead of bread.
Ongoing trip, more than 20 meals with fresh fish (dorados, tunas), plus occasional grilled flying fish.
Equipment: trailing lines, rapalas and no additional gear..
Back trip: a disaster. Only 1 dorado, then I broke all my fishing lines (nylon was too thin).
It would have been better with thick nylon (I now have 2mm, more than 150kg) and a damping elastic line.
No waste: every fish cut in filets, what is not eaten fresh is kept in salt or in ceviche (1/3 vinegar, 2/3 water,
salt, species).
Drinkable water kept in portable containers (flexible containers 14L each). Portable containers refilled
from water maker only when required (not needed on the return trip).
Cooking with sea water, 1/3  + 2/3 fresh water. Adapt according to salinity/taste.
For washing yourself, sea water, rinse yourself  with fresh water.
For dish washing, sea water, then cutlery rinsed with freshwater or dried.
tip. a net dragged at the stern seems a good method, I did not try it myself.
For cloth washing sea water (some soaps make decent foam in sea water), rinsed with fresh water
(rain water, when available).
Overall water consumption was around 3L 3.5L a day
Sleep is very important to keep a clear mind as well as to enjoy sailing. Single handed sailors cannot keep a permanent watch, it is biologically impossible.
So here is my method. It gave good results. I could compare my (low) level of tiredness with other crews sailing
the same route, and I only had two episods of fatigue, unable to take fast rational decisions.
Rest period: at least 8 hours. From night fall to breakfast. During the rest period, normally no need to  go
on deck or to do any type of work.  Only periodical watch and eventual corrections of route/sails.
Preparation of rest:  1) the boat must go alone without any type of intervention, so take some reefs, open
 your course to prevent tacks and gybes. 2) all the alarms must be active: AIS and radar detector, VHF, in open waters deviation from track (XTE), etc.
During the rest period, sleep, relax, read, listen to music, video... In open sea and good conditions it is possible
 to sleep 6 to 8 continuous hours.
In bad conditions, coastal navigation etc. you get at least split sleep during the rest period,  waking up alone and/or
using alarm clock (warning: breaks natural sleep cycles). The important point is to have minimum activity.

Formalities and ports

This was in 2012 2013. See guides Patagonia & Tierra de Fuego, or Cornell's guide for more details. And things may change.
Argentina - complicated
Mar del Plata is a convenient stop before starting the southern sailing (as stated by nautical guides). In my opinion
it is an ugly touristic town (termite-like constructions), but the yachts clubs are charming.
Ushuaia is the Argentinian port of Tierra de Fuego. In my opinion it is only a small touristic town settled in a
beautiful landscape. An expensive tourist trap, but an easy place to pick up crews arriving by plane.
I also did an emergency stop in Puerto Madryn (to wait for a strong surestada). My opinion: nice little town, not too
polluted by tourism, congenial yacht club. However a difficult mooring.
In Argentina, small yachts are basically treated as commercial ships. The formalities are heavy, redundant
 (e.g., filing by hand 5 exemplars of an entry form, then at exit 4 exemplars of an almost identical form) and scattered in different sites (prefectura marítima, imigración, aduanas).
Also the formalities change from port to port (and from person to person?)
Daily report. While you sail in Argentina waters, a daily report and/or VHF contact with coastal stations is required
by the authorities to keep track of your position.  If you don't report, you may be fined unless you can prove that you had no way of communicating.

Chile - heavy but rational
Puerto Williams is the southern port of Chile. In my opinion a charming place, still a frontier village.
It is the recommended starting point to navigate in Patagonian channels, round Cape Horn and/or go to Antarctica. Recall that Patagonia is 90% Chilean, including Cape Horn and the glaciers, as well as the Antarctic Peninsula (administered by multiple countries).
I also did a refueling stop in Punta Arenas. My opinion: not a specially beautiful city, but it has some attractive.
mooring is at a commercial dock (Muelle Prat), lot of movement, and nice people.
In chile, small yachts are treated as commercial ships. However the formalities are more optimized than in 
Argentina. In addition they are almost identical in different ports.
Note that all southern Chilean waters are under control of the Armada de Chile, for reasons  that are beyond
In Patagonia, you can only sail on determined circuits (Ventisqueros, west; Hornos, east; Antartica, south),
all of them starting from Puerto Williams.
Before you arrive to Puerto Williams, you are expected to  keep in the Beagle channel.
If you decide to enter Chilean internal waters differently, e.g., from Cape Horn, contact first with a coastal station  (Alcamar Hornos or Alcamar Lennox) to ask for permission.
During sailing , there is VHF contact with every coastal station (Alcamar).
Antarctica - lot of regulations
I did a single trip there, and it was decided on the last minute. So I have a very limited experience.
I got a permit from the Chilean authorities to sail the Antarctic Chilean Circuit. During the trip I did a daily report
(SMS iridium). There was no real pressure from the authorities, but it was for safety.
To STAY in Antarctica you need a previous authorization from your own government (ship or skipper) plus a few
requirements on the boat (e.g., black and grey waters tanks)
In my case (French flag), I did not have time to get the authorization beforehand
However, I believe I was legal, there is an exception  for activities authorized by another government of the Madrid protocol, which was my case (Chilean permit). See french regulation.
Linguistic note
In both Argentina and Chile, it is recommended to speak Spanish, or at least, to make visible efforts. 
All the officials I met were kind and mostly helpful, maybe because I speak their language.
If you are impolite enough to impose  your own language, I cannot see why they would be kind with you.
For VHF calls with authorities, Spanish is recommended, maritime English is understood.


Zumaia, Basque country and Cantábria - Cape Matxitxako, Punta Sonabia

Argentina, NE of Península Valdés,  dusk dolphins

Argentina, E of Strait of Magellan, sailing south

Puerto Hoppner, Isla de los Estados

Islote Blanco, Isla Grande, Argentina, Cormorants and sea lions

Puerto Williams, Club de yates Micalvi

Puerto Toro, fishermen's dwarf, altar de San Pedro Pescador, cementerio indígena.

Isla Hornos (Cape Horn)

Beagle Channel - Bahia Yendegaia - Ventisquero Alemania

Entry in Drake Passage, E of Cape Horn.      Iceberg 

Antarctica, Melchior Islands

Patagonia W - Caleta Brecknock - Canal Cockburn, skies


Galicia, Spain - Beating in Force 7 8

Brazil. Following seas 3-4m, wind force 7-8

Sailing south, front of Strait of Magellan, wind force 7-8, reefed genoa + 2 reefs in main sail

Closing to Strait of Le Maire, in F8-10 winds, soon 54 knots. Half-rolled stay sail.

Entering the Drake Passage E of cape Horn, sailing south, wind Force 7-8.

Antarctica, closing to Melchior Island. Working at bow

Drake Passage, wind Force 6-7 increasing fast , stay sail + 4 reefs in main sail. Working on deck

Leaving the Drake Passage E of Nassau Bay and Evouts Island, sailing north, wind Force 6-7.