A British-born newcomer describes his pleasant, single-handed sailing mooch across an unequalled expanse of water, the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and South America.
Hordern’s remarkably unsentimental about his 28-footer, rather small for so formidable an ocean, and he’s unspooked by the legendary weather regularly dished out in such latitudes. Not that Hordern is smug or stupid; he simply finds himself an inextricable thread woven into the history of sailing the South Pacific: “bound up with Greek cosmologers, medieval mapmakers, poets, and whalers.” His equipment is simple and efficient, he likes what he is doing, he trusts the auguries. He won't ignore a storm warning, but what really raises the hair on his neck is reading that a set of reefs or shoals are doubtfully positioned on his chart, perhaps phantoms altogether; though Davis Land, Sophie Christiansen Shoal, and Emily Rock have been spotted numerous times, they’ve failed to be spotted an equal number. While he appreciates GPS as part of the routine when he gets his noon fix, he’s more impressed by how he has become a sea creature in his own right. “You have an agility, a set of physical skills, that aren't needed on land,” he comments. Through it all, Hordern is a master of deadpan: “I made landfall on the coast of Chilean Patagonia in mid December, after a six-week passage.” Falling overboard during a squall is a worthy little story, but more fascinating to Hordern is an event “easy to describe . . . not easy to explain”; when he got to Easter Island after some serious sailing, he scooted on past. Similarly, within hailing distance of New Zealand on his return, Hordern turned his boat around and sailed aimlessly for three days, finally landing in Fiji. He confides to a friend that he thinks it was a nervous breakdown.
Whatever the reason, readers of his engaging narrative will be happy to spend a few more days in his company. (8-page color photo insert)