Dallas Murphy,
Rounding the Horn
(Basic, 2004)

Avast, thar! Heave-ho! Way, haul away!

Be warned -- this book may make you feel as though you have to shout those exclamations ... especially if you've ever been, as Murphy puts it, sea-struck.

Murphy, who races one-designs, writes a column for Offshore magazine and has penned several novels involving wild characters, was the perfect author for this book about Cape Horn. As he explains, Cape Horn is a buttressed pyramid of crumbly rock with no other land to the east, none to the west and to the south there is only Antarctica. The water in between stirs up chaos when storms roll in from the west. For centuries, Murphy notes, rounding the Horn was the supreme challenge for sailors and ships. That has not changed, as he discovers and vividly informs the reader.

He combines his own intriguing experience in sailing these dangerous waters aboard a 53-foot steel sloop with a crew of fellow adventurers with a recounting of stories involving others who have braved the Horn over the past 500 years. He tells fascinating tales of Magellan, Drake, Darwin and the Beagle, Slocum and others with less familiar names. There are also stories of murdered missionaries, fierce williwaws and storms and the tragic fate of the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego.

Since the opening of the Panama Canal there has been no need for seafarers to risk the hazards of the Horn, and so the windjammers are long gone. But, there always will be that sea-struck few who dare to experience "the great and terrible things of the Ocean Sea."

If you're one of those or only an arm-chair adventurer, this book is worth the read.

- Rambles
written by John R. Lindermuth
published 8 January 2005

Buy it from Amazon.com.