A Most Harmonious Chord
It is said, “Never put all your faith in first impressions.” So I say,
“Look at the total picture before making a final conclusion”. See preceding
description (Sept 02)
There are many factors that help to make a voyage or any adventure a memorable
success or a disaster. The memories are either pleasant and stimulate a desire to return and recapture
the exhilaration of the past or are horrific and rekindle fear and foreboding
feelings that we wish to forget. Some ventures elicit both sides of the coin,
as do most of life’s experiences. As was mentioned in the first chapter of
the “Modern Cape Horner”, I was not facing the lighter side of life on a
voyage on “Victory” around the Horn. Then what was it that contributed to
the closing statement, “Would I go again? In a heartbeat.”
On any trip, at any affair, the people that we shared the experience
with make any incident in our past more significant in its affect on our
emotional recollections. Every day of our lives we reach highs and lows caused
by the vibes we receive and perceive from those around us. So it was, that
those who transited the Horn with me contributed to the voyage becoming an
adventure worth remembering again and again.
I follow with thumbnail sketches of the true characters that made my Cape
Horn adventure become a voyage of a lifetime.
Capt. Ben Garrett
At first meeting with Capt Ben Garrett, one is aware of a grizzly, weathered
appearance that bears witness to the past of a person who has fought adversity
and after staring it in the eye, emerged with dignity and a little to the
better side of even. The twinkle in his eye is the single most distinguishing
characteristic of his appearance; it lets you know immediately that he believes
in himself. This trait is most essential for someone who must assume the
responsibility of command.
He meets you on deck seated in his favorite chair, a white plastic lawn chair
that is set to starboard alongside the ship’s helm. You are not yet aware
that Capt Ben suffers from the “bends”. He was left with almost no flexibility
of his legs after a hard hat dive that should not have taken place. Returning
to the bottom to retrieve a sack of lobsters after having exceeded his bottom
time resulted in his developing the malady. For some (15) plus years he has
continued to follow his stars in spite of his discomfort. Coming on deck
at any time one would see him bundled in a heavy hat, ear flaps down; foul
weather gear, boots and ski gloves and a dark ski visor covering his eyes.
A scarf around his lower face tops off his attire. For (4) hours at a time
Capt Ben sat like a Guru uttering a word or two occasionally to suggest some
minor action be performed in operating the ship. Always exceedingly courteous
and affable the Capt made one feel comfortable in his company.
The cruise on the Victory is informal and you are introduced to Capt Ben’s
family, his wife Monica and their children. The family shares some meals
with you at port and Monica extends the warmth of her home to all passengers.
She even does your wash (and we didn’t even ask).
The crew consisted of (3) local fishermen that were available, as the season
was wrong for King Crab fishing, the main stay of the fleet in this area.
Jose Minsella-(Big Jose)-Cook
Jose the cook was able and willing to expand his limited English vocabulary
and tried diligently to awaken the Spanish I had taken in high school (51)
He could make a meal out of bread and things I had never heard of or simple
dishes out of vegetables and fish that would rival a (5) star restaurant
in taste and goodness. It is true that the cold weather caused me to consume
close to (4000) calories a day but I would have pigged out on the food just
to enjoy the meals. Friendly, he would discuss his adventures at the drop
of a hat.
Mauricio Zaraga -Mate
Maurius was Mate and the most involved with the workings of the ship on deck.
He was totally familiar with the navigational waters. A fisherman here most
of his life, he could read the weather better than Doppler (4). His mother
is considered by some to be the last surviving Yagan Indian. These were the
original settlers of the area and were most probably the “Aborigines” that
Slocum encountered. Maurius was a friendly but a somewhat shy type person.
Not that he was truly shy, but a stand in the back type as though he felt
not up to the task. He would however; show seamanship skills handed down
by generations of local fishermen that did not require modern technology
to accomplish the task. He is a true follower of the “kiss” program (keep
it simple stupid”. A competent mechanic in the “Jury Rig” fashion he kept
the vessel together with spit, tape wire and a prayer. More than half the
time conversation with him was without verbal language. He spoke English
“Muy Poco”. He would stand by the Captain and watch for any sign of the Capt.’s
discomfort. The kind of a person that was almost not there, but was a reassuring
Jose Guentlican (Little Jose)-Deckhand
“Little Joe” was the “gofer” and general deck hand. Strong as an elephant,
he was named by us “Little Jose” because he was younger than the cook. His
ability to withstand the cold water temperature without gloves or waterproof
pants was amazing. When launching the dinghy in surf he would get drenched
and not exhibit the slightest shiver. He is on the edge of being a loner
but shows signs of a most congenial personality when provoked pleasantly.
He was most accommodating when any request was made of him. A trip ashore
with him was a class in local flora and fauna. When we were introduced to
his dog, we could see the evenhanded temperament of “Little Joe” reflected
in the animal’s affection for his master and the friendly personality exhibited
by the animal to all comers. “Little Jose” is an example that one can find
true contentment within and without “modernity”, as we know it today.
I have made voyages where there was not only derision but also even actual
danger wrought by certain individuals on board. This cruise contained a harmonious
crew. Like a song that lingers pleasantly in the mind, they struck a “Harmonious
Chord” creating a most pleasant memory. The other half of the equation, the
passengers, were an array of characters as different and interesting as those
in a Dickens’ novel, will be described in another chapter.
A ship is it’s own tiny world. Be aware that short passages can go well but,
an extended trip with the same people is a different “kettle of fish” and
the stew can be intolerable. Know yourself and try to know the other people
as quickly as possible, for like a foxhole or prison, life aboard ship demands
that personalities have to learn to live together; or it is Hell.
Note: Capt Ben informs me that to remain true to original construction, masts
will be scarfed with new lower sections of Oregon pine. An electrical rewiring
and complete hose replacement was completed. He will be ready for a November
rounding of the Horn after a complete haul-out.