Chapter II

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.  

And Family
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
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) years earlier.
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 presence always.
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.


Capt Stan

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.