Winter in Fireland- from Cape Town to Chile in a Canadian 27-footer.
by Nicholas Coghlan on 21 Jan 2012
In the 1980s Nick and Jenny Coghlan sailed their Albin Vega 27, Tarka the Otter, around the world via the Cape of Good Hope and the Panama Canal; they started and finished in Maple Bay, BC.
The cover of Winter in Fireland, showing Bosun Bird running in the Strait of Magellan. Nicholas Coghlan
Twenty-five years later Nick was serving as Canada's Consul General in Cape Town, South Africa, when the cruising bug bit again. He and Jenny bought a rugged Vancouver 27 in Richards Bay, near Durban, trucked it across the country and refurbished it at a small fishing harbour north of the Cape of Good Hope. Leaving in 2005, they crossed the South Atlantic via Namibia and lonely St Helena, making a spectacular landfall at Rio de Janeiro. In ever heavier weather they then battled south down the coast of Patagonia through the Roaring Forties, to Latitude 55 South. They wintered over at tiny Puerto Williams, Chile: the southernmost permanent settlement in the world, on the shores of the glacier-lined Beagle Channel and only a few miles from Cape Horn. Setting off north again through the lonely Chilean Channels towards warmer climes, with sea-ice still choking many bays, they sat out winds of up to 90 knots and saw scarcely a soul in four months. Their adventures are recounted in the well-reviewed Winter in Fireland, recently published by the University of Alberta Press.
After leaving Chile, they called at Easter Island en route to the remote Austral Islands, then Tahiti, the Cooks, Tonga and Fiji, before seeking shelter from the cyclone season at Opua, on New Zealand's North Island. From NZ they sailed through a 50-knot storm to Vanuatu and the Solomons, crossed the Line to Ponape (Micronesia) and, after a stop at the US base of Guam, arrived in Japan in April 2011. They cruised the Land of the Rising Sun for most of the rest of the year, encountering amazing hospitality and - in nine months - only one other transient foreign yacht. They are currently holed up at Suma Yacht Harbour, near Kobe at the eastern end of the Inland Sea, and hope to move on in the Spring of 2012 to Alaska and BC.
Nick and Jenny's adventures, along with practical cruising notes and reviews of Winter in Fireland, can be found at www.bosunbird.com.
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