Sailing southward aboard the Alaska Eagle
A few days from now, I, along with a group who doesn’t mind a little adversity, will be sailing aboard the Alaska Eagle off Cape Horn.
We’ll venture out from the protection of the Wollaston Islands, and just a few miles later, skirt past the infamous southern tip of South America. No doubt everyone will get their photo taken at the helm on this occasion.
But instead of turning left after the Horn — and ducking back into the Wollastons for a nice dinner at anchor and a good night’s sleep — we’ll keep sailing east in the southern Atlantic Ocean for another 1,000 miles.
Our destination will be the spectacular sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.
This 100-mile long island with 10,000 foot peaks is famous as the landfall for the greatest rescue story of the 20th century. In 1916 Capt. Ernest Shackleton sailed a 23-foot open boat from Antarctica to South Georgia to save his stranded crew off the wrecked square rigger Endurance.
For a sailing adventure, at least for our group of 11, it doesn’t get better than this month-long voyage.
After exploring the length of South Georgia, we’ll sail north for 10 days to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The Alaska Eagle is Orange Coast College’s 65-foot sail training vessel, and this will be her seventh time at Cape Horn, including twice when she raced around the world 30 years ago. For the past 29 years, OCC’s sailing program has operated the aluminum boat on sail-training voyages ranging from Australia to Norway and from Alaska to Antarctica.
This year’s voyage circumnavigates South America, with more than 60 students taking part in seven legs. The Alaska Eagle departed OCC’s facility along Newport Harbor on Oct. 30, and sailed 4,000 miles to Easter Island off the coast of Chile on the first leg of the voyage.
She will return home to Newport this June. The purpose of the voyage is to improve the skills and seamanship of our students and provide them with exceptional learning experiences. This noncredit adventure is paid entirely by student fees of about $275 per day.
The skipper for our voyage is Newport Beach’s Richard Crowe, who has captained the Alaska Eagle since he sailed her across the Atlantic for OCC in 1982. Richard and his wife, Sheri, have covered more than 200,000 miles aboard the Alaska Eagle.
I will be Richard’s second-in-command and watch captain. Bruce Tice, a longtime OCC sailing program employee and Newport Beach police reserve officer, will be our third leader. Cooking for the crew will be Bruce Griffen, a New Zealander from Kerikeri who has cooked many meals aboard on previous voyages.
So who signs up to crew on a sailboat through gales in ice-filled waters to a remote island populated by giant albatrosses and a few million penguins? Who doesn’t hesitate to fly to a boat at the bottom of South America and join a crew they’ve never met before?
Just the kind of people you want to be with for an adventure of a lifetime.
Here is the Alaska Eagle crew list:
*Francisco “Frank” Alvarez, Vancouver, Wash. A retired Intel executive, he owns a 46-foot cruising boat. He’s a trans-Pacific and South Georgia vet, and a cross-country skier and runner.
*Barry Hutten, Crowley Lake. Hutten, an investor, owns a 34-foot sloop and is a trans-Pacific vet, who enjoys river rafting, mountaineering, Arctic canoeing and serving as a ski patrol EMT.
*Anton Kozhevnikov, Pacific Palisades. A geographer, he owns a 32-foot cruising sloop. He has previous Alaska Eagle offshore experience. He is a divemaster who enjoys kayaking and long-distance backpacking.
*Joshua Minney, Newport Beach. A ship chandelier, with local racing and sailing experience, he has previous Alaska Eagle experience offshore. He also competes in triathlons and skis.
*Peter Molnar, Berkeley. He is a winery owner, champion youth sailor, experienced big boat sailor, a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor, and an open-water swimmer with San Francisco Bay experience. He is also an EMT, skier and mountaineer.
Tim Myers, Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is an executive with experience racing and cruising the Great Lakes and Bermuda. He enjoys off-road racing, hiking and travel.
*Jeff Svihus, Carmel. Svihus, who works in real estate, is on board for his fourth long-distance voyage aboard Alaska Eagle. He is a frequent bare boat charterer who enjoys hiking, weight lifting, carpentry and playing guitar.
I am looking forward to meeting my co-adventurers in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia is on the Beagle Channel, just 100 miles north of Cape Horn, and the last place to get supplies. Within days, we’ll be off for two adventures: One will be the constant engagement with an incredible outside world, and the other will be sharing it with our new best friends.
Brad Avery is director of OCC’s School of Sailing & Seamanship, located on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach. The school is one of the nation’s largest public sailing programs, offering courses from beginning sailing to advanced level offshore voyages. The school is supported through course fees and private donations. During this voyage to South Georgia Island, Avery will be submitting weekly reports to the Daily Pilot. The voyage can also be followed on Alaska Eagle’s Facebook page and on the school’s website: occsailing.com