This [Cape Horn: One
Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare] is the gripping
account of a voyage in a 42-foot ketch, Le Dauphin Amical
(The Friendly Dolphin) from Los Angeles south in search
of that nautical Holy Grail, Cape Horn. Réanne
Hemingway-Douglass, a graduate in French and teacher,
is the unconvinced companion to her husband's compulsive-obsessive
drive to round the cape: she, the gentle, thoughtful,
humanist mother; he the hard-nosed, bullying, pragmatic
father. They make an unlikely pair for so perilous a
voyage, and once their son Jeff and companions decide
that the voyage is not for them and leave, the narrative
concentrates not only on the unfolding drama of the
interplay between these two very different personalities
and on the unfolding metamorphosis in their relationship.
Both keep journals: Réanne's, written in the
most appalling conditions, is revealing as she probes
into herself and her struggle to become a nautical equal
of her sometimes tyrannical husband in their often very
unequal struggle with Mother sea. They do not achieve
the Horn, for at 50° south they are "pitch-poled"
(tossed head-over-tail by a monster wave) and the remainder
of the voyage focuses on their efforts to remain afloat
and alive aboard their seriously crippled yacht.
Their decision to enter the Strait of Magellan brings
its own set of problems, compounded by the fact that
a chronometer which was to be freighted to Easter Island
never arrived. This is not too serious as long as they
have engine power and are able to obtain time checks
by radio to set their wrist watches, but until Don is
able to get the diesel running, this is not possible
and their approach to Patagonia, a lee shore, is fraught
with off-lying dangers. Once in the Strait, and on two
separate occasions, approaching freighters ignore their
frantic signals for assistance, despite the fact that
they are flying the distress flag. Eventually they are
befriended by the British ship Bendoran , and Réanne
is able to climb precariously a Jacob's ladder with
news to be transmitted to their families; while fuel
and water are lowered to the wounded Le Dauphin Amical
, she enjoys scones and tea with the captain's wife.
When the weather worsens she hastily returns to the
yacht, which now is torn by williwaws—catabatic
winds of immense ferocity that funnel through the inlets
and fjords of the Strait – that lay Le Dauphin
Amical over on beam ends at anchor. Eventually they
reach the safety of Punta Arena and an immense outpouring
of kindness and assistance.
Perhaps, then, the title should have been Punta Arenas,
One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare . The cover illustration
of Réanne looking absolutely miserable imposed
on a monster wave about to engulf all before its path
would seem to make this all too clear. Yet this is not
only a woman's narrative of triumph over adversity,
and survival. Réanne awakens to the realization
that this experience has changed her forever: "What
had I learned about myself? I had learned from our sailing
nightmare that the will to survive is the strongest
instinct I have—that when my life depended on
it, I could push myself far beyond what I'd ever believed
possible." And in the dedication to her book she
is able to write, among others: "To Don—co-pilot
for life—who taught me to soar."
The book includes a map of the voyage track as part
of each of the covers. It includes details of the yacht,
a glossary of terms, and charts of important landfall,
the damage report of Lloyd's of London and Beaufort
Scale; an extract from the newspaper from Ontario, The
Daily Report; and references to such notables who went
before them as Drake, Moitessier, Tilman, the Smeetons.
The account opens with a verse from Baudelaire's Les
Fleurs du Mal, L' Homme et La Mer ) – what one
would expect from this remarkable woman. There is one
error in the "Notes." The apparent method
of calculation of True course to Magnetic is reversed,
that is to say a True course of 090(T), with a deviation
of 25 degrees West, would be a Magnetic course of 090
+25=115 degrees, not 065 degrees (Error West Compass
Finally, as Réanne's friend Roberto Uriburu,
who urged her to write this book said, "Raising
a child and writing a book are two of the most beautiful
tasks in the world." Réanne has done both
and I'm glad she did. The trio of Le Dauphin Amical
, Réanne and Don deserve our congratulations
for doing it their way.
Geoffrey H. Farmer
St. John's Newfoundlan
The above book review
of Cape Horn: One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare
came from the July 1999 issue of The Northern
Mariner/Le Marin du Nord , a magazine by Memorial
University of Newfoundland in St. John's.
TNM/LMN is a fully refereed journal devoted to all
aspects of the North Atlantic and North Pacific. It
publishes essays, notes and documents on a variety
of naval and maritime history, including merchant
shipping, maritime labour, naval history, shipbuilding,
fishing, ports, trade, nautical archaeology and maritime
societies. TNM/LMN is published quarterly by The Canadian
Nautical Research Society and all subscribers automatically
become members of the Society. The four issues of
TNM/LMN published annually total about 500 pages.
Each issue contains feature articles (often illustrated)
that run the gamet of maritime subjects. There are
also frequent research notes, memoirs, documents,
and review essays. One of the most important features
of TNM/LMN is its book review section, which is by
far the most extensive in the field. On average, TNM/LMN
reviews more than 300 new books each year, making
it the most convenient and comprehensive way to keep
abreast of new monographs.
by Peter H. Spectre
One night recently, I
was thumbing through the new book Cape Horn: One
Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare, by Réanne
Hemingway-Douglass, thinking to myself, "here's
another (yawn) hopeless exercise in trying to out-Slocum
Slocum, and it probably can't even out-Smeeton Smeeton,"
if you know what I mean. Then the book grabbed me by
the throat. I stayed up half the night. I got up early
the next morning and declared the day a holiday. I read
until my eyeballs became half petrified. I almost forgot
to walk the dog. A true story about a couple in a ketch
that pitchpoled on the edge of the Screaming 50s off
southern Chile, the book, written by the wife, is easily
the hairy-chested adventure yarn of the decade , if
not the half-century. Read it, then feel your tongue
turn to pink granite when you try to say this: "I'd
like to sail around the Horn." Cape Horn,
by Réanne Hemingway-Douglass.
I can't thank you enough
for having written "Cape Horn." Believe this
or not but your work is the best piece of nonfiction
I have ever read. Once started I literally could not
put it down. Your thought on page 115, "maybe we
shouldn't have changed her name" struck home with
me because our last boat was named after the previous
owners dog and I wouldn't have considered the risk implied
in changing it. On the other hand you luck certainly
was good in that she held together to the end.
My advice in the future
to anyone I meet with ocean sailing goals will be to
read your book. I've read many books starting with Slocum
and ending with Ellison and never got the real story
until I read "Cape Horn." My limited ocean
experience qualified as 98% boredom and 2% terror. You
convincingly brought home the fact that it can just
as easily become the reverse of that ratio. Those who
put to sea in small boats should read your book first!
Thank you again,
Subject: Thank you
Reanne, I recently finished reading your book Cape Horn
and couldn't put it down. It is truly a masterpiece
written in a style so seldom found. Although I have
not been in waters below the Panama Canal I have been
in the navy and we have been boaters since 1967. Having
recently cruised to Alaska I continually transposed
your experiences, as best it could be done, to 'what
ifs' for our own cruising. We have never sailed
but you clearly made me feel like a mouse in the corner
aboard your boat. Barb is reading it next and I
will highly recommend it to others. Thank you for
your story and the energy and courage to share it with
others. Well done.
Travis and Barbara Wills
In person Réanne is all we would expect from
her Cape Horn narrative—self-aware, warmly emotional,
reflective, and thoroughly human. Meeting [Réanne]
in person was the greatest validation of the authenticity
of the woman we come to know so well in Cape Horn: One
Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare.
Editor, Treacherous Waters: Stories of Sailors in the
Clutch of the Sea, McGraw Hill, ISBN#0-7-1388894-2
Cape Horn: One Man’s Dream, One Woman’s
Nightmare is more than an adventure story about a married
couple plying the Great Southern Ocean on a 42-foot
sailboat. Author Réanne Hemingway-Douglass, whose
account of their voyage draws on her diary, her husband
Don’s journal and the ship’s log, includes
her memories, opinions and dreams; thus the book is
about life itself. Even readers who will never sail
come to realize that the requirements for an ocean voyage
are the same as those for a good life: preparation,
maintenance, persistence, cooperation, and the ability
to cope with unexpected events. It also helps to have
a personal mantra like the author’s: You can always
do more than you think you can
The story engaged me immediately because it’s
told from a female perspective. There are no grandiose
exploits cloaked in pompous language; the tone is questioning
and analytical. She writes about seasickness as well
as the joy of floating on her back near Easter Island.
She describes the thrill of high-latitude sailing, but
also the ever-present rust and mildew on board. She
tells of trying to perform daily routines—bathing,
cooking, sex—in a constantly moving vessel, and
of her conflicts with a husband-captain who is often
unreasonable and sarcastic. She reveals her own fear—fear
as useless as the deteriorated sail they try to hoist
at one point in the story. More than once the reader
witnesses the power of Réanne’s will punching
through the fear like a fist through rotten canvas.
I appreciate the author’s explanation of sailing
procedures and her precise diction. She explains seafaring
words in the text and provides a glossary as well. It
includes sailboat terminology (like “dolphin striker”
and “lie ahull”) as well as words like “fetch”
whose nautical definition is ‘the distance waves
travel in open water before they reach a certain point.’
I feel like I’m right in the boat with her when
I read passages like this: “The sky had lost its
harshness, its blinding vividness, its hard line. The
sunlight, whitewashed and soft, seemed diffused with
microscopic particles of ice. We had traversed Gauguin’s
tropical palette and were moving across a Monet canvas.”
After an encounter with a rogue wave that cripples the
boat and leaves its interior in chaos, the story becomes
one of survival. The couple works around the clock,
pumping seawater from the leaky hull, making repairs
while cold, injured and wet, fighting the extreme weather.
Turning toward land, they manage to keep the boat on
course without benefit of working instruments. After
reaching the uninhabited Chilean coast they still aren’t
safe; they face dangers of rocks, reefs and hellacious
winds called williwaws. As much as losing her own life,
Hemingway-Douglass worries about losing their story.
The fearful phrase vanished without a trace keeps her
from giving in to the seduction of despair.
Cape Horn isn’t a book you read once, put aside
and forget. I keep a copy near my desk as a reminder
that good writing is straightforward, precise and honest.
And I reread passages from time to time to remind myself
of character traits I aspire to in my own land-based
life: Don’s drive and know-how, Réanne’s
intelligence and compassion, as well as qualities they
share: the ability to marvel at the beauty and power
of nature even while battling for survival, and the
heightened mindfulness that comes from taking great
Author & Editor
Francis Caldwell, author
of Pacific Troller and Land of the Ocean Mists, writes:
I read Réanne's Cape Horn. Finished it last night
waiting for the ferry at Keystone. What a fantastic
writer. What a story. No wonder it's a best-seller.
Unbelievable—especially the month after the pitchpole
and reaching land. Sounds like Southeast Alaska at its
worst, with gale after gale and williwaws galore. If
you've read Joshua Slocum's Sailing Around the World
Alone you'll wonder how in the world he ever made it
through the Straits of Magellan.
Cape Horn is a wonderful, thrilling and dynamic book,
full of adventure and chills. The book is now with a
friend and she is going to share it with my very adventurous
30-year-old goddaughter who loves sailing. She and her
partner are planning a sailing voyage--they haven't
decided where--but I felt that they would get some good
insight from your book.
Thank you for having the courage to make the voyage
and thank you for sharing your story.
Carolyn Harris, Medford, Oregon
I am knee deep in your book as you were in water on
your boat! It is so well written and the story is scary!
I was capitivated by our similarities. Your husband
sounds just like mine. My husband had a dream of sailing
around the world or at least to the south seas. He wanted
to do that when he turned 50. By the time he turned
50 he had raced Victoria to Maui three times. We had
also established that I would not be doing long-distance
You showed such courage just agreeing to go on a long
trip with your husband. Your patience was admirable.
Your courage was limitless. Of course, there are times
when we have no choice so we just move through the fear.
I can't wait to get home and read on…
I loan this book to people who might be a little apprehensive
about traveling in heavy water and tell them they will
be able to go anywhere after reading "Cape Horn."
When they give it back, they say, "You sure were
Bob Kimbrough, "Karelin"
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your
book on the trip towards Cape horn—Cape Horn:
One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare.
I read the book prior to my trip around Cape Horn on
a cruise ship. The book added so much enjoyment to the
Cape Horn trip.
I also own two of your northwest books. My trip around
Vancouver Island would not have been nearly as interesting
without your guidance.
No Point, Seattle
I read Réanne's saga and was absolutely enthralled.
A great adventure. I have given away several copies
to my friends, sailors and non sailors alike.
I enjoyed your book and recommend it for anyone who's
sailing to Cape Horn. Enjoyed the part after you rolled
over, how Don got the engine going. I'd like to hear
more! Write another book!
Thoroughly enjoyed reading of your adventure. I can't
imagine the hardships you faced during that long passage
from Easter Island to the Cape. I recommend your book
to all our friends.
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