Cape Horn
One Man's Dream, One Woman's Nightmare
Expanded 2nd edition with color photos

Published Reviews

The Northern Mariner / Le Marin du Nord


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 Best).

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.

Kevin Monahan
Shipwrite Productions

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.

Readers' Reviews

March, 2006

Dear Reanne:

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,

Bill Carlisie

January, 2004

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

July, 2003

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.

Tom Lochhaas
Editor, Treacherous Waters: Stories of Sailors in the Clutch of the Sea, McGraw Hill, ISBN#0-7-1388894-2

January, 2003

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 risks.

—Kathryn Wilkens
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.

Summer 2001

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


Dear Réanne,

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 sailing.

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…

Judy Rekevics
Anacortes, WA

Spring 2001

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 right!"

Bob Kimbrough, "Karelin"


Dear Réanne,

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.

Thank you,

Jack Allen
No Point, Seattle

Winter 2001

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.

David Geoffron
Seattle, WA

Winter 2001

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!

Doug Nehm

Winter 2001

Dear Réanne,

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.

Phil Rostle
Portland, Oregon

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