Around Cape Horn

»«Sunday 11th January 2015

At our second 'talk' and lunch of the season the Cruiser Fleet were treated to an amazing film of Rounding The Horn in 1928 on the barque Peking. Thought to be the world’s largest commercial sailing vessel at that time - four masts & 345ft long – she was engaged in the phosphate trade. She now lies in New York’s South Dock – worth a visit if you’re over there.

The film was made by a young Irving Johnson, a member of the crew. He later sailed as mate on Shamrock IV when she crossed the Atlantic for the America's Cup. He added a narration to this amazing film some 60 years later. His laconic style and many throwaway remarks are antithetic to the exciting footage and very entertaining.

80ft waves swept across the deck. Netting was rigged to "strain out sailors" caught unawares. On two occasions Peking's Captain (with hands like hams) saved men who fell in by racing to the stern, snatching a rope in one hand, leaping overboard and catching the victim by the hair as he was swept past. This was not recorded at the time because a Captain should be the last to leave his ship!

Scenes of men working aloft were breath taking – not a harness in sight. Two men were lost but there was no going about because the cold would have killed them even if they could have been found.

Having sailed as Third Officer on 60m, two - masted brigs and Watch Officer on 150ft top sail schooners, I could go on (and on!). Not that we ever encountered conditions like those shown in the film, I'm pleased to say.

We concluded the session with an excellent lunch.

David Hill