>BRIAN ‘BJ’ CALDWELL’S
From Latitude 38 (March 1996) with permission…
Brian Caldwell, Jr., has been a regular contributor to these pages since last September. His monthly installments chronicle his ongoing attempt to become the youngest singlehanded sailor ever to circumnavigate the globe. On June 1, at age 19, he departed Hawaii on his Contessa 26 Mai (Miti) Vavau. (Maimiti was the name of Fletcher Christian’s Tahitian girlfriend; miti vavau means waves from a distant storm in Tahitian.) Now 20, he is at this writing within a stone’s throw of Cape Town, the official halfway point of the voyage.
There’s a little reference in this month’s dispatch that bears explanation. Brian really got into the singlehanding thing on the family’s Santa Cruz 27 in the Caldwell’s homeport of Hawaii. “Almost every afternoon after school, he’d dump his books and take off for the afternoon,” says mom Jan Caldwell. “The boat was named Cool World, but we nicknamed it Cruel World and we started calling him Sail Alone.” She notes that Brian’s first circumnavigation, a two-day roundabout of Oahu, was on the 27.
BJ writes:Ah, what a relief it is to have scratched Cape Alguhas off the list of waypoints! Mai (Miti) Vavau is now halfway around the world in Cape Town, but as I like to tell people, a lot more than halfway over the hump. Sure, any ocean can be bad, but percentage-wise, the rest of the sail home should be a downwind milk run. My vessel loves light to moderate breezes, so we’re both hot with anticipation for the Atlantic.
It took longer than expected to round Alguhas, aka the Cape of Storms, but is that so unexpected? The extra time bought me safe passage around what some might argue is the most dangerous promontory on earth. Sure, it blows gale force a higher percentage of the time at Cape Horn, but the chances of encountering waves of 20 meters and higher there are far less than around the Alguhas Bank.
In fact, I was driven back from Cape Alguhas three times before finally besting the rocky outcropping on the fourth attempt. The first time, I was within 22 nautical miles of the enigma before a sou’wester drove me back to Mossel Bay. Because the blow was forecast to last a day and a half, I decided to seek shelter and wait for a more promising window instead of lying to the sea anchor behind the only shelter available, Cape Infanta.
The second time, I left Mossel Bay along with another singlehander, Steve on Look For. This time, we were 50 miles from Cape Alguhas before Alistair of the South African Net came on the radio with a nasty weather forecast. As I said in a previous article, the weather here can change completely in less than 12 hours. This time it took six; the picture went from a near-perfect two-day window to several lows and a cold front coming our way.
How the hell did this happen? Our trusty new high decided to back up instead of ridging on around the Cape. So, after heaving-to for five hours to wait for the westerly switch, we gave up and match-raced back to Mussel Bay.
The third time, I had engine trouble only 10 miles out of Mossel. Sure, I could have kept going, but the wind trend around there is all or nothing, so it would have been tempting Murphy to continue when I was so close to shelter. Luckily, it was just a clogged fuel line and gucked-up filter.
Finally, BJ the Boomerang, wished Mossel Bay goodbye for the fourth and final time. A gale-force sou’easter drove us around the bloody point some 35degrees south of the Equator. The seas were incredible, but what does one expect off Cape Alguhas? It just would not have been right without spume, penguins, whales and the magnificent wandering albatross careening over the wave tops.
Mai (Miti)’s latest triumph was shared by two other boats. One was Proteus,a Cal 30 sailed by Tony, who readers of these accounts may remember as the young Korean sailor attempting to become the first of his nationality to circumnavigate solo. The other was my newest buddy, Anthony Steward, a South African who claims the title of first man to circumnavigate in an open boat. He reassured me by saying it also took him four attempts to get from East London to Cape Town on his record-setting trip! Anyway, you should have seen the three of us raising hell in the sleepy fishing port of Mossel Bay. Anthony was delivering a yacht called Fair Cape of all things, to Cape Town and had taken two months from Durban to do so, as I had. This guy can’t count how many times he’s rounded the Cape of Storms.
I’m happy to say I’ve secured Doyle Sails and Bainbridge Sailcloth as new sponsors. As soon as my new suit of Spectra sails is ready, I’ll cut the umbilical cord with South Africa. The battle plan for the Atlantic? I’m not saying a word, just keep reading Latitude 38!
Although I’ve got new wings, I’m still desperately in need of a title sponsor. It’s hard to engineer the next voyage when I’m laboring to finish this one on a wing and a prayer. My name is Sail Alone and reaping publicity is my game!
Special thanks to all those who have gotten me this far, all 12,000 miles worth!brian bj caldwell, jr.
Editor’s Note: At this writing, BJ had been stuck for three days straight in another tiny harbor called Gransbaai (Grans Bay). Although he was only 12 sailing hours from Cape Town, the changeable weather had him holed up on the boat, once again waiting for that elusive window. Richard Woodard, part of a Cape Town welcoming committee, reports fine weather “on our side of Cape Point” but adds “BJ is on the other side, where more often than not, the weather is totally different.”