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Whitall Stokes Effects Repairs en Route to Cape Horn

Whitall Stokes and his Open 50 Sparrow are well on their way to Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean. If you haven’t been keeping up with the story, Whitall is attempting a solo circumnavigation by taking the Great Capes to port. He left San Francisco on November 8. If all goes well, he’ll be back in San Francisco sometime in April.

Whitall Stokes onboard
Whitall Stokes, 58, seen here in the tropics. He recently passed Pitcairn Island and will need to think about putting clothes on soon.
© 2020 Whitall Stokes

After doing some repairs in the lee of the Big Island of Hawaii, he set off heading due south. Whitall wrote, “Sparrow was greeted with 30-40+ knots, and some problems emerged.” Emerging problems seem to go with sailing. “The jib halyard cover ripped apart, so the clutch and self tailing winch at the mast are rendered useless. The nut on top of the gooseneck pin (a long 1/2-inch bolt) that held the mainsail clew has sheared off, taking the top 1 inch of the gooseneck pin with it.”

Moana Loa at sunset
Land ho! But no landing on the Big Island. That’s Mauna Loa at sunset.
© 2020 Whitall Stokes

More problems emerged while they beat upwind in the South Pacific. “With every problem, I first wonder if this is finally the show-stopper, the one I can’t overcome and have to make for port or turn around. So far I’ve been able to keep going.” Whitall has set up “Bailout Points” for the trip, and if he can’t keep up with the problems he’ll head to a port. But the bailout ports are getting fewer as he heads south. Once he passed the equator, he needed to make more repairs, so he sat out in the lee of an atoll named Raroia.

“I found a little respite in the lee of an atoll to effect repairs. When pounding out the gooseneck pin, it didn’t feel good the way it was fighting coming out, so I tapped it back in, cleaned up the top gudgeon and poured epoxy into the small cavity on top of the bolt. I don’t think the epoxy will do much, but it’s something.”

Coach roof patches, blue on green
Whitall made these coachroof patches while in the lee of Hawaii.
© 2020 Whitall Stokes

After some other repairs he continued on. “Not seeing much of a reason not to continue the journey, so on we go to the Horn. Last night was boisterous, with many scary-looking clouds, lightning and 30- to 35-knot winds. The whole deal. Sparrow handled it all like a champ. 60 degrees off the wind under three reefs and a piece of jib unfurled. So on we go.”

Not all the days have been ugly. “The Trades have relaxed a bit today, now 10-15 and shifted just a bit north. This has made a huge difference aboard Sparrow, as I’m able to open some hatches to dry out the boat! I may even bathe later…”

Sunset from Sparrow
Sunset on Day 30.
© 2020 Whitall Stokes

He also reported about the distance covered and the distance still to come, as of December 6, Day 28:

  • Stage 1 (GGB to Hawaii): 2,131 nm (100% Complete)
  • Stage 2 (Hawaii to Cape Horn): 6,310 (40% Complete)
  • Stage 3 (Cape Horn to South Cape, NZ): 9,836
  • Stage 4 (South Cape, NZ, to GGB): 6,348
  • Total Distance: 24,624 (19% Complete)

“I’ve seen exactly three vessels on 48-mile range via the AIS. Nothing on VHF. There is just no one out here. Next bailout point, Falkland Islands. Cape Horn 4,000 miles distant. Here we go.”

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  1. Steve Garrity 3 years ago

    Interesting comparison with Jerome Rand’s solo nonstop circumnavigation in 2017-18 , on a Westsail 32 named Mighty Sparrow. Of course, his voyage began and ended in Gloucester, Mass rather than the west coast. Best of luck to Capt. Stokes! Anyone wanting to vicariously share Rand’s experience, check out his “Sailing into Oblivion” – a book guaranteed to quell any desire to sail the Southern Ocean…at least for me.

  2. Memo Gidley 3 years ago

    Sounds challenging…and great!

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