In Cape Horn: One Man’s Dream, One Woman’s Nightmare, Réanne Hemingway-Douglass vividly recreates a sailing voyage in which she and her husband Don set out to round Cape Horn. As the reader discovers, they never quite got there. Meanwhile, Hemingway-Douglass shares the heady magic of starlit nights and breathtaking dawns, grueling and toilsome days, emotions ranging from joy to absolute terror, and a determination not to give up hope when all seems lost.
Situated on the southernmost tip of South America, Cape Horn is surrounded by some of the most treacherous waters on the planet due to its gigantic waves, lurking icebergs, strong currents, and high winds. The Panama Canal was built at huge expense as a way to avoid Cape Horn. To this day, the Horn is a dangerous challenge for even the most experienced yachtsmen. The author’s husband, Don, had dreamed all his life of rounding the Horn. Réanne Hemingway-Douglass knew this when she married him, and dutifully agreed to accompany him as crew.
Five hundred miles northwest of Cape Horn, the Douglass’s 42 foot sailboat, Le Dauphin Amical, was pitchpoled by a monster rogue wave (more than 80 to 100 feet high) in a Force 11 storm. Hemingway-Douglass and her husband spent the next 42 days struggling to reach safety aboard their crippled vessel. Surviving each day was a miracle, a true adventure in living.
In recounting their story, the author broaches the love-hate relationship of a ship’s captain and its crew. Captains are solitary humans driven by their own goals, agendas, and methods. The captain is the one who must make the hard decisions—no matter how difficult, dangerous, or demanding they are for the crew.
Don Douglass, captain of the Le Dauphin, was no exception. Fortunately, he was also highly competent, extremely driven, and unrelenting—all characteristics required for survival in dangerous situations.
A novice sailor, Hemingway-Douglass discovered that Don’s role of captain superseded his role as her husband and lover—for better or for worse. I know of no other nautical book that accurately and honestly portrays this transformation. It is a forthright perspective about life onboard that all sailors, captains and crews, should acknowledge before setting sail together.
The author passionately captures and vividly describes her months at sea with her husband, her captain, in this page-turner true adventure that tested their endurance and their marriage. Highly recommended.