By David Mercy

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We sailed out into the open sea and, lo and behold, there she stood majestically, just like a rhino’s nose: the Horn. The sails fluttered, slapped taut; the hoary 40-knot wind pinched our cheeks and noses; the sun shone bright, smiling with serendipity; not a cloud lolled in the sky. Jarle steered us toward the Horn; I manned the ropes; and poor Manuel leaned over the edge and hurled, seasick yet again. Balthazar, a lofty schooner captained by a Frenchman named Bertrand, videotaped us that day from afar as we turned the Horn.

Jarle had set off alone from Larvik, Norway at the age of 19 in the Berserk. Larvik, we would learn to know, was the home of a great many historic explorers, including the legendary Thor Heyerdahl, best known for fashioning the raft Kon-Tiki and floating it from South America to Polynesia. The eldest son of diplomats, Jarle became fascinated with sailing at a young age; he had been given his first small sailing boat by his beloved grandfather and had learned, by trial and error, the nature of wind and water.

Manuel looks over at me. ’ There is a moment of deafening silence. By now we have both heard repeatedly about the Drake Passage – the most dangerous water crossing in the world. I set our odds of death at 30 per cent. That night, the captain brings up Manuel’s up-and-down attitude. We are set to leave the next day. As we lie in our bunks, we debate whether or not we should bring him along. I want Manuel to go with us. I’m excited as hell, but have no idea what to expect out there on the ocean. I’ve never been on the open seas before and honestly want a third person to make our shifts easier.

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