Cape Horn Passage to California (1936)

CapeHorn2 - lo res

See what it was like back in 1937 to beat (sail) around Cape Horn against the prevailing westerly winds known as the ‘roaring 40s’ in the 1885 German-built pilot schooner WANDER BIRD. With his young family (wait till you see what the children get up to in the rigging!) and only a small crew Capt. Warwick Thompkins made the passage from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to San Francisco (by way of Europe) in eight months. Besides shooting this film he wrote a couple of books about the experience: Fifty South to Fifty South (1938) and Two Sailors and Their Voyage Around Cape Horn (1939).

The WANDER BIRD gradually fell on hard times in the Oakland Bay area but in recent years was brought back to life by Capt. Harold Sommer, her subsequent long-time owner. He and his devoted friends completed a massive restoration and got her sailing once more. The vessel is now back in Germany, shipped there for preservation, and given back her original, soul-crushingly functional name – ELBE #5. Sigh….

Black and white 16mm, 26 mins

Watch excerpt here