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Johan Petersen. Photo: Hanna Thevik

Returned to where he was seeking shelter 30 years ago

29 days ago
Written by Hanna Thevik
Life on board > Returned to where he was seeking shelter 30 years ago

Returned to where he was seeking shelter 30 years ago

29 days agoLife on board
Written by Hanna Thevik
Johan Petersen. Photo: Hanna Thevik

30 years ago, Johan Petersen set out from Norway on a voyage around the globe in the small sailboat Sorgenfri, together with his friends Peder, Thomas and Terje. Now Johan has rounded Cape Horn again, this time on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl.

When Johan and his friends left Norway, the plan was to be away for two years. But unexpected hardships meant that they did not return until four years later.

The 20-year-olds were the first to sail a Norwegian boat so far south and so far north on one and the same trip: Antarctica, Greenland, the Cape of Good Hope, Micronesia, the Philippines, Borneo and South America were their destinations, and not least Kapp Horn.

The voyage with Sorgenfri. Map: Sorgenfri, Orion Forlag 1995
The voyage with Sorgenfri. Map: Sorgenfri, Orion Forlag 1995

Golden opportunity

In Sorgenfri, a Hero 101 only 33 feet long, John lived through both bad weather and accidents. Now he at sea again, under slightly different circumstances. To return to the waters he sailed in 1991 and 1992, this time on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl, was a golden opportunity he could not miss.

- The southern tip and up along Patagonia is a special and fantastic area with lots of history and lots of weather, beautiful landscape with mountains and fjords, Johan recalls.

He was especially looking forward to round Cape Horn again.

- The first time I was here, was with a small sailboat. But the stories of Cape Horn are the stories of tall ships, like Statsraad Lehmkuhl. So this is a dream come true, another and more historic way to round the Horn.

Rounding Cape Horn in Sorgenfri. Photo: Sorgenfri, Orion Forlag 1995
Rounding Cape Horn in Sorgenfri. Photo: Sorgenfri, Orion Forlag 1995

Emergency port

When Johan sailed out of the Strait of Magellan with Sorgenfri, a strong head wind forced them to seek shelter.

- We found a nice protected harbor, which we sailed past with Lehmkuhl a week ago. With Sorgenfri it was quite strenuous, what was supposed to be a bay sheltered from the weather quickly became something completely different. At night the downbursts from the mountains set in, and really shook Sorgenfri. We had to get into the dinghy and reinforce the moorings to save the boat. It was something else to sail past the bay with Lehmkuhl, he smiles.

On the beach, just north of Cape Horn. Photo: Sorgenfri, Orion Forlag 1995
On the beach, just north of Cape Horn. Photo: Sorgenfri, Orion Forlag 1995

The circumnavigation with Sorgenfri lasted four years, from 1990-1994, and has had great significance for Johan's life afterwards. He has worked at sea since, and sails both in his spare time, and in his job as a skipper and teacher at Oslo Sea School.

- Sailing around in this way in a small boat is a powerful experience of life. To see the world in this way. To be really close to others on such a trip is also something very special.

Johan Petersen with his Cape Horn diploma. Photo: Hanna Thevik
Johan Petersen with his Cape Horn diploma. Photo: Hanna Thevik

A way of living

Life at sea has become a way of living for Johan.

- It has great value, and is not always as easy to combine with a modern life, the reference point is something completely different. But it is good to be in an environment like this, and a real pleasure to sail with the young gang we have with us as a volunteer crew, says Johan.

- Living and working with young people who enjoy this way of life, in addition to the joy of sailing, it is good to see, and gives me hope for the future.

On deck there is sail handling with great eager. On the banner there is always laughter, card games, guitar and good conversations. A ship is a nice and simple world, a small community where you live close to other people. Something very special. To be able to live like this for a long time is something you can't experience elsewhere.

- Being few people on a small boat or many on a larger ship, is more reassuring than the complicated life on dry land. There is also something about traveling from country to country by the sea, says Johan.

Johan Petersen. Photo: Hanna Thevik
Johan Petersen. Photo: Hanna Thevik

In step with nature

He likes what he calls a sympathetic and human way of getting along. The feeling of mastery is also important, the one you get from being able to sail and manage on your own.

- Life at sea is a life with little fuzz, a simple and good life where you live in step with nature.

Compared to the last time he visited at the southern tip of South America, Johan does not see the big changes here. The wildlife is the same, but then Patagonia is a deserted area that is well taken care of.

- Argentina has banned fish farming in, among other places, the Beagle Channel, and that is good. Farming is not good for the fjords here, it disturbs the wildlife.

For Johan, it is important to take care of the ocean, and then spreading information and changing peoples attitudes is essential.

- Everything starts with one small step. Education is important and focusing on the role of the ocean, as One Ocean Expedition does, is a step in the right direction. Earlier, I threw sigarett butts in the ocean, for example. You should never do that. One by one we are not able to make the big moves, but we can influence and enlighten where we can. Every little thing helps!

Johan Petersen and Peder Krogh wrote a book about the trip with Sorgenfri, some of the pictures above are from the book.

Translated to english by Ronald Toppe

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