Friday, May 9, 2014

In the Southern Hemisphere Again

We crossed the equator for the third time on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 1110. This was the first equator crossing in daylight – so we could actually see the equator! The first was heading to the Galapagos in March 2012 in the early, early morning hours. The next was from Tuvalu to Kiribati last October late at night. It was nice to do it in daylight and we toasted Neptune appropriately. We also sent another "message in a bottle" overboard – and we'll see if it gets found. After finding a "message bottle" in Ailuk, it is even more fun to send a message on its way. So now we are in Southern Hemisphere where we remain windless.

We have 613 miles to go as of this writing (Friday, May 9 at 1030 local). At this rate it will take us another five weeks as we are barely eking out a mile an hour. The predictions don't look too good – the wind may pick up a bit this Sunday and Monday – but otherwise the forecast continues to predict 4 knots of wind. Add to that – the four knots is coming directly from the southeast – the direction we are headed. There is not enough wind most of the time to keep a sail filled so we drift aimlessly like a piece of seaweed. Of course, when we drift or sail off course – we are adding many additional miles to that rhumb line course.

Every so often, we will get a squall line through the area. This is sometimes good because it brings with it some cooling rain and perhaps even a wisp of air. The hard part about squalls is that you cannot predict which ones will simply be rain-makers with light wind – or which will be the nasty ones that are filled with big wind. So we prepare as if each will be a bad one and then adapt. Unfortunately, it often means we have less sail up to capture the ones that have just enough wind to get us moving.

The other night, it felt like we entered the "twilight zone." We actually had one terrific day of sailing – steadily making 5 to 7 knots with all our sails up and Astarte sailing like a champ. It was fun and beautiful as we made good progress. Then we entered the zone. It was after dark and the area was one mass of gray. You couldn't distinguish water from sky – the tone was all the same. As we entered everything got very still – the seas, the wind – nothing. It lasted for hours simply drifting in this void. The gray soon gave way to clear skies but the wind never returned. Since that time, we have been lucky to make a few miles. We did run the engine for a few hours and made some easting. We are off our course by about 24 miles to the west – not able to get any easting in – so when we motor, we go east! The batteries were low without wind and no sun on that particular day. So when the engine is on – we charge batteries, make water, charge computers and toothbrushes and make eastward headway. But we only can run it for a few hours to conserve our fuel.

We are not alone out here though. There are about five boats that we know of, all heading in relatively the same direction. "Segura" is less than 50 miles ahead and we actually chat with them every so often on VHF radio. The others are further ahead and much further west as they are heading to Fiji or Vanuatu which aren't as east as Tuvalu – our destination.

This will be a long 1100 mile trip because of the lack of wind. Michael has already read about 6 books between watches, boat projects and hoping for wind. We have even resorted to "scratching the backstay" in the hopes of wind (all you Patrick O'Brian fans will know about that!)

Luckily we have plenty of food on board to survive a long passage and no deadlines to meet anyone. Also, if anything big happens in the world that we should know about – send us an e-mail – we don't have a clue about what's going on out there.

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