Ascension Northwards - Day Nine 00 17.108N 032 06.532W

Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 22 Apr 2014 16:45
Notice the difference?! We're back in the Northern Hemisphere!! Crossed the Equator at 06.52 GMT this morning and shared a wee dram with Neptune as we crossed. This is the first time Aurora B has been back in the Northern Hemisphere since 20.14 on 3rd March 2010 - 4 years, 1 month and 12 days ago (or there abouts!). Had another squall early yesterday evening - again not too much wind, but a fair bit of rain. After that the wind died completely, the seas went glassy, the skies cleared and all the stars came out. It was a lovely night, but not for sailing as we were totally becalmed. So the motor came on and stayed on for 11 hours, running at a relatively slow 2,000 rpm, which gives us 5-5.5kts of boat speed. Good enough, but without using too much fuel (about 3 litres an hour). A light breeze came up with the dawn and the motor went off, and since then we've been making 3.5 to 4.5kts, with the very occasional burst of 5kts. So it's been slow going once again, but it's been a gloriously beautiful day. Hardly a cloud in the sky, hot and sunny, and the seas that gorgeous deep blue. Last night and today is not what you expect in the ITCZ. It's normally cloudy with rain - prolonged downpours or the occasional rain squalls (some with lots of wind). A couple of other boats who skipped Ascension and cut the corner off, are several hundred miles closer to the Brazilian coast. They have wind, but also constant rain. So as we're a long way out (450 miles off the coast) it seems we've traded rain for wind - no rain, but no wind (well, not much!) Not sure whether I prefer a fast soggy passage or a slow dry one! Our noon-to-noon run was 110 miles and we motored about half of that. One disappointing fact is that the little wind that we have is back to coming from the ESE/SE. We had hoped it would all be from the NE now, showing that we were making progress out of the ITCZ. It would appear that we still have a few days of light wind sailing before we can say that the ITCZ is behind us.

Before starting the engine we brought in the tow gen. It was almost vertical over the stern as we weren't moving (other than up and down with the swell), so didn't want the risk of it's rope getting fouled in the engine prop. And just as well that we did as the knot holding the tow gen propeller on to the rope had almost chaffed through. A little longer and we would have lost the tow gen propeller. So I've been doing more rope work to try a different knot with several sailmaker whippings to keep it all in place. Won't put it out again until we're going a bit faster (don't want any additional drag at these low speeds!).

Saw our first ship for days, but only on AIS. It passed over the horizon so we didn't actually see it. According to AIS it was a huge tanker on it's way to Singapore. (We'll just have to believe what the AIS/chartplotter told us!).

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