Ascension Northwards - Day Thirteen 04 36.438N 038 49.483W

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 26 Apr 2014 18:25
What a difference a day makes! No squalls and no rain for 24 hours - Hooray!! Had fairly consistent winds from the NE, so it looks like we might finally be out of the ITCZ, but if not, we must be on the edge of it. Once we get to 5 degrees north, we should be clear and we're not far from that now. The night was mostly clear of cloud and we could see the stars once again. Even the moon came up in the early hours and passed close to Venus, the two together lighting up our wake as they're coming up behind us. The moon is now just a small crescent, but it still gives out quite a bit of light and we could actually see to the horizon. The last few nights it's been so dark with cloud that we could hardly see the other side of the cockpit! So a very pleasant change. But we shall lose the moon completely after tonight for about a week and we'll have to rely on just the stars, so hope the nights are clear.

One of the boats that went this way a month ago reported they had 15 to 25kt of NE wind once leaving the ITCZ and as it was up to 19kts at dusk we decided to keep the main up, but put in the third reef and pleased that we did. With winds over 20kts, the reefed main and a well reefed genoa the speeds were up around 6 to 7kts most of the time, so plenty good enough for the night. Taking the NE swell forward of the beam there was also quite a bit of water on the deck, but we only had one that reached the cockpit, just as I was behind the wheel, so it was an early bath! It was the first of two as the anchor looked like it had shifted a little, so in the light this morning I went forward to check it, but this time I was ready for the likely outcome and just had a pair of board shorts on. Only one wave got me, but enough to come back to cockpit dripping! Still, it has been warm today with quite a bit of sun, so getting wet is not a problem. At night though, there's been a definite drop in temperature over these last couple of nights. Rather than just T-shirts it's now T-shirts, fleece and rain jacket (to keep out the wind). It's probably the chill factor from the much stronger winds we're now getting. Hope it's that - if we're feeling cold at 4 degrees of latitude there's not much hope for us as we head north! The winds today have been lighter, but we've been keeping up around 6kts, and with the sunshine it's a very pleasant day.

Had to clear weed from the hydrovane rudder twice more - there's so much of it on the surface of the water, some patches the size of the penalty area on a football pitch. It's a very bright yellow, so quite colourful to see. We thought it must be to do with the ITCZ and the light winds, and hope it clears once we're a bit further north. No birds so far today. Although yesterday was a good day for birds, with terns, a large petrel or two and the shearwaters we mentioned yesterday, it is the exception. Considering how many birds we assume must be out there we see very few, going days without seeing any. And talking of seeing things, we've not seen any ships or planes since leaving Ascension (other than a couple of ships on AIS).

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