Doldrums, again

Mon 7 Jul 2008 03:51
Date: Sunday July 6th
Position 18:44S 169:00W
Good Morning all, just baked my best, most risen bread of all time, now very little left after a classic cockpit lunch of bread cheese, tuna, and salad. Only the red wine is missing! Unusually most of the food stayed on our plates, and this brings me to the bad news that we have run out of wind. We are crossing the South Pacific convergence zone, an area like the doldrums. Sometimes the weather here can be quite violent, so we are grateful that it is at least calm. It is hot and very very humid, and it rains from time to time. There is much cooler air to the South, and we have had a taste of this, and a few nights ago I was wearing a pullover and oilskin on the night watch: almost as bad as Europe!! Yesterday we tried our spinnaker (large mulitcolour sail) in the very light winds,  but without great progress. Today we are motoring to try to get through this, but don't have enough fuel to get all the way to Tonga, so we hope that Laurie (Vicky's boyfriend who is joining us for a couple of weeks) will be patient for a couple of days if he gets there before us. Vicky has been using Geoffs sextant and claims to have found out where we are to within 1.5 miles of where we actually are. If you see what I mean, you will understand that we have our GPS on board, and I really do believe that a sextant is an anachronism. If these old salts were surgeons they would still be using catgut and ether. That said, it is miraculous how the sailors of yore did manage to get to where they intended, at least some of the time. The population of the South Pacific Islands from Asia is a triumph that quite dwarfs the achievements of the early European navigators and sailors of 500 years ago, and no one quite knows how it was achieved.
Vicky, one fingered thanks to our trusty kitchen knife, writes, slowly, as follows: deep gash on my finger from a slippery tomato has got me out of washing up for now!  Last night on my wach as Fleck was barely sailing in the 8knots of light wind there came a quite legendary squall cloud.  It approached the boat like a giant black duvet hovering over the ocean, slowly cutting out the stars that provide a little light, It occupied almost a third of the surrounding horizon and inside it were lightening strikes and acompanying thunder rolls.  Quite terriflying!  After the torential downpour for a quarter of an hour, and flashes of light that accompanies the squall, it passed.  Almost as it did the light winds turned around 180 degrees and Fleck (which is stered by an auto pilot that steers to the wind, not a compass course) was merrily heading back for the Cook Isles!  Since then we have had the motor on but at least the boat is rolling less as the seas are slowly flatening out.  The surrounding clouds are quite spectacular, all sorts of mixed up clouds, high and low, big and small, fluffy and dense.  Just managed to see the sun at lunch to do my sun sight with the sextant.  Looking forward to the wind filling in - but you know we will complain about that when it arrives!
Richard and Vicky