It’s a week since we left Mindelo and we are now roughly midway between the land masses of Africa and South America. The equator lies just 300 miles to the south and we expect to be in the ITCZ or the Doldrums before the weekend. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to cross it quickly – it has a reputation for not only becalming sailing vessels but also for violent squalls and thunderstorms.
The sea temperature is now 32C and it is pretty humid onboard. We are keeping the hatches open to get some air movement through the boat, the wind and sea are behind us so there is a risk of seawater coming over the decks so we having to be careful.
We had a strange near encounter with a 140’ private motor vessel last night. The AIS display indicated it was on passage from somewhere, probably Surinam, to Sierra Leone and was travelling slowly. At about ten miles range it made a sudden turn towards us; there were a few things about the vessel’s name and AIS description that made us uncomfortable so we decided to change course to keep well out of its way and turned off our AIS beacon so he could no longer see us. All sailors have a duty to try to assist other vessels that might be in distress but as this one had failed to make any radio contact we guessed they probably weren’t steering towards us for help. Fortunately a large cargo vessel appeared about 10 miles away and the motor vessel then changed course to cross it so we were able to skirt around them and continued on our passage feeling less guilty but puzzling if we’d over reacted.
Perhaps we were being paranoid but it was the first time that we have felt in anyway isolated out here…… but he might have just wanted to wave hello! When we get to Brazil we will try, out of curiosity, to find out more about this vessel although we suspect it will not be easy to trace it.
During the night there was a big bang as a fitting at the outboard end of the new whisker pole snapped allowing the pole to bounce wildly. We took a reef in the genoa to quieten things down and hope to be able to repair it later today – in the meantime we’ll just have to sail a bit slower.