2021 Destination Desirable Doldrums
Position 04:25.74N 26:16.83W
Destination ‘Desirable’ Doldrums
The ITCZ is like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you are going to get. We have been crossing this area either side of the Equator and reaching from Africa to Brazil now for four days and have had to motor most of the way because of lack of wind, The Doldrums. The area changes in width at different times of the year and for us it has been 300 – 400 miles wide and hopefully we will leave it today 23rdApril and pick up some sailing winds.
The cloud formations in the ITCZ have been spectacular, I will post some pictures on the blog later but they will not convey the all over splendour. Many clouds shapes, heights and colours all at one time and some developing into squalls; the day before yesterday we grabbed the plant-based body wash and rushed to the foredeck for a wonderful rain shower in cool fresh water, it was bliss and lots of fun too.
We had a nasty squall just before the ITCZ at just after midnight when I was on watch. It crept over us from ahead, while I had been checking the sky astern, so it caught me unawares. Suddenly the wind was up to 24 knots and I dashed below to get Rob up so we could snuff the Diva, (cruising chute). As I made my way up the companionway steps again Zoonie went into a broach, heeling right over. Rob hauled down the snuffer bag but there was nothing in it, the Diva was dragging alongside Zoonie’s hull and by now it was pouring with rain, making her fabric heavy and at risk of sinking. The sail fabric was still attached to the clew and tack so we weren’t going to lose it.
She had been assaulted while on stage and so wounded waved a resigned gesture as she fell into the oceanic orchestra pit.
Instinctively neither of us went to turn on the engine because of the risk of trailing sheets getting around the prop and by this time the wind had passed and we just had the rain to soak and cool us while we dragged the masses of sailcloth safely onto her side-deck ready to bag it. For the rest of the night, we sloped along with the genoa poled-out and I felt decidedly annoyed with myself, but relieved in a sense that it didn’t happen on Rob’s watch so he’d have to deal with the emotions.
I was scrolling through one of the instruments a couple of days later and discovered that the daemon gust that blew out our Diva maxed out at 29.2 knots and was the only gust of that strength we’d had since leaving St Helena.
Suffice it to say I was not going to let that gust get in the way of the Diva’s future career and now she is back in her bag, all repaired and ready to go once more. Rob and I worked like a pair of Trojans along with the Pfaff 6 hand sewing machine, and the blessed calm of the Doldrums, (who’d ever think I’d be praising their flat calm conditions) for one and a half days to get the mammoth task done. So, we thought we’d try her out today but now the NE Trade winds are starting to set in so the wind direction will be all wrong for her. Never mind if those repairs don’t work, I’ll eat my hat; and I have a choice of five, two straw, two cotton and one man-made fabric, maybe not the last one though. She might be a little saggy in places due to stretched fabric but then so are we both and it doesn’t make us any less lovable! Or useful for that matter.
We learned a few things from that experience: -
1 A changing weather pattern beware, as we found the squalls came at us from all directions
2 Re-set the max wind tolerance for the Diva to 19 knots, not because she might split again in higher winds but because she might not and Zoonie’s broach could be even worse.
3 The repairs were easy because her construction and fabric are very light and we were able to use the fabric left in her tapes to repair the splits rather like taking a skin graft from another part of the human body because it is the same type.
Equator day was on the 21st April and to mark the occasion Zoonie did an involuntary turn under auto pilot, due perhaps to the growing electrical activity to be encountered in this atmospherically volatile area. She has done two more since; seventy degrees either way and with thunderous clouds up ahead at the time and an elegant serpentine manoeuvre when she just didn’t know which way to turn.
There has been plenty of thunder and some sheet lightning in the squalls so retrieval of our devices for our use has been from the oven and microwave, our Faraday’s cages. To be honest we were too busy on the day heat sealing all the Diva’s fraying edges to think about having moved back into the Northern Hemisphere and North Atlantic for the first time since 25th March 2016, but here we are again sailing towards our outward passage from the Cape Verdes to Guadeloupe at which point, in about 11 days’ time, we definitely will celebrate completing our ocean circumnavigation!
So, we have completed about one third of the passage to the Azores, measured from St Helena to the Equator at 1224 miles. Zoonie will reach the next waypoint this evening, on the other side of the ITCZ and then the next one we have set at a point to give us a nice sailing angle: 25’N 40’W. 1554 miles away.
Yesterday I was standing on the fourth step of the companionway, watching the rain and waiting for the bread dough to rise, not long in the 37-degree cabin heat, when I thought we could have a second rainwater shower on the foredeck. So, stripped of our singular item of clothing and clasping the body wash off we go again. All lathered up and ready for the rinse, guess what happened next, well, nothing, it stopped raining!! Two sudsy souls made their way back to the cockpit for a rinse off below.
We know we’re in the North Atlantic because there is Sargasso weed all around us and the Watt&Sea cannot work because it is clogged up.
In another 4 days we will be out of the path of naissant hurricanes which can start forming from early May, so that will be a relief. Yesterday I asked Neptune for some sailing winds for our three yachts and he has tentatively obliged and now we are creeping north at around 4 knots in the very start of the NE Trades.