Feb 12-13, Changing the “Merry-go-Round”

Date: Feb. 13, 2017, noon Position: 2 3.05 S, 26 36.44 W

Just as we were settling into a fine sunset one evening we felt a tug on the fishing line: a perfect-size tuna! Within an hour we caught, cleaned, cooked, and ate our dinner–fresh fish & chips!

The South Atlantic has been very kind to us. We’ve hardly had any winds over 20 knots and very few instances below 12 knots–the perfect wind range. We covered the entire distance except for a hundred miles or so with our wing-and-wing configuration, staysail sheeted flat to reduce roll. It was a downwind run the whole way, and we kept every hatch and port open the entire distance, keeping a bone-dry deck. The SE trades have been good to us, and I will remember the South Atlantic as the most pleasant sailing of the entire world cruise. All good things must come to an end, however, as we are fast approaching the ITCZ (doldrums) that divide the N and S Atlantic. It’s an area with heavy rain and light, variable winds. We must cross this “road” to get into the fresh NE tradewinds on the other side. The doldrums might be only 80 NM wide, or they might 300 NM wide–the position and width of the snaking road is always in flux.

The winds and currents in the South Atlantic swirl around the ocean in a counter-clockwise rotation, while the winds and currents in the North Atlantic go the opposite, in a clockwise direction. It’s like we’re riding a giant figure-8 pattern from Africa to the Caribbean. We’re about to jump horse off one merry-go-round and onto another, the ITCZ constituting the leap right where the two loops criss-cross on the figure-8.

It’s definitely starting to feel like we’re approaching the doldrums. The past few days have been dull and cloudy with lowering pressure. Our solar panels are struggling to make any output with the combines heat and clouds. We have to run the engine every other day for a few hours to top up our batteries. On the positive side, we’re still sailing along nicely, on some of our highest mileage days so far since leaving St. Helena. We must be in a good strong current because it looks like the boat is only going 4.5 knots or so through the water, but we are charging along at 6.5-7 knots.

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