Into the ITCZ, Across the Equator!

Date: Feb. 14, 2017, noon Position: 0 46.78 N, 28 48.30 W

Big day for Privateer today–we’ve found the doldrums, and we sailed across the Equator and into the North Atlantic!

It all started at about 5:30am. I was sleeping peacefully in my bunk, Nep was sailing the boat wing-on-wing in light breezes as we’d been doing for the past 3,300 NM. Suddenly I awoke to big fat raindrops splashing on my face, and then felt the boat lurch as the mainsail was caught aback in the preventers. It was a soaker! The winds dropped right off to zero. We had finally found the ITCZ and it was like a wall.

We rolled up the Yankee, stowed the downwind pole, double-reefed the main, sheeted the storm staysail tight, disconnected the Monitor vane, engaged the electric tiller pilot, and fired up the engine. All while taking an involuntary early-bird morning “swim” on deck, as the rainwater flooded the decks and shot out of every scupper.

We’ve been under power all day now and into the night, and will probably motor for at least another 24-36 hours to get clear of the doldrums and into the NE trades. The sailors of old had to bob around in this mess for weeks hoping for a breeze,and making hundreds of sail changes as the sails flogged in the swells. Our plan is to motor-reach up to the NNW to about 2 degrees N and then lay an approximate rhumb-line course to the British Virgin Islands.

Last night we turned our clocks back 2 hours to better time the sunrise/sunset into our watch schedule. The sunsets started to come too late–after 2000 hrs–and it affected the sleep of the off-watch. You can pretty much set your clock to whatever time you want at sea, so long as you keep in touch with Greenwich Mean Time. We’ve sailed through a few time zones since leaving Cape Town so we were due for a switch. We’re now using GMT -2 for our local ship’s time. We’re kind of in a continental time zone “gap” in the ocean, and I was interested to see that except for a handful of people in Greenland perhaps, we are only ones in the world using time zone GMT -2. I’ll have to Google it later. We’re on “Privateer Ocean Time” now.

Squalls all over the horizon surrounded us all day today as we motored along. We keep the hatches open for much-needed ventilation belowdecks. The heat and humidity are stifling. But when a squall passes over, we have to batten down again, until the rain lets up again. Nep seems to enjoy watching all the squalls and guessing which ones will hit us. I am happy for the hard rain–it’s finally washing off all the terrible coal dust we were coated with in South Africa. The halyards and sails were black with soot, and we can now start to see the original color of the lines again.

At 2142 hrs Privateer Ocean Time we rolled across the equator and into the North Atlantic! It is exciting seeing the coordinates read out N and W lat/long on the SSB, GPS & VHF again. It feels like we’re home again!

Away from my lady this Valentine’s Day…but at least we can chat via the Delorme Inreach. All’s well on the home front. We are making our final push to North America where the family will reunite hopefully in 6 week’s time, weather depending.

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