Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 21

Our tranquil passage across the Equator is a distant and misleading memory, as we navigate our way across the doldrums. Mark Twain, in his book "Following the Equator" describes the doldrums as: "variable winds, bursts of rain, intervals of calm, with chopping seas and a wobbly and drunken motion to the ship."

And so we find it. After two days of unsettled, squally weather, today's dawn brings more of the same.

Back home in Oregon you might just call it crappy weather and leave it at that. But we sailors call it "convection", which more accurately describes the process which creates the crappy weather. However, my theory is that this particular meteorological term should be pronounced "can vex one."

To emphasize the most vexing property, the mish-mash of wave patterns cause the boat to roll, toss, and wallow in a very unpredictable manner. You will be waiting to pour a cup of coffee, and just as you think you've timed it right, you pour the coffee onto your arm instead of into your cup. Or you will be holding your toothbrush, waiting for a calm moment to let go of the ship with your other hand so you can pick up the toothpaste tube with the other hand and quickly squirt some onto your toothbrush. The moment arrives, or so you think. You let go of the handrail, grab the toothpaste, and are immediately launched across to the other side of the head compartment, where you break your fall with the hand holding the toothpaste tube, which promptly squirts its contents down the wall.

Another vexing property of convection is the effect on our attempts to steer a steady course and make the most efficient use of the wind. We'll be reaching along with 15 knots of wind or so, and a squall will suddenly arrive with anywhere up to 35 knots of wind. The wind vane, sails, and course must be adjusted to the new conditions, the quicker the better. Once we have adapted everything to suit the squall, it passes by, leaving us becalmed and wallowing in its wake. No matter how long you wait, as soon as you've started the engine, the wind returns, starting the whole process all over.

At night, with only one person on watch at a time, we prepare the boat for the worst, with a double-reefed main and a small staysail. This usually guarantees light winds and no surprises. If we want more wind during the night, all we have to do is leave the genoa out or the main unreefed, which will usually guarantee a fire drill in which all hands must be called up to shorten sail expeditiously.

But the most vexing thing about this part of the trip is the overall effect on mental state. Quoting from Mark Twain again: "...on long voyages...the mind gradually becomes inert, dull, blunted; it loses its interest in intellectual things; nothing but horse-play can rouse it, nothing but wild and foolish grotesqueries can entertain it. On short voyages it makes no such exposure of itself; it hasn't time to slump down to this sorrowful level."

But at least we are getting closer to our destination. Less than 500 miles remain. Our position this morning is 04 deg 12 min S, 133 deg 05 min W.


WillieM said...

Aww man! Hang in there you guys! Love you!

Deb said...

It is so great to follow your adventures. Take Care

Faye said...

Hey there amigos ! It is fun to imagine you out there on the big water heading toward another paradise. We think of you every day. Love, Faye and Fred

Jeff and DeLynn said...

A good game of su doku can mend those doldrums! So cool to follow your adventures.

hotspur said...

M and V...
I am laughing so hard at your toothpaste description. Been there; done that! And 'vex' is my favorite Scrabble word. How clever! Thinking of you.
s/v Hotspur