Friday, April 27, 2012

Stuck in the Doldrums (ITCZ Revisited)

April 25-Galapagos Passage-Day 17

This morning, when it got light, I found myself surrounded by squalls in three-hundred-sixty degrees. I could count fifteen squalls in view. I was bobbing on Silhouette in a calm space in the middle of them. We were drifting while Patrick (who had been up most of the night dodging squalls) got some much needed sleep, and we were waiting for the wind to come up so we could sail. I had been up since 3:30 a.m. myself. Squalls and a lack of wind: two characteristics of this ITCZ region more commonly known as the doldrums.

I can see why an entire mood was named after this particular piece of geography. Patrick and I are certainly at the low point in our morale for this passage. Being stuck in the doldrums is like being in purgatory: You feel like you will never escape. (I know, my attitude went from "Go with the flow!" to "Are we there yet?" pretty fast, right?) I guess having to work so hard to go nowhere is taking its toll.

While we got our first taste of the ITCZ at latitude 10N, for the past several days, we have been sailing through the area it more typically hangs out in. And guess what? "It's b-a-a-a-c-k!" The ITCZ is a shape-shifter and frequently changes its location. Having gone through it once doesn't mean you won't have to go through it again. For us, the passage through latitudes 5N and 4N has been excruciatingly slow.

For example, between 10:30 last night and 7:30 this evening, we sailed a total of 41 miles; but only 19 of those miles were actually on our course. At this rate, we will make it to the Galapagos in another two weeks…

Another oppressive thing about latitudes 4-5N: Trash and debris tend to collect here, at least along longitude 92 West, where we've been traveling. Since leaving Mexico, until we got south of latitude 6N, we probably saw a total of three pieces of trash. It was all plastic, floating garbage, of course. Here at 4-5 degrees North latitude, we probably pass a piece of trash every hour. Most of it is floating plastic (bottles and other objects), but I have also seen some biodegradable garbage like corrugated cardboard lunch trays and orange peel drifting by. And it's not just trash, but larger debris that collects here: We have been passing logs. A small log bumped into Silhouette last night as it rushed by in the waves, and Patrick narrowly averted our hitting a tree-sized log this morning. The concentration of trash in this area must have something to do with the currents here.

So there you have it: "We're in the doldrums"---in every sense of the term---sums up the voyage of Silhouette for today.

Sent from sea via HAM radio

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