30/31March - Across the Equator! But struggling to get through the Doldrums in variable light wind &

Sunday/Monday 30/31 March '08 Crossing the Equator back into the northern hemisphere...

Sunday started sunny, hot & sticky, like previous days, but gradually got cloudier, although the night was fairly clear again - overnight Sat/Sun, it had been really calm. I could see bright stars being reflected in the relatively smooth, dark, sea surface ... hardly any wind and no moon.

I actually managed to sail close-hauled across the Equator on Monday with no motor running during a short period of nice wind: ENE 10 knots .. the time was 1121 GMT, at a longitude of 037deg 30.62'W . I celebrated a little, playing plenty of music and eating various goodies I'd kept by for the occasion, but it rained for a time soon after so there wasn't much dancing in the cockpit...!!

It looked, from what little weather info I'm getting, as though there would be an area ahead of light variable winds for several days, a disturbance of some kind, if I were to keep on my rhumbline course of WNW (297T) from Fernando de Noronha towards the Equator, whereas heading on a more northerly course might avoid that & get to stronger NE winds sooner - so Saturday night, I altered course from 297T to 310T to keep on a NW course for a bit, hoping to get decent Trade winds once I reached the Equator. (Others a few days ahead, well north of the Equator, have been getting strong 25-30 knot rainsqualls mixed in with those NE 10-15 knot Trades...!)

The wind keeps varying so much, depending on whether heavier rain & associated clouds are around or not .. mainly it's NE to SE 2-5 knots, but it's been everything else, even W or NW 6-8kn or more, in rain, but never really strong nor consistent. I have had to motor most of these last two days, occasionally managing to sail for a brief period when I'm lucky. I keep rushing up on deck to set the genoa when I feel the wind getting up, only to have to furl it in a short while later & turn the motor back on when the wind dies to almost nothing, causing the apparent wind to go dead ahead.

Another problem has been the foul current - anything from 0.4 - 0.9 knot East-going, so not helpful - the reason I've now changed course yet again - heading more West to try to get into the fair current nearer the Brazilian coast. It gets very frustrating to be making around 5-6 knots of boatspeed but only 4-5 knots over the ground...! And it's still a long way to go to get to Trinidad - a good 10-12 days away, assuming I find the NE Trades so I can sail at a decent speed in fair current for most of the way.

It was grey and rainy all day Monday - but one nice thing was often seeing a white-rumped petrel flying near the boat, skimming the waves. No flying fish have been spotted on deck on this passage so far.

I forgot to mention that when I went for my swim as I got close to Fernando, I noticed lots of little (for the moment!) gooseneck barnacles clinging to Nereida's hull around the waterline under the stern. I gather that the ones well below the water surface die off once the boat stops for any length of time since they only survive in disturbed water, needing air. I wonder how big I'll find them by the time I next get into the water to look?!

I've had a lot of trouble getting a connection for weather & emails - just can't do it during the daytime, but Saturday night around midnight, I connected to Winlink via Andre, VE2AFQ, (Le reseau du Capitaine) in Montreal and then to Sailmail in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia - both in Canada....! Nearer stations proved useless... Let's see how easy this news item is to send...

Written by : Mike

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