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Day 28: 4 weeks into passage ... Finally through the ITCZ?? ....Under a 'bridge'

Monday 22nd November 2010

Writing this as we sail S under clear sky with bright, just-gone-full moon, long line of clouds astern, clear sky ahead.... Maybe, .... maybe, that's the ITCZ finished with??!

We've been heading E-SE over the last day or so, insofaras the wind has allowed, since finding the 'gap' in the ITCZ (around 10N, 120W) to slip through without too much drama... Think we've been quite lucky in that it's a 'La Nina' year, so the convection has been far less than in other years.... and my timing was fortunate - lightning clouds have appeared where I just passed by, I hear!

I'm still trying to get as much Easting as possible, to be set up better for the SE Trades. Making good use of an E-going current which should be with us down to near 7N or beyond.

We've had a few excitements with rainsqualls overnight and this morning, but nothing too major.....

Midday: " Sun getting out, after I was drenched (2nd shower in two days!) by latest big raincloud, with accompanying frantic winching in of genoa in the increased wind. Fairly clear sky..... but high, light grey, clouds ahead - so not finished with rain and gusts just yet...!"

2.30pm: " It's just possible we may be out of harm's way - just downloaded satpic of region - and all active convection seems to be well away from our path - big lumps to the Nand E and a few smaller ones to our W. Still some big clouds around, towering high up - but they're white or light grey, not dk grey/black!! Ahead it's looking reasonably clear now.... 24 hr forecast shows ITCZ axis along 8-9N which puts it still well S of here - but sky looking clear that way, just now... so shook out 2nd reef."

Of course, it was well after that last log entry that we encountered an area of heavy cloud and rain... I'd come up on deck in the middle of dealing with my laundry which had been sitting overnight in detergent in a big bucket in the cockpit - well and truly clean by now, I hoped... I'd prodded and pushed it every time I was close by and it was now finally dealt with and hung up to dry (i.e. drip!). It will dry for sure tomorrow, if sunny - but the wind will dry it quickly anyway - air temp is 29C! (And sea temp is 31C) I noticed a line of dark grey raincloud on the horizon ahead, with heavy rain falling in one area well off to starb'd, but thought that, with any luck, we'd just skim the end of the line of cloud and certainly not get anywhere near the rain I could see falling.... I adjusted windvane (Fred) to get as close-hauled as we could without losing too much speed...

The cloud was some distance away, so I got on with cooking my evening meal (I've been rather remiss of late - no proper meal yesterday...). As it was almost ready, I thought I'd better check on deck - line of cloud was close ahead, darker grey - and we were definitely NOT going to skirt the edge of it - but head directly into it .... Not the time to be starting a meal!! I stood in the companionway, watching our progress, ready for quick action....

The narrow line of very low, dark cloud (by now the sun had set) seemed somehow menacing and stretched right across our path, as far as I could see in either direction. The wind didn't increase unduly, so no action was required of me.... but it felt really weird as we slowly passed beneath this 'bridge' of black cloud... a few short but heavy showers.... we seemed to take forever... a low band of blackness, blotting out the sky.... Eventually, we cleared it and headed for the cloudless skies beyond.... Stars, ... a path of bright moonlight leading across the sea to the boat, .... bright Saturn high above... gentle sailing.., but headed now almost due S, with the wind having veered as we passed through ... Was this the axis of the ITCZ? It was certainly in the exact right place!!

Had 2 satphone calls this morning - but no connection - so still no Raymarine UK direct voice contact yet, although further emailed suggestion on testing drive with alternative 12V power input at course computer cable ends... when calm enough!

Quite tired, so ready for sleep, now we're sailing in calm conditions... Have been up since 4am (for noonUTC position report), waiting for call, dealing with squalls ..... and trying to catch up with overdue emails & downloading, and studying, weather info in between. Had an email from Tim at Navico UK making helpful suggestions on problem with external speaker to VHF....On tomorrow's joblist, if it's calm enough.

A little bird came flying towards us just before a heavy rainsquall hit ... looked as though it was trying to land, to take a rest - but gave up with movement of the boat in the swell. Looked just like a sparrow! So far from land... poor thing!

We're 4 weeks into our passage - but, between calms and storms and beating into the wind (and swell), have only made about 2730 n.ml (calculated from daily DMG) - that's pretty poor!! Hopefully, once we're away from the calms expected in the next week or so, things will improve. (Today's 24hr DMG was 117 n.ml.)

Nearest land is the atoll of Clipperton Island - 575 n.ml. away on a bearing of 079T. Cabo Corrientes is 1040 n.ml. to the NE and Cabo San Lucas is 1005 n.ml. on a bearing of 030T. Hawaii is 2210 n.ml. to the WNW. The Galapagos are 1705 n.ml. to the ESE. Nearest point in S. Ameria is Ecuador - 2335 n.ml., on bearing 103T.

Written by : Mike

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