Easter weekend: 22/23/24 March08 Lots of dolphins - some leaping straight up & 'tail-flopping'!!

Mon 24 March'08

What a wonderful way to start the day!! ... I suddenly realized that lots of dolphins were speeding towards the boat, leaping as they came, often in twos & threes - and some leapt straight up into the air, making a big splash as they landed tail first!! They were quite big ones - possibly Bottle-nosed(?), with a white -edged long 'beak'. One large one (male?) slapped its tail rythmically in the water for some time at one point making a very distinctive deep 'thonk' sound - I think to warn the others to stay clear of his 'patch' because often, later, he made a noisy splash when others came close to him at the bow. He had quite a large sucker fish attached to his side near his tail.

Overnight, there was heavy rain but the dark grey mass of clouds off to the NE cleared away over the morning. Looking to the south, all to be seen were the usual little white fluffy cumulus lined-up 'Trade Wind' clouds. Now, just after midday, there is nothing threatening, despite quite a bit of cloud around, although several larger cumulus are towering up in the heat- it's 32.5C in the shade!

Soon after I'd finished re-fuelling on Saturday, the wind had died so much we were only making 2.6 knots, so I started the engine and we've been motoring, sometimes motor-sailing, ever since except for a blissful, peaceful 3hrs on Sunday afternoon when the wind picked up a bit & I was able to cut the motor and sail... I've still a long way to go before getting to the NE Trades (possibly at the Equator) from here in the Doldrums, so I'm only using minimal motor to conserve fuel. Doing lots of fuel/distance calculations, trying to figure out which way to head.... to get maximum current?... or to minimize time in squalls (when I eventually get them - as I must!) ... all very difficult when you're not sure exactly where the ITCZ is at any point in time - it 'dodges about' unpredictably so much!

I had originally thought I'd head N-NNW when I hit the first set of squalls... on the assumption that's where the ITCZ is so let's get through as fast as possible... but now I'm not so sure since that would take me well off my preferred course (which is WNW). The ITCZ is supposed to be about 200-240 miles or more wide at present. If there's no wind & I have to motor, it might be better to try to get into the maximum fair current (2knots) running parallel to the Brazil coast, since that's almost on my path to Trinidad anyway, & that would help speed me through to the Equator & the NE Trades just as fast as heading in a more northerly direction with less good current.... Lots to think about!! Think I'll go for the current for the time being... I can always change my mind when the squalls start hitting!!

Since I should be passing right by the Brazilian Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha tomorrow night, I'm inclined to stop there & anchor to top up with fuel... From there it's still 3-4 days of probable motoring to the Equator... which is then still well over 1350 mls from Trinidad, or about 9-11 days of (hopefully!) good, albeit 'boisterous', upwind sailing.

Had to re-solder the connection to the 12V outlet at the chart table a day or so back - fiddly job but at least now it's working again as opposed to shorting all the time - the earth wire had come adrift.

I had company on board the last two nights - a storm petrel (I think!) perched on top of the liferaft & was busy preening itself before settling down to rest. I tried taking photos but not many have come out well - it didn't help that the boat was rocking about in the swell so much. It was so unafraid that it didn't seem to mind umpteen strong flashes of light - just looked rather curious. We shared a beautiful full moon ...

I'm almost certain the big bird I saw whilst sailing over to St Helena from Luderitz (Namibia) WAS an albatross - possibly a Shy Albatross, from a photo I came across in a magazine yesterday.... fabulous, graceful bird, it was. I feel quite priveleged to have seen an albatross flying around 'Nereida'!

Later: Well we've definitely hit the 'convection' area - from 5pm on we've had heavy rain- even though I thought I'd dodged my way around the squalls to begin with - we just got surrounded, overtaken and deluged!!
I've filled my water tank and lots of other containers and had a good shower - several times, in fact, since each time I've had to adjust the sails in the variable wind, I've got soaked. We're now motoring (again!) in very light wind - 3-6knots from a variety of directions. This will probably keep up for several days - I gather the ITCZ is spread over a very large area ... Oh well .... this morning and the past few days were so delightful... it's 'payback time'!

Written by : Mike

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