Last night, shortly after going off watch at 2000 hrs., a large squall line appeared on our Doeppler radar, and it was heading our way. We were around 9 degrees north latitude, just 540 NM. from the equator, where such short, sometimes violent weather occurs.
First the wind quickly built from 15 to 25 knots, then the rain hit hard. With rainfall came a short-lived drop in wind speed, so we quickly rolled up the jib, headed slightly upwind, and put two reefs in the main. No sooner had we finished these tasks, the winds veered 90 degrees, the squall passed, and our lovely breeze, which has been with us since San Diego, dropped to almost nothing. Welcome to the dreaded Doldrums.
As I write this, it’s 1000 hours, and a slight breeze is wafting over me, but not enough to fill our sails. This area, aka the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), is where the prevailing winds shift from the northeast to the southeast, but the transition can span from nothing to hundreds of miles. Hopefully, we will be through it soon.
In the days of “wooden ships and iron men,” this area around 5 degrees north of the equator became know as the “horse latitudes.” Crews becalmed for days, sometimes weeks, would be forced to slaughter livestock to supplement their dwindling stores. Fortunately, “EXcape” has both diesel auxiliary propulsion as well as a freezer, so our only inconvenience is running the engine instead of sailing.
We have sailed 1900 NM thus far, with about 900 to go. Landfall Nuku Hiva expected 6 days from now.