DOLDRUMS

December 9, 2008

The Inter-Tropical Convergence (ITC) Zone, or the Doldrums, was not what I expected. I expected bright blue skies, a brilliant burning sun with intense humid heat and no wind; all punctuated with violent squalls hitting us with driving rain and wind.

Entering the ITC Zone happened at a distinct point. We had been sailing under spinnaker for two whole days in what we have called the NE trades. Then on November 30, late in the morning (mid afternoon local time – we have not adjusted our clocks since we left New York) we saw a gray wall in the distance. Approaching it, the wind quickly died to a whisper. Heavy showers doused us as we entered the gray boundary. On the other side the rain stopped. It felt like we had entered the twilight zone.

New York to South Africa (12 of 46)

The days spent there were colorless and dull. Sunrise and sunsets were void of color and there were no rainbows. Dark low clouds blanketed the sky and the sea was an inky black. Everyday, as the hot and humid hours passed, the clouds would build into great dark gray fortifications where the rains would come. Quickly gloomy steel curtains circled the boat, our universe shrinking to only a few hundred feet. Then the rains would come hard and fast. Raindrops hitting the water by the boat looked like glass shards spread across the water. Waves would smooth out looking like distant gentle rolling hills shrouded in a morning mist. During these downpours there would be, on deck, five naked men hooting and hollering with delight like children playing in the summer rain.

New York to South Africa (18 of 46)

Through out we had wind, contrary to the stories told about the doldrums. During the day, the breeze was light at 3 to 6 knots and in the evenings, the wind built to 13 knots at times. The squalls were gentle. Rains were heavy but the winds never went above 20 knots. The boat was always moving as if pulled by a string; ghosting along making slow and steady progress south with sails full. Never did the sails or crew feel the frustration of being becalmed.

On December 4 at 13:57:42 ship time (17:57:42 GMT) we passed the equator. Celebrations by the crew involved John acting as King Neptune and his brother, Doug, playing his sidekick; doling out playful punishment for crimes against the sea. After we ate chocolate cake and drank champagne. By late evening a South-Southeast wind picked up to a steady 15 knots, gusting to 20+ knots. We were sailing fast once more hard on the noise. After 4 days of surreal sailing in a monochrome world, we had left the ITC Zone as quickly as we had entered it.

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