A quiet time in the Doldrums

The week started with splitting my eye brow after a sudden movement of the boat and ended with absolute calm in the Doldrums and a delayed visit of King Neptune after crossing the Equator. Other highlights were flying fish and leaking diesel tanks making life on board an ocean racing yacht with 17 people just that little bit more interesting.

The galley is the kitchen onboard where meals are prepared by two crew members who are called the “mothers”. They are taken out of the watch system and are providing meals and drinks for 24 hours. With a bit of planning they will be able to get a nice long sleep, like 5 hours instead of the normal 3 hours. The galley is U-shaped with large cupboards above which are about eye height for me at 6 foot 2″. So no surprise that I keep banging my head. But this week during a sudden movement of the boat while turning around I banged by eye brow and split it open with spectacular bleeding of course. It created a lot of speculation how big the scar would be. However, a week later there is not much to show and all bets were off.

The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) often called the Doldrums are parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. The Doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sailing boats for days or weeks. It took everybody, including the race organisers, by surprise when we were only becalmed for three days. Although there were plenty more days with very light winds which meant regularly changing sails from the large light weight spinnaker to the big light weight wind-seeker sail. The temperature also remained very high, below deck between 30 and 37 degrees. A heavy shower gets everybody on deck to cool down and wash the salt out of the clothes they are wearing. The highlight of any day!!

Later in the week the wind slowly increased and we decided to go north where we are expecting stronger trade winds from the east which will enable us to sail to the north west towards the Philippines quickly using our spinnakers. So on Wednesday 27th January we passed the equator at 00o N 153o 37' E. The visit of King Neptune had to be postponed because we found diesel fuel leaking from one of our four diesel fuel tanks. At the steep angle at which we were sailing the diesel was flowing over the top of the tank under a few bunks where crew were sleeping. Shoes and sailing boots stored under the bunk were soaked in diesel and the smell in the high temperatures was intoxicating. It took all morning to clear the mess.

Flying fish are another source of entertainment. These seem to be disturbed by the boat cutting through the water. They jump out of the water and are flying 50 to 100 meters often bumping into the boat or one of the crew. Early morning when day-light resumes our first task of the day is to find and throw overboard the fish. Leaving them for only few hours results in a horrible lingering “fishy” smell. One of the crew caught one in her neck seal of her smock while bending down to pick something up from the deck. She claims still to be able to smell the fish days after.

Second week completed another two to go.