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Transition Zone

May 10, 2011

Position: 09.30N by 126.51W
Course: 225t
Speed: 5.4 knots
Wind: 12 NE
Sea: 6 feet
Sky: 100% occluded
Temp: 76 degrees
Bar: 1013

129 miles yesterday. Another solid day’s progress southwest.

We are now fully below 10N, and things are changing rapidly. Murre has been under full cloud cover since last evening, and there was even a little lightening at altitude around five in the morning.

At noon today I took Murre off wing and wing, off her dead downwind track and moved to a course with wind on the port quarter. In fact it’s the wind that’s changed, now east at 15 and building. We’re flying along at 6.5 knots and healed way over. After nearly a week of rolly, downwind, cruise-ship Murre, I will now have to get used to leant over, hang-on-by-your-fingernails Murre. I will have to relearn how to walk in the cabin.

We are approaching the Intertropical Convergence Zone, commonly called the ITCZ and known by most folks as the doldrums. Currently the ITCZ’s north edge is at 5 north latitude, which is less than three hundred miles for us on current heading, and our cloudy, humid, oppressive weather, 15 knots out of the east not withstanding, is a precursor. It will be worse when we get there. I will likely experience what weather guys call “convection”, fancy talk for enormous thunder clouds that can build to 22,000 feet and dissipate in the same day, but not before shaking things up first.

Currently the ITCZ is 300 miles wide at my probable entry point. Inside of it there is no predictable wind whatever. Squalls from the convection cells can create short, intense bursts of wind, but for sailboats, its tough going.

So, I intend to motor.

Which leads to a logistical note. Our cloud cover has made it difficult for my solar panels to keep the batteries full of charge, and today I had to run the engine for two hours to top them off. If I want to have the fuel necessary to get through the ITCZ, I need to conserve, and that may mean not spending so much time on the computer. As it is, my range in neutral conditions is about 300 miles, so I’m already at the edge. Who knows, it may be sunny tomorrow. But I doubt it.

I will try to keep up the blog as we progress, but if my posts become erratic and short, you will know it is because I need to conserve energy.

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