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Short Conversation with the Doldrums – Updated!

May 15, 2011

Position: 01.32.3767N by 131.02.337W
Course: 200t
Speed: 3.5 knots
Winds: 5 knots, SE
Sea: 3 feet, SE
Sky: 90% cloud
Temp: 82 degrees
Bar: 1013

112 miles since yesterday–rolling along, but wind already subsiding by noon.

A Short Conversation with the Doldrums–

Doldrums: Greetings and welcome to you…


Doldrums: Pardon?

Randall: The wind, what have you done with the wind?

Doldrums: Have you just arrived?

Randall: Apparently so–we were making great time until mid afternoon when the wind vanished, evaporated into thin air, and now this…flat calm…

Doldrums: I know, isn’t it lovely? No wind to muss your hair, pull the newspaper from your hands, upset the potted plants–just warm sunshine, relaxing calm. Feel free to stay and enjoy…

Randall: I don’t wish to stay…I didn’t even wish to arrive.

Doldrums: I mean, don’t you find that one of the most disagreeable things about the wind, the way it rattles in your ears–that incessant gurgling sound, almost but not quite a conversation, a vulgar conversation I’m sure if anyone could understand it. What a relief to be rid of it, don’t you agree?

Randall: I do not. Have you noticed my conveyance?

Doldrums: Ah yes, a sailboat. Not our fault. You were warned. But now that you are here, we invite you to enjoy your calm, warm, relaxing surroundings. There might be music later…

Randall: What would it take to bring the wind back? I have some cash, a sack of oranges, seven bottles of Mexican wine, red, and a nice reading copy of Marjorie Petersen’s RED SKY AT NIGHT. I’ll trade these for two days of wind, no, three. Agreed?

Doldrums: First you must understand what a great feat it is to have moved the wind elsewhere so completely, the deals we had to make with the sun, the cajoling, the compromises. Do you think we wanted this lazy, rolling swell? No, we wanted the sea flat. Well, you can’t have everything.

Randall: But it’s terrible here. There aren’t even any birds!

Doldrums: Fine, if you can’t enjoy what we have worked so hard to create, then leave.

Randall: I’m trying to.

The lovely southeast wind that has carried us these three days down to 01.22N, a mere 82 miles from the line (the equator) and quick escape into the trades abandoned the scene in the early afternoon. It softened and softened and softened until after a time it simply was not there. It was too good to be true anyway–no one sails the doldrums in one go. I went below to get the engine ready for work, and when dipping for the oil level, found sludge in the crank case. Water in the oil. From where I do not know. Already I have exchanged several emails with my good friend Kelton who is helping me (bless him) track down a diagnosis, if not also a solution. But it is Saturday and the shop is closed. Don’t things like this always happen on a weekend, he says. I had no idea it was Saturday.

Evening. A herringbone sky. To the far west the setting sun shines through this morse code of cloud and onto three tiny, cottony cumulus below, its rays falling from these to the sea like the tentacles of jelly fish. Sinister animals, I think, sucking up the wind.

We have made 7 miles of southing in as many hours.

Night. The herringbone sky begins a march to the west, under orders from the three quarter moon above. And the zephyr of wind that has kept Murre moving at a knot or so and her sails almost quiet if not also happy dies altogether. In the roll of swell the sails beat like angry drums; it’s their wind dance song, and the wind does not listen.

We have not not moved in weeks, and I do not know what to do. I mean practically. Do I turn on the running lights or the anchor light? Do I take in sail or leave it up in case a breath develops overnight? Do I stand watch as normal or pretend I am snug behind some headland?

Tomorrow is another day–tonight we swallow the disappointment of this one with a glass of wine.

  1. Mark Aeolus M31 permalink
    May 15, 2011 5:02 pm

    Randall, I once had my oil cooler spring a leak and since it was below the water line it would fill the oil sump without the engine running! Hopefully fair-er winds lie close ahead. Mark

  2. John-the-diesel-truck-mechanic permalink
    May 16, 2011 11:49 am

    Dude, don’t run your engine with water or coolant in the oil. It will damage the bearings and you won’t get very far. I don’t know if your engine is directly cooled with antifreeze or seawater, but either way, you need to TASTE IT. Seriously. If either one is in your oil, you can taste it. Compare it to the taste of new oil. Once you’re sure that your oil is contaminated, the ONLY option you have is to change your oil. Wait until the oil is cool before you drain it. This will allow the water/antifreeze to separate from the oil and it will give you an idea of how bad the contamination is. Water and antifreeze are heavier than oil, so they will drain out first. If you can’t replace your oil filter, at least drain it. Water can collect in it. If it’s only a small amount, just change the oil, keep the coolant pressure cap loose, and keep the engine running as much as possible to boil off the contamination. In many cases, most of the contamination happens during heating/cooling cycles. Obviously, the best way to avoid engine damage is to not run it at all until you can have it repaired. If you MUST use it, keep it running as much as possible.

    • May 16, 2011 9:12 pm

      John, I’ve sent your note to Randall directly. Thanks for all the tips and such.

      Randall’s Wife.


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