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Shellbacked Again

October 8, 2011

Day 10

Local Noon Position–
By GPS: 0.00.89S by 146.07.44W
By Sextant: 00.01.0S by 146.08.0S

Celestial Nav Note: Latitude shot is back in the house! Today there was enough rise and fall as I swung the sextant to find where the sun sat. It wasn’t south; more like 160 degrees. My morning and afternoon shot gave me parallel position lines, this after two days of an elongated cocked hats. Can’t find my error. It gave good longitude anyway.

Course: 25 degrees true
Speed: 4.6 knots (Average speed this afternoon has moved to above 5 knots. Are we exiting the counter current at last?) Wind: 11 E
Sea: 2 – 4 E
Sky: 110% occluded. High layer of thin cirrus with low layer of cumulus–between the two they have the sky covered. Bar: 1012
Temp: 78 degrees

Since last noon: 92
Total for passage: 1044
Daily Average: 116

A couple waypoints were passed today.

One, at 1149 Murre crossed the equator* for the second time this year. We are now well and truly northerners again, and I am pleased to call myself a shellback–that old time term for sailors who have crossed the line. I admit the celebration was insipid–a single warm beer in the cockpit, cheap warm beer at that–but we have things to do. It can’t be all play.

By way of a so-long-to-the-south, we were escorted to the equator by two large sea mammals, dolphin like in shape and activity but at least three times as large, dark in color, and having a blunt head–probably Short-Finned Pilot Whales. One was smaller and appeared to play with the larger animal, like a child with mother. Then the small animal charged Murre (like a dolphin) but pulled back. And then they were gone.

Two, we’ve now logged over 1000 miles on this passage. Our time over the last couple days has not been great, but the boat continues to move forward; the sails fill every day, all day, and water froths at the bow. We are making progress.

Passing under the sun a couple days ago and now over the equator makes the passage feel half completed. It’s not. Not by a long shot. We will need to sail in the neighborhood of 2500 miles total before reaching Hawaii, and even if we were at that midpoint now, we still have the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) to get though. The ITCZ is a kind of weather no-man’s-land between the southeasterly and northeasterly trades and includes calms, huge thunder clouds with heavy squalls of rain and wind from any direction and sometimes lightening (known affectionately by weather guys as “convection”), and more calms. It’s an eerie place.

The ITCZ and doldrums do not sit on the equator, as you might think, but usually cover some portion of the area between 5N and 10N latitude. Sometimes they blanket that entire 300 mile width; sometimes none of it. At moment, the ITCZ is only moderately active where we are headed and could be as narrow as 100 miles. But then, it will be at least three days before we get there and all could have changed several times over by then.

*My noon positions at the very top of this page all show SOUTH latitude because they are for local noon, which is currently well before “watch”/timezone noon. Not to belabor a tiny point, but the progression went like this:

1132 Local noon/Noon sun shot for latitude: 0.01.0 SOUTH
1149 passed over the equator (Woohoo!): 0.00.00S/N
1200 “watch”/timezone noon: 0.00.97 NORTH


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