Doldrums – also known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ – is an area near the equator where the winds of the two hemispheres meet. It is characterised by long periods of little or no wind interspersed with rain squalls and sometimes thunder.
We have an estimated two weeks to go before we make port again and we have just twelve hours of fuel left in the tank. Nominally. We don’t accurately know how much fuel is left because the fuel gauge has never worked, but I keep a running total of how many hours the engine has run for and conservatively estimate that a full tank will give us 80 hours of run-time. Having used just 2 hours all the way from Cape Town until two days before Fernando De Noronha we then burned through 43 hours to get there.
Those 43 hours got us through the doldrums, but then we stopped for four days in Fernando and the doldrums moved north, overtaking us and forcing us to cross them again.
When we left Fernando the forecast was for two days of light winds or no wind and then we’d pick up the northern hemisphere trade winds and be on our merry way, but unfortunately that hasn’t materialised. Two days of chug chug chugging and I’ve just downloaded a weather forecast which predicts……. another two days of no wind. I’ll run the engine for those 12 hours and then, if there is indeed no wind, I’ll shut it down and we’ll just have to Bob for a bit and wait for the breeze.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. Our ‘small luck’ hasn’t been all that stellar recently. ‘Small luck’ being luck related to non-life-threatening or non-catastrophic things, as opposed to ‘big luck’ as I call it which is related to really important things, like not sinking and keeping the mast pointing up. Aside from the uncooperative weather, the engine is leaking oil……. again, a thingy has broken which means we can’t move the jib car on the port side track any more, the alternator regulator appears to be acting up and Sarah’s brand new laptop has broken. Diagnostics suggest that the hard drive has broken, which is a massive bummer because we really relied on that thing. I promised in my last blog post that she would write a nice colourful post about the South Atlantic Islands we’ve visited, but that’s gone. Also gone are our electronic charts, several hours of work that she’d done for a dormouse research paper in the UK, quite a few photographs and, most upsettingly, about 20,000 words of writing for a book that she had been putting together about this voyage.
It’s not all bad though. The sea has a beautiful, glassy mirror sheen. We went for a swim a couple of days ago and might do it again today. Even the squalls lumbering across the surface of the sea trailing their curtains of rain have a certain beauty to them. And we’re headed for the Caribbean. And the Caribbean is practically home territory.
We’re aiming for the French island of Martinique, where we’ll meet up with our friend Mariusz whom we originally met in the Marquesas Islands two and a half years ago. He and his partner sold their boat in Tahiti and he now works for a charter business in the Caribbean. It’ll be great to see him again, great to be in a quiet anchorage after two months of crossing the South Atlantic and great to have access to a supermarket selling lots of green things, not to mention French cheese. The fuel situation isn’t as dire as it sounds either. In two days time we should pick up the trade winds regardless of what we do in the meantime, and then we should have a steady 12 to 20 knot breeze just aft of the beam for the rest of the passage.