Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Towards Galapagos - Day 4 and the laptop goes in the oven

Position at 23.00 UTC on Saturday 27th April:
2 degrees 57 minutes north, 82 degrees 32 minutes west
Well, as you'll see from our position we are edging our way ever closer to the Equator and are experiencing the full wonders of the ITCZ or Doldrums; more of this later.
We've had emails from several people who have tried the website to plot our position on Google Earth. Our recent crewmember Richard said he had us firmly in Sri Lanka (you'll understand why we didn't let him near the navigation table on the Atlantic crossing) until he realised that any longitudes west of Greenwich have to be entered as a negative number.
So we had an interesting and challenging night as we experienced the confused weather patterns of the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) which hovers around the Equator. This zone is where the north-west trade winds in the northern hemisphere do battle with the south-east trade winds of the southern hemisphere with the result that there's a big patch of little wind and lots of thunderstorms. Last night we started the engine at 7.00pm as the wind died and, during Graham's first 8.00pm to midnight watch, we were confronted by huge black clouds ahead. On the radar the rainfall from them looked like an island about a mile wide and 10 miles long (roughly parallel to our course but getting ever closer) and at it head there were huge flashes of lightning that looked like a giant sea battle.
Our course meant we'd cross the storm right where the lightning was most active so the laptop and other electronic devices were put in the oven to protect them in case of a strike (it acts as a Faraday Cage, so the charge runs around the outside of the oven and not into it, goes the theory) and Graham decided to do a 90 degree turn to the north and cut through the tail of the storm. The result was about a mile of very heavy rain but we popped out the other side unscathed, much relieved, and resumed our south westerly course.
Today has been frustrating in as much as the wind remained light and we are fighting a 1 knot current against us so have made very slow progress. However all the other boats on the SSB radio net this morning reported similarly difficult conditions and, at least, the wind has returned this evening as we are currently beating into a Force 3, so making about 5 knots, in a roughly west to south south west direction. Maunie is taking the conditions in her stride and Winnie the Windpilot is enjoying the novelty of steering the boat to windward rather than her normal downwind role.
We've completed 430 miles of the 900 mile passage so will celebrate half-way in the morning with extra helpings of porridge. After that the next milestone will be crossing the Equator!!

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