Stuck in the doldrums
I awaken distraught when I hear how our engine loses revolutions. I jump up and trip my way to the off button but I am to late. Air penetrates the fuel conduit and the engine stops. A loud beep reminds us that the diesel in the tank is done for. I turn the key and with it it turns silent in the boat. There is no wind here. I hear the water slushing against the hull while we drift on the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Katia looks at me frightfull.
For this summer the U.S. weatherinstitute NOAA predicted a 60-70% chance of El Nino in the Pacific. What that could mean for us? No wind or reversal of the trade winds, an all out disaster for ocean sailors. In Panama we spoke with an American solo sailor which floated off the South American coast for well over two months without wind. Nonetheless, the trade winds in the South Pacific are well developed up till now, so we do not change our plans based on the game of odds of the weathermen.
Stuck in the doldrums
When we set sail out of Las Perlas, we had diesel for about 600 Miles, we thought. Contrary to our predictions we got a strong current against us and we needed higher rpm’s to just barely touch 4 knots. After only 400 miles the tank is empty and we have only two full jerricans left on deck. I succomb to the facts and fill up the tank with the last two remaining jerricans. When the engine has cooled off, I go below in the engine room to bleed the fuel conduits. With only 20 engine hours left, there is only one thing left to do for us; hoist the sails.
Looking for thunderstorms
The doldrums or ITCZ is an area around the equator which due to the heat and moist air are a cradle for thunderstorms or squalls. Normally I would prefer to keep these at bay, but they do bring rain and wind and that is exactly what we need now. We manage to sail ahead of a thunderstorm halfway through the night using it’s wind. When the squall overtakes us it rains heavily and I manage to fill up our watertanks. Next morning the wind, if any, turns all over the place and the current pushes us back. We sail for eight hours and end where we started.
Dispite our lack of progress we adhere to our hakuna matata lifestyle. The doldrums are just that, part of ocean sailing. I caught a big Mahi Mahi and this tasty fish was the basis for a three day banquet of Cape Verdean style fried fish, Japanese Sushi and Panamenian Cevice. Also our fruit supply looks good and apart from a well blistered back (one hour in the equatorial midday sun) we are in good health. Moreover some wind just started blowing and we crossed the equator. In one month we are in Polynesia!