Transat Diary - Day 7 - Could it be that we are free?
Day 7 (2023-01-10)
I came to watch at 8 am, John feeling exhausted and washed out commented that he feels in the last hour or so he has seen less and less Sargassum and has not had to clean the Hydrovane rudder.
As I downloaded the latest forecast some squall clouds pass over us from East to West, not staying longer with us but giving us a small acceleration much appreciated. The forecast seems to be confirming our expectations from previous forecasts, we seemed to have managed to dodge the areas of stronger winds (gusts of 25+knots). The gusts warning in those areas where we will still get winds of 20 knots has also cleared.
John goes to have a much-deserved rest, although his mind is rushing with ideas on how to mount our tiller autopilot so we can use the Hydrovane while motoring. This is an item that has always been left behind on the list, and it has been on the list since 2017.
After a few hours of rest and just after lunch we start working on John’s plan to sort out a structure to mount the tiller Pilot we bought specifically for this situation if it ever happened.
We work hard without the use of 240v power tools because we still don’t have our 240v system back (not that we have put much effort yet into that situation). We could have run the portable generator, but with the big swell we have, Ella and the mess in the cockpit we decided it would be just too much at the same time.
It feels like we are trying to build something while riding a mechanical bull, there’s no better way for me to describe it or think about it as I try to cut some hardwood pieces with a handsaw, trying to make a straight line.
When you look at it probably you don’t think much about it, it does look very simple and didn’t take a lot of cutting etc., but put that mechanical bull in the equation, and you get the picture. We also did some electrical wiring.
Just the process of getting all the components and tools from where ever they are stowed was hard.
This little endeavour took us the entire afternoon, but somehow all this lifted our spirits a bit more.
The bulk of the structure is in place, with most of the wiring prepared. We just need the sea state to settle a bit to be able to measure the exact location where to mount the tiller unit. Hopefully, tomorrow the conditions allow us to do this. Would like to have it all ready before we hit the doldrums and end up having to hand steer for hours under the engine.
For the first time in 7 days, we saw birds.
There are two brown birds a bit bigger than a seagull, but more elegant following us. They fly in circles around us, showing off their skills. Then they land on the water just behind us. When we can no longer see them on the water they restart flying in circles around us. They spent the entire afternoon like this, it was quite entertaining to watch them in between tasks on our little construction project.
As we restarted our 3-hour watches for the night we passed the latitude of 4 degrees, so exciting we are getting so close to the equator!
Not sure yet if we will cross it in daylight or still in dark hours.
Around 3 am we probably entered the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) aka the doldrums, and one of those nasty squalls finally caught us up. It was massive, several km wide for sure.
Against the moonlight sky, I saw it coming closer and closer to us. I delayed and delayed furling the Jib until the very last minute, still trying to see if we could just dodge that bullet, but no, that would not be possible.
I quickly woke up John, sleeping on the port side cockpit seat and tell him to start winching fast we need to put a reef now! I ease the sheet, he furls the sail and just in time the sail is reefed as it starts the mother of all downpours.
We quickly get rid of the Hydrovane steering as we are now sailing fast Westwards and prepare to start the engine and pack the rest of the sail. This squall, not only is huge it is black as we haven’t seen before.
I hand steer to the compass, we can’t see a thing in this pitch black and with this amount of rain. The wind starts veering from Northeast to Southeast and picking up speed, there go 20 knots, then 25, and then it topped up at 30-31 knots sustained or if you’re a purist the longest gust ever coming from East.
I’m drenched, despite the hardtop and the partial enclosure, and can barely see the compass right in front of me with so much rain running down my face. For 1 hour I hand to steer while John supports me in the very worst moments and tries to somehow relax and rest as much as possible. Usually, it is John who hand-steers in these situations while I manage sheets etc., but we need to somehow keep to our watch schedule as much as possible, so both aren’t in KO mode. By the time my watch finishes, John replaces me on the steering while I change to dry clothes, it has stopped raining, but the wind is still finicky and mostly coming from the Southeast whilst we hope it turns East or Northeast again, I take a few minutes rest before we realise that was it we are now in the ITCZ, and the wind has already changed direction.
We open the Jib sail, set the Hydrovane up, and I go to sleep while John carries on with his watch keeping a close eye on the wandering of the Hydrovane.
24h daily run 127 nautical miles.
Finally seems like we are moving…
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.