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  • Writer's pictureAna

Transat Diary - Day 8 - The Doldrums

Day 8 (2023-01-11)

After a nearly sleepless night going through what felt like the deluge of a lifetime, we needed to take the opportunity of some calmer sea state to complete the installation of the tiller pilot for the Hydrovane.

We marked the crucial setting out dimensions accurately, and then I hand-steered The Dream for nearly an hour while John completed the last details.

At this point, doing such low speeds under sail was not a priority we needed to start tackling the doldrums.

With all the final details completed, this was the moment of truth, would the tiller pilot work, and would it be able to steer us under the engine?

After a bit of fuss with the heading set-up, we were successfully steering to a course of 200 degrees at 1500 RPMs. We rejoiced on John’s success but took the opportunity to return to sail as a steady breeze on 60 degrees that would be sufficient for us to do some 5 knots SOG (Speed Over Ground).

For a couple of hours, that’s exactly what we did while tidying up the cockpit and trying to put some things to dry.

John then took the opportunity for a much-deserved rest while I stayed on watch. A few more showers passed over us, none significant, but with each of these showers, the wind seemed to lose some power and not recover after. Eventually, we were left with 5 knots of wind on the nose (blowing from the Southeast) and swell from the stern (mostly coming from the Northeast).


This was it, we were at latitude 2 degrees north of the equator, and we had entered the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) we were in the famous doldrums where there’s usually not much wind except when there are violent squalls and thunderstorms, the temperatures are high, and the air feels sticky.


Ahead of us was most likely two days of motoring, hence the importance of getting the tiller pilot ready. If it could steer us at least in the calms that would be already of great help!


The wind never filled more than 7 knots, and with several squall clouds on the horizon, we decided to stick to motoring not thinking the delay caused by the attempt of sailing such light winds was worth the risk of being caught several times by one of these squalls.

A few of them much smaller rained on us during the afternoon but nothing compared to the one during the previous night.


Given John’s exhaustion and the fact that we seemed to sort out one of our big problems (auto steering under the engine), we decided we should take advantage of the more settled conditions to revert to our preferred on-watch schedule when I do the first half of the night and John the second. With this decision, I set about trying to rest and sleep as much as possible during the day, with the plan that John would go to sleep right after dinner and take over when I felt no longer capable to stay on watch.

The only thing we now needed to sort out was Ella's movement arrangements in the cockpit, after all, we now had a cable running between the tiller pilot through the companionway to the battery that she could not trip. This meant she could no longer have freedom of movement in the cockpit and that she would have to be moved from one of her favourite spots to the next whenever she gets bored. It also meant that during the night she would have to stay put sleeping in the small area by the companionway instead of her usual where she starts there but slowly, slowly moves throughout the night between the port side seat and cockpit table almost up the main helm station.

Since day one, after discovering our mysterious leak and the leak found in the main engine impeller casing we have been inspecting the engine bay and not only obsessively. The mysterious leak source was identified as having its source on the big back lazzerette, while the leak on the engine raw water impeller casing disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. In the first days we had kept the sail drive seacock in the closed position for safety, but after multiple inspections not being able to identify any water we decided to open it again. Now that we had been motoring for maybe 12h already I continued baffled, there were still absolutely no signs of leakage. Started doubting my mind, and had John not also seen the leak I would think I was going nuts. Could it be that the leak was only the hose clamp, and the water we thought was coming from the casing itself was just a bizarre way the leak from the clamp manifested? The proximity of the two spots could positively conduce to that. Just seems so bizarre.

Anyway, we continue with our obsessive inspection behaviour.


24h daily run 139 nautical miles.

Seems like we are back at our planned daily progress. I guess is too much to ask to be able to out do this and catch up all the miles lost?


***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.

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