08 July 2010
It is the morning of July 8th, my 43rd birthday and we are entering the ITCZ (intertropical convergence zone), some pronounce it the "itch" because the acronym is a mouthful. Everyone talks about the equator as being the right of passage to the South Seas. Actually, I think it should be transiting this thing that gives you shellback (no longer pollywog) status. It is a band of thunderstorms with usually light winds but occasionally strong downdrafts, that hovers most often just North of the equator. Sometimes it is wider than other times, sometimes the thunderstorms are more violent than others. Forecasters tell us we should experience moderate conditions and that the ITCZ is currently a few degrees deep. We are almost to 10N and 158W right now, motorsailing South at 5 kts in hopes of crossing it after a few hundred miles or so. We can't motor all the way through it, but we are hoping that our winds will pick up in a few hours - some data we pulled from the GRIB files suggests that.
There is an injured bird on our deck. Black wings, white chest, rather small with angular wings. Another bird of its sort is circling overhead. There is a bit of blood on the deck so we think it might have a broken wing or something. Time will tell.
When I first started telling people about this trip we were going to take, many said, "You should write a book." My response was always, "That book's been written so many times already." I still hold to that, but if I were to write a book I would have to title it: An Armchair Sailor Goes to Sea and Discovers She Prefers the Armchair.
I am still thankful to have embarked on this expedition. It would be a deep regret years from now if we had only talked about it and not undertaken it when we did. However, it is a rather painful learning experience to discover though I thought since the age of 10 that I always wanted to be a high seas mariner, I am really not the type. I've also come to realize that though I've read almost every sailing account on the bookshelves (The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, Voyage of the Gypsy Moth, Once is Enough, High Endeavors, Trekka, My Old Man and the Sea, Pacific Passages, The Journeys of Serafyn, North Into the Night, Into the Light, and even the Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst) and count so many great seafairers as my heros (Sir Robert Knox Johnston, Miles and Beryl Smeeton, the Pardeys, Joshua Slocum, Sir Frances Cheichester, Hal Roth, etc) I have learned that I admire them and find them all fascinating, but I do not share the same joy they found in being at sea.
In one of the recent sailing accounts I read, The Motion of the Ocean, the author talks about how being at sea intensifies the neuroses you already have. I am a highly imaginative worry wort. I can think up endless possibilities for what could happen. The worrying is intensified by fatigue which is almost impossible to avoid since we sleep in 2-3 hour blocks throughout a 24 hour period. I also figured out that we've been actively sailing this boat for 40 days out of the last 2 ½ months. In other words, from May 9 through July 22 we will have traveled more than 5,000 nautical miles!
Last night I was convinced that we were going to have to outrun a tropical storm. (Poor Eric!) We downloaded a weather fax and noticed something called an "easterly or tropical wave" or tropical disturbance to the East of us. We began to experience the erratic winds and rainstorms about 60 miles ahead of when we expected and the barometer was falling. For the next 2 hours I was engrossed in my Modern Marine Weather book looking up every reference to tropical waves, storms, hurricanes, the ITCZ, barometric pressure and how it can help forecast coming events, etc. My irrational behavior has some grounding in that we did get a late start this year and so we are technically in the hurricane season (June - October), the water temp is above 80 degrees, and it is an El Nino year. Hurricanes usually develop around the ITCZ first as tropical depressions and then only if a series of conditions are present. I read that they can generate between 6N and 10N, but generally travel above 10N and never within 3 degrees of the equator. For the most part, once we are South of 6N we should be in the clear. If all goes well, that should be 2 days from now. Where Eric views the possibility of a hurricane an extreme outlyer, I actually expect it to happen, why wouldn't it? I have found my state of mind to be quite debilitating.
In a strange way, this is exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to shake things up in life. I wanted to scrape the bottom of my soul, to exfoliate and find out what else was in there or to uncover what was in there all along. Not a midlife crisis so much as something I like to call a midlife rejuvenation. Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.