Random Musings During the Midnight Watch
11 July 2010
Heading South at 180 degrees, partly cloudy skies, a bit of a counter current eating up our forward progress, water temp 82.9! body temp: very very hot.
I still prefer my armchair, but do feel a bit more cheery for a good night's sleep and a bit of chocolate from the ship's fridge. The bird flew off the deck yesterday. All is well with the bird, I hope it finds its concerned companion again. (Uncle Dave: Finn tells me we keep seeing frigate birds with their grey topsides, whitish underbelly and forked tail feather.)
I think we are still traveling through the ITCZ, though I could be wrong. This must be one of the most nebulous phenomena on earth. There is an explanation of it on Wikipedia, but essentially the ITCZ is where the winds of the N and S Hemisphere collide in their rotation West around the earth. In the N Hemisphere the trade winds blow NE, in the S Hemisphere they blow SE. Because of the earth's rotation, the winds bend toward the equator (coriolis effect) and when they mix, you get light and variable winds mixed up with thunderstorms. By light and variable winds, I mean that we'll sail along close reached for a couple hours with 10 kts of wind, then suddenly we are becalmed in less than 4 kts with the wind dial spinning circles around the indicator, and then just as suddenly we will begin to run with the wind at 20 kts. All the while, we are still trying to go in the same direction. Hope that I don't jinx myself, but we have been fortunate so far not to see any thunderstorms. We get squalls for sure, sometimes bringing up to 25 kts of wind, and almost always bringing bucket loads of rain. The kind of Midwest rain that forces drivers to pull their cars off to the side of the road and wait. This morning we awoke to what may have been an hour-long rain shower. We collected water from the main sail into a bucket and gave the kids and ourselves bucket showers in the cockpit. We did all get dressed again after that, but I can see why the French cruisers seem to prefer sailing naked. It is darn hot here at the equator!
Where does it start and where does it end? We have many sources to give us many different forecasts. First of all, the ITCZ moves around. Sometimes it is deeper, thinner, or higher or lower in latitude. Our weather router told us to expect to cross somewhere between 9N and 1N - that is 600 miles long! The weather faxes Eric downloads from the HAM radio give us pictures of a wavy line running parallel with the equator in a wavy pattern. The wavy line is rather thin, maybe 80-100 miles. I think we spotted ourselves on a portion in higher latitude, meaning we may have already passed through. We aren't sure because NOAA published in their High Seas Forecast that we should expect isolated thunderstorms within 180 nautical miles either side of the ITCZ - to us it means the same thing for miles to come: watch out for bad patches of black clouds!
What is it like at sea? Sophie pointed out the other day that the boat has become our home. We focus on it and keep to our small space. The sea is just the "outdoors." It we go out on our back porch (the cockpit), we can only see for 25 miles at best in any direction, so it is quite cozy. The sky is a blue cover that slopes downward at the edges. It is like being in a snow dome.
I forgot to mention before that on our last day in Hilo we visited the Pacific Tsunami Museum, founded by a survivor of the 1946 Tsunami that took more than 100 lives across the Hawaiian Islands, the bulk of them in Hilo. The museum's mission is to educate the locals regarding the danger of Tsunami and teach people how to react if an alarm is sounded or if they notice the water receding rapidly from the beach. As recently as last winter when there was an earthquake in Chile, surfers took to their boards in search of the waves. Not what they suggest at the Museum! Statistically speaking, Hawaii should experience Tsunami's every few years. They haven't had one in 35 years so not only are they statistically overdue, but people have forgotten about the real threat and are rather fuzzy on just what to do according to the circumstances they find themselves in at the time (in a boat, on the beach, at a hotel, etc.) In 1956, an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska caused the Tsunami. The resultant waves took about 5 hours to reach Hawaii!! In one survivor"s account, as a young woman from the Midwest she came to teach at an elementary school on the beach in the exotic island of Hawaii. She and some friends were sitting on the porch of their shared bungalow when they noticed the water begin to recede. By the time the first wave hit, one of her friends was already swept away and she and another were left clinging to the rooftop. The next wave or two took her friend and the survivor was swept into the moving water as well. A man in a boat later rescued her. He happened to be the same man who had asked her out on a date for that evening. They ended up getting married.
Eric was in Samoa last October when a Tsunami struck the island. He was fortunate to have been on the North side of the island and the waves struck the South side first. When we were explaining this to Finn, he asked, "Did you survive?" We all gave him a strange look and then he smiled and we realized the joke was on us.
One final note: we do have spellchecker and grammar checker on our computer, but they don't always catch everything. We generally get time to blog in the wee hours. Forgive the many mistakes.we do know the rules we learned in school, we are just a bit tired at present.