Monday 9 March 2015

Pacific Crossing, in the Doldrums again

There is a long swell running from the south, four metres high at the crests, rolling in under our beam and lifting us high before we slide down into the trough as it pulses north. Angry black squalls march overhead, bringing heavy rain that bounces off our decks and drips into the cockpit off the bimini. There is little wind; the engine is running and we roll drunkenly in the swell, the mast creaking, the boom snatching at the mainsheet as it swings from side to side. We are back in the Doldrums.

It is two days since we left the Galapagos Islands and we are still searching for the trade winds.   The forecast tells us that the wind will kick in at 4 degrees so we head south, towards Antarctica, a curious notion given that we are in sweltering heat.  Down below it is hot and airless with all the hatches closed. In the cockpit I shelter from the rain under the spray hood, mentally doing the sums on our fuel consumption.  We topped up the fuel tanks in Galapagos, givingus 1,000 litres of diesel in total. At 1,700 revs, our engine uses around 6 litres per hour; that equates to one litre per mile, theoretically a range of one thousand miles. However, we also need to run our generator twice a day for two hours. The generator uses 2 litres an hour, so assuming a total of 20 days, we have to set aside around 200 litres for the generator. The last 100 litres in a tank is always a bit murky so we keep that aside as well leaving us 700 litres of motoring, a range of about 700 miles.  Its over 3,000 to the Marquesas so we have to set sail soon.

To make matters worse everyone else seems to be faring better. On the daily radio net we hear each boat reporting better wind, less engine hours and more progress. We aren’t used to Juno being the dunce and I am becoming bad tempered as we roll around near the back of the fleet. Weighing over 30 tons, we are the heaviest monohull in the fleet, needing more wind than anyone else to get us moving.  We set the spinnaker in an attempt to catch the breeze but it collapses every time we roll in the swell, then fills with a crack, fraying our nerves further, so we furl it away and on goes the engine again.  Everyone on board is frustrated however Fatty, Paulus and Andrew remain positive, reading books and playing games in the cockpit while I mooch around the boat, searching the distant horizon for the early signs of the trade winds, discouraged by our lack of progress.

I am net controller today, running the radio net on the long range SSB radio. As I conduct the roll call this evening and take down the position of each boat, I see that we are now in the middle of the fleet, but only because we are motoring.  Unusually for us, the faster boats are all ahead of us and as I close the net for the evening I am resigned to another night of motor sailing. As I heave myself wearily up the companionway steps to the cockpit, I notice a change in the air. Glancing at the instruments I see the wind has been building during the radio call, moving further forward. Tentatively I unfurl the mainsail, then the genoa. Juno heels gently as the trade winds fill her sails, steadying her against the swell. I record ‘engine off at 2030’ in the log and we are sailing again at last.

It is still overcast as we continue south out of the squall line that marks the edge of the Doldrums, but life on board is looking up and Fatty is in the galley.  For lunch today we had smoked salmon with potato mayonnaise and tomato salad; for tea, pancakes with honey. Fatty sets a high standard and Paulus and Andrew do equally well with their own favourite recipes while I deal with the latest problem. Today the fridge has decided to pack up – again.  I have replaced every part of this wretched fridge and still it refuses to cooperate, so we freeze bottles of water in the freezer and use them to cool down the fridge as best we can. I dash off an angry email to Oyster and bury myself under the floor board trying it diagnose the problem. Finally, late last night we are rewarded with a satisfying sheen of ice on the evaporator plate.

The wind stays with us and now we are really moving again. Twenty knots of wind, just aft of the beam, Juno’s favourite, and we are charging along at over 9 knots.  On the chart plotter we see one of the monohulls ahead of us but Juno is unbeatable on this point of sail and slowly we start to overhaul the fleet, passing only a few hundred metres from Exocet Strike, hull down in the swell. Only Makena, the 62 foot catamaran, is going faster. In the past 24 hours we have covered 234 miles, a new record for Juno and I am quite looking forward to the roll call tomorrow.


  1. From dunce in the doldrums to tearaway in the trade winds! Keep it up! Love your writing - you inform and entertain at every turn!

  2. Happy to see you're still sailing chief
    On your way to North Australia I believe...271ยบ about 9knots?
    Have a great one
    Big kiss to Caroline
    Aza from Mallorca