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Friday, 2 March 2018

Crossing the Line

It is usual for only one or the other of us to see the sunrise each day, our watch change being slightly later at 8am, but today we were both up bright and early. The morning dawned cool with the sea temperature having dropped inexplicably, and probably temporarily, from 26C to 24C during the night. There was even dew on the deck. And then the special event ...

At 7:30 we crossed from the southern hemisphere to the northern at 119 degrees 20 minutes west longitude! A small ceremony marked the moment as we toasted King Neptune, tossed a jigger of rum into the sea so he could share our moment, and asked that his tolerance, blessing and good weather would continue to grace our journey north.

Another special event today was equally abstract. Every day, we plot our position on a large scale nautical chart thus feeling a measure of joy in watching the little "X"s marching across the map. This passage, though, doesn't fit on a single chart. Today (this is the special part) we reached the edge of the chart on which we see ourselves as further and further away from Valdivia. On the new chart, we can see where-we-are and Hawaii in a single glance and thus watch the paper distance left to sail diminish daily. An added bonus is that the new chart is at such a scale that we have the happy illusion of traveling further each day. In this world of sea and sky small things give great pleasure.

Our right turn of a few days ago is having its desired effect, making the most of the light breeze to move us towards the better winds a few hundred miles to the north. The trade winds are blowing just over 9 knots but that is enough to move us along over 6 knots, our heading having placed the wind at the Traversay's optimum angle. For the non-sailors, that's 11 km/h in a 16 km/h wind or 7 mph in an 11 mph wind.

In the short term, little changes. The real boundary between the different weathers of the two hemispheres is not at the equator but somewhat north of it, varying with the time of year. We expect our rather gentle southeast trades to continue unchanged for another two days until we reach 4 degrees north latitude. At that point we reach the standoff between those winds and the more boisterous northeast trades. As the converging trade winds collide, neither is willing to give way to the other so they simply go up. This results in two hundred miles of mostly calms interspersed, if the air is unstable, with violent squalls and torrential downpours. This region, the ITCZ, inter-tropical convergence or "doldrums", provokes almost every non-racing sailor, including us, to start their motor in exasperation and simply power through to the useful winds on the other side.

2600 nautical miles remain for us to sail (out of 6000 in total). Our nearest land today is the small French possession of Clipperton Island 870 miles to our northeast.


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At 2018-03-02 15:29 (utc) our position was 00°04.62'N 119°25.43'W

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