10/02/2014 – Doldrums

This area has two names: the doldrums and the horse latitudes though the latter is a little more specific. One story is that the ‘horse latitudes’ are so called because, in the days of sailing ships, the lack of wind meant food supplies ran low and the sailors were forced to eat the horses they had on board. The vegetarian option is that they threw them overboard to swim away when fodder ran out. Take your pick! This lack of wind is caused by the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone) where the weather systems of the two hemispheres meet. It does move about and doesn’t just sit neatly above the equator so the doldrums also shift a bit further north or a bit further south. All I can say for certain is that we have found them and have been motoring steadily for about 36 hours. Two very unusual things occurred on Sunday afternoon, almost simultaneously. We were about 200 miles from land with 3000 metres of water beneath us when John suddenly spotted a very large, hazy mass sticking up out of the water and a yacht somewhat closer! I rushed down to the chart table and found the mass, a spot so small it barely showed on the chart but it had a name, Ile Malpelo, and belongs to Columbia. John, meanwhile, had found it on the charts we have on the i-pads and confirmed it was 850 metres tall and 12 miles away. We altered course. Shortly after, on the ssb radio net, Avocet said they were close to Ile Malpelo so we had an identification of the yacht as well. Unfortunately we were not at the leg briefing on Contadora because it was on one of the days John spent at the airport, trying to get our generator parts from customs. In the briefing the fleet had been warned about the rock. I can’t see any other specks on the chart though we have turned the chart plotter and radar on while we are motoring and watch keeping has become far more careful! Dinner was BBQ style steaks with mash and grilled veg, all cooked in the galley. Barbecuing underway would probably be possible in these benign conditions but an unexpected roll at the wrong moment could send the dinner to Neptune. On the fishing front, John had three fish on the line but lost them all, at least we know why. The hook was old and a bit rusty. After the first bite we discovered that one prong of the triple hook had broken off. When he put the rod away in the evening he found the ‘hook’ was no longer, all three points had broken! Three fish have a bit of hook in their lips but it won’t kill them and they’ll soon rust away, nor feed us come to that. Joyce

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