Pacific Crossing Day 13: The Doldrums

The wind dropped to 2kn last night shortly after dark. We dropped the sails and turned on an engine. Welcome to the Doldrums. It was disappointing, but the shimmer of moonlight reflecting off the glossy water made up for it. It was still (haha, get it?) beautiful. We turned the inverter off overnight to save power. It’s incredible how much we use between all our instruments, autopilot, Starlink, etc.; combined with partially cloudy skies and our sails shading the solar panels, we knew we’d need to run the generator soon if we didn’t start conserving.

Ray woke me up early to help with the sails. The sun had just risen, AWS 2kn, TWS 4kn. We had the main on its third reef to avoid blanketing the headsail. The wind was too light for our gennaker, so we decided to try to fly the spinnaker. Getting it up was a hassle and a half. Dripping sweat, we tied and untied, tangled and untangled the lines. The sun felt brutal, and it was hardly 8AM. We finally got it up, only to be let down as we watched the wind fill the sail and pull the boat along, only for it to counteract all our apparent wind and deflate again. 

We snuffed the sail and restarted our engine. We’re beginning to feel a bit of fuel anxiety. The forecast changes drastically every day. Yesterday, it looked like we wouldn’t have to start an engine again for days; now it’s saying it will be days before we can turn it off. At this rate, we may need to do some drifting during this trip. We put the fishing lines out and hid from the sun for a couple of hours. 

Around 10AM, we decided to give the spinnaker another go. It was a smoother process the second go around. We took our time testing different trims and adjusting our heading, trying to make it work. For a light wind sail, it was severely underperforming. That’s when it dawned on us- is this even a light wind sail? It came with the boat and is a bit too much work for the two of us to fly regularly. We’d just assumed its parameters. We snapped a photo of the label and sent a message to the manufacturer, who confirmed the sail’s maximum wind angle was 140° and was suitable for up to 20kn of wind. Shit. We snuffed it and went back to the drawing board. At this point, we didn’t have enough wind to sail, no matter what was in our sail inventory. We were looking for something to give us an extra knot or so of speed while motoring at low RPMs. We decided to dig out our code zero, which I don’t think we’ve flown since we got the gennaker. 

It gave us a solid .5-1kn increase in speed, which was all we could ask for, given the conditions. I made us a salad for lunch, shocked to find two still crunchy cucumbers in the back of the fridge.  

We lost every last breath of wind around 3PM (seriously, 0.5kn TWS) and furled in the code zero. 

So far, this passage has not been what I expected. It has involved more active sailing/sail changes than I’d imagined. I thought I’d be more bored, honestly. I thought I’d be dying for a workout or any activity to pass the time, but I feel like I’m up and down all day making adjustments and coiling lines- I’ve hardly even made a dent in the book I’m reading! It feels good, though. One of the reasons I enjoy passage making and boat life, in general, is the mandatory shift in your priorities. So much time and energy is spent focusing on the essentials: do we have enough food, water, and power? Is the boat safe and functioning properly? Are we moving in the most efficient way possible? We are forced to make do with what we have and roll with the punches. Growing up in the age of convenience has its ramifications. Being able to get everything you need at the click of a button frees up a lot of time for you to think about frivolous things. I was never content with what I had when I knew I could get something new delivered to my doorstep in 2 business days; I always seemed to “need” something else. This lifestyle removes that gnawing feeling of desire and grounds you in the rudimentary. I find it very fulfilling. It’s like a bubble bath for my brain. 

Our batteries crept up above 80%, and we decided to run the watermaker for a few hours. I sat at the helm in my UPF gear, looking ridiculous for a nonexistent audience, watching the flying fish soar out of the water. We gave the gennaker another chance just before dinner, but it was short-lived. There simply was not enough wind. 

Ray addressed the excess cover material on our furling line as the sun lowered. The cover was still bunching up in the furler despite the stitches he added last week. So, he is cutting a portion out. 

It looks like we’re in for a beautiful sunset tonight; I’ll show ya over on Instagram. 😉

6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. It is amazing the realizations that we come to when the distractions in life are taken away. I hope you are sleeping better now that you have a routine. The wind will come back, it always does.

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