Day 13

Moving faster through the zone.

We continued on our spinnaker run approaching the ITCZ until 4:30 yesterday afternoon, when we all intently watched a big rain cloud slowly — and then quite quickly — approach us from the east. Our latitude was 05.29 n, right on the cusp of the ITCZ. We finally decided it might be prudent to douse the chute, and just as Rich reached for the line to pull down the spinnaker sock we were hit with a 20+ knot gust of wind. And then rain dumped on us for the first time since we left San Diego. Chute down, main and jib up. But then we did something different.

We turned on the motor.

Specifically, we turned on our port diesel engine and set it @ 2400 RPM. Our goal was to motorsail Sophie as quickly as possible on a due south course through the ICTZ from 05 n to the equator, especially for the first 100 miles where we were told there were thunderstorms. So far, so good. Our current position is 02.55 n 127.24 w, which means we have traveled 188 miles in the last 24 hours. We motorsailed at 8-9 knots in an 8 knot easterly throughout the night. This is our best mileage day so far on the trip, and we would have cracked 190 miles if we hadn’t stopped the boat for 30 minutes this morning so I could swim under it with a knife to cut away some line from the propeller.

Remember from a previous post how I told you that it is a bad practice for sailboats to back up over lines? Well, we decided to switch from the port to the starboard engine at midnight last night, but when we did so the boat lost 2 knots of speed and produced a loud vibrating noise. We assumed that we had Double Takedown meat line wrapped around our starboard propeller. Once I was in the water at 8:00 this morning I saw that we had the entire meat line assembly — lure, leader, line, shock cord, and elaborate alarm system — all neatly coiled around the closed folding prop. I was able to cut it all away, and it was a little fun to swim in water over 1,000 miles from the nearest land, especially since the water temperature here is 40 degrees warmer than the water temperature present the last time I had to cut lines of of Sophie’s propeller, in sunny Puget Sound off of Marrowstone Island a few Augusts ago.

The only other issue last night involved the port diesel engine’s failure to charge the batteries. Dan and I poked around this morning, tightened the engine’s fan belt, and it is now charging properly.

We are currently in the “doldrums” and are motorsailing at 7 knots in 8-10 knots of wind, no waves and bright sunshine. We will continue doing this for at least another day. The equator is 177 miles away, which means we’ll have our line crossing ceremony late tomorrow morning. Then we will turn 45 degrees to starboard and sail on a rhumb line to the Marquesas. Hiva OA is 1033 miles away — otherwise known as a week — and we still have plenty of diesel in our tanks if we want to have a few more 190 mile days in order to get there sooner.

The Bavarian pork dinner last night was truly spectacular. I think it was our best meal of the trip. Tonight we will dine on corned beef and cabbage in honor of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland and the namesake of my mother.

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