Day 95, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 10-Crossing the Prime Meridian
Date: Thursday, January 27, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Overcast ’til Late Afternoon; Winds SE 15-20
Temperature: Water 71 degrees F; Air 68-73 degrees F
Latitude: 22 47.384 S
Longitude: 000 53.161 WEST!!!
Miles Traveled: 1358
Miles to Go: 500
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena
Windbird is not “Back in the USA,” but she is back in the tropics and back in the Western Hemisphere. All of this happened in the last 24 hours. At exactly 1106 UTC or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) on my midnight watch, we crossed the Prime Meridian. Around 1230 UTC or GMT this afternoon we crossed the 23rd degree of latitude and entered the tropics. I missed the moment because I was in the aft cabin rolling up the down comforter we used while in Simon’s Town and the three fleece blankets we needed at the beginning of this passage. The air temperature today started out at 68 degrees F and now it is 73 degrees and the water temperature if 71 degrees. This is much more civilized. We can once again wear short pants and short sleeved shirts and use only a sheet to cover us while sleeping. We have spent most of the past five plus years in the tropics, only dipping south to New Zealand to get out of the Pacific cyclone season at the end of our first year. We are now in the Tropic of Capricorn and will cross the equator at about the latitude of the northeast corner of Brazil. That will mark our entry into the Tropic of Cancer. The hard part will be leaving the tropics as we sail from Puerto Rico to Florida. I’m going to have a very hard time letting go of the tropical life.
Entering the Western Hemisphere last night was a true landmark in the voyage of Windbird around the world. We exited the Western Hemisphere the night we left Minerva Reef headed for New Zealand on Friday, November 10, 2006. In the log on that day I wrote, “The longitude will now count down from 180 instead of building up to 180. In our voyage around the world, we are making progress.” It took us 387 days that first year to reach that point, the Ante Meridian. The crossing last night had the opposite feeling expressed on that day. Crossing back into the Western Hemisphere hits us with the reality that we are getting closer to home and closer to ending the round the world voyage of Windbird. I can hardly stand to write that without getting teary eyed. Of course, we are anxious to get home to family and friends, but it is a good life out here that we have both embraced and will have a hard time letting go of. The other way being back in the Western Hemisphere really affects our daily lives is the time of day. Greenwich Mean Time is the time by which all other time in the world is set. Sailors sometimes call this ZULU, and I have no idea why, while HAM operators and most weather information refer to it as UTC (Universal Time Coordinated). But whether GMT, UTC, or ZULU, the terms are all referring to the time on the clock in Greenwich, England, that keeps the world’s official time. Eastern Standard Time is five hours behind GMT and South Africa is two ahead. Each hour represents a new time zone. So we have passed through two time zones since leaving South Africa and will pass through four more to reach Eastern Standard Time somewhere in the Caribbean. St. Helena should be in one time zone to the west of GMT, but because it is a British, it keeps GMT time. Windbird is staying on South Africa time until we arrive in St. Helena at which time we will gain two hours on our day of arrival.
The weather and wind has stayed exactly the same today as yesterday, the only difference being the slight increase in air temperature. The new Atlantic Ocean High is now at 33 degrees S and 12 degrees W, and the forecast is now for the “Same, Same” through Sunday instead of a weekend with no wind. That was the news of the midday radio sched and it was good news indeed. We might make St. Helena by Monday afternoon. We could have made it sooner if we hadn’t had to zig zag one way and then the other to keep on course. We have already added about a 140 miles to our original total which is a whole 24 hours extra of sailing. But we haven’t had to use the motor, so we have been saving that expensive diesel for the doldrums where we know we will need it!