Day 157, Year 5: Passage to Chagos, Day 4
Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010
Weather: Totally Overcast with Squalls; Winds 8-18 SW
Latitude: 04 degrees 08.819 minutes S
Longitude: 072 degrees 14.033 minutes E
Miles to Go: 73.3

The snail trail continues with periodic interruptions for squalls. The squall we were anticipating when I was writing the log last night just ended up to be a little wind, but at 10:00 pm we got hit with a whopper that lasted until 11:30 pm. It came with 25 knot gusts of wind, lots of rain, thunder, and a lightening show. We had squalls off and on during the night and then got hit with another whopper this morning. It was so overcast last night that we didn’t see a star or the moon and we have not seen the sun since it rose this morning. During the night the wind was up and down and came from every direction imaginable with no pattern to the changes. All morning we had 15-18 knot winds from the NW and during most of the afternoon we had 15-18 knots from the SW-directly on the nose. The one-knot easterly flowing current takes us far off course to the east in one direction and when we try to sail or motor back, we end up going NW fighting the current and the lumpy seas.. We have used up two complete log pages since midnight just recording the various changes-engine on, engine off, tack to the east, tack to the west, full main and headsail, reefed headsail, furled headsail, staysail, full headsail, furl it again . . . We just can’t find the right combination. And now the winds are below 10 knots, still on the nose, and with these conditions we won’t arrive tomorrow unless a miracle happens. So it has been a very challenging twenty-four hours. I was able to nap this morning until I was almost thrown out of the sea berth even with the lee cloth in place, but since then we have not had a minute to rest until now. Mark is below trying to get some sleep. He has worn himself out today with all of the sail changes and really didn’t get much sleep last night. Mark said today that this reminds him of our eight day trip from Norfolk to St. Martin that ended up taking fourteen days in rough seas with wind right on the nose. This is not nearly that rough, but it feels as though the potential is there.

Part of our problem is the location. We are probably in the Intertropical Convergence Zone.(ITCZ) where the weather systems from the Northern Indian Ocean and the Southern Indian Ocean converge near the equator. In the Atlantic and Pacific the ITCZ is called the ‘doldrums’ and is characterized by no wind and calm seas, but in the Indian Ocean it can be quite stormy and unpredictable as we are experiencing. I think all of those interesting weather clouds I was seeing yesterday was the ITCZ. We were looking at it from the outside. But now we are in the band and probably won’t emerge from it until we reach Chagos. Mark is up and we have started the engine once again to try and make some headway toward our waypoint. I don’t want to complain too much as I know it could be much worse out here, but I’ll just say that this is not our favorite passage to date.