Day 116, Year 6 Atlantic Passage, Day 13-N of the Equator
Date: Thursday, February 17, 2011 (1730 UTC)
Weather: Overcast, Heavy Rain; Winds NW 10-15 knots
Air Temperature: 74 degrees F
Latitude: 00 55.812 N
Longitude: 026 06.400 W
Miles Traveled: 1641.36
Miles to Go: 2295
Location: Passage from St. Helena to Caribbean (Grenada)

We crossed the equator at 7 pm and just like someone waved a magic wand, everything changed . . . not for the better. All of a sudden the swell was coming towards us instead of following us and we got wind, but from exactly the wrong direction. It first came from the N and then the NW, the direction we need to go. And then to add insult to injury, someone switched on the water and it started to rain, gentle dibble-dops at first but increasing in intensity with each hour until it finally settled into a hard rain that just doesn’t stop. It has rained like this for at least 14 hours now and we are a wet mess!

We really have absolutely no idea where this adverse wind is coming from. None of our current reports show wind from the Northwest and none of the accounts we have read about crossing the ITCZ have ever mentioned getting NW winds. Lucky us! The conditions remind us a bit of our dreadful passage from Norfolk to St. Martin as we started this circumnavigation. We got into the Gulf Stream which was heading N and the winds switched to come from the N setting wind against wave and making for miserable sailing. We had to motor hard to bash in to the waves and wind for days to get out of that one, but we are hopeful this will last only another day or two at most. We motored through the night, but this morning we decided that we should try to sail since we had 15 knots of wind. That lasted about four hours as we had to slowly keep changing course to go more N’ly and then to the NE. Since we are not interested in going back to Africa, we turned on the engine, furled the headsail, and are now motor sailing tight on the wind. We are going 1800 RPM’s, the speed that gives us the most economical fuel usage, but we can only go 2.8 to 3.5 knots depending on whether the winds are 10-12 or 12-15. Yesterday I was beginning to think that the Atlantic was going to be easy on us for this trip north, but that is no longer the case. We are right now crossing the line where the Brazilian Weather Service says the ITCZ is located. It is supposed to be 4 degrees in width (about 240 miles wide), so if we actually entered it around 7 pm last night at the equator when everything went pear-shaped, we have traveled 95 miles and have about 145 to go. Of course, traveling at 3 knots means that could take us two days. Maybe tomorrow morning the sun will rise in a clear sky and the Northeast trades will be blowing (wishful thinking) . . . or maybe not. Somehow we are able to sleep with all this commotion going on. And life went on as usual today. We worked together to defrost the freezer and we both got good daytime naps, so we are ready for another night of ugly weather. I sure hope tomorrow’s log will bring more cheerful weather news.