INTO THE INTER TROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE (ITCZ)

No sooner had I written the words ‘ I think the fun will start this evening’ in my log yesterday afternoon than the wind suddenly died.  We had entered the ITCZ, the doldrums of old.  I had to drop all sail as we were sitting stationary and rolling around with sails slapping back and forth

An hour later a southerly breeze set in and we sailed slowly through the night in beautiful calm conditions under a canopy of stars.  In the early hours of the morning it became quite cold and I had to reach for a long-sleeved shirt to keep warm.

The day has been spent trying to keep the boat moving and heading in the right direction and avoid getting to the west of the track.  Everything we try always sends us back to the west, making it more difficult to reach our destination.  But, we are not getting too stressed about it, the right wind will come when its ready.  Its an enjoyment to have calm weather and some nice flat sailing in sunshine after being on the wind under a cloud for so long.

Our mileage today noon to noon was not that flash and I expect tomorrows will be even shorter if the weather forecast is correct.  Our track on the chart is starting to look like hieroglyphics.  Jessica and I discussed trying to write our names on the plotter with the ships track.  But concluded we would actually need to have some wind to achieve that feat.  Voyage distance 766 miles.

BECALMED, A 3% CHANCE

Last night at sunset the wind started to decrease.  First I had to bring down the main, it couldn’t hold the wind and was flogging about as if to self-destruct.  Shortly after the staysail came down.  I carried on until one in the morning with the jib, but the wind disappeared and the jib finally got furled.  What a disappointment, I was expecting the forecast fifteen knot north westerlies to hold.  So, we were becalmed.  The last thing I expected on the Washington Pacific coast.

After one I drifted and tried to get some rest.  The residual sea and swell caused Truce to gyrate abominably.  The sort of wild movements people pay good money to experience at theme parks.  At four I could stand it no more and started the engine to see if the movement would be less under way – it was a bit better and we were at least moving and I got to see another sunrise.

I hand steered until eight as the seas were too bad for the autopilot, then stopped for some breakfast and to get the latest USA weather reports.  The forecasters are now calling for light winds in this area for the next two days.  Unbelievable.  I checked my routing charts and there is a 3% chance of calm weather in the month of May!  I just happened to hit it.

Looking at the large swells rolling in from the west is a bit surreal, they are moving hillsides of water, perfectly smooth a and glossy, like liquid glass.  Looking at it from sea level is a beautiful sight and quite unusual.

So I have been motoring all day, rolling along.  Much as I hate motoring at sea there is no option.  The barometer has been stuck at 1024.5 for the last 30 hours.  This must be an unusual weather event for this area.

Any thoughts I had about being in San Francisco on Sunday are just dreams now.  On the positive side the day has been beautiful and sunny and I am starting to feel a bit warmer, time to break out a beer.  Voyage distance 252.1 miles.

SPECTACULAR WRANGELL NARROWS

A four thirty start this morning to transit Wrangell Narrows.  As I cast off from Petersburg it was wet, raining, overcast and misty.  The morning has a nice feel to it, very tranquil and the smell of wood smoke from fires on the shore carried across the water.  The rain, mist and cloud lasted all day.  Petersburg is a noisy place, the fish processing works make a din and there are boats coming and going at all hours.

Fishing Lodge on Wrangell Narrows
Fishing Lodge on Wrangell Narrows

Shortly after setting off and going down the channel I noticed that there was very little cooling water coming out of Yanmars back end.  The engine was getting hot and I needed to stop and find the problem.  I quickly ducked out the channel, found a spot to anchor and shut down the engine.  When I opened the seawater strainer and found some weed inside – but not enough to stop the cooling water flowing.  Oh no I thought, I need to change the pump impeller, not a major job but it would take long enough for me to miss the tide.  Time to put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and keep calm.

Visit by a Hummingbird
Visit by a Hummingbird

I then had another look and pushed my finger down the inlet pipe from the sea valve.  It was blocked solid with rubbery weed.  The impeller was OK!  I was unable to hook the weed out from the top so removed the pipe from the seacock (having a wooden bung handy just in case).  The weed still didn’t want to come out, I needed a wire coat hanger, a wonderful versatile tool.  Well, no wire coat hangers on board so I improvised with a variety of kitchen utensils and removed the weed.  Thirty-eight minutes later we were under way again and Mr. Yanmar running happy and cool.

Wrangell Narrows is a spectacular waterway.  This morning the rain and low cloud reduced visibility so I could only see the banks either side.  There is a road leading down the east side from Petersburg and good looking houses are dotted along the shoreline.  I would love to do this transit on a clear sunny day, the scenery must be spectacular with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.

Downtown Wrangell during a non rain moment
Downtown Wrangell during a non rain moment

By nine I had popped out the southern end of Wrangell Narrows into Sumner Strait.  I tried sailing but squalls and wind shifts made life difficult and I was actually going backwards at one stage.  The wind eventually shifted to ahead as usual, only about ten knots so I motored.  I had intended to anchor overnight and arrive in Wrangell on Wednesday.  But on account of the miserable weather I decided to push on to Wrangell direct.  Might as well be in the pub if it’s raining.

By four in the afternoon I was tied up in Wrangell and checking in with Boarder Protection.  The harbourmaster advised me not to wash down the boat as there is a water shortage in town!  Well the reservoirs are full but the water processing plant struggles to keep up with the demands of the fish plants.

I have just had a shower and am fit for human company again.  Next on the agenda is the Marine Bar and a pizza.  Status quo, still raining and no sun today.  Total voyage distance 223.5 miles.