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Stillness and calm

Stillness and calm. Almost for the whole week we are stuck at 21° latitude. “Epic slow” says Krista, our bosun, paraphrasing the title of Eric’s post from two weeks ago about an epic low pressure area that helped us to make the most significant progress to date. Referring to our progress, the description couldn’t be more accurate. Those words characterise the weather conditions for most of the week. We impatiently wait for the wind to pick up so we can get going again. It’s been a frustrating few days with very light winds that have been all over the place, as if they couldn’t decide which direction to blow from. We hove-to once again to enjoy the waters of the Atlantic. A short stop for a swim before the long awaited winds arrival is a great morale boost. Although the swim feels nice and refreshing, we hope we don’t have to stop like this, at least until we reach the Equator. (well, of course we did)  


Half a day later we are on our way. I am on helming duty taking over the wheel from Nat. The night is warm, skies clear, the wind blows decently at about 15 knots and we are reaching about 5 knots of speed. Nice and easy sailing. Then within a span of 15 minutes the wind picks up to 20-25 knots and our speed increases to 9 knots. The wind is blowing my ever growing hair away from the face creating the most wild hairstyle we call “windswept”. It is like sitting in a sport car and floor the gas pedal. Europa would probably take off should she have wings. Gliding on the water like a racing yacht, she is so fast and heeling too much, so we take away some sails to get her under control. Finally. We are moving again. After days of crawling, heaving-to, wearing the ship countless times we are cutting away those latitude degrees again aiming to reach the area of trade winds, the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics. These winds have been used by captains of sailing ships to cross the world's oceans for centuries. Frequent squalls are often crossing our path requiring to change the sail rig accordingly to keep the speed and ensure the safety. Squalls often come with rain and it was a predominant weather feature for a couple of days. For the first time, we spend our free Sunday mostly inside, going out only for sail handling or helming duty. A good time to watch a movie or read a book in the meantime.  


The ocean is an unpredictable beast. Good winds didn’t last long at all. As fast as they came earlier, so fast they died out just over a day later. Just like that and it all happened within one hour on the helm. A phenomenon, that I experienced with monsoon rain. Comes quickly without warning and then it stops as if somebody would close the tap. It is a bit frustrating experience seeing the speed dropping from a nice 6 knots to sub 2 knots. These are the perks of tropical sailing. As the wind conditions yet again force us to take an unfavourable turn to the west, we wear the ship to get her on the right course. It is still a frustratingly slow going though. The only advantage of the current situation is a steady and stable deck that allows us to go through the fire and man overboard procedures during our night watch and then do a full on drill just before watch handover. During the day it is continuous rust busting and rig maintenance as we wait for the wind to pick up. The heat sets in and sometimes we wish for a little squall with refreshing rain to cool us down. The weather forecasts failed us few times before, but we hope the promised wind will pick up soon again so we finally can pass that  dreaded 21° latitude. It has been with us for too long. Enough of the “epic slow”, all we want is an “epic go”.  Ricky


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