Horse Latitudes

15 May

Day 144/22

Noon Position: 34 39S 155 37W

Course/Speed: NE7

Wind: W15

Bar: 1029, steady

Sea: S6 – 8 (old rollers not from around here)

Sky: Squally

Cabin Temperature: 71

Water Temperature: 67

Sail: Working Jib (poled) and Genoa (free) and Main, all full; broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 105

Miles this leg: 2,748

Avg. Miles this leg: 125

Miles since departure: 19,992

“Monte, you are the horse in this relationship,” I said just after breakfast. I’d been reading and Monte was at the tiller with both hands as Mo was off at a gallop. He looked pleased.

“Ah yes, Senior, there are some woman in my town who have called me stallion. But what compliment do you intend by this reference to horse?”

“I shall read and you shall understand, Monte. From Bowditch,

‘Along the poleward side of each trade-wind belt, and corresponding approximately with the belt of high pressure in each hemisphere, is another region with weak pressure gradientes and correspondingly light and variable winds. These are called the Horse Latitudes, apparently so named because becalmed sailing ships threw their horses overboard in this region when water supplies ran short.’”

Monte silently contemplated the windward horizon. “Just so we’re clear,” I said “you’re the horse.”

“Senior, your compliment is very clear, but I would request permission to remind you of two important pieces. One, I don’t drink water and so do not endanger your precious supply, and two, you are a terrible helmsman; without your pilot, Monte, you may not get home.”

“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to push vesus shove,” I said.

Frustratingly light and frustratingly variable as winds have been this last thousand miles, at this exact moment, Mo is on a tear, and we are all experiencing a highly unusual phenomenon…

Mo is imitating the big race boats by *outrunning the weather,* in this case, a large squall to leeward.

The night was utterly clear and dark, the Milky Way like a freeway of light overhead. Just after midnight winds went to fifteen knots; so I doused the spinnaker, and we ran on a broad reach until dawn under big genoa and main. The day came on muggy with heavy, towering squall clouds, but the wind had relaxed. That is, until we were approached by one of the thicker cloud-sets pouring out water in great, black columns and pushing ahead of it a very fresh blast. I took the opportunity for some speed and unfurled the working jib poled out to windward. So, now we were running on a broad reach with both headsails and a full main. Mo took off.

I kept a close eye on the squall as I expected I’d reef hard when it was on us. But to my amazement, it stopped approaching. Wind stayed fresh for two hours as we ran before this behemoth, and then it finally gave up. The rain columns thinned and then stopped; the cloud became lighter, and the wind began to ease. Our nimbus pursuer had utterly blown itself out in the chase, and we left it by the side of the road, panting and gasping for air.

THAT has never happened before!

My current goal is to get Mo to 34S and 154W by noon tomorrow when, per the forecast, at that locality the high’s center will be to the west of us (hosanas!) and winds will come lightly to the south. We can then begin a push north. I have faint hope in this plan as the forecast continues to suggest that the high will then move east and over us, but I also don’t see a better tactic. Honestly, the mid range future looks pretty grim for northing.   

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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