Follow the carrot.

They're getting smaller.

9th March 2024

02 05S 89 48W – 08 27S 100 13W

On Blackpool beach vendors do a roaring trade by offering donkey rides. As one can imagine these donkeys are often not very willing participants in this enterprise and need coaxing along. Vendors (in Iain’s mind) have found the best way to coax them along is to simply dangle a carrot in front of them and they’ll then trot along happily chasing said carrot. Now that we are full of fuel* we have been chasing the wind and like the carrot it’s always been just in front of us.

After sparking the engine to life, downloading weather and having a quick chat with weather guru Chris Parker we headed south towards the fabled trade winds. The seas were glassy flat and the skies speckled with the occasional cloud. This was great for motoring but not good for sailing but we knew soon our sails would be pulling us along.

With every new forecast we saw those fabled winds went south at just about the same pace as us. They were getting no closer, we were getting no closer to our destination but our fuel was getting closer and closer to the bottom of the tank. Needing another strategy to get us to the Marquises Chris Parker told us to simply stop and wait, within a mere few hours we should have wind.

With that advice our sails flaked and stowed, the engine turned off and Ruffian was enveloped in a cloud of silence. We gently bobbed about going nowhere, 1000’s of miles from and days away from any other living soul. We secured the helm over to one side, set a drift alarm (to tell us when the wind had arrived), turned our AIS alarm to the max and bizarrely just went to bed. In this weirdness Iain slept like a baby, but it went against all of Fiona’s seamanship instincts. She was up and down thinking this was plain wrong, keeping a lookout and generally frowning at Iain’s slumber.

Right on cue our drift alarm sounded telling us the wind had arrived and small ripples were stating to breaking the glassy sea. Sails went up and Ruffian could finally point her bow to our distant destination, The Marquises.

In this wind Ruffian felt like a little self contained unit. Ampie charged the batteries through the night and the solar panels worked their magic during the day, Peter steered the boat and we resumed into our usual ocean passage activity of ‘reading books while facing backwards’. The miles simply slipped by and we started readying ourselves for our next challenge. Crossing the southern ICTZ boundary.

The ICTZ boundary is marked by lines of squalls, violent downpours and winds that vary wildly in direction. We’d read about boats in front of us being wet for days, forever dodging rain clouds and constantly having to tend to their boats. We hoped our crossing would very much less dramatic.

Our drama started by donning on leggings, socks, sea-boots and offshore jackets, which after 4 years of eternal heat and sunshine we found a shock. Temperatures plummeted (or we’d got soft) and we readied for a night of sleeping on the floor, being soaked with rain, through ready to be roused at any moment to change sails and manage the ever changing weather.

We watched with trepidation as squalls formed all around us and mercifully avoided us. We felt like Moses and the Red Sea. If a squall formed behind us; it dissipated before it reached us, if one was above; it overtook us and those below; we could just ignore. Just as Chris Parker had said, within 12 hours we were through it, the sky became cloudless the wind stabilised and we were now into beautiful trade wind sailing.

This was everything we sought as we chased that carrot south. Life on board was easy, morning coffee was followed by sumptuous lunches, before settling down to afternoons of easy miles, reading and crosswords. We’d arrived in what we looked for and hoped that the Blackpool donkey following his carrot had arrived at Mr Carroties carrot farm where fields were full of carrots and piles of carrots were waiting to be gnawed on.

* Another big thanks out to the crew of Zephyr for the fuel transfer.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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