Leg 2, Day 23 – In the doldrums

Natalia Cohen By

Day 23 – In the doldrums

“Colloquially, the “doldrums” are a state of inactivity, listlessness or stagnation.”

Each leg of this journey is proving to have its own challenges and for leg number 2, we have high temperatures, humidity and the ITCZ to navigate.

Have you ever heard of the expression “stuck in the doldrums”? Well…that’s exactly where we are right now.

The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), known by sailors as the doldrums, is the area that goes from 5-10 degrees of latitude north/above the equator, down through the equator to as low as 5-10 degrees south/below the equator and is where the northeast and southeast trade winds come together.

Right now our position is 09°02′.96N , and we need to get to Samoa that lies at 13°S so we have already entered the doldrums and the majority of our journey could well be travelling through them depending on how many miles they are stretching for at this particular time.

This area of low pressure around the equator is caused by the expanding atmosphere due to heating at the equator, which makes the air rise and travel north and south high in the atmosphere. Some of that air returns to the doldrums through the trade winds and this process leads to the utterly crazy weather we are now experiencing!

We have had some light and variable winds, squalls, thunderstorms, utter calm with no wind and very changeable swell. We’ve also been dealing with incredibly hot and humid conditions. Dark clouds pregnant with precipitation are our constant companion, and we now also have the main westerly Equatorial Current (EC) about to turn to the Equatorial Counter Current (ECC) that we will have to contend with. This erratic weather leaves us all guessing what we will encounter every 2 hours when we step foot outside the cabin to begin our row shift. Our speed is changeable as is our direction and in the words of Forest Gump the Pacific “is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.

The rowing shifts are challenging as we have to attempt the best course over ground (true direction that you are travelling in) we can and keep pushing South wherever possible. With the hot, sticky and damp conditions, we need to keep our energy up and ensure we are fully hydrated.

We ideally want to spend as little time as possible in the doldrums but it is said that they try and often succeed in holding you for as long as they possibly can. This area is renowned for trapping sail boats for weeks and some say that the only way to escape the Doldrums is…by rowing. Lucky for us…that’s exactly what we’re doing!

It’s been bizarre. One minute we’re commenting on how still the water is and then a random set of waves appeared out of nowhere. They were the strangest waves I’ve seen so far. Very choppy and small, turning the surface of the water into hundreds of whipped cream peaks. They came and went quickly and left LP and I confused and intrigued.
We’ve also had long and heavy downpours where we’ve seen the wall of rain coming and had time to ‘prepare battle stations’ and await the fresh water soaking. Some have lasted the full 2 hour row shift.
I love the way we have to sit on our rowing seats and just take whatever is thrown at us. It’s a different mindset that’s for sure. Nowhere to run…nowhere to hide.

The randomness of the sea state has been mirrored by the uniqueness of the sky. We’re often surrounded by low hanging storm clouds and the sunrises and sunsets have been some of the most dramatic we’ve experienced so far. The one thing I’m loving about this section of the journey is that every day is different x

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  1. Jim Andrews says:

    You are certainly experiencing everything imaginable that the Pacific Ocean can provide for your entertainment. I think the only thing not on the agenda are icebergs. Each day seems to present a new challenge to overcome. That is what makes you and your achievement so spectacularly awesome. Our thoughts are with you and all I can think to say, in the way of encouragement, is “Row Forest Row” 😉 Oh and stay safe. XX

  2. Jan R says:

    You might be in the doldrums, but you are still making very decent progress, and about a third of leg 2 is already done. And this time it was much better than in leg 0, where you actually had to go back to the coast. I am still in awe of your achievements (because every day is another big achievement!). I have taken up rowing into my gym routine (now that it’s too hot in the Middle East to do much sports outside), and this has clearly given me some additional perspective as to how amazing it already is to row for two hours in a row, let alone for six shifts a day and for so many days!!! You rock 🙂
    Greetings from Saudi Arabia…

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