The Doldrums

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted anything for a while. Sea days. Lots of them. Lovely. Proper relaxation, do nothing days. Almost like being on holiday!

Oh, by the way, the Code Alpha bloke survived two days, but then died. His wife and brother are still on board, apparently. Well, where would they go?

We’re so far from anything that the only thing marked on the Channel 1 You Are Here Shipping Chart is the Equator. We crossed the line at 2.30am this morning. Again. We’ve crossed it four times on this trip! The heat and humidity yesterday were stifling. Even the hardened (literally!) sunbathers could only stand about half an hour without shade. There was no breeze, nothing.

We’re in the Doldrums. There is no wind at the Equator. The Doldrums extend about five degrees north and south of the Equator. There is no wind and, usually, no sun, just cloud. We’ve been treated to blazing sunshine this time though, which is odd, but makes the heat and humidity even more oppressive. The Doldrums are synonymous with depression and misery in English parlance because there is no wind. In the days when the only mode of propulsion for your ship was wind, this was a dangerous and boring place to be. You would be becalmed, going nowhere, sometimes for weeks at a time, watching your food and water supplies dwindling by the day, waiting for a freak wind to appear from nowhere push you onwards to more active waters. Sometimes it never came. Wind here is rare (not like in Cape Town!) and many sailors perished because the Doldrums starved them to death or they died of thirst first. The only way out was to lower rowing boats and tow the ship until you found the wind. As long as you knew which way to go to find it…

We keep moving, of course, because we have four engines, which weigh four tonnes each, with 1500 tonnes of fuel, churning away beneath us. Most of the time we only use three, keeping one in reserve for the odd occasion we have to go at full pelt, which we have done a couple of times on this cruise, such as when we pegged it through the Malacca Straits. Most of the time, things are more relaxed than that though. It’s been a bit complicated recently though.

As I mentioned, we were trapped in Cape Town due to high winds. We left 15 hours late and had to give it everything we had to get to Walvis Bay. In the end we arrived a day late. To compensate for this in the itinerary, they cancelled the stop in St Helena, which upset a lot of people, but wasn’t all that unexpected, frankly. They’re always very pessimistic about getting into St Helena. It’s a tender port and the swell at the landing site can be up to 40 feet. No, really. 40 feet. The pier has ropes hanging down so that you can SWING ashore if necessary. Not really suitable for our passengers! It seems we have been very lucky to have been to St Helena in the past. No one else has ever seemed to make it! Everyone is very jealous when I say I’ve actually been there. Didn’t seem like a monumental achievement at the time, but still… Just goes to show. One person’s ordinary day is another’s unachieved dream.


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