Is the ocean rough or mellow around the Equator? We pulled up weather charts for our five day passage from Galapagos to the South American continent, to see what’s in store for the six crew aboard Aldebaran. Mind you, our four visiting crew members are all green-hands – it’ll be the first time they are making an overnight passage.
Nate & Sherry are adventure buddies from Reno, NV and for fun they ski and hike in the Sierra Nevada. Kelly is Sabrina’s high school soccer friend who now lives in Wyoming and teaches NOLS courses (outdoor leadership); Zach is a motorcycle cruiser who recently completed a law degree in Kentucky, and is coming aboard without ever having snorkeled in his life before..! So overall, we’ve got a crew that is competent but inexperienced in the ocean.
Kelly & Zach received the shipment of solar lights in Wyoming, and packed them into 3 bags. Then things took a turn, and unfortunately, we incurred enormous checked baggage fees in the order of $300!! Unknown to us, Zach had to take a domestic flight solo with all the bags to meet Kelly — which meant he was waaaay over the baggage limit. Then, he paid additionally for the United international leg. To add injury to insult, the Ecuadorian customs charged them $215 to “import the lights” into the country! Yikes… the customs agent didn’t accept that the solar lights were for their own country’s earthquake relief effort, and not for re-sale.
Anyway, we live and learn. We’ve got the solar lights with us in hand (thankfully, they’re not stuck in customs in Quito, that would have been worse), and we’re ready to sail to the mainland!
So what are the sea conditions we expect to face? Typically, the Equator is surrounded by a band of challenging seas called the ITCZ (inter-tropical convergence zone) where the trade winds all come together. Catalyzed by heat, air rises into thunderstorms and squalls of temporary strong wind, but predominantly calm wind, which is maddening to a sailor. They are sometimes called the equatorial doldrums.
Oddly, during May-October the band of air known as the ITCZ is often north of the equator in the eastern Pacific Ocean. We crossed the ITCZ to reach the Galapagos islands, and despite now being at 0 degree latitude, we’re neatly at the cusp of the southerly tradewinds.
Weather forecasts confirm this favorable assumption; they suggest we’ll get consistent winds around 5-15kts, with southerly winds trending to south-westerly as we complete our 530 nautical mile passage to the mainland of Ecuador. If anything, the wind might be a touch too light.
Checking our diesel fuel, we see 30 gallons in our 100 gallons capacity tank, which can take us about 300 nautical miles, more than halfway. That should be plenty as we’ll be sailing the remainder – but just in case of medical emergency, we’ll get another 30 gallons for the ship here in San Cristobal.
What about our water? The water tank level is at 40 gallons, and assuming about 2 gallons per person per day (includes dish washing, cooking, and drinking) we’ll need around 60 gallons. We’re going to pick up another 20 gallons of water — only that much, because it needs to be carried by hand in jerry cans here in the Galapagos, since no dock is available. We’ll supplement the rest with our watermaker. Our Katadyn watermaker can make about 5 gallons of water every 3 hours in the ocean ocean, and uniquely among water makers has the ability to convert to manual operation in case of electrical failure.
Arriving in Bahia Caraquez in the mainland of Ecuador has its own small challenges… we can only enter the bay on high tide with a pilot boat. Looking at the tide charts, we hope to arrive for the 4:30pm high tide on Friday September 2nd, which is 5 days from our Sunday afternoon departure (today). Our crew members depart on Sunday the 3rd at dawn, so that gives them a day of buffer and opportunity to de-compress.
We’ve reached out to marina contacts in Bahia Caraquez who are connecting us with non-profits and groups doing disaster relief in the area; we’re hoping that we can find a good partner locally to make the most of this Unite to Light donation.
Want to participate in the passage? Follow our daily feed on Facebook showing Aldebaran’s current location and updates from the crossing. At present in San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands (August 2016) departing for mainland this afternoon!