We've (I've?) been stressing about the ITCZ for about the last week. Where should we cross? Do we just head due south? What will the squalls be like? Should we motor, or keep the sails up if we're going slowly but still making progress...?
Anyway, last night was the big night. We were at about 05.30N at sunset last night, and the ITCZ was supposed to be at 04.00N or so, so I knew that we'd be through it or at least in it by the morning.
We watched an absolutely EPIC sunset that was shortly followed by a spectacular thunderstorm that was thankfully far enough away not to worry about. It was gorgeous to watch, but each lightning strike was a reminder that we were about to run the gauntlet. After dinner, Amanda went to sleep, and I took the first watch. I was pretty tired, so I set the egg timer for 20 minute intervals and went to sleep. My watch went something like this:
0 mins: scan horizon. note lightning, worry a little, sleep.
20 mins: scan horizon. note clouds appear to be breaking, worry a little less
40 mins: scan horizon. wonder what happened to nimbus clouds. note boat speed has dropped to 3.5 knots. wonder about motoring.
60 mins: scan horizon. stop. stare 360 degrees in awe. note total absence of clouds. note boat speed of 5 knots. note winds from the south east. note southern cross. note more stars than ever seen before. reflect on fact that we're in the middle of the Pacific and perhaps are farther from light pollution as it's possible to be.
80 mins through 200 mins: repeat 60 mins. add moon.
220 mins: repeat 60 mins. wonder what happened to the ITCZ
So, we're currently doing 5 knots in the south east trades. Apparently, the ITCZ moved north as we moved south, and we basically missed it. I'm counting us incredibly lucky, but am not convinced that we're out of the woods yet. The ITCZ moves much faster than we do, so it could come back and settle on top of us again. With that in mind, I've set our course for 180 degrees rather than the rhumb line to Hiva Oa which is closer to 225 degrees. We'll adjust course when we're south of 4N. (Current position: 04.31N, 127.00W) which is as far south as I've seen the ITCZ on this trip. I don't want to jinx it, but I have my fingers crossed that we may have gotten incredibly lucky.
In the mean time, think Clouds by Georgia O'Keefe and you'll have a pretty good idea of what we're looking at.