Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 55 - Zig Zagging Through The ITCZ

At the end of today, after a hard day's rowing, I am further away from
my goal than I was at the start. This does not make for a happy rower.

This morning I was in fine fettle. I had come to a decision on Tuvalu vs
Tarawa. Tuvalu would undoubtedly put me in a better position to get to
Australia next year, and was starting to look increasingly do-able. I
did some calculations based on my progress through the northern
hemisphere trade winds, and reckoned that if I could cross the Equator
between 175 and 176 degrees West, then I had a pretty fair chance at
being able to reach Tuvalu if the southern hemisphere trade winds were
roughly the same strength.

And I am already between 175 and 176 degrees West, so all I needed to do
was row due south, and we'd be golden. Right? Wrong.

This morning was no problem. The wind was light, allowing me to make
some useful southerly progress. I was being pushed east, but that was
okay – all the better to line up for Tuvalu. But then a series of
squalls around lunchtime changed everything, and the rest of the
afternoon was very frustrating.

Part of the problem was that the wind was coming from the wrong
directions – anywhere between due south and due west, neither of which
were good. I can row with the wind. I can row across the wind. But I
can't row into the wind. This boat is too bulky and I just can't make
any headway.

And the wind speed kept changing, so I had to keep adjusting the rudder
just to stay pointing in the same direction. It made it very hard to get
any rhythm going, and as you'll know if you've tried running in a big
city marathon where for the first few miles you're having to duck around
people, speeding up, slowing down, it's far more tiring to exert
yourself when you can't find your rhythm.

So I got pretty cranky. I've definitely been spoiled. So far this stage
my progress had unusually predictable – a pretty consistent 30+ miles a
day. On the Atlantic, and Stage 1 of the Pacific, were very different
stories. I was often blown backwards, despite use of the sea anchor to
mitigate the effect of adverse winds. In fact, on Stage 1 of the Pacific
it took me 6 weeks and 3 attempts to break free of the California coast.
I kept crossing 124 degrees West, only to get blown back again. Out,
back, out, back, and then finally out and free. So today should be no
big deal for me really. But it's amazing how soon I'd started to think
of favorable conditions as a right rather than a privilege.

By tonight I was fed up with the whole charade, so I cheered myself up
by having my first hot meal of the crossing. I haven't wanted hot foot –
the temperatures have been sweltering. But today has been overcast and
almost cool by comparison, and I decided some comfort food was in order.
So I dug out the cook stove and kettle and boiled up some water to mix
with my freeze-dried chilli con carne. It may not be consistent with my
rawfood detox diet, but I have to say, it absolutely hit the spot. Funny
how much better life can seem with a bellyful of hot food.

[photo: another pic of yesterday's visitor, with his little entourage.]

Other Stuff:

Do you see the thin fish that has attached itself to the top right of
the turtle's shell in the photo? I think that's the same creature that
latched onto my bottom a few weeks ago when I was cleaning barnacles off
the hull. I'm not sure I'd pick him out in an identity parade, but I'm
pretty sure. Any idea what he is?

Nicole and I recorded our last podcast together today, before Leo
returns from his trip to China next week and we resume our usual
Thursday format. Nicole and I had a good chat about all kinds of stuff,
particularly the challenges of trying to land on a tiny dot in a very
big ocean. You can find the podcast (30 mins approx) via the RozTracker.

Speaking of the RozTracker, I gather it has a load of cool new features,
including latitude and longitude, and a streamlined way of presenting
the tweets, blogs etc. Thanks, Evan! I just wish I could see it too!
Can't wait to get back to dry land and get a decent internet connection.

You might be interested to learn (and Naomi in NY, I'm thinking of you
in particular, and your walk across England) that we are planning to
market the Tracker product to people who are planning their own
adventures, to enable them to share the experience through social media.
It's too early to be specific, but we hope it will be available from
early next year. I'll keep you posted.

Due to a technical hitch I haven't received the comments from
yesterday's blog. So I'm sorry I can't respond to any of them here – but
I'll try to catch up tomorrow. So I'll sign off for now, get an early
night, and hope that the weather has come to its senses by morning…

Weather report (I don't really want to talk about it, but if you really
want to know):

Position at 2100 HST: 05 06.243N, 175 44.780W
Wind: S-W, 3-12kts
Seas: 2-5ft
Weather: mostly overcast, some squally showers

Weather forecast, courtesy of weatherguy.com

As of Thursday, 15 July 2009. Wind predictions will be with an added
level of uncertainty due to the naturally occurring variable conditions
in the equatorial regions. From satellite data, it appears enhanced
convective activity was centered along 170W extending past the dateline
to 170E. Winds mostly NEerly direction shift to Serly by 18 Jul
noontime, then back to Nerly by 19Jul0900HST. Speeds should be in the
5-10kt range with periods of calm. Seas 1-4ft.

Sky conditions: Mostly cloudy to overcast with low level clouds.
Scattered rainshowers, squalls, and possible thunderstorms. Wind speeds
in these systems 40kts.

ITCZ: The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) has once again become
more active over your rowing area. Southern edge of the ITCZ axis trails
off at 180E/W and 00 30S.

Ocean Current: North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC). No change from
earlier discussions. You are approaching the northern boundary of the E
flowing current. Northern boundary is about 05 00N extending to the
southern boundary near 00 30S. Current speeds increases to Eerly 0.1 to
0.2, then builds to a maximum near 0.6 to 0.8kts from 02 30N to 01 00N
then fades to 0.1 to 0.2 near the southern boundary. There are periodic
fluctuations in these dimensions.

Forecast
Date/Time HST Wind kts Seas (ft) est
16/1800-17/0600 NE-E 5-15 2-4
17/0600-18/1200 E-S 0-10 1-3
18/1200-20/0600 S-N 5-10 2-4
20/0600-21/1800 N-S 0-7 1-3

Next Update: Monday, 20 July

20 comments:

  1. I know you have blogged that on this leg of the journey, the temperature has been quite high, but I was wondering if hypothermia has been a concern on any of your crossings. Do you have a way to warm up if you should need to?

    Great photo, btw!

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  2. I never thought anyone would refer to freeze-dried chili-con-carne as a comfort food. I have been keeping up with the "tour de France" and several riders have also stated they welcomed a hot meal after riding in miserable rain soaked conditions. Your row as far as mileage compares to the rigors of their bike race. Of course that without the masseuse, support crew, warm shower, teammates, and 4 star lodging.

    J-F-D-I


    Greg

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  3. "So I got pretty cranky."

    stop whining Roz! You're only rowing alone on a small boat through the ocean where the only thing to rely on is yourself and the things you could bring with you on a small boat while fighting weather conditions, ocean currents and birds crapping on your boat.


    Oh, ok.

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  4. I am not an engineer but I have been wondering why the aft cabin on rowing boats are larger than the fore cabin? If the fore cabin was larger(like on a pocket sailboat) it would seem to handle a headwind better and give a slight push with a tailwind.

    ~Greg

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  5. Wow, what a truly amazing photo of the turtle! This is my favorite shot of the entire voyage so far!!!

    For those who are interested, I believe this is a "Green Sea Turtle", called "Honu" in Hawaiian. It's the most commonly found species in Hawaii. Before seeing the photo, I'd been hoping perhaps Roz stumbled on an endangered Leatherback (which can be up to 9' long and weight over a ton).

    Since Roz is clearly excited about turtles, I thought I'd share with you that they are in tremendous danger around the world, typically related to irresponsible practices in the fishing industry. Specifically, longlining (think of swimming through 20 miles of dangling, baited hooks left out for days) and shrimp boats (for each ounce of shrimp you eat, about nine ounces of living animals were killed and discarded as "bycatch"). The best things you can do are to become informed, know where your food comes from, and demand responsibility from your government and fishing industry.


    Here are some links:

    Protest proposed laws that will loosen standards for allowable turtle kills:
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2009/06/sea-turtles-fishing-lines.html

    Join the Sea Turtle Restoration Project:
    http://seaturtles.org

    Read "Voyage of the Turtle" by Carl Safina (an amazing author!)
    http://www.evanrapoport.com/2008/08/05/voyage-of-the-turtle/

    Sea turtle identification card:
    http://www.seaturtlefoundation.org/biology/sea-turtle-identification/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for the links Evan. Will post them on my FB page.
    Good job on the tracker! Rally cool new nav features ;-D

    Man! Roz really had a bad night ... fish hook to NE ... but that is better than continuing easterly I supppose ... she's gotta play the hand she's dealt. RozTracker really gives us a bird's eye view and it's engaging. Great technology!

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  7. Ooof. It looks like the overnight drift will not be welcome news when you wake up this morning.

    There's been a lot of coverage here in the U.S. of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. As NASA used the gravity of the moon and Earth to get where they wanted to go, I'm hoping that you, too, will be able to use the currents and winds to slingshot yourself to where you want to be.

    Of course, the constancy of gravity helped give the NASA scientists a little help where the unpredictable variation of the winds and currents makes your planning for the present a little more like a game of blind man's bluff.

    You got out of SF Bay on your own power, and you got yourself away from the West Coast and on to Hawaii. You'll get through the ITCZ. We could have a little Buy Roz A Drink (symbolically via donation) party to celebrate then.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Looking at the Roz Tracker, I'm imaging the morning routine will be accompanied by some really colorful language.

    You know how guys are always making bets like, I'll give you $5 if you'll eat that moth? Roz, I'll donate $50 for an Evoca-posted reenactment of the swearing this morning.* (If that doesn't violate any user agreements, FCC regulations, etc.)

    (*Actually, I'll do it with or without the post.)

    For all the regular readers, I'd like to encourage you to become a monthly sponsor like I am. I don't see it on the blog page, but the Support Roz donation link is on rozsavage.com. Having the privilege to share this adventure really means a lot to me, and it's good to give back.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Michelle from Canada3:59 pm GMT

    Well Roz - you knew there would be some issues when you got to this area on the map. You will break through it. We know it and you know it.

    "Perseverance will prevail where all others fail"

    Beautiful photo - took my breath away.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Joan, that's a good idea. I did a one-time gift, but on your suggestion I will do for Roz what I do with NPR: it's monthly and it's predictable unlike currents and winds. Given the gravity of the situation, we want Roz to keep on keepin' on [and she's more entertaining than NPR too, in a different sorta of way].

    Roz, the photo is exquisite! I would treasure an autographed copy hanging on my wall ... when you get time that is (wink wink nod nod kaching kaching).

    As an aside, Roz aptly demonstrated her ability to allude to off-color alliteration with ****ing fabulous finesse. The @, #, $, %, &, and * keys do come in handy ... sorry for the ****ing fish hook in your course; it's a bit of a ****ing snag.

    ReplyDelete
  11. In the useless triva department, if Roz had decided to "row" overland, via roadway rather than as the crow flies, from San Francisco to Atlanta (sure, why not?), she'd be entering Arkansas right about now. It would probably be equally muggy and hot as the tropics.

    Time to put flying harnesses on the boobies and get them to pull their weight by hauling you back in a southward direction. (Well, it would work in a Harry Potter movie.)

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  12. Wow, Joan, that really puts it into perspective. Impressive!

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  13. The fish in question appears to be a remora. Here's a link to a remora and a porcupine fish.
    http://www.bubblevision.com/underwater-pictures/koh-doc-mai/pages/porcupine4.htm

    fabulous picture. Best wishes through the ITCZ!

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  14. RozCast for July 16, 2009 - Solo Pacific Row - Stage 2, Wk 8 has close up and personal video of Birdbrain and friend in winged action on the poop deck. Thank you, Roz.

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  15. Given your comment, Roz, that the slender fish might be the same as the one that sucked on to you earlier, I might think this is a remora, specifically a shark remora (aka slender suckerfish, striped suckerfish see it here). Remoras are known to suck on to sharks, turtles, and, yes, even humans (see that here...scroll down to "a remora hitchhiking on my buddy"). I've read some cultures have even used remoras to catch turtles (see Wikipedia). The problem, here, given Roz's previous comment that this is a small turtle, is that this would have to be a very juvenile remora to be that small.

    If the turtle really is that small, then the fish could also be a "blue-streak cleaner wrasse (see it here). Again, the problem is size: this wrasse is usually about 4" (okay, British rower, metric units 10cm). So this would be a big wrasse. Also they tend to hang out in clusters at cleaning stations next to reefs.

    So unless just went over a very close to the surface seamount, my bet is on the remora. Besides, it's much more bold and adventurous to say "I was a bit bothered by a shark remora when grabbed onto my buttock" than to say "I got freaked by a wrasse tickling my a**". Your call, Roz!

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  16. Roz is officially the Super Woman of the Year.
    It's easy to blog, but what Roz is doing is unbelievable. I am still amazed today as I was the first time I heard about Roz. Thank you for sharing the pics and your experience daily with the rest of the blogosphere and beyond.
    See you in Tuvalu! I wish.

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  17. I love the picture! I know how frustrating set backs can be, thank god for comfort food!

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  18. Roz, sorry your day was not so productive. I nearly wrote "not so good", but maybe it was "good" in some obscure way.

    At least, on RozTracker you are no longer lollygagging literally in a languid loop. Your pattern has broken into one of a giant button hook from the distant past. Of course, you already know that, but just to let you know we appreciate your hard arse-breaking work. BTW, how's the bum? Recovered?

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  19. never thought I'd say that to a Lady; having second thoughts

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  20. I'm a little behind on the updates, but I love the picture of the turtle and the fish!!! I love turtles. Glad you got a chance to see one. :)

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