Thursday, October 23, 2008

Back in the northern hemisphere

My final destination in Indonesia will be Nongsa Point marina, on the northern tip of Indonesia, directly opposite Singapore island. This morning I took stock of fuel reserves. The upshot is I've 100 miles left to go to Nongsa Point, but not enough fuel to motor all the way. No problem you'd think, I can sail. However the winds have been so irregular relying them seems like betting on an Icelandic banking investment.

Hoping for a decent breeze I set off at 6 this morning into a flat sea, but to my delight the wind quickly picked up. Now any wind is better than no wind, but today brought a head wind, forcing me to tack my way north and making me feel like I'd doubly earned every mile gained towards Singapore.

As I slowly closed on the equator, I felt a little like an actor in a story from Greek mythology. The gods seemed to be guarding the gateway to the northern hemisphere, throwing in an adverse current in addition to the head-winds. They also played physiological tricks with me by changing the weather. From having very localised but intense storms, today was more like a stormy day off Southend, with grey overcast skies, driving rain and agitated seas - enough to drive anyone to despair.

Just as I'd crossed the line, they put a unmarked reef in my way requiring some swift cockpit activity to avoid as I tacked back into the southern hemisphere. So I crossed the equator just after midday the first time, then returned to the southern hemisphere 5 minutes later and finally recrossed at 12.20.
The gods had one last trick. I thought they'd grudgingly let me through, but were clearly having none of it. While I was occupied checking the charts and deciding where to anchor for the night, the gods changed the wind, and the windvane obediently tracked the change. I emerged into the cockpit only to discover us 30seconds away from disaster. Directly ahead was a rock. This wasn't a smooth, ocean polished rock; it was black with razor shark teeth, ready to rip the bottom out of the boat. It was almost like a Hollywood director's idea of what a ship wrecking rock should look like; though that wouldn't have been very consoling.
Once clear, I checked the chart. There was no excuse - I'd failed to spot a charted isolated rock. On paper it looked insignificant and harmless, nothing like the boat breaker I'd so nearly made contact with.

Now I've crossed the equator it's downhill from here...

Some northern/southern hemisphere trivia:
  • 67% of the world's landmass is the northern hemisphere
  • 88% of the world's population lives in the northern hemisphere
  • southern hemisphere comprises 19% land; 81% sea
  • northern hemisphere comprises 39% land; 61% sea
  • air masses from the northern and southern hemispheres don't significantly mix; northern hemisphere air pollution doesn't reach the southern hemisphere.

23/10 off Kentar island: N00° 03.12' E104° 45.59'E

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