Where are we going? And are we there yet?

Perhaps you’re wondering, why does Bint al Khamseen appear to be headed for 05N 130W when the Marquesas are at 09S 140W? Like all good Seattle yuppies we navigate life based on the musings in other peoples’ blogs. Several years ago our friends on S/V Marcy discovered two guide stars during this very passage: “Westie” and “Eastie.” We think we know which stars these are and we track them every night. It’s not an exact science.

What is an exact science are the in-depth explanations of equatorial Pacific weather that are broadcast twice daily by the penultimate weather guru, Dr. Don Anderson. Don holds court on the single side band radio from his bat cave in Oxnard California and advises sailors on everything from micro-forecasts of the ridiculously complex Mexican coast to the proper way to communicate on a radio. He has written a concise guide on sailing from Mexico to French Polynesia which illuminates the vagaries of the mythical and intimidating Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), otherwise known as the “doldrums.”

The ITCZ is the mixing zone where the Southeast trade winds of the South Pacific run into the Northeast trade winds of the North Pacific. One might hope that they merge nicely together and make a lovely East trade wind right down the equator. Instead they plow into each other and spend their energies milling around making rain squalls and thunderstorms with no useful or consistent wind direction. Avoiding the ITCZ is the key goal of this passage but cross it we must. It spans the Pacific just north of the equator. On the coast of Central America it is quite wide, perhaps 1,000nm. It tapers to the west until it is only a 200nm wide (or less) at 130W. So there we are headed, the thin end of the ITCZ wedge. When we arrive we’ll take a turn to the south and sprint across like a turtle on the interstate hopefully getting a pleasant washdown without any squally winds. Once we meet the Southeast trades we’ll set course directly for the nearest palm tree.

15°16.27’N 119°03.01’W 25-Mar-10 11:45 BST

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “Where are we going? And are we there yet?”

  1. kathi jarboe says:


    have not been to your site for a while. Looks you are headed for the Marquesas? You will be gone longer than a year?

    We are heading to Puerto Vallarta for spring break.

    how is the weather? read the “plastic pants” note – hilarious!


  2. Allison says:

    Ahoy, Binterlopers. Thought I would help you navigate to the Marquesas from my office, using a few tips from the Marquesas’ Ministry of Tourism.

    First, “Farther from a continental landfall than any other group of islands on earth, the twelve Marquesas jut out of the open Pacific just south of the equator”. Not so hard. Just sail west until you’re in the exact middle of the Pacific, then turn left, just like you planned. You can’t miss them.

    More navigational aids to follow.