Into the doldrums.

into the doldrums

Cape Verde receded into the past. We were now headed for Brazil.

For four days we steadily ploughed our way across the Atlantic through the calm of the doldrums. The sea was spread out like a skein of billowing silk and our bow cut through it like a ploughshare cutting sods. Ships used to become marooned in this placed but our fifty year old diesel engines throbbed as they powered on relentlessly into a rhythm to which I had become accustomed.

I had all the time in the world. There were no chores and no internet. I walked the deck for exercise as it gently pitched, I read with my feet up on the rail and broke off to gaze out over the endless sea. I went to lectures on the wild-life or social/political situations in South America. But mostly I stood at the bow in my shorts, T-shirt and sandals and stared out, partially in hopes of seeing wild-life, but mostly because it was mesmerising. The sun was scorching and tropical and the breeze from the ship’s steady 15 knots was cooling. Ahead it was unbroken. The nearest land was hundreds of miles away, there wasn’t a ship in sight. Behind we were leaving a trail that stretched off to the horizon. I imagined it as a long elongating snake stretching back to that bay in Mindelo.


Occasionally we would see whale blows, a pod of dolphins would check us out and have a leap through our bow-wave or a leatherback turtle would drift past raising its head out of the water to gaze at us with those reptilian eyes. I was quite shocked to find how little life there was. Once life used to teem and now it was a rarity.

Sometimes I would lie in the hot Jacuzzi on the top deck with my floppy hat, sunglasses and suncream, under the blazing sun with a beer in hand.

In the evening it was good to check out the sunset as it sank slowly into the sea.P1010061P1010080

Late at night I would go out on to the deck all alone and stand at the front with the warm breeze ruffling my hair. The ship’s lights were behind me and the moon shone brightly leaving a bar of shimmering light across the sea. The stars filled the sky with the Milky Way like a thick wisp of smoke in a band above my head. I felt all alone. As I looked around I knew that we were about as alone as you could get on this planet – no land for days and the nearest ship well out of sight beyond the horizon. It gave me a sense of what it must have been like thousands of years in the past for those early men before the machine of civilisation was created. I felt an affinity.

Of course there would have been a lot more wild-life back then.


I watched flying fish for hours. The scooted out of the way of our bow-wave fleeing the huge metal predator bearing down on them. Singly or in swarms they would scud out across the waves for hundreds of metres before plunging back down. I found them fascinating.


Behind me was Europe, England, Spain, Gran Canaria and Cape Verde, ahead was Brazil, Argentina, the Falklands, Uruguay and Chile.

I knew what was behind me and I could smell what was to come. It smelt like adventure.

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