For the first time in many weeks there is no wind and we find ourselves completely and utterly becalmed, adrift in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. Normally when racing we would be tweaking, adjusting and coaxing boat speed out of every zephyr of breeze, or on previous gyre expeditions motoring through the high to the new wind, being proactive.
However, that is no longer an option for us, over a thousand miles from land we are stricken with a broken gearbox. As often in life it is not so much what happens but how you react, for now that will be patiently waiting for the wind to find us, as we cannot find it. This will hopefully be a matter of hours rather than days, our reliable forecast suggests days. In by-gone century’s masters (who were never faced with such mechanical challenges) would have thrown unwanted chattels, animals and no doubt at times crew overboard. These days such actions are not encouraged and besides most of our chattels are synthetic, the very same manmade land sourced synthetics that we are finding as degraded particulate in our samples and collecting on the Ocean, a symptom of man’s plastic obsession.
Reflection time, and the opportunity to drop sails and drift on the ocean currents, a perfect nights stars reflecting in the mirrored ocean depths, a golden half moon and thoughts of priorities in life. Schedules, arrivals, departures, communications, expectations all matter little, our sails are our only engine and they have no fuel.
Chasing a windrow with its accumulation of marine debris looking for plastic, scientific equipment safely retrieved on deck whilst motoring with nets at the ready, a stray line slipped into the water unnoticed. It caught my attention as I nudge astern, neutral was too late, the propeller was already spinning pulling a trawl off the deck, it locked up the prop pulling the shaft away from the engine, call the recovery service we have a broken gearbox.
Dorado swam around below us having had their shelter of a plastic net ball removed for the cause; they smirk, dodge our spear gun and swim off towards Uruguay.
Lesson learnt, lesson should have been learnt and driven home before practicing mid ocean, but then again we would be motoring at 1800 rpm towards Uruguay and missing all of this. Dawn will soon be with us and the mid-ocean repair is already being formulated. The strength of the extruded plastic line that caused the gearbox to break can hold it back together, and we can find the wind again. We to are obsessed.