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A sunny day under light winds and calm conditions

Already far behind are the usually windier latitudes of the Roaring 40’s and the Furious 50’s where we started our voyage. From the highways of Low Pressure Systems that sweep over the ocean further south, now we find ourselves in a generally High Pressure Zone. At the equatorial latitudes, the hot air rises and travels away from the Equator. Cooling down on its way, around the 30º North and South sinks creates this High Pressure areas on surface. 

That usually brings sunny, dry days, clear skies, and calm winds. Just like what we are experiencing lately. A good chance to keep on focusing on maintenance and preparations for the weeks to come.

Often flat calm and windless here, but not always, as the weather forecast reminds us. A small Depression approaches from beneath the High Pressure System we are immersed in. A chance for wind and thus a chance for sailing the 80nm that separates us from the coastline, maybe between tonight and tomorrow. 

For reasons not well known, these are called the Horse Latitudes. Nevertheless there are several theories about how they came to bear such denomination. 

One of them has more to do with the trade under sail in the old times and how the companies hired their employee sailors. Seaman by that time, received part of the payment in advance before setting sail on a long trip. Usually, the money was spent straight away in port so for the first month or two at sea they didn’t get any wages. The symbol of hard work in the 17th Century was the horse. With such hardships to come during the job at sea, being paid in advance, wages spent already before embarking, chances of the work being done were like expecting work from a horse already dead. When it was time to resume earning wages again, they celebrated it with a traditional ceremony to have passed the "dead horse” time. Departing from Europe, this was about the time when the ship was sailing around the subtropical areas around the 30º latitudes. 

Other explanations have more to do with the characteristic calms, the light breeze, and the oceanic surface motion in this zone. For instance, in maritime terminology, a ship is called to be “horsed” when it progresses drifting while riding a current, despite the sails not catching much wind, like a rider on horseback. Often the way to get somewhere when sailing these latitudes. 

Last but not least, another accepted version talks literally about the Spanish fleet throwing overboard the horses that were carrying on their holds while sailing on trading enterprises between America and the West Indies. When the vessels fall between the Westerly winds of higher latitudes and the Trade winds, notorious for tedious calms, their speed dramatically dropped, often extending the duration of the trip, to the point of running out of fresh water to keep the horses alive, so they would throw overboard dead and dying animals. 

We don’t have horses on board, …no need to toss them over the side. We produce enough water to drink, shower and clean. We don’t count solely on the wind for our progress. We do have engines to keep on going over the calm sea and the windless area we come across, and we do have people on board who loved to “throw themselves” overboard on the “swim stop” we did today after the hectic moments following the performance of a Man Overboard Drill. 

Geschreven door:
Jordi Plana Morales | Expedition Leader

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