Finally the winds have turned and strengthened so that my problematically unballanced sail setup of the small jib (I had to furl the Code 0 but it will reappear shortly) and full main can be used to full effect. Since yesterday I have been charging up the coast with great speed and as such the milestones of Salvador de Bahia and Recife (the corner of Brazil) have fallen in my wake.
I refer to Salvador as a milestone because when I started solo sailing in 2009 I capped the season with a participation in the Mini Transat, a sprint in two legs from France to Salvador in 21 foot versions of the IMOCA 60 I am now piloting. Back then it was with some trepidation that I embarked on a solo transatlantic crossing and it took me months to prepare. Now these four thousand remaining miles feel like a jaunt across the pond rather after the rigours of the south. How a little experience changes one's perspective!
Speaking of experience, I am proud too to have crossed my outward track and thus completed the circumnavigation part of the race. Having crossed all lines of longitude from west to east I have now sailed around the world and crossed over the same point ( 06 ' 57 S, 032' 20 W) that I last traversed on the 20th of November! That feels a lifetime ago... before the cold and the grey of the south with its seemingly neverending struggles and associated triumphs.
Now with 350 miles to the equator I am really feeling the tropical heat. I may not feel a great deal of sympathy from my European readers who are still in the thick of winter chills but I assure you that an overdose of the alternative is no great joy. With no A/C, cool drinks or gentle cooling breezes or any of the other comforts that allow us to dose our exposure in hot climates I thrive at night when temperatures are more comfortable and the sun won't scorch my fair skin. With unlimited energy from my solar panels and hydrogenerator I can make lots of water with my desalinator "water maker" but I need to drink until I can feel it in the back of my throat before I am sated.
One of my favourite books when I was younger was the "Kontiki Expedition" that recounted the tale of anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl who sailed across the Pacific on a balsa wood raft with some friends to prove an academic theory. Sunburned Swedes and Norwegians they also suffered in the heat and found that adding some sea water into their drinking water slacked their thirst as they came to discover that their bodies were lacking salt as much as water. I use sport drink tablets to replace my sodium but perhaps I should try a little "eau de poisson volant" instead!