Transat­lantic trawls

Yachting World - - Cruising -

Sea Dragon mo­tor sailed through the light and fickle winds of the Trop­ics be­fore the In­tertrop­i­cal Con­ver­gence Zone brought us some wel­come breeze, al­beit in the un­pre­dictable squalls of the Dol­drums. We were sail­ing the vast ex­panse of the ocean known as the Pe­lagic Zone, which is known as the ocean equiv­a­lent of the desert, with lit­tle pres­ence of sea life other than the mi­cro­scopic ex­am­ples we re­cov­ered in our sam­ples every day and the odd sea bird or fly­ing fish.

We marked the cross­ing of the Equa­tor with a cer­e­mony in which the crew wore sarongs and gold body tat­toos, un­til the south-east­erly Trades even­tu­ally pre­sented them­selves, al­low­ing us to main­tain a steady sailplan. As we had en­vis­aged, the course had us hard on the wind and the planned stop at As­cen­sion be­came un­ten­able. So in­stead we bore away, eased the sails and set Sea Dragon on a di­rect course for Re­cife, Brazil.

Each day was spent gath­er­ing sci­en­tific data through water sam­pling and by trawl­ing the sur­face water us­ing a be­spoke de­vice called a Manta Trawl. We would trim the boat to main­tain a steady speed of two knots through the water and rig a line through a block at the end of our spin­naker pole set to wind­ward, on which the trawl would be rigged at sur­face level.

At the aft end of the trawl a re­mov­able ‘cod end’ was af­fixed, com­pris­ing a fine net in which we were able to gather our sam­ples for study un­der the on­board mi­cro­scope. Our sailplan changed just once a day to drop the stay­sail, en­gage the en­gine and de­ploy the trawl. Each trawl lasted for half an hour, be­fore its con­tents were sorted and an­a­lysed un­der mi­cro­scope in the sa­loon.

Amid an abun­dance of plank­ton, the ev­i­dence of small par­ti­cles of plas­tic was un­am­bigu­ous, de­spite the fact that the near­est land was of­ten thou­sands of miles from our po­si­tion. I found that every time a plas­tic bot­tle floated past, my stom­ach sank a lit­tle lower.

Ar­rival in Re­cife, with its de­vel­oped sky­line and elec­tric blue water, was in stark con­trast to the de­pri­va­tion we saw in Sene­gal. The stopover en­abled us to com­plete some ur­gent main­te­nance tasks, and it was also time for a crew change, af­ter which we be­gan the sec­ond leg of our ex­pe­di­tion, sail­ing north along the east coast of Brazil, for our sec­ond Equa­to­rial cross­ing of the trip.

This time the Trades al­lowed us to reach with a pre­vented main and poled-out yan­kee giv­ing us good speeds through­out. En­vi­able con­di­tions cul­mi­nated in

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.