Report 8: Before, at and after the equator
For a long time the wind was weak low air pressure prevailed, the closer we got to the equator (doldrums belt), where there is often no wind.
We had set course to the port of discharge, Paranaguá, a town about 300 km south-west of Santos. We slept on deck in our hammocks; sometimes we also had our meals there. And when we arrived at the Equator three days before, there was no wind to be felt at all.
We came across the equatorial line. Those who thought that there would be a jolt through the entire ship, were bitterly disappointed. Instead there was a terrible noise from a rampaging mob of half-naked men, smeared with oil and blubber, chasing the trainees onto the prow, where every individual was grabbed and smeared with elixirs of life from top to bottom and subjected to a life-threatening baptism in a large pool of water.
My baptismal name was “Alk”. As far as the albatross type birds are concerned they are sea divers with legs far back on their body living in cool Arctic waters. There were no great emotions or any similarity to those creatures on my side.
I could not rid myself of the deposited lubricants from the one-hour continuous baptizing procedure despite dozens of washings. One would have to complain – but to whom? Woe to those who will eventually be baptized ending up in our hands!
Yesterday, when the wind fell asleep and all sails hung flat from the yards 30 men were employed to start the ships engine which supposedly came from a submarine. After the mechanics, in spite of their good will and encouragement, could not start the 700 horsepower Diesel engine, 30 men were ordered to the crankshaft.
They tried to activate the engines ignition with much manpower and momentum without success. Finally the two-bladed propeller was set so that when wind would come up and fill the sails, the ship’s speed would rotate the propeller shaft and fire up the engine. We were lucky that after six more hours there was enough wind that the engine started chugging again.
After another half hour, the breeze was strong enough to give the Pamir a speed that the engine could only dream of. It could not make more than 7 knots, even under the best conditions. The engine was of no further use when the ship was sailing.
At a moderate breeze, we made 3 knots under full sails. And what followed was another pleasant tropical night.