The (Weather-)Tsar's Thumb

Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

16° 46' 42" S, 179° 19' 42" E

We heard that Russia has a train track running from Moscow to somewhere in Siberia that runs straight over flat country for thousands of kilometers. At one point however, the track makes a curvy detour without any apparent natural obstacle and continues its straight course only after having completed a little "bulge".

Apparently this bulge is known as "the Tsar's thumb" in Russia. Legend has it that the Tsar who commissioned this railroad explained to his chief railroad builder how he wanted the track to run. To make his intentions unambiguously clear, the Tsar took a ruler to draw a straight line on the map from Moscow to the envisioned track's Siberian end point. However, in the heat of the debate he let his thumb slip beyond the ruler's edge, thus deflecting the pencil from its straight line.

Since questioning Tsar's orders was probably seen as a seriously career limiting move in those days, the chief railroader went off, map in hand, and laid the track precisely to his master's specifications...

Looking back at our tracks between NZ and Fiji one cannot help but think that someone's thumb must have meddled in there... (see picture above). The depression that suddenly changed course and moved smack into our path had us (and everyone else in our little radio net fleet) sail a 300nm detour to the west before getting back onto the rhumb line to Savusavu.

Overall we spend 286 hours at sea on this passage and sailed a total of 1485nm to cover a Great Circle distance of 1138nm. Hence our average speed was a - by modest Namani standards - respectable 5.2kn; however our average "speed made good" comes out to a meager 4kn...

CORRECTION: As an attentative reader has brought to our attention, the railroad runs between St. Petersburg and Moscow (rather than between Moscow and Siberia). It was built in 1851 under tsar Nicholas I. Thanks Bafia ;-)

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