Day 13 across the Pacific

Almost two weeks in and that wave of emotion has had peaks and troughs along the way. Here’s some high level stuff to paint the picture. I like a bullet point.

  • It’s about 4000 miles -ish to Nuku Hiva from Panama
  • I say ish because you never travel in a straight line in a sail boat, there’s always some too-ing and fro-ing to be done
  • It took us 9 days to get to the north western end of the Galápagos Islands. The first 36 hours was motoring with diddly squat wind
  • We then had plenty of wind, almost exclusively from where we wanted to go. Plus counter currents. This necessitated an etch-a-sketch track as we tacked back and forth to make slow slow uncomfortable progress
  • We had unpleasant, nay scary, thunderstorms with lightening forks cracking around the boat. The rain was a true deluge and our visibility was diminished massively. We were both hanging out, sat on the cabin floor in our soaked waterproofs at one point
  • THEN we picked up a strong west going current and our speed over the ground topped 10.2 knots. Hurrah!
  • Yesterday our noon to noon distance made good was 190 miles. Best ever by some margin. Will we hit the magical 200 mark today?
  • Our top speed hit 10.2 knots at one point last night. Blimy O’Reilly
  • We are fit and well and already talking about getting in and walking about. Lots of walking about
  • Distance to go is 2,418 miles….in a straight line so not halfway yet
  • Other boats seen since we left the shipping lanes around Panama. 1 cargo vessel.
  • Fish caught. One enormous, humongous, swordfish. It snapped our line. There’s no way we’d have landed this thing onto Grace
  • Lots of dead squid on the deck each morning. I like squid but I don’t fancy cooking these guys up
  • Plenty of dolphins….small ones….birds too
  • It’s been chilly at night. Unexpected. We dug out thermals for our night watches.
  • And finally, still have 4 cabbages left.

So that’s a little summary of what’s been our focus for the last couple of weeks. At some point we need to cross the doldrums and the equator to get further south. But for the time being, we’re heading west with good wind and current, eating miles, drinking tea, staying sane. We hope!

Performance Review

For the purposes of this story I’ll call him Simon. He didn’t really have much respect for ‘da management’. He was a bright capable guy, who had a vociferous opinion on most things and could – I believe – have been difficult to manage at times. He also had a wildly subversive sense of humour. Put these character traits together and you have a perfect storm.

His 6 monthly ‘chat’ about how things were going at work was coming up. Simon wasn’t the happiest of bunnies and he was keen to get his point across.

That morning he came down to breakfast (a whole gang of us worked at an outdoor residential centre….this is back in the day). He was proudly wearing a millinery hand crafted delight on his head. Crown like but with drooping Deputy Dawg ears. The main material used in the manufacture of this contraption was tin foil.

The conversation went something like this. ‘Morning Simon, nice hat. Is it today you’ve got your performance review?’

“Yes”, he replied with glee, “that’s why I made the hat. It’s my bull shit deflector.” At which point he pulled a string and the deputy dawg ears shot up vertically to demonstrate its purpose. Just brilliant and so Simon. We all just fell about and what was even better, he wore the hat to his performance review meeting. I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall.

Why tell this story? Other than it’s a great tale. I was thinking about how things have panned out for us over the past four years. Admittedly, it’s a fairly tenuous link as stories go. However, it’s 4 years to the day that we locked the door at 2 Mount Pleasant and swapped indoor space, a washing machine and easy access to day to day living for a forty three foot floating home with the potential to cruise the oceans.

Our sketchy plan was always New Zealand. We’ve been distracted along the way. We had no intentions of going to Bermuda or the East Coast of the States or Nova Scotia or Newfoundland or the Bahamas or Jamaica. There’s a saying that we’ve learnt from other boaters which states that any boat plans are written in sand. I’m super glad we did visit these places though. The people we’ve met and the friends we’ve made, is more reward than we could have dreamt of.

Today finds us on a relatively calm sea heading towards a point 82 miles away. It a cross on the chart plotter, just north of Darwin Island, Galápagos. We’ve psychologically broken this trip down into sections. Get out of Panama Bay, get to the Galápagos, cross the doldrums and the equator. Etc. Distance to go to Nuku Hiva is 3014 miles. Distance covered since Isla Contadora, Panama is around 900. It’s hard to tell with all our zig zagging.

Our New Zealand plan drifts closer. Time to assess our performance when we eventually get there. If indeed it even matters. In the meantime, I have time to ponder new millinery possibilities.

Animal Antics

I laughed as a booby struggled to keep its balance on a small floating log, just a couple of metres from Grace as we sailed past. Our forward motion pushed a small wave of white water away from the hull and I almost heard this bird going “Whooa” as it wobbled back and forth trying to regain its balance. It chose not to use its wings to help steady itself, instead throwing some body popping shapes from its knees up. (Do birds have knees?) No way was it flying off its watery perch. “I’ve found a log, I’m staying here, thank you very much”.

More animal activity as I passed up the dinner plates into the cockpit last night, including delicious cabbage I hasten to add. A pod of spotted dolphins came over to play, distracting us from our dinner for a few minutes. Not just arched backs this time but full leaps out of the water. Always a happy sight.

Our departure was in two stages, although we hadn’t planned it that way. We were almost ready, so it was time to go. We’ve learnt over time that we are never 100% totally sorted so almost is good enough. The anchor came up around 1.30pm local time and we were off. No fanfare. No ticker tape. Just a quiet motor between Contadora and Seboga till the we put the sails up and pointed west.

Whilst setting up our aries self steering windvane, Dave commented on some stiffness in the adjustment mechanism. So we made the decision to sail south for around 4 hours to Pedro Gonzales and anchor up to check it out. Which is what we did. Some spannering, boiling water and silicon spray did the trick start.

We set off again at 01.15am when the current was favourable after an 8 hour pit stop. Pedro Gonzales is a hard place to leave. It’s a super quiet anchorage off a lovely sandy beach with a beauty to keep you there. Leaving in the dark removed some of that pull. But we have an ocean to cross. Better crack on.

Its breakfast time on the morning of day 2. I’m counting our 01.15am as our real departure time. So far the motor has been chugging more than we’d like. Getting out of the bay of Panama was always going to be a bit of a pig and that’s what we have experienced so far. Little wind or wind from the direction we want to go. For now, the combustion machine is not combusting.

All three sails are up and we were making 6 knots the right way. Short lived pleasure as the wind has dropped to diddly squat and we are making 3.5 knots in 6 knots of breeze. There’s a helpful current here enhancing the numbers.

We are in dilemma world. Do we motor to make progress? Motoring uses fuel and fuel is a limited resource. It’s also noisy and makes the cabin hot. Or do we sail very slowly, not necessarily in the right direction which is quieter but can be pretty frustrating due to the lack of progress. Covering the ocean between here and north of the Galápagos Islands is very much about positioning and not getting into any counter currents. The dilemma continues.

Offski….across the big big blue

This is apparently what it looks like according to an image on Mrs Google. Let’s hope it’s an accurate portrayal. Feasting my eyes on this after 6 weeks at sea will be most pleasant, thank you very much. And a hill to walk up too.

My plan to write something for the blog every week when we’re at sea. It’ll be the longest passage we’ve done, and possibly the longest passage we will ever do. I’m guessing around 4000 miles. It’s a flipping long way.

The lovely Lisa will have her fingers poised at the ready back in the UK to upload anything I write. Cheers me dear.

So folks, stay well. Who knows what the world will be like in another 6 weeks. Your guess is as good as mine. Bye for now.

Cabbage Panic

I had a cabbage panic. This is not something I ever had when living in a house. We are about to embark on 5 or 6 or 7 weeks at sea. Not sure. The wind and currents will decide. Freshies become a bit of an obsession. And some things last better than others. Cabbages are up there!

What this meant was a final trip into a supermarket to acquire 4 white cabbages and an extra 20 oranges. No scurvy on this boat. Panama has reinstated lockdown so we were back to negotiating two hour windows when it was possible to be officially out and about from your home.

Yesterday evening at 6pm we officially left Panama City. All checked out with stamps in our passports and official paperwork. Grace has survived her last days in Las Brisas anchorage when a 60 foot tree tried to eat her. Our buddy Bill did some fending one day.

The tree revisited us as were about to get into bed at 11pm on night. We’d been out socialising hence the late night. I was aware of a scratching noise so onto deck I went. The blighter was being pushed into the hull by the current and wind. After lopping a few branches, (yes we have tree loppers on board) into the dinghy we hopped with the big torch and a line of rope.

20 minutes later we’d pulled the thing away from all the main part of the anchorage and let it go just above a sunken mast, hoping the branches would catch on this. There was no really good place to let it go and taking it to the shore was a non starter. All fun and games before bed.

I will get round to posting something brief again before we leave. Keep an eye out in a day or so. And as many tv shows say….here’s a reminder.

You can follow our progress should you choose on the tracking page of the blog. You have to click on this web link …..

If we’re going slow, or it stops for some reason, don’t automatically go into panic mode. It’s computery stuff. Things break and stop working. We have amongst other things a sat phone, an SSB radio, a new life raft, a big torch and cabbages.

Walking in the rain

WordPress have ‘improved’ my customer experience by upgrading / changing how I post these missives. At this particular moment in time, I don’t believe this. I’m pondering the adage, just because you can change something, doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea.

It’s Sunday morning and there’s a bunch of stuff I plan to get done today. Super exciting things like washing potatoes before storing them and checking the draft accounts I sent to our accountant as he’s identified a error. Oops. My plan …..get up early, bash out a Blog post and crack on with the day. I’ve now spent a bunch of time looking how this new tangled system has been improved and made more intuitive. Maybe it will be in two months time, but today it most certainly isn’t!!

After three unexpected months in Panama, we are gearing up to check out and start journeying west across the Pacific. We’ve umm-ed and ahh-ed endlessly about setting off. The rights, the wrongs, the ups, the downs, the ins, the outs.

French Polynesia has presently controlled the Covid 19 outbreak and quarantine restrictions are being lifted. It feels a more appropriate time to be setting off as opposed to a couple of months ago. From a sailing perspective, setting off now, the winds are not so favourable and getting out of the bay of Panama could be a real pain in the backside. We know boats who have really struggled so we’re mentally preparing ourselves for this!

Every night here now, there are thunderstorms and lightning. Not necessarily where we sit but close enough to hear and see. Panama has a reputation for being one of the lightening capitals of the world. A boat was struck a few days ago here during the day in the anchorage off Panama City. Their electronics were fried. That’s a trip showstopper. It’s time to go.