Sunday, April 29, 2007

Panama to Galapagos

Imagine long gentle, turquoise swells with just a faint ripple glittering on the surface like millions of diamonds. A gentle 10-12 knot breeze from the SSW and Adagio is heeled at 8 degrees gliding along at 5-6 knots. The breeze is so cool that you have to sit in the sun to warm up. Not a single vessel or island in sight to remind you of the world we try hard to forget at times. This is without a doubt the most perfect sail I’ve had since departing Sarasota. Even more so knowing it may continue for the next 750 miles. Not.

Well, that´s how we started our first day of the Panama to Galapagos trip. Monday 9th April we left Panama at 9:30am on an outgoing tide and decided to sail to the available wind rather than everyone’s advice. Upon exiting the shipping channel we had a 15 knot WNW breeze and decided to make as much southing as possible and keep Las Perlas to port. We reached south at up to 8 knots in a long swell capped by a 1 meter sea. During the day the breeze remained fairly constant but backed to the NNE and we found ourselves running dead down wind with sails poled or prevented wing on wing. Apart from the odd maneuver to avoid the numerous ships we sailed between 190 degrees and 210 degrees throughout the night. We sailed under a half moon at 5-6 knots and the water was so calm that we didn’t get the usual gut wrenching rolling that modern, short keel/fin yachts are famous for. The most incredible thing, however, was the luminosity of the phosphorescent plankton. I’d heard how much more prolific they are in this region but had no experience of it. The tail behind Adagio was least a boat length and the bow wake had the appearance of that bright green moss you see in forest photos.

Sometime in the wee hours, trying desperately to stay awake, I had a hell of a fright. Staring at the hypnotic sea, over our starboard beam, I noticed several long, phosphorescent projectiles rocketing towards our hull! I stared in wonder as they submerged and surfaced on the other side. Somehow we had miraculously survived a torpedo attack. This is what comes from sleep deprivation, an active imagination and a love of naval history. I was seriously looking at the water for the periscope. Then I heard the dolphin’s blow air through their blow holes and saw them returning for another go. Time for a coffee! They proceeded to amaze me for an hour before departing. I’ll never forget their glowing outlines as they raced past the boat to leap the bow wake and return for another run. I desperately wanted to wake Meri but she had just gotten to sleep after some initial insomnia and I didn’t have the heart to spoil it.

Tuesday 10th Around 8:00 am I was feeling a little dejected. What little breeze we had was on the nose. To conserve fuel and have some silence we put out the chute and close reached SW at 2.5 knots until 8:30 when the breeze pinched up and shifted to SSW allowing us to put out the genoa and enjoy our picture perfect close hauled sail.

18:30 The breeze has now officially quit. Nada. Niente. We are drifting at 0.5 knots on the current and rolling a bit on the swells. Time to turn on Stinky and run at high idle to conserve fuel. Not to worry, had my perfect sail and am still grinning ear to ear. Plenty more to come south of the equator I’m sure.

00:00 Apart from the long swells the sea is so calm that it’s taken on a mirror sheen and is reflecting the stars. Not sure what they are but we are passing some sea life that lights up like a 60w bulb under the surface near the boat. Cool. No visitors tonight except for a school of fish blazing green trails around us and a shark looking for something to eat.

Wednesday 11th 0400 The breeze has returned, 5-8 knots from the south so we hoisted the chute and are making about 4 knots. Add some cool blues to the mix and I’m loving it. Meri shook her head at my dancing and returned to bed.

0800 Shit, no wind again. Oh well, old stinky again.

0930 Mild breeze from the south, sailing at 3-4 knots, 240 degrees with some peace and quiet again. Time for breakfast, yummy!

Basically we spent the day trying to sail SW but the wind kept swinging from S-SW at different velocities all day. We have also sailed into a current convergence zone that reminds me of the Bahamas. The surface appears to be boiling and the chop is coming from all directions making headway is very difficult. Wind light so have to fall off to power through the chop that has developed. Either we sail 150-165 degree or 260-275 degrees at 1.8 knots and getting pushed sideways. Either way we don’t get much closer to Galapagos. Charts and routing planner show westerly current, what we hoped for, rather than an ESE set. Maybe the El Niño effect.

0400 heavy rain squall.

Thursday 12th. All day pretty much the same as the 11th except only one current to deal with now. The ESE bugger. With a SW wind and an ESE setting current any westing is very, very slow and uncomfortable. Can’t pinch too much because breeze is light and the chop knocks the bow around and we heave to. South east it is. At least we have good speed. However, we are losing our windward advantage. Hopefully we’ll get it back further south when we meet the west setting current. But where!

Friday 13th 0900 Have tacked back and trying to make westing again. Slow going at 5 knots but any more sailing SE and we end up on the Ecuadorian mainland. After WSW all day to stay off the SE mainland we managed to make on 32 miles to windward and barely held our position south. The breeze has died and we are being pushed SE at 2 knots. Time for stinky. Obviously some are more dedicated than us and would ride it out. Sorry but the rolling is shit.

Saturday 14th. Motored all night into the swells and current but can’t run at full speed because we consume too much fuel. Still 480 miles to go. Sailed from 0900 to 1630 but were again forced to the east. Have reached 01.43 degrees north and are hoping the current will swing to the west along the equator soon.

600 Yaaaay. The current has quit and the breeze has picked up a little. It has also come around to the south and we are now sailing at 265 degrees 5 knots for the Galapagos. Finally!

Sunday 15th. 0730 01.35 degrees north 81.48 degrees west. Breeze SSW 8-10 knots course 267 degrees and 4.8 average speed. Managed to sail all night and avoid a couple of squalls. Wind stayed constant at no more than 15 knots and we loved it.

1430 Breeze still holding and have tried to head down a little more 260 degrees to meet the equator. However, the light breeze won’t allow ‘flat’ Adagio to sail too tight without losing headway. 15-20 knots of breeze would be ideal but beggars can’t be choosers. We are loving life and even had a beer with lunch to celebrate the beautiful day and conditions.

1430 Same conditions

1900 Same

Monday 16th 0300 The wind has officially quit again and will once again motor or float. We chose motoring and charging the batteries.

0430 Same

0830 Same but beautiful day 00.27 degrees north 83.21 degrees west

1100 Yaaay We’ve got 8 knots of breeze, put up the genaker and are making 3-5 knots, 252 degrees true. Managed to have a beautiful, lazy sail all day and nod off in the cockpit under a nice clear sky. It’s one of the most surreal sails we’ve ever had. The sea has barely a ripple on it but we are ghosting along at a lazy, quiet 3 knots.

Tuesday 17th 1900 Sailed all night, parallel to the equator, don’t want to cross at night and miss the party, at 4-5 knots and FROZE our arses off. The temperature is 70 degrees F but the wind chill is bloody freezing. We have to wear pants, socks, fleece top and heavy jacket just to stay warm. It’s strange but, since leaving Florida, this is the coldest we’ve ever been and we are on the equator! Now sailing at 6-6.5 knots, 250 degrees true under beautiful clear blue skies. Just loving it. Didn’t expect a south wind at 10-15 knots on the equator but who expected to freeze either. Only 265 nm to go but we are still undecided as to which anchorage to check into. If you move they charge you port fees again. Cheeky bugger.

1600 Still sailing port hull up an averaging 6.2 knots with a max speed of 6.2 knots sometimes 7. Just having a ball. Wind is from the south at 15-18 knots and staying just below the need to reef. Usually we reef earlier but with the boat so loaded with provisions she rides stiffer. It’s like having 8 guys on the rail.

Wednesday 18th 00.00.00 degrees north 85.04 degrees west. Breeze from the south sailing at 6 knots, clear skies, 1 meter swell, 250 degrees true.. The equator at last!! Had our little celebration drink and toast to Neptune. Only 270 nm to San Cristobal. Nearly there, hope the wind holds. The rest of the day we spent alternating between slow sailing and motoring. We could just drift but we aren’t much in favour of just hanging around when land is so close and we have plenty of fuel left.

Thursday 19th 0000 hours. 00.55 degrees south 88.42 degrees west. Seas dead flat, not wind, motoring at 5.5 knots, 38 miles to San Cristobal. With no moon out it’s quite amazing to see the stars reflected on the sea as if it was a black mirror. Quite mesmerizing to say the least. Unfortunately, the darkness also made it very difficult to distinguish between the sea and horizon. Many stars rising were mistaken for ships and kept us on a false alert watch system.

0400 Light fog has set in but the air temp is not too low, 75 degrees. All conditions still as above.

0600 Heavy fog has reduced visibility to about 50 meters. We don’t have radar and were quite nervous being only 8 miles from land and worrying about fishing boats and small freighters.

0800 Have rounded the SW point of San Cristobal and are heading NNW, towards the shoals, outside Bahia Naufragio, and a certain grounding. Just kidding. Doing 2.5 knots and plotting our position every 15 minutes. The paper and digital charts correspond so that’s good. Just got a call from SV Thalia and George asked if it was us that came barreling past them in the fog 100 meters off his port beam. Not us, we were still 2 miles from them but we were worried nonetheless. 0830 The fog has thinned enough to make out the reef breakers. We are taking a shortcut between the shoals outside the bay. Looks like great surf. No wonder we saw so many surf shops in town later.

0900 Fog has lifted and we are right in the middle of the channel and looking good. Anchor down and we let out a huge sigh of relief. We have sailed 1180 miles, our longest trip yet without killing each other or wrecking the boat. Just had our first visitor; a sea lion who’s come over to say hello. What a cool little guy.


At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Marcy Toomey, my sister, sent me your blog - and I am truly enjoying it. Thanks! I feel like I know you through her stories and photos. Your stories are an adventure for me to read - I live in 'corn-land' in Central Illinois!
Wishing you more grand adventures and safe travels~
Laural Huisman


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