Friday, April 25, 2008

Passage Panama to Galapagos Islands April 2008

This posting is copied from our original website:

Day #1 April 16, 2008 Wednesday
Distance traveled 57 NM
Left the mooring at Balboa Yacht Club at 0610. Departed from coordinates 08.56.25N; 079.33.5W. There was a nice wind from the Panama mainland mountains. We sailed approximately 30 miles against ½ knot current, with poled jib poled to starboard. The wind changed to only 6 knots, no current; and we began motor sailing with poled jib with engine at only 1100 rpm. Saw half-dozen porpoises; one was a baby and was the tiniest porpoise that I have ever seen. Also saw one southern ray that jumped out of the water. Current rant positive at 1 knot for the final 20 miles to anchorage at Espiritu Santos in Las Perlas islands. Anchored at 1600 at 08.25.458N; 078.51.14W. 9 hrs 50 min trip, average 5.8 knots

Day #1 continued April 17, 2008 Thursday
Awakened to birds calling "OW - OW - OW" like they were in pain. Never saw the birds. Left Espiritu Santos at 1230 on course of 211 degrees. Motored 4 hours and then sailed overnight with flapping jib in 10-15 knot winds. Porpoises around boat several times. At least 4 ships at all times on radar stern and starboard throughout the night. It was hot during the day and cool at night. We connected with S/V FREE SPIRIT on VHF radio as they sailed down the western side of Isla del Rey and we sailed down eastern side. We remained in VHF contact and they were parallel to us all night. Beef fajitas for dinner. Wasn't hard to cook underway. Since we left around noon today, we will take noon position reports for the duration of the passage to the Galapagos Islands.

Day #2 Noon Friday, April 18, 2008
Distance traveled in past 24 hours: 135 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa: 192 NM Current position: 06.21.13N; 079.56.60W at sea
Changed course to 180 degrees so should go below a low-pressure rainstorm predicted to cross our original course during the next 24 hours. This should provide more favorable winds for rest of passage to Galapagos Islands. Lots of porpoises, both large and small variety. Beef fajitas for dinner again. Full moon; totally flat glassy sea.
Note at 9:35 p.m.: at 05.31.98N; 079.58.36W we were enveloped by FOG!!! Have never seen fog in the tropics. Could not see a thing. Thank goodness for radar.

Day #3 Noon Saturday, April 19, 2008
Distance traveled in past 24 hours: 134.4 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa: 326.4 NM Current position: 04.33.028N; 080.07.93W at sea
Rainy, gray day. Course for most of day was 190 degrees, changing later to 203. Had adverse current of ½ knot that overnight became 2 ½ knots. Boat speed 6 knots but SOG only 3 ½ knots at 1800 rpm engine. Very frustrating to make such slow headway. Crossed a shipping lane just before sunset Saturday and saw about a dozen ships cross our path within an hour; then no more vessels spotted. This morning we saw 2 very large creatures about 500 meters off our port side. Whales? Did not get close enough to identify but they had the circumference of a VW Beetle. Meatloaf with demi-glace and mashed poratoes for dinner. Sure am glad I pre-cooked meals so can simply re-heat while underway.
Thursday night we did alternating 3-hour watches overnight. Firday night Bill could not sleep during his off-watch time. Eventually he fell asleep and I didn't want to wake him, so I stayed on watch from 1800 Friday evening until 0300 Saturday morning. This worked well and we will try to continue this watch schedule as it allows Bill to sleep a longer stretch. There was a beautiful full moon shining on a totally flat, windless sea. A large porpoise surfaced around midnight right next to the cockpit where I was sitting. He made a noise and scared the living daylights out of me.
Finally made visual contact with FREE SPIRIT on Sunday morning. We both changed course to try to get past this strong adverse current. Course on Sunday morning now 252 True (244 Magnetic). Boat speed 6.6 knots, SOG 4.7 knots. Our next waypoint will put us back on the route recommended by Jimmy Cornell. I have decided that you cannot rely on GRIB files here in the ITCZ. The doldrums cannot be forecast accurately beyond 12 hours. The bad weather we diverted around simply dissipated, so we could have stayed on our original course of 180 degrees and avoided this wasted time southing.

Day #4 Noon Sunday, April 20, 2008
Distance traveled in past 24 hours: 101 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa: 427.4 NM Current position: 03.33.07N; 081.22.11W at sea
Rainstorms with thunder and some lightning all around us all day. Changed course to 242 degrees True, SOG 4.7, boat speed 6.35, true wind speed 9.8 knots; motor sailing against 1.65 knot current. At 8:00 p.m. we were on same course, speed about same, but adverse current was down to less than 1 knot against us. We are going slow to conserve fuel and also because there is a bad weather cell ahead of us on this course and we are hopeful that it will either move or dissipate before we reach it. The new watch schedule is working well for us. Bill gets to sleep 6 to 8 hours. He takes over at 0300 and I go to sleep until around 0800. He takes a short nap in the morning and I nap for an hour or two in the afternoon. We would not do these long watches in rough weather because the person on watch would get too tired. But this works well for us in calm weather.

When the moon rose tonight it was on our stern. The moonlight was so bright that it lit the cockpit like an approaching car headlights on a dark highway. There is no phosphorescence in the water sliding down the side of our boat tonight, but there was one large spot of bright green that looked like the phosphorescent green. Except this spot was the size of my hand and looked like an eye. Probably better than I don't know what it was. Dinner tonight was rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and stir-fried veggies. Around midnight we will reach the half-way point of this passage from Balboa, Panama to Isla Cristobal, Galapagos Islands.

Day #5 Noon Monday, April 21, 2008
Distance traveled in past 24 hours: 120 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa: 547.4 NM Current position: 02.47.49N; 083.01.88W at sea
Rainy again all day. Much more sea motion but not bad. Wind picked up for a brief time and we took off fast, pinched as close-hauled as possible. Since this is the type of sailing that causes a tablespoon or two of water to sometimes enter through the bow thruster channel into the forward under floor area, Bill raised the floor boards to check ---- and found more than a foot of water sloshing around!! 500 miles from land! We both started searching for the cause of such heavy water instrusion and each started mental exercises of steps to deploy the life raft should it become necessary.

Bill rigged an emergency pump and soon had it dried out. He then realized that his hands did not feel sticky; this did not feel like sea water. He tested it with our TDS meter and, sure enough, it was fresh water - somewhat brackish but very definitely not dea water. We think we have figured out what happened. Fresh or brackish water could only have entered the boat during our Panama Canal transit. That is the only time this boat has ever been in fresh water. This could have been caused by any or all of 3 possibilities.

First, we were positioned directly behind a large ship when inside the 3 Gatun locks. Our bow thruster was lowered and operating the entire time we were in the locks. Each time we departed a lock, the prop wash from the large ship was very turbulent and right on our bow. This could have forced water up through the bow thruster channel.

Second, a boat sits lower in fresh water than in salt water. Remember fourth grade general science class. We drove fast for about 22 miles from the mooring in Gatun Lake to the San Pedro Miguel lock. The bow thruster was raised during this fast driving, but not locked into position to tightly close the seals. Since we were sitting lower in fresh water, maybe water was forced up through the bow thruster channel.

Third, and most like cause, is that we drove hard across the little lake between San Pedro Miguel lock and the Miraflores locks while nested with the other boats. We were literally dragging the other 2 boats along our sides. Their spring lines would have held our bow down lower than normal. This could definitely have forced water up through the bow thruster channel.

Glad we figured that out. The interior of our boat looks like a college dorm room. Everything had to be emptied from the under berths storages areas and checked for water damage. Everything was fine; only lost a few rolls of paper towels.

Day #6 Noon Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Distance traveled in past 24 hours: 122 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa: 669.4 NM Current position: 01.52.81N; 084.56.87W at sea
Finally got a bit of wind from the right direction and were able to turn off the motor and sail for a few hours. Then back to motoring in less than 10 knots wind from the wrong direction. Adverse current still about .8 knot to 1 knot.

Today was baking day, as there were several things in the fridge that needed to be eaten soon or tossed. I had made a pie for dessert when we visited S/V FLAME for dinner just before the canal transit. As surely everyone knows, when you make a pie crust recipe, the dough is sufficient for either one double-crust pie (top & bottom like an apple or cherry pie) or for 2 single-crust pies (like lemon meringue). I had made a single crust banana cream pie for that dinner, so still had dough for a single crust pie. Pie dough can be kept in the fridge for 2 weeks and this one was now 12 days old. Time to bake it or toss it. Also had some smoked turkey breast, left-over veggies, swiss cheese, chipotle gouda, half an onion, several strips of cooked bacon and several ounces of grated cheddar - all of which needed to be eaten or tossed. So I made quiche. Since the oven was hot I also baked corn bread muffins and blueberry muffins. Thought about also baking some foccacia but knew it would spoil before 2 people could possibly east that many baked items. Bill talked to Paul on FREE SPIRIT (still in visual sight of BeBe) and learned that Michele also baked quiche today and she also make foccacia. Guess good minds think alike. There are 4 adults and 2 children on FREE SPIRIT so they won't be letting any baked items spoil on their boat.

Speaking of S/V FREE SPIRIT, that catamaran sails to windward exceptionally well. They took off at almost 10 knots boat speed on 30 degrees apparent wind for a few hours today. Best our ketch would do pinched on close-haul was 8 knots on 35 degrees apparent. Catamarans are notorious for not being good for sailing to windward, but that Catana 431 is an exception. It sails beautifully to windward. Although Paul says it does not sail downwind well at all. That is a surprise since cats are supposed to do best downwind.

It is now 7:15 p.m. and we are at 01.32.166N; 084.32.168W. Slowly motor-sailing along in 10 knot winds at 4.5 knots at 1500 rpm. No point in wasting diesel to go faster. It is a pretty evening and not raining so what more could we want. We have stars on the water.

Day #7 Noon Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Distance traveled in past 24 hours: 127.2 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa: 796.6 NM Current position: 00.58.238N; 086.35.151W at sea
Earlier this morning at 01.03.27N water began to drain counterclockwise from a sink. Guess those old sailors with their sextants weren't as accurate as the GPS technology of today in pinpointing the true equator. This water draining information was relayed to us from FREE SPIRIT. They have been doing the water drain experiment several times daily. Great learning experience for 5-year-old Merric and 3-year-old Seanna. We will save our equator crossing celebration until the GPS reads 0.00.000; but based on the water drain test we are already in the Southern Hemisphere.

It is a gorgeous day - finally! Bright sun; no rain clouds; sea is brilliant blue and has a gentle swell. We have been sailing without motor since 0300. Actually had to start the generator to charge the batteries; first time we have had to do that since leaving Balboa.

Day #8 Noon Thursday, April 24, 2008
Distance traveled in past 24 hours: 134 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa: 930.6 NM Current position: 00.06.441N; 088.28.387W at sea
Position reading actually taken at 1100 when Bill measured the diesel tank and did his daily calculations of miles/gallons/etc. He has a great Excel spreadsheet for all that.

We crossed the equator at 0730 this morning. Bill awakened me with a kiss and we heaved-to and shared some champagne. Poured a glass into the sea for Neptune with mental pleas for calm seas and fair winds. For you non-sailors: a sailboat can heave-to and basically park the boat; a motor vessel cannot do this. When a sailboat is hove-to, you feel almost no sea motion or movement. This is accomplished by back-winding the jib or genoa and balancing helm and rudder with the back-winded sail. Takes about one minute to do this. If you want to know more then Google is your friend.

Today was gorgeous; first bright sunny day of this passage. So we rigged the laundry lines and also did line laundry. Ran 2 loads of clothes laundry and hung out to dry. Bet we looked funny with sails out and clothes hanging all over the topsides, but there were no other boats around to see us. Then Bill removed all the lines used to rig our 2 jib poles and we soaked them in fresh water to remove any sea salt crystals. Salt crystals break down fibers in lines so it is a good idea to clean the lines before stowing away.

Someone sent an email asking if we had seen any other boats during this passage. Not really. We crossed a shipping lane on Friday. Didn't see another boat until Wednesday when a container ship passed us going opposite direction. Today we say 2 fishing boats. There was a stick marker floating about 2 miles behind one of the fishing boats, so we assume that it was trailing either a long line or a net.

We sailed past what looked like cut-up car tires sticking up out of the water. Took me a minute to realize that it was really 2 large sea lions floating on their backs! Their feet/flippers were sticking straight up out of the water. Their fat bellies were floating right on the surface and their heads were lying on their bellies. Looked like they were sleeping while floating at least a hundred miles from land. Cool thing to see.

Another wildlife story. Every night some large brown birds with white undersides come and circle our boat all night long. They never land on the boat. They make a very creepy creaking sound. I am not found of them. But a few nights ago we had a couple of different bird visitors. A couple of red-footed boobies landed on our boat and decided to spend the night with us. One perched on the top of the mizzen mast. The other booby clung to the life sail near the port bow. He sat there all night. Bill flipped the jib sheet (rope) on him, but the bird just screeched and fussed at the jib sheet and refused to budge. We were about 300 miles from Galapagos. Guess they were tired and decided to rest on BeBe.

Another calm night spent reflecting on the Milky Way. I am far less tired tonight. Must be adjusting to the watch schedule - just as the passage is almost completed.

Day #9 Friday, April 25, 2008
Arrived about 0730 at Wreck Bay on Isla Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
Distance traveled in past 19.5 hours 81.5 NM Distance traveled since leaving Balboa 1012.1 NM Current position: Anchored at 0.53.723S; 089.36.821W

We anchored in Bahia de Naufragio, a/k/a Wreck Bay. Isla Cristobal was previously named Chatham. The Galapagos islands have been known by several names during their various ownerships. Each bay and anchorage also has had many names. This makes navigation interesting when using different nautical charts. Will write about our one day spent on Isla Cristobal in a separate log.

The passage here took several days longer than we had anticipated. We normally very easily cover 150 miles in a 24 hour period; and for this passage we averaged only about 114.5 miles per day. And we were forced to motor many more hours than we had hoped, due to contrary head currents and light winds. But Bill had stocked sufficient diesel to allow us to motor the entire trip had that been necessary. Our final stats for the passage are that we either motored or motor-sailed for 70% of the miles traveled. I am sending this passage log via SSB email to our son Trey who will update the website for us. Just wanted to let everyone know we arrived safely after a non-eventful voyage - the best kind.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be posted after we confirm that you are not a cyber stalker.