Pacific Crossing

After leaving Vista Mar, we staged ourselves back at Cantadora in the Las Perlas Islands to await our weather window. We were advised by Bob McDavitt ( http://www.metbob.com ) who planned our departure date and routing, which was to the north of the Galapagos islands. We had decided to pass on the Galapagos because of the expense,  bureaucratic nonsense, restrictions and tourist volumes (check out the cruise ships crowding out the AIS around the islands below).

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Bob was excellent and kept contact with us via satellite comms the whole way, providing advice, weather warnings and routing changes to avoid or take advantage of weather.

In general, we had a good crossing. We did it in 33 days of 3 hours on and 3 hours off  watches each. We had wind most of the way and only motored exclusively for one 8 hour period north west of the Galapagos when becalmed. Otherwise it was sailing with the occasional engine boost when our speed dropped too low. We got used to “Goose Wing” sailing downwind.

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Our Hydrovane wind steering (dubbed Henry, for Henry the Navigator) proved an awesome asset and steered us reliably for many hours at a time without drawing energy from the batteries.

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Sunrise and sunset were favourite times to be on watch.

 

We were escorted frequently by curious and energetic dolphin.

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When conditions allowed, a salt water washdown shower was very pleasant.

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We tried to aim to cross the equator on Liz’s birthday on the 3rd but missed it slightly, crossing at 23h00 on the 4th April. We did of course celebrate with champagne on Liz’s birthday and offer a libation to Neptune at the equator.

The yoghurt maker that Andrew brought with him to us in Cantadora Island proved a focus of luxury as we had museli, yoghurt and fruit every morning of the passage.

Our attempts to feed ourselves from fishing were less successful with only one decent catch. The fish contemptuously shredded our various lures or just ripped them off (we probably did not want to catch anything of the size of the latter).

 

We did not escape unscathed. Liz had a fall down the companionway in rough seas and hurt herself badly. She was bravely back on duty a couple of watches later, shaken but not stirred.

The bolt securing the autohelm linear drive toi the rudder tiller arm sheared off. Fortunately, we had obtained spares and having the Hydrovame wind steering meant we could repair the autohelm at sea in fairly short order.

We got caught by a dry squall during one of Liz’s night watches (could not pick it up on the radar). The auto steering could not cope and Liz was struggling. We got things back under control by fortunately achieving a heaved to position and getting our aggressive third reef in place (effectively a storm sail). After that, even though we had in excess of 40 knots of wind and rough conditions, Windward perormed beautifully.

Next day, when things calmed down, we made jury rig repairs to two broken sliders and a batt car.

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The last 5-6 days were washing machine conditions and four welds parted on the stainless steel framework of the cockpit that carries the life raft and the dingy motor. We lashed it together with rope and hoped for the best (we subsequently have welded in reinforcing bars).

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It was a great moment on the last morning as the mountains of Hiva Oa crept up over the horison and we sailed down the passage between it and Tahuata Island to join our friends Alex and Carla on Ari B who had passed us towards the end of the trip (one of only two vessel sightings that we had in 4000 nautical miles!). When passing, they saw us on AIS and made VHF radio contact and we briefly had binocular visuals.

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Arrival at the small but beautiful anchorage after the passage was a very happy affair (after which we crashed for 12 hours solid).

 

We don’t mind admitting that we were in great trepidation about the Pacific Crossing. We are not that experienced sailors and are not spring chickens anymore. Anyone who tells you that they are not scared of an ocean passage, to a greater or lesser degree ,is (in my opinion) a liar or delusional.

Many thanks to all the sailing friends who kept in contact on  SSB radio and via satellite comms and kept an eye on us. Thanks to Bob McDavitt for his excellent support. Thanks to Andrew for tracking our progress and status like a hawk and sending us frequent motivational chirps.

At the end of the day, it was an awesome experience. It is truly humbling to be out there in this vast ocean space that can only be experienced by being there on your own. It is nothing like the perception and sense of open space on land. The ocean is truly mighty and truly magnificent. We were really privilaged to have had this experience.

Vista Mar

Vista Mar is an affordable marina some 40 miles west of Panama City, making it an ideal base to prepare the boat for a Pacific Crossing. There was even a well qualified and resourceful South African diesel mechanic and general marine engineer, Ollie, who is highly recommended by us all.

The haulout was a dodgy work in progress but will no doubt improve.

We decided to remove the varnish from Windward’s woodwork and replace with Teak Oil, which has worked out well. Help from John gratefully received. Graham also helped with rigging review and an improvement to the Preventer system.

There was time for pleasant socialising but as you can see, marina life drives some people up the wall!

As we would be slower than the catamarans and more experienced sailors, we left earlier than most of the others and were treated to a very posh send off party by the others.

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Another Andrew Visit!

We had the great pleasure of another visit from Andrew. He flew in to Cantadora Island via Panama City, collected his San Blas Molas Headband and proceeded to get into chill and ziz mode as only Andrew can!

 

There was good walking around Cantadora Island.

Kayaking around the island gives you an idea of how the other half live.

Good dawns and sunsets were shared with a visit to the small beach pub.

Then off to the more remote islands for some further chilling, kayaking and slowing down.

Andrew was to prove an absolute brick in tracking us and staying in communication on the Pacific Crossing.

Panama Canal

This was quite an experience, transitting the canal that has such a rich history and remains such an enduring feat of engineering.

A fascinating book on the canal called “The Path Between the Seas” made a good read prior to transitting.

We had an early evening start. Rafting up in the dark with a strong wind was “interesting”.

We had a first trip through the canal doing line handling for friends Mark and Lisa on En Passant, an Irish boat. They then kindly returned and assisted us with line handling on Windward.

The Locks are a major engineering feat. Tugs and Mules manoeuvre the massive vessels that you share the locks with right up to you; a bit intimidating until you get used to it.

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There are some beautiful places en route eg in Gatun lake.

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It was amusing to be the object of attention of the tourists crowding the viewing platform at the Tourist Centre and Museum at the halfway point.

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Arrived at Balboa and took a mooring next to the entrance channel. Quite a system shock in Panama City after so long away from “civilisation” but great for provisioning and topping up on spares and maintenance items. Our navigation system was useful in the canal to work out where the other vessels were that we would share locks with. When we left Panama City, you could see the mass of shipping hustling in and out of the canal on AIS.

You can see on the final image the Archipelago of Las Perlas where we were headed for our rendevous with Andrew on Cantadora Island.

East Lemon Cays

More wonderful offshore islands with wonderful snorkelling and kayaking. Caught lots of Lobster and Crab.

Included interesting snorkelling on an old wreck of a cargo ship. Apparently, around the turn of the 1900 century, the old vessel sprung a leak that the pumps couldn’t handle and the captain beached the vessel on the island to save the cargo!

Cocos Banderos

We absolutely loved these small, remote islands in a small group, some way off the mainland which, (theoretically) meant no crocodiles.

We had plenty enjoyable kayaking, lots to see snorkelling and an abundance of fresh seafood. Also the pleasure of various friends arriving now and then.

We bought some beautiful Molas (beautiful and intricately stiched and layered cloth artworks, often used in clothing) from the local Kuna Indians. They have a great society. They are friendly and helpful but keep their culture intact by discouraging inter-marriage outside of their people. Their system of government is great. They have a system of Congressos based upon a grassroots village meeting place which deals with almost all issues and justice. Congressos share information and ideas regularly and the “officials” are seriously acccountable to the local people. There is a “national” Congresso but this exists mainly to fend off the unwelcome intrusions of the Panama Government rather than as a higher level of government.

Los Pinos

From Puerto Perme we sailed down the coast to the island of Los Pinos, which appears over the horison in the shape of a whale.

It was a sleepy island with a single settlement. We enjoyed the pleasant walk around the island and Liz did some snorkelling until we surprised a crocodile at her favourite spot!

Apologies for lack of updates but …

we have been very busy!

Actually, we have had very little internet access since Colombia and WERE very busy prepping the boat and ourselves for the first major Paific Crossing (about which more anon).

We are in Taioa Bay on the island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands at the moment and I will try to get some updates in. We have internet access but it is very slow so ….