After the three and half day delivery down we were very happy to arrive in Raiatea. We did try and aim to arrive during daylight hours but with the heavier weather we made it a bit earlier and averaged over 11kts.
Because of the heavier weather we decided to just get into the place pick up a mooring and settle in.
I had contacted the yard CNI a week or so before our departure from the Marquases. It was refreshing dealing with great people that responded to our emails promptly and gave us confidence with they're no worries approach. The rates for hard stand storage are pretty good and they have a few services located right there in the yard. We'd looked at going to Tahiti but the yards there are more expensive and also looked to be more commercial. I prefer the smaller more personal ones as it's much nicer to build a relationship with the yard this way.
We rounded the northern tip of Raiatea about 10pm and then motor sailed down the western side of the island. We had another 15nm further to go once we were at the northern waypoint. The wind died out once we were in the lee of Tahaa and we thought we'd have a nice calm motor down to the pass and in.
The wind came back up again once we got out passed the lee of Tahaa and in the bay in-between the two islands we had a not so nice 25kt headwind and short sea. This made the last hour or so very slow and we finally got in about 2am.
Once inside the reef we motored slowly up between the reef and coast of Raiatea. With the laptop running c-map, iPad, iPhone and radar all corresponding to each other it was fairly easy going even though it was pitch black and unfamiliar territory.
Once we'd found a mooring and shut everything down we cracked open a couple of beers and then hit the hay.
Next morning we popped out and took the photos above of the passage entrance and surf break on either side.
About a 5 min dinghy ride North from the CNI yard was the marina Apooiti where Sunsail and The Moorings are based. There two small restaurants, sail loft and also the local yacht club based here. It's a nice marina with simple amenities and extremely clear water. Also looked secure when it came to protection from the weather.
At marine Apooiti Johnny and I enjoyed a cold beer some great food. We also discovered a young women here called Violetta that works for the Moorings and also does laundry. So we dropped the laundry off early the next morning before doing some provisioning in town.
We enjoyed a great sunset later in the afternoon and had another a meal ashore with a few cold beers. Given we had a few days before being hauled out we decided to do a sailing trip around the islands to check them out before we both flew out.
After provisioning some more the next morning we were off around the east side of Tahaa where we planned to stop at a resort that we were told had moorings and a restaurant. Once we got up to the north of the island it seemed a little open as the moorings were located a fair way off the island as it was shallow for some distance off.
We sailed further on and found a spot to anchor around the western side of Tahaa in the lee. It was gorgeous and as you can see above it was the perfect postcard setting with crystal clear water and that perfect Pacific island in the background. Johnny trimmed his beard while we were there and we ate well and enjoyed a few beers in the evening. There was an awesome spot here to snorkel that the locals call the coral garden. Heaps of fish and colorful coral everywhere and nice clear shallow water to swim through.
After spending a day and night here we sailed around the southern side of Tahaa to the eastern side of Raiatea. The sail around was awesome! Heading up the south side of Tahaa and over to Raiata. There was a nice 10-15kts of breeze and we were doing wind speed or more with some fine sailing right along the coral edge and as the sun was high we had great vision into the shallow waters making it possible to sail right to the edge of the shallows.
We ended up sailing to some moorings off a resort on Raiatea that had a nice little restaurant with bungalows perched over the water. Once again we enjoyed a nice meal ashore at the restaurant with Johnny ordering a fine looking Lobster accompanied by some great cocktails and a small desert. We lived it up for a final few days on the island and as it had been a few months since we'd seen some half decent food it was much enjoyed.
I woke early to a super sunrise and enjoyed the quiet time of the morning to myself just watching the colors change in the sky and the life around me awaken. It was a beautiful start to the day.
We had a nice swim and took it really easy enjoying a long slow breakfast and then worked out what we'd do for the day. Something you miss when shore based is the amount of time you seem to have on the water. I don't know where the time goes but everything just seems so much more enjoyable and less rushed on a boat. We have time to cut fresh fruit at breakfast each day and to watch the sunrise and dry ourselves by the sun with no need to rush about and nothing of importance to do that can't wait.
It also just feels so right when not being rushed. Your body feels good, mind is at rest and everything so peaceful. On land our days are filled with large amounts of things we think are important that actually have nothing or very little to do with our wellbeing. For me being on the water makes things very clear I feel like doing nothing but sailing and filling the days with the normal rituals of eating, reading and looking after Spirit.
There is always hard times though when your tired on watch and the weathers not being so kind but they always pass and make you appreciate the easier times. Hauling our anchor onboard as well tests my very short amount of patience constantly and so much so it's one of the big jobs I will see to on my return. It's a safety issue as well as we can't do it fast and easily so we're leaving ourselves open to getting caught out.
With a nice 10-15kts blowing again we decided to head down south inside the lagoon then to head back around the northern side of Raiatea and back to the CNI yard to pick up a mooring before lunch.
We threw up the full mainsail and unfurled the jib and off took Spirit. It was another great sailing day with the smooth waters inside the lagoon and nice steady breeze.
Spirit was constantly doing 12kts or more so we headed out through the reef opening and decided to go up the eastern coast and enter back in again at the entrance just to the east of Tahaa. It was a good move as it gave us some more sailing time even though we did get a bit wet and were towing the dinghy.
It was a fast blast up the outside and when we came to enter the passage off Tahaa we saw there was small breakers as we had a slight outgoing tide. We shortened up the dinghy so she was tight in behind on the transom and headed in. Once inside the water flattened out we were off again. Sailing alongside the reef edge is such great fun. Smooth water and the feeling of flying when your sitting out on the windward float. We sailed around a few of the shallow reefs areas inside the lagoon and when we got nearer Raiatea we hardened up on the breeze and Spirit took off hitting 19kts. It was just perfect sailing huge smiles all around and a day we'll not forget.
The next day we got Spirit into the yard and positioned her on the trailer that they use to haul the boats out. It was an easy process with some fiddling around she came out without too much fuss. The guys there are very experienced which shows in the lack of communication they have with each other when the works being done.
Bit of a tight fit but they were certain we'd get out and we did but it was very close in the end with only inches on the port side. After getting all the sails off, stowing everything away inside nice and neat, changing the engine oil, washing the tender, and giving her a thorough clean. We hired a car and did some driving around the island.
We did a full circuit around Raiatea in the car which was another great experience. It's such an unspoiled and beautiful place with the locals taking great pride in their properties. They have wonderful clean gardens with massive amounts of flowers planted all over. Very similar to the Marquases in that respect.
On the drive around we stopped at some of the historical sites in the south and popped into a very pretty resort for lunch. If you get to Raiatea it's expensive but I'd highly recommend getting a car for the day and looking around. There's some wonderful spots.
Johnny flew out in the afternoon after our drive around and I was to go on the Tuesday after some final jobs on spirit were done. We spent a few days in a little resort called Sunset Beach just around the corner from the yard. They have small bungalows on the waters edge and a large jetty that is a great spot to watch the afternoon sunsets and to cool of from during the day. Spirit will now be left in Raiatea for the following 6 months while I head to Italy to do some work. Plan to then head home in December and spend a long overdue Christmas with family and friends before heading back in March.
There is some great equipment we have onboard that we'd like to review so while away from Spirit I'll try and get this done and will update it on the blog.
Happy sailing to all!
On arriving in the Marquases and finding Internet I'd received an email regarding some work back in Europe. As Spirit needs a few more upgrades I was interested in earning some more money, also helps to pay some of the numerous bills that quickly add up along the way. Anyway one thing has led to another and I've decided to head to Raiatea where there is good haul out and storage facilities for boats.
Spirit will be hauled here next week and stored ashore while I head over to Italy for three months. I'll plan to head back in February/March to do some work onboard and will soon get underway again. Waiting out the cyclone season here before making the rest of the trip home.
Never ceases to amaze me how you can't plan a thing when it comes to boats and the water. Would never have guessed a few months ago I'd be heading back to Europe for work and would never have guessed a year ago that the dream of sailing the Pacific would come true so soon either.
Here's a break down of our passage to Raiatea from Hiva Oa.
Day 1 - 27th July
Woke about 0600 and spotted Butch getting the "Racket Roller" ready for departure. After waking Johnny from his light sleep of tree felling we had a nice muesli and fresh fruit breakfast while enjoying a massive 12ft wide Manta Ray swimming around the boat. It was the perfect wake up nature at it best and right beside us. Very cool to see such massive creatures swimming right by in crystal clear water.
After getting the pick (anchor) up we then did the usual pack it all away scenario and got off about 0800. It was a beautiful morning slight breeze coming from the south east but not enough to sail in so we motored out a few miles until it started to fill in some more.
Butch was a few miles in front and on his way. We decided to put in two reefs and go with the full headsail. We're getting too used to having reefs in and find that if we don't we tend to be putting them in during the night anyway and with the small speed increase it's just easier to have them in all the time.
The breeze filled in to around 12-15kts and off we went soon sending the Roller to the horizon behind us. With the breeze being light and us needing to make good time to arrive at the other end during daylight hours we decided to haul up the mid-sized reacher. It wasn't long before we were doing the usual windspeed and making a good 10-14kts consistently.
The first day was just perfect light breeze, cloudless deep blue sky and warm wind on our faces what more could you ask for? Cold beer! Ah and this we had, one each at sunset to say thanks for such a wonderful day.
The wind stayed light all during the night and we made good time. The seas slowly flattened out even more and we had a day with winds of 10-12kts from the south east. Spirit rompt along at wind speed and in the smooth seas it felt as though we were just floating on the ocean with her sitting on 14kts and the windward float suspended above the water like the wing of a bird. It's such a beautiful thing to be able to experience days like these that just go on. Making great time, perfect weather and smooth seas.... Bliss.
Today was more of the same with light airs warm sunshine and ghosting along at windspeed or just above. We managed over 260nm for our first 24hrs or about 10.8kt average.
Tonight the winds have just started to increase as forecast to about 20kts bringing our apparent around a little with the waves now just kissing the windward float every now and then. We're making well over 12-14kts with 15-18kts true breeze just aft of the beam. Stars are out in full force and Raiatea is just under two days away.
Johnny and I put the reacher away earlier and popped out the full jib getting us a better nights sleep with the reduced power and worries.
Gorgeous sunrise this morning with wonderful orange colors and clouds on the horizon with the fingers of god showing through in bright streams.
Had some more wind today with it going from 13-40kts in the squalls. Went right round to 140 apparent but towards the end of the day it settled in at 100-90 degrees apparent and has settled there for most of the afternoon unless a rain cloud and squall come through which makes it vier in either direction.
Have made some good time with the wind on the beam and constantly sit on 10-14kts. Seas have built a little though and the beam waves and occasional small breakers make it uncomfortable.
Have to say the major down point and something you tire of quickly on passage onboard a trimaran is the windward float slapping. It has been great the first two days as the seas were calm and we had enough apparent breeze to keep the float high. But now with the larger seas she sometimes rolls into a swell and then slaps hard on the float. It's not alarming as you get used to it but it does tire you out hearing the boat slam a few times every minute. Not much fun at all and will be glad to pull into a safe and calm anchorage where we and the boat can relax a little.
It's now 0400 I've just come on watch after Johnny and before I went off at 0001 we had put the very deep 4th reef in an furled most of the jib. The forecast change arrived as we were passing the Tuamoto group and while I was on watch I had 4-5 squalls pass with nearly 40kts of wind in the last one.
Spirit took off with the three reefs in and small headsail doing 22kts into the dark. It's a black night out here with nothing not even stars about and doing those speeds isn't fun at all. We were also heading between two of the most western atolls in the group with a large distance between them but it's still nerve racking going those speeds into troughs of darkness. Reminded me a little of the passage down from Newport where we did it for over 1,000nm to St Maarten hand steering, having Rameses (autopilot) really helps.
All day it was one squall after another. We were glad to have put the deepest 4th reef in as the boat without a jib can handle big gusts well this reduced. With the squalls a few minutes to half an hour of constant 32-38kts of wind was experienced. Spirit shot off down waves with a fair amount of water coming onboard at some stages.
Our arrival to the waypoint was for around 2200 at night giving us a passage of about 3 days and 14 hours, which isn't bad for over 850nm. We entered the western passage just south of the CNI yard facility at about 0100 by the time we motored down the lee coast of Tahaa and Raiatea. Picking up a mooring and having a beer by about 0200. Had fun trying to find the mooring in the pitch black but in the end we did ok.
We didn't want to enter in the night but the passage we came in was well lit with leeds and was also over 1000ft wide and recommended as an all-weather entry. We found it to be exactly all that. With the radar on and three independent chart plotters all agreeing it was incredibly simple to enter. No large swells on the entrance even though there was a good few meters running up the shore.
The next day we poped around in the tender and had a look at the entrance and saw that it was indeed as the guides said. There some guys surfing waves and the waves were a solid 10ft at times while the entrance looked tranquil and glassed out.
Spirits going to be based here now for the next few months while I head back to work and maybe home for some time with the family and friends.
Before we hauled Spirit Johnny and I had a few days sailing around the area. I'll post some amazing photos and info about this real soon as this area has to be the most beautiful sailing grounds we have been too so far.
Our first anchorage in the Marquases was Fatu Hiva, which is the Southern most Island. The Marquases consists of 6 main islands Starting from the south they are Fatu Hiva, Tahuata, Hiva Oa, Ua Pou, Nuka Hiva and west of that Ua Huka.
The islands were first discovered in the 1500's by the spainish and then after visited by most explores to the Pacific including Cook in the mid 1700's.
Johnny and I decided to stop off in Fatu Hiva first as it was the windward of the group and made more sense to pop in here first. We couldn't clear in here as there is no Gendarmerie so we just did a quick pit stop to check out the amazing "Bay of Virgins". It lived up to all the hype with massive steep rock faces that seemed to fall into the sea surrounding us. At the end of the bay was the small village of Hanavave where we were able to purchase some simple supplies.
During the first night of our stay we were accompanied by loud drumming and chanting from the shore. We were later to see through the binoculars the locals both men and women practicing there native dances. It really was a site after spending nearly the last two weeks at sea far from civilization and land.
The next day we were joined by Bill and Cathy off Terrwyn from Canada. A lovely couple whom came by to say hi and see what we were up to. They came onboard and Bill was promptly stung by a wasp that seem to in most places here. Luckily he is a doctor and had all the right ingredience to fix he's allergic reaction to it.
Later on Johnny and I popped around the corner to Omoa the main town on the island, if you could call it that. Here there was a break wall and concrete dock that must be used by the supply ship. We walked around a little and passed the school where the kids were practicing there traditional dancing as well.
One of the main issues with the Marquases is that they are all steep sided islands and only have small bays to anchor in that aren't very deep so they offer little protection to most sailing boats from the trade winds and seas that build up this time of year.
We did find the "Bay of Virgins" to be well protected and it did offer some protection to the swell. We had very little wind in here as well but it was only blowing 15kts outside so there wasn't much to protect us from. I have read of yachts experiencing gusts of wind up to 40kts frequently here but we didn't see anything like it.
After two days here I felt we should head down to Hiva Oa and clear in. Luckily for us Bill and Cathy had informed us that it was Bastille day the following day so we upped anchor early and headed for Atuona in Hiva Oa, which was a 45nm blast!
There didn't seem to be too much breeze on departure so we went full rig but soon after we pulled up and threw three reefs in. It seems we only know either full rig or three reefs? Anything else seems too much or not enough? Anyway it was a blast down there and we made it ashore for lunch and the Bastille day celebrations.
After our normal anchorage palava we got into the end of the bay where it seemed to be well protected. As it's open to the sea with only a partial break wall everyone puts out there stern anchor to keep stem to the seas. We did the same as Spirit doesn't roll she flops! And then we preceded to head into town and to clear in with the local Gendarmerie.
Many of the guides here mention that the locals are friendly so out went Johnnies finger to hitch a ride and after a few false starts we had a lift into town. It was in a old beat up Landy with a cool young chap at the wheel called Alex, I think? Anyway he informed me to lock the door as it had a habit of opening around bends and then we tried to make conversation with our pathetic French and his not so flash English, was better than our French though, pretty easy to better our three words!
He told us he like Vino! And also asked us if we like to smoke. No I replied but then he held out a pipe and insisted we try some of his local herb while we were enjoying the view from a lookout spot above the bay. Then we were off to the local shindig where he dropped us off. Johnny and I found the Gendarmerie and also found out you can only clear in from Mon - Sat from 0730 - 1130. So we headed back to have a million beers and enjoy the festivities.
It was a great afternoon with the locals, watching them dance and also sing some amazing tunes. The kids and all the families were having a ball. It was great and really showed the small community feel these places have and enjoy.
The next two days we hired a car and drove around the Island. It was an experience with Johnny at the wheel but we made it and along the way visited some wonderful bays and villages on the northern side of the island.
The town of Atuona on Hiva Oa is flanked by an enormous ridge that used to be the volcanos crater. It was rarely visible while we were there and was main hidden under the clouds. The whole island has this dark feeling high peaks through out and a very wet green and lush windward side.
After a few days anchored there the breeze started to fill in and we felt it in Spirit with her wild dancing during the nights. She was saying get me the hell out of here. As we had seen some of the island and provisioned we decided to head to Tauata about 8nm from Atuona across a passage to the south.
My guide mentioned some of the best beaches (something rare around here) were located at the northern end and the bay looked pretty protected? it couldn't have been any worse than where we were so off we popped for the wet and wild short passage over beating out of Traitors Bay and through passage while surfing the 3-4m waves. With only the jib up we managed surfing down some of these steep waves at over 12kts. Is was great fun as the wind really funneled through here along with the waves. As long as it's all aft of the beam it's good fun!
We rounded the headlands and spotted Bay Hanamoena where there was seven yachts at anchor. We'd found or spot but it was crowded! So we headed to the next bay south Ivaiva Iti where we had the bay to ourselves.
The land behind the beach is private though so we didn't venture ashore here.
Johnny and I carried out some jobs we had like moving the bow rail forward to give more clearance to the headsail as it was chafing when eased for downwind sailing. With the rain that came through the boat received a great wash and she was again looking tiptop.
About two days later our good friends onboard Terrwyn sailed passed and anchored in Hanamoena. We headed around in the dinghy and had a few rums with them. While there we noticed how much more pleasant the anchorage was. It seems as though Hanamoena has better protection compared with Ivaiva where you get some major bullets coming down the valley into the bay.
The next morning we upped anchor and moved around to Hanamoena where we anchred about 200ft from the beach in about 20ft of water. It was bliss and well worth the hassle of re-anchoring onboard Spirit we compare it to giving berth ;-).
My local guide to the area mentioned that the town to the south Vaitahu had some very nice artists there. One being a tattoo master called Felix Fii, the other we found was Tekie the bone and scrimshaw artist. Along with these two interesting characters there was good provisions to be had and a church named the "Wholly Mother Of God Catholic Church" that was a donation from the Vatican in 1988 to commemorate the first catholic missionaries arriving in 1838, crazy bastards they were cannibals here then!
The islands is also very traditional with a monument in front of the town hall that declares in French that after 1995 the islands of the Marquases will be known as there original name of Fenua Enata or Land of Men. Another next to it commemorates Chief Iotetes rebellion against the French in 1842, the Tauatans are very independently minded.
The town of Vaitahu is beautiful flanked by an old volcano crater that rises up behind it with superbly steep and green sides that fall down onto the town.
As I love tattoos I thought it very necessary to investigate Felix Fii and to see some of his work. Cathy wanted to head ashore one day so we met the local school headmaster whims spoke great English. He called around and got Felix to pop down and see us. Teiki was also rung and popped down to pick us up and take us to his home and small work space looking out over the bay from hundreds of feet up on the mountain side. His home was surrounded with fruit trees of which we were allowed to take all we wanted when we departed along with some truly beautiful works of art we bought from him.
Felix had even tattooed the local head master so we figured he must be pretty good! His work was very nice and he only worked from inspiration which was the only worry! Cathy even got excited and decided to get a tattoo as well. We made a time for 0630 the next morning then headed back to the boats were we informed Bill and Johnny of our plans for the next morning.
It didn't take long and before we knew it we had four people being branded by Felix. It was quite a laugh with everyone wondering what they'd get and where. I was to go first to make sure he knew what he was doing. Then it was Johnny, Bill and Cathy. All in all we got out of there by about 1530 so it wasn't too bad a day. Below you can see how things turned out. Felix was a true master with his motifs and art work creating beautiful designs that are in a sense a work of art for each of us.
Bill got a wave shaped tattoo that has a teki head within it and traditional motifs through out such as fish and the local Marquasan cross. Johnny got a traditional Manta Ray tattoo that looked great along with Cathy whom had hers done on her left foot and it looked great also. Always wanting a Balin I had one done on my palm and filled with traditional motifs of manta ray, turtle, tuna, teki head and eels.
The following morning Johnny and I had planned to head down to Nuka Hiva to catch up with Butch who arrived a few days before after his 21 day crossing from the Galapagos. We upped anchor early for the 85nm passage over and hoped to arrived around 1600. We motored out a few miles then raised the sails and took off. With a fresh breeze from the south east we were off to a flying start. It didn't last long though dropping out within an hour to nothing!
Johnny and I couldn't believe it as our 8 hr passage had just become an over nighter! We'd planned beers on the back deck at sunset. I rang Butch to let him know we were on our way and that the breeze wasn't being so nice. He stated the wind down there was blowing 25kts and that the beers were in the fridge.
The calm didn't last long and within an hour we were off again smoking down the waves averaging well above 11kts. It was a fun ride down there and we managed to get in about 1630 after 9hrs sailing. By the time we arrived Butch had had a few beers and we were knackered so we put off the party to the following night.
The next day Butch came by early and picked up Johnny. They spent day driving around the island with another couple of Aussie blocks from YOLO (you only live once) a nice big 50ft Catana Cat very roomy compared to Spirit but we're at the bar first which counts most in Johnnies and my book ;-).
We all met in town for lunch about 2pm had a million beers then headed back to the Racket Roller with all the gang for a million rums. It was an awesome day and night with Butch and the gang and we also met a nice fella whom had just crossed from South America on his own and had been at sea for 31 days! awesome to see as he wasn't the youngest of chaps either. He was sailing around the world fulfilling a dream and had his business back home up for sale.
The next day with Racket Roller following us and after we had bought pretty much the best fresh provisions we'd seen since leaving Panama we headed to a little bay on the western side of Nuka Hiva. It's called Baie Haahopu and with the strong winds and large seas from the east it turned out to be a wonderful stop before we headed to Raiatea.
The water was so calm and clear we had a great walk ashore on the beautiful little beach and Johnny dove on the anchor as the bay had heaps of coral bombes so the chain was rapped around them all doing nice figure 8's
After cleaning the bottom of the boat, doing some laundry and odd jobs we had we had a nice dinner with Butch on the Roller and then a perfect nights sleep. Another thing about these trimarans is there fast fun and have heaps of deck space but man at night if there is a side swell she loves doing the flop and when we find a nice bay where the water flat it's such a pleasure to be there. Quiet great nights sleep just perfect!
Next morning we had a Manta Ray swim around the boat right next to us about 12ft across while we ate some fruit and Muesli following this we then set sail for Raiatea about 9am.
Below is a copy of the daily log Johnny has been keeping onboard. I have also included our daily runs or miles and some photos from the passage.
June 29th Departure
2048 UTC lat 00'53 S 090'34 W 7.1kts in the right direction
Thank Christ we finally left Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz such a crappy anchorage. After being quoted $200 for "agents fees" they turned up with a bill for $657! After much discussion and negotiation and being assessed as a 17 ton vessel instead of a 7 Ton (even that's a few ton over) we finished up paying just over $300. There is a bit of trying it on to put it mildly. Food, taxis are cheap. The autopilot Ramases (the mighty Ram) went on the blink again we had to hand steer the last night and day coming in here to the Galapagos but thought it was fixed. Took about one and a half hours to sort it out. Dodgy connection enough current to work when not under load but under load beep beep beep. Thank you Hughey and Ramese's and Jase who tracked it down. It would have been a disaster to loose it two up.
June 30th first day out
Leaving the Galapagos sure beats getting there. Favorable wind and sea state and off Spirit canters along smoothly. We passed Kevin Butcher just before dark (Racket Roller) doing 13kts and drinking rum and cokes. He was suitably impressed. He's on his own hope he will be ok we will probably meet up on the Marquesas. We met up with Butch and Susan for drinks and meals and enjoyed each others company while in Santa Cruz. He had a few nights with Don, Dick and Sally, who are somewhere ahead of us. The last part of the Galapagos to get around is an old volcano crater of an island shaped like a horse shoe or boomerang. It's a seriously bleak desolate and forbidding site. Almost caught a fish! But it got off leaving one gill on the hook, poor bugger. We have hardly been under 10kts and sometimes over 15it's when we run off a bit north of west to slow things down a bit. She sure jumps to 17-18kts very easily.
Position UTC 2055 lat 01'20 S long 094'43 W 2690nm to Hiva Oa, we are knocking the miles off. Daggerboard foot block leaking major effort to stop and fix for the time being.
Finished reading "my old man and the sea" interesting story of a father and son trip around cape horn in a virtue class yacht that was under 30ft.
Position at UTC 2105 lat 01'56 S long 098'36 W
Quite a day so far. We can not slow the bitch down. Two reefs in the main and she is still bolting a 15kts plus. Jase went up the mast during a running off period to fix the lazy jacks that had the STB lines hooked up. So we were lucky we didn't need to reef last night. Replaced both lazy jacks with the new ones from Merelita. Much better we can now roll then up lace them and avoid chafe on the sail. Also the headsail furler foils were coming loose and chafing the working jib along the bolt rope so we tapped over sized bolts in and used epoxy putty to cover the sharp edges. Should work ok. Omelet for lunch. Hit 19.2kts before reducing sail to a rolled up half jib and three reefs in the main and are still doing 11-12kts with occasional burst to 15-16kts but much easier on everything and everyone. Saw a school of dolphins and tuna jumping super high and a marlin chasing something.
Oh boy what a new day. Water is warmer and fish on the line. Caught a dolphin fish (mahi mahi) perfect size. Weather improving and wind direction ESE. I guess its the trade winds further north and stronger than usual. Just checked the iPad and it says we are halfway to halfway, 2270nm to go we will knock that off tomorrow. Dealt with a few issues of chafing and leaking. The one solar panel remaining stopped putting in amps. Water had got into a chafed electrical cable so we rerouted the wire, drilled holes through the alloy frame and used rubber grommets from the B&G box to protect the cable where it now exits through the side of the frame. Shit design. Not meant for a boat. Anyway more underwater epoxy and self amalgamating tape has it putting in 8amps when the sunshines. May not have to run the engine for a few hours at night to top up power.
Mixed bag today sunny early morning then clouded over and piped up a bit. Jase hit 21. something kts on a long surf under control and smooth. We had shaken out all but the last reef so for a few hours we were smoking along, then copped a beauty over the float that knocked the Spirit out of her and prompted tucking the reefs in again. Set up for the night a little early but we won't have to do it in the dark. We knocked the 1000nm off today so we are a third of the way after 4 days. Going good but wet and salty. A flying fish flew in a smacked Jason on the side of the head and ricochet into my back so both of us got hit quite hard by the one fish, what are the odds? This morning 7 squid and 6 flying fish had landed onboard.
Position at 2330 UTC lat 04'14 S long 106'35W 1928nm to go! Doing 12.6 in 20kts true breeze just aft of the bream. Near enough to the rhumb line and steering 235 degrees. We've been reading up on the Marquases and we both like the "Bay of Virgins" as our first stop metaphorically speaking. Finally got a sat call through to Butch on "Racket Roller" and he's ok about 300nm astern and closer to the equator. Rang Jim with a position report and he's crook as a chook with a staf infection. No engine needed tonight.
Tried to bend bow rail away from forestay but not really good. Jason whipped up the rail where it's wearing the furler tube should help. just missed a big turtle while doing so, it was a bloody long way from anywhere.
Saw a big two hundred ft tuna boat just before sunset we passed half a mile apart. Our only company since the first night. We wondered what the yanks have to celebrate today! being broke! I'm catching up on the log so no position report. Not very impressed with the weather grib files and they have been renamed the grub files. They sort of get the wind direct right but under estimate the wind pressure constantly. Forecasting 10-15kts and it's mainly been 15-30kts more like the trade wind at Portland roads back home although that constantly gets up to 40kts, touch wood! We are still averaging over 10kts with three reefs in the main and jib only. At times we have both had burst of 17-20kts she sure is a flighty girl our Spirit.
Halfway 2300 UTC position 05'52 S long 114'03 W
Jase put sticky back on the jib to help the chafe from the bow rail and rigged the lazy runner lines so they can't chafe on the jammers on the mainsail traveller car. I had a big sleep from 0930 to 1500 and emerged hot sweaty and full of weird dreams cold shower on deck soon smartened me up. Late lunch, hash browns (one egg no flour better) bacon, eggs and tomato. Have avocado, crackers and rum and coke ready for sundowners and halfway celebration. One coke left for arrival. Only a few flying fish but one tiny little one centimeter embryo was stuck in the jammers. Jase had a hair cut and shave, me tomorrow.
Can hardly believe we are over halfway and will be under 1000nm by tomorrow. I came on deck to a whole change of seen. Blue skies, sunshine 20-25kts of wind and our Spirit is bolting along wing and wing. Seems to be handling it really well. Still three reefs in the main but the working jib is barber hauled out to the port crossarm on a strop. 10-15kts boat speed and sunshine. Mainsheet is way out and prevented and traveller cars have their cam cleat jammers at each end of the track swapped over so now we can't get the mainsheet under them which was bending their mounting plates. Ham cheese omelet scramble for lunch then the "eating machine" polished off the remains of last night as well!
Position at 2043 UTC lat 06'37 S long 117'13 W going good first stop a special tribute to Ramases (the mighty ram) worth two crew at least. From sunset to after midnight we were sailing down a moon path. Beautiful. Almost half full. Jase put the Mr Asia story on my iPhone so made a start to it last night. My hair cut!! Mohawk!! No a number 1 all I need is a prisoner number.
Ran all last night wing and wing and this morning as the breeze dropped off to 10-12kts we put up the medium furling reacher and stayed around 10kts SOG. Another fishing line gone! No fish, 2 lures out now fingers x. Ham, cheese, tomato and basil omelet for lunch but I burnt the bottom a bit. Tasty though. Slowed again so put up the medium chute and voila (French territory is getting closer) back around 10kts again. Raised a bit more dagger board and "Ramases" seems to be doing it a little easier. 1075nm to go!! Tomorrow am should be inside that. Put our local time back again as Galapagos time was getting a sunrise at 0730 last couple of days have been the smoothest sailing so far this leg.
Position @ 2115 UTC lat 07'94 S long 120'56 W 1071nm to go.
Put the chute away just before dark and back to full job and three reefs in the main and still doing 10-15kts. Wind speed in the low 20's off the port quarter 1/2 moon tied to the mast head, then sailing down the moon path.
Position @ 2146 UTC lat 07'44 S long 124'34 W 851nm to go.
Today's 24hr run should be a goody and turned out to be 262nm. Early morning wind up to 28kts ran off 10 degrees then another 10 degrees. Later on wind dropped and we put up the kite, that sped things up a bit. Seems to freshen up and dawn and dusk. Jase hand steering, saw 21.5kts bit excessive but when I came up on the afternoon he'd dropped it on his own (practicing for RTW fame?) we were still doing 10-15 it's with then jib and three reefs. Moon is over half full now and giving us a moon path each night, very picturesque. Finish reading Last Man Standing an account of the Mr Asia syndicate. Heaps of bullshit in it. I could hardly believe the author was crook on getting 25 years of which he only did 14! but kept harping on the 25 as though he did 25. Jase is struggling though Shantaram which I read on the Atlantic crossing onboard Zanabe and it's definitely not a literary master piece for mine, but and interesting yarn.
Position @ 2308 UTC lat 08'37 S long 128'33 W, 610 nm to go! 2-3 days maximum. No fish and no lures. Down to our last two spoons fingers crossed as our fresh food is getting low. Fridge needs coke, washed two pairs of salty shorts and myself all much improved. Only two flying fish this morning and no squid for the last few days. No dolphins, tuna or whales. Only flying fish and birds and a he'll of a lot of water. Still going through a lumpy sea state.
Position @ 2143 UTC lat 09'23 S long 131'37 W. Almost under 400nm TP go should be under 300nm by 2345 UTC wow! Looking for mountain tops already. Wind dropped off a bit today and seas smoothed out quite a bit so up with the kite and we're back on 10kts. Still no fish. Perhaps we should be playing the silver spoons instead of using them as lures. Two and half days now and no bites seems like the squid like ones are the go. Sunny all day hatch open hatch open washing on the line. Sat phone call to butch he's 750nm behind and heading direct to Nuka Hiva. W are going to Fatu Hiva then Hiva Oa and up to Nuka Hiva so well probably catch up with him there. Oh boy at 2120 UTC 399nm to go!! Kept the kite up last night but Jase couldn't sleep so down it came back to working jibe and three reefs for security. Slowed us down a bit but tomorrow is another day.
Position & 2154 UTC lat 09'55 S long 135'00 W. 220nm to go. Kite and full main up this morning and surprisingly there isn't much difference in speed. With the fill main off the wind and errrrr running deep 10-15kts boat speed for most of the day. Fishing disaster STB side line turned into a twisted tangle and port one had lost the lure and steel wore trace had snapped! Probably lucky not to land that one. Must be getting somewhere, Jase saw a solitary Frigate bird and some rubbish. Reread Tom Sawyer and remembered it instantly from 21+ years ago. I laughed out load often. Jase saw a couple of shooting stars and the moon is up all night now and it sure is lovely sailing down a moon path.
Arrived 13 days Marquases. We see the land and it bloody high and where its supposed to be! iPad therefor I,am. $1,000,000.00 thanks Jobsy. Position @ 2043 UTC lat 10'25 S long 138'04 W about 34 nm to go. Yeah fucking ha Fatu Hiva and an uninterrupted nights sleep coming up. On the approach a very large octopus floated past the boat, dead I presume but it was quite a whopper. Body as big as me plus tentacles just floating on the surface and no sign of life. Very misty and hazy coming up the south west coast. Wind dropping off cleaning frenzy onboard boat then us feels good. Hope we can see the sunset from the anchorage. Motoring making water and amps as we close the shore the sun begins to reveal the details that were hidden in the mist and shadow. It's awesome, prime evil, spectacular! Words just don't do it. Anchored up in heaven sounds of drumming and singing ashore. Got out the binoculars and there where a large group of dancers on a Tuesday night maybe practicing for a cruise ship visit. After dinner we checked the phone connections and low and behold we had roaming coverage.
It's been about a ten days since our arrival in the Galapagos and it's been quite an adventure.
The wild life here is really amazing, such diversity that's really goes well with the crazy weather we have had here and it just seems to fit in with the whole feel of the place.
Johnny and I have suffered from some upset bellies and strongly recommend not drinking the local desalinated water! As we have since found out from the local doctor that it's not so reliably desalinated, we thought it tasted funny! Dr Gabriel was recommended to us by one of the yacht agents as the best man for the job and he was excellent. Had our rear ends back in normal operation in a couple of days! Thank god. He also proved that Jason really can blow smoke out of one ear and needs to have surgery to fix it, or he could grow mushrooms or worse! Showed us on the computer and you could actually see the tiny hole opening and closing.
Our unpleasant bellies could also have been from the local Tucker we were eating below.
The first week was spent getting Spirit ready for the next leg. We didn't have anything major to get done but did want to do a lot of small jobs mainly maintenance to the rig, tightening the shrouds, sail repairs, reinforcing some of the batten slides, making new bolts for the rudder attachment (larger ones) greasing and tightening the rudder bearings, swapping out the small foot blocks on the centerboard to larger ones, cleaning out all the boats compartments and re-stowing the spares, doing laundry, re-fueling and taking on water (which we recommend others not to do!).
We also bought more heavier chain from a really nice Australian couple we've meet as we may need it for the deeper anchorages in the Pacific. The new Fortress anchor has proven it's worth here as the local anchorage is crap. There is tourist boats coming and going all the time and boats anchoring on top of you as well. Making for sleepless nights.
We had about 1-1.5m swell rolling in for the first few days as the anchorage is totally open to the south east. Luckily we were able to tuck right into the bay using a stern anchor as well, which is highly recommended and got into about 15ft of water. In the surge Spirit just rode back and forth and with the 100ft of nylon line she just pulled up nice and slow. We buoyed the anchor so we could also keep an eye on it's position and make sure no one anchored on top of us. Then only people that did ended up being anchoring on top of us was another cruising yacht that had no idea of what they were doing! And that also ended up hitting another yacht when they weighed anchor and departed.
We used a local agent here to clear in, which is something that all the guides say you have to have. It's not law but you can't clear in and out without one? Work that one out! I've put the details below of both the agents I think are ok. We used YachtGala but a lot of the boats here used GOS and all had great things to say about him but he was a little more for some boats as he's price in based on the yachts length but less for others.
Johnny Rommero - has transport and can arrange anything for a price. I would only try and deal with Johnny himself.
+ 593 52 527 403
Galapagos Ocean Services - offers a dinghy dock and laundry services great deal and well recommend by al the yachts that used him.
+593 9 377 2718
While here we never used our own tender. The reason was the seals do try and get in them and also the amount of growth and how quickly it grows put us off. The locals have taxi services that constantly run all day and night, which you can call on channel 14 VHF and during the day it's 60 cents per person and a dollar at night. We would just whistle as they went past. They also offer laundry services for very reasonable prices and can organize water and fuel but make sure you get your fuel legally getting your receipt and paper work from your agent. We also had our favorite taxi captain help us clean the bottom of Spirit before we departed for $40 USD and considering the amount of weed and growth on the bottom it was very reasonable. He also did a great job with our laundry bringing it back on time and smelling wonderful.
Fuel is $1.05 per gallon for locals and $5.00 for everyone else! Like most places the yachts get ripped off. Like most things here the process of receiving fuel is ludicrous even bordering on plain insane. You have to have your agent get a permit from the port captain for the EXACT! Amount then you take this to the fuel station (there is only one) in a taxi. You head upstairs where to lady behind the desk takes your permit and issues you with a receipt. You then head downstairs to the pump controller whom fills you up with the EXACT amount, no less no more! He then takes your cash at four times what the locals pay, then issues you with another receipt that you fill in and both sign. Then back upstairs To the lady behind the desk who stamps it and makes it all official looking. This then goes to the agent who gives it back to the port captain to prove you bought your fuel! Talk about a joke this is to supposedly stop the back market for fuel as some taxi drivers where filling it up for the yachtie's and selling it to them at a cheaper rate, by the way we were still offered fuel on the black market by water taxis so little good this painful process has done.
Santa Cruz itself has been nice Not as seriously and well looked after as I would have imagined but coming from one of the most highly Protected reef areas in the world they seem a bit slack here. On a few occasions there has been diesel and black oil floating all over the anchorage! We have the pictures to prove it. Feelthy bastardos.
Then to top it all off, a 100ft triple decker dropped anchor with an extreme list to starboard! Portholes under and deck awash! A cast of thousands, slight exaggeration, tinnys water taxis and port authorities etc etc onlookers, all failed totally to avert disaster! Within half an hour she flopped right over to port and kept going!, all the way to the bottom! Once again we have the pictures to prove it. After that, about 2 hours after, the oil boom arrived and they got a circle around the spot but by then there was crap everywhere. That was a week ago and nothing has happened since. She lies in about 50ft of water and is slowly breaking up in the surge. Do not anchor there!
Rumor has it they were "transferring" fuel and left the tanks linked as they transferred giving them an angle of lull that eventually flopped them over to the other side and over she rolled! As my good mates back home would say muppets! More like an insurance job we think who could be that stupid?
2 days ago we finally stopped work on Ssspirit and did a dive trip to the Gordon rocks. Visibility poor but the variety of species more than made up for it. It was like swimming in a fish soup! Everywhere you looked there were more fish. Hammerheads, white tips, turtles, spotted eagle rays in squadrons, barracuda, tuna, jacks, big snapper, cod, moray eel, plus heaps of extremely colorful unknowns of all shapes and sizes.
Then there were the birds! frigates, sheer waters, just like our own mutton birds in Oz, gannets, blue footed boobies, mother caries chickens, pelicans are everywhere, darwin's finches, little sparrow like birds with short arse tails, etc.
On the way to the dive boat we drove over the highlands and there were many tall slender trees with the same trunks as our own Queensland red cedars and it turned out they are an indigenous local cedar used extensively
In their architecture which is a mix of third world post and beam concrete in various states of completion or otherwise. And some really stunning curved forms in a Spanish style. There is an an exclusive jewelry studio, so exclusive it is never open, that is a really stunning piece of art. Even though we have not been able to see the jewelry the building is a real gem.
Later on today we're off to provision and hope to head off to the Marquesas Islands tomorrow after a nice big hot breakfast and hot shower in our ten dollar a night hotel! Have included a photo below of the shower head so you can see why it's ten bucks a night! For anyone wanting to stay there it's called the Charles Darwin hotel.
It's our first night out on our way to the Galapagos and we've just finished a big spaghetti bol. The breeze has only just filled in after a day of variable winds from mainly around the west to north west. We have only been able to manage from 4-8kts at times and have now began to sit on 6-7kts steady as the winds filled in to about 250 true giving us around 195 COG.
Ez departed Spirit in Panama city and it's Johnny and I onboard now. Were doing the watches in two hour shifts from 8pm until 6am and will divide the day time hours as we feel.
Yesterday (Thursday the 9th) we departed Panama city after provisioning the day before. We were going to leave the day we provisioned but we had a call from a vessel near by that asked if we could postpone incase there was some parts we could take with us to the Las Perlas Islands where we spent last night.
There was an Australian yacht that was there and in need of a new seal for there main engine cooling pump. As it turned out they didn't have the parts and we were off the following morning early after a weather check.
We got away from Panama about 10:00am and it was another morning of variable winds until about 20nm from the Las Perlas group when the wind filled in from the north west at around 5-10kts. It ended up being a magical sail into Isla Pedro Gonzales where we sailed right into the anchorage dropping the sails about a mile out. Flat calm water with a steady breeze and Spirit doing 7-9kts it was bliss.
It was such a nice sail that I was able to get into the dinghy and get some shots of Spirit ghosting along in the light airs and glassy seas.
The small village on the island where the cruising guide offered two anchorages was not so nice looking so we sailed past to the following bay where there was also another anchorage located. Once around the corner the bay opened up to a gorgeous clear sandy beach that was lined with hundreds of palms. It was a magical spot and with the flat calm water it made a great stop for the night. Johnny and I scouted around in the tender and had a nice walk along the beach spotting a sea snake making it's way out on to the beach, old building foundations, flower gardens behind the beach and a wonderful little spot that had been cleared with flowers a few seats and a hammock, a small peace of paradise.
Sunset was spent enjoying a few beers and some fine dinner that we had kept from great little Columbian restaurant the night before in Panama. Off to bed early after a big feed and few beers ready for today's departure.
Last night was also the first night for our new anchor set up. In Panama we dragged anchor as we lost our CQR. To try and make anchoring as easy as I could I had the anchor on a clip that came undone. It just proves if it can happen it will. So back to the drawing board we went. We now have a Fortress 27FX on 80ft of 10mm chain and then 100ft of 14mm three strand nylon. It's much easier to pull onboard now as the fortress holding power is great for it's weight but it's still bloody hard. We definitely need a anchor winch as we don't even have a bow roller getting it aboard isn't fun.
We have also set up the anchor on a float so we an retrieve the float first hauling the anchor aboard then pulling up the chain to reduce the total weight being lifted and it seemed to work well today. When we have some wind and wave action will be the time to tell how well it works.
We departed about 1000 after a nice breakfast. This place is so testing with the light winds being so variable. It's just crazy. I have never seen such large areas of no wind. We seem to have it come in for an hour then die out. Then an hour later it'll come from the other direction for 30 minutes and then die out, we'll get all excited when we see some cloud the wind will pick up rain starts then it's over.
This has been the day all day today. With grey all around some sun in the afternoon and a great little burst from a squall giving us just over 18kts which is a new record for the trip since leaving St Maarten. Not bad as it was around 16kts of true breeze at about 40 degrees apparent. Johnny was on watch and just about fell over as the boat took off. As with everything else out here it didn't last long and five minutes later we were drifting again.
Tonight is a clearer night we have some steady breeze just settling in now, and we're doing wind speed, which is around 4-5kts and we're on the rhumb line.
Well that didn't last long. It's now 0200! for those that can't read 24hr time that's am! The wind died out hours ago and we've been motoring along at about 1500rpm giving us about 3-4kts. Johnny had a bit of rain while on watch and I've just had a ship pass behind us by a small margin.
Amazing how you can be in the middle of nowhere and have a 1000ft ship bearing down on you at 21kts. And the ship just happened to show up in the squall on our STB side about 13nm away. This is where the AIS comes into it's own. Never did we realize the amount it would help out on this trip home.
As the radar couldn't see the ship so far away within the squall the iPad and iNavX with AIS integration was awesome. Instantly we could see the closest point of approach, the bearing the ship would be at that time and also the amount of time before this all happened and this all happens instantaneously. Giving us this info allowed us to increase our speed for about 15mins so we passed a safe 1.5nm in front. This is about the smallest limit most commercial boats want you pass ahead of them. From memory it's about .7 nm astern and 1.2 ahead.
In the photo above you can see that our AIS is receiving data from ships over 70nm away. Unbelievable! May have had something to do with us being 100ft above sea level? even though we were able to get even further once we were on the Pacific side where it was showing ships as far away as the San Blas back up to the North of us.
Clear skies today and in the morning we had some great sailing with about 8-10kts of boat speed. It lasted until the afternoon when it slowly disappeared into nothing which we have now. We had some kind of seabird stay onboard last night and it was still there in the the morning along with the dragonfly we spotted on the bow rail. Will be interesting to see if they're with us again in the morning. Did some laundry today mainly boxer shorts and tea towels. Refilled the diesel and we now have around 80lts remaining. Glad we bought two more jerry cans in Panama.
Another really nice calm day. Unfortunately no wind and what there is on and off is variable and testing. Seems to go as fast and it comes and never stays in longer than an hour. The calm weather means we can cook and clean and living onboard is easy. Even though it's frustrating we try not to complain about the lack of wind as it can always be so much worse. Made a great curry for dinner and did some laundry and general tidying of the boat. Also started to read some of the many guides we have onboard for the Pacific.
Later Monday afternoon the wind picked up and became steady from the south west. Put two reefs in the main when we spotted a large grey cloud south of us and then questioned why we were even thinking about sailing through it when we had so much ocean to cover. We tacked out away from it on a port tack and was clear a few hours later. It was a big system and for sure some weather in there. We're now making good 260 COG and have the wind tending south all the time. Just about on the rhumb line another 20 degrees south and we are sitting pretty. Man for such a short passage it's taking us sometime to get south. Swapped the paddle wheel over in the log as the old one was missing a blade. Hope to be able to get the B&G set up more accurately now.
I think we may break a record here for the quickest boat to do the slowest passage from Panama to the Galapagos. There is no wind at all and we are going backwards, parked with no handbrake. Very testing and frustrating you can understand how they went crazy in the old days trying to get through the doldrums. Today we had some wind from the West and we were making great time compared to now. At one stage we were doing around 7kts VMG the best we have seen so far. Now as you can see from the screen shot above and below we are heading the wrong way flopping from side to side, if only we could harness the power of the flop to give us some forward momentum! our weather guru back in Australia says we should have 15-20kts from the south west at the moment and this is also what our latest grib files say, so much for weather forecasting? Better than a gale on the nose. I better put the kettle on!
Today we had the wind go from 270 degrees to 370 degrees true in a matter of seconds. We had two reefs in the main and headsail up so it was a quick jibe over onto STB tack and off again all this going on in about 18kts of true wind with squalls all around. Then we decided to put up the staysail and to put another reef in the main as the seas were getting large starting to break a little and we needed to slow down a touch. Well that did it the wind died and we had the worst washing machine Johnny and I had seen with waves coming from three directions and us in the middle like being in a fight with the ocean. We yelled you've won! leave us along. Still out here flopping now! Hard to believe we have had variable winds all the way since the coast of Columbia three weeks ago. No more than a few hours of steady breeze, man can not wait to get into the trades and some stability.
The wind came in again strong but this time from the South East as it had been predicted for the last few days. And it seems to have settled in and become consistent at around 18kts true or 25-30 apparent. Crap weather no reports just wet, tired and wanting more then three hours sleep, also without the sound of the mast trying to come through the deck, which has returned with the rough weather. Below was an old forecast for the 16th was it was correct?
After the strong winds that we had through Thursday today has been a great surprise. The weather file we received and the info from ashore has not been at all correct. We did have stronger winds than forecast but from different directions, not stable at all and it has been for different durations and strengths. Not as reliable as we have found it in the Atlantic and other regions. The wind strength began to subside yesterday afternoon and we had a few hours during the night where we parked. Earlier this morning the wind came in at about 10kts true and has been shooting us along from 8-10kts so we are finally making some good ground. As we get closer to the Galapagos there is more and more bird life around us. We had two birds land on the float bow yesterday but with the residual waves they were finding it hard to stay on and it was quiet a sight watching them land again and again trying their hardest to remain onboard.
Saturday the 18th
The wind that came in yesterday increased in the afternoon and we had a wet and wild ride during the night. It seems to be steady with direction and strength at around 160-70 true and 16-22kts apparent. We were just off the breeze with the apparent angle being from 30-46 degrees and when it cracked off away went Spirit with speeds from 12-14kts and a constant 10kts. Johnny and I have been hand steering since last night when the autopilot dropped out on Johnny. I'll have to look into it when we arrive. We powered along for the last 24hrs doing an average speed of around 10kts and getting into Academy Bay on Santa Cruz Island around 1400 local time Saturday.
From what we had read and seen on the charts this bay looked like a pretty poor anchorage. Open to the prevailing South winds and swell. Looks can be deceiving so we thought we'd better head in to look for ourselves before making our minds up whether to head to another of the islands.
Also our agent was here and the services ashore offer more, which made it our preferred place to be.
We have spent the last 4 full days in the Marina awaiting our transit of the canal. Before arriving in Panama we did a lot of research on the formalities and tried to find other people experiences so as we could prepare as best we could for our own.
Given the large amount of info on the net and also personal experiences running yachts overseas. It was decided that the best way would be to pay for an agent whom knew the ins and outs and that would take all the pressure and responsibility off us, leaving us to enjoy the pool here, do some odd jobs and some small provisioning.
Eric from Centenario was recommended from a few people so we decided to go with him. So far our passage and experience has been great. He has taken on everything delivering the ten tires to the boat two days before our passage along with the four lines of 125ft needed for the canal. The canal measurer was here the day after our arrival and everything has proceeded smoothly.
As we don't have a holding tank onboard he also provided us with a porta poti. He even drove us the thirty minutes into Colon to see the Port Captain as he wasn't happy with our securing points. As Spirit is a race boat she has no cleats, fairleads or real securing points. We plan to run lines through snatch blocks and back to the four winches in the aft cockpit. We spoke of this to him and described our plan, we also took some blocks along with their working loads into him so he could see that they were indeed strong enough. It helped a lot when Johnny mentioned that the small line we gave him was stronger than steel. Hard for commercial people to understand the strength of some of the gear we have. It's so small it looks fragile but in reality it's incredible strong.
The Port Captain was an American and I believe one of the last to remain here working with the Canal Authority. Once the Canal was handed back most of the American and foreign staff departed. The canal does fifteen transits daily in each direction. The new third locks to be opened in 2014 will allow for vessels up to 1,400 ft x 180 ft with a depth of 60 ft.
So far the place has been a real surprise. Not sure I had the best image of this place but being here has changed that a little. The marina and services here are basic but it's kept nice and the service is good. Eric has saved us time and stress and with the port office and immigration also being here it has save time get our clearance and formalities done.
For those doing the same passage here is a breakdown of how we proceeded with things and how much things have cost us so far.
-Arrived at Shelter Bay Marina 0130 very easy to enter during night hours. We had rain and squalls and found it easy to slowly motor in. We just pulled into the easiest berth once we arrived. Our berth was around $70 USD a day plus around $10 a week for the Internet. Electricity and water are on top of this but we didn't use any so I'm not sure of the costs involved here.
-The next morning after we arrived we registered with the Marina office and paid for seven days as thats the normal transit time. It only took 5 days though so we were refunded when we checked out.
- We then cleared in with the Port Captain and immigration that are located right behind the marina office.
- Eric has looked after all our transit details coming to the boat meeting. Then delivering the tires, ropes and our toilet all for $1,000 USD. This is the total that it has cost us on a 40ft x 35ft trimaran.
The marina here has nice rainforest walks you can do. A great pool area and lounge that is air-conditioned up stairs with cable TV and excellent WiFi Internet. I also have to mention that the Internet here has been the best I have experienced in the a Caribbean. It's super fast, reliable and they have about ten hot spots through out so there is a signal from just about all points of the marina.
There is a small chandlery here and also washers and dryers. The restaurant has a limited menu but the food is good and the breakfasts are cheap and really delicious with the staff always smiling and doing there best. We've heard of a few complaints being here but it's nothing that was really anything to bother about.
We'll depart the marina about 1230 today for the flats anchorage where will sit for an hour or two before entering the locks at around 1600 we hope. We'll transit the first set of three locks in the afternoon today then stay in the lake over night before motoring through the lake tomorrow and then proceeding through the other locks later in the day. Sounds like fun I'll update you with more tomorrow.
All went well for our first transit of the Gatun Lake Locks. It was a real experience with the water rising rapidly at around 4ft per minute for a total of about 40ft. The turbulence created from the water entering the locks through the bottom of the lock is crazy, this along with the ships prop wash when departing the lock made for some fun. We were very lucky as we can raise our centerboard and also Spirits weight of around 4 ton makes her easy to handle. The keel yacht in front did ok as well but you could see them getting pushed around a lot more and they also rolled a bit from the water surging in and pressing on there keel.
At each end of the canal there is three locks. At the Colon end they are all together but at the Panama city end there is two sets the first one called the Pedro Miguel locks and then another two that are called the Miraflores locks.
It's easy to do the last three into the Pacific as this is just a matter of easing your lines as you slowly get lowered within the lock. The Gatun is the harder one as your being raised and have to keep a good eye on your lines and be quick to shorten them up. We we able to run all our lines back to the cockpit and have them all with a dedicated winch so we could load them with more than just a hand pull. It worked great and the other thing that made it easy was that we were on our own in the lock not nested next to another yacht or tug boat, I think this was mainly due to our beam.
We went through the Gatun locks at around 1800 hrs local time. So once through there was about a 4 mile scoot around to the mooring where we were to stay for the night. A bottle of champers was opened to celebrate some roasted chicken was devoured then it was off to bed as we had our advisor arriving around 0600 the next morning to get underway for the passage through the lake.
It's roughly 30nm from one end of the lake to the other and with the fresh water being less dense than salt not only did Spirit have water lapping at her cockpit drains she was about half a knot slower. We were flat out trying to keep up with the other yachts but in the end did well and arrived in the middle of the pack.
On the way through Gatun Lake we passed some huge ships with lengths of up to 1000ft. These had tug boats escorting them through. There was massive dredges in some parts and some huge amounts of work going on with maintenance and the new larger lock expansions.
The main part of the lake is just amazing. It has the thickest jungle you could imagine and bird life and monkeys howling in the mornings. It was a real treat to be able to spend a night there.
For the last three sets of locks all the yachts went through together. The two monohulls where nested together and the tris went through placed in the middle of the lock. This end was a breeze as the water exiting leaves very little disturbance and all that needed to be done was the lines eased as the water level went down. It was a surreal feeling to enter the Pacific ocean at the other end. When the final doors opened we all felt the pressure of the last few days preparation drop away and a new adventure had begun.
It was another few miles down the channel to the Balboa yacht club where we dropped our two fantastic line handlers off and the ten car tires that Eric had arranged for us. We ended up not going into the dock but just dropping the gear and boys off in the dock tender along with the ten dollar fee for doing so.
We then high tailed it around to Las Brisas the anchorage to the North East of the causeway just North of the Flormenco Marina. Its a great spot very well sheltered but with a bit of a soft muddy bottom.
The local yachties there do a 0800 VHF net that has some great info on it. They operate on channel 74 and it's a must for any new yachts to the anchorage. We put a call out to see if anyone had an anchor for sale and ended up buying a new Fortress from a yacht while there.
We anchored just behind Gorgidup Island in the Coco Bandero group. It's just surreal here with the water silky smooth and clear as can be. We are in about 30ft of water and the bottom is clear as can be. Went for a swim and had a few rums to celebrate our arrival. Soon after we were visited by Serapio a local Kuna Indian that offered his services basically he would bring whatever we asked for the next day. We ordered some diesel, lobster, fruits and he was on his way. He was very small as they're known to be and super friendly and outgoing. After a big dinner we all went to sleep outside on the nets until we had a huge rain storm pass over us. It was such a downpour I quickly got the buckets under the awning as best I could to catch the rain water. Much better to drink than the desalinated water we make onboard with less minerals in it.
Woke this morning to glassed out seas all around, behind us two small perfectly placed palm lined islets and dark rainforest peaks on the mainland behind. High dark clouds and such quiet that you never seem to hear. It's so peaceful and calm here the feeling is hard to describe in words. Just imagine sitting on the aft nets after just waking to see an eagle ray glide past on the bottom while Ez swam above it.
Ate an amazing breakfast of muesli and fresh fruit and then Serapio came by to deliver our fruit and diesel and take another order for some Kuna bread. We decided to move Spirit over behind the other island near by but still within the same group.
Later on Ez and I decided to go for a snorkel while Johnny had a sleep. The coral health and fish life here is incredible. We spotted a large ray under a ledge then two lobster trying to hide further down the reef. There was large hard corals and many types of smaller soft corals. Moray eels and crabs. The bottom was mainly sea grass with coral beds surrounding each patch before the water dropped off deeper.
On the way back to Spirit two dolphins surfaced. Ez and I grabbed our gear and jumped straight back into the water and found ourselves surrounded by these two inquisitive mammals. We swam around for about 20mins just floating on the surface with the dolphins sweeping around us in the water. They seemed to be playing with each other, swimming close and pressing into each other. We would loose site of them and but be able to hear there whistles, clicks and screams underwater then they would appear again flash by and disappear into the deep. What an amazing morning and incredible place.
In the afternoon we had a nice visit from the local Kuna ladies that wanted to sell us some Molas which are stitched pattern work that they wear around the stomachs to increase their beauty. Here is one that we bought below.
The ladies were great and we offered them a coffee onboard and then Johnny got into the dugout with them and headed for the shore. We chilled out in the afternoon and relaxed to the settling sun and some quiet tunes.
Yesterday was another crazy day with weather. We decided to head to Rio Azucar near the mainland so we could head up the river and have a look. We first went to the town on the island to make sure it was ok to take outboard motors up the river as we had read that some rivers are too important to allow for the pollution of motors.
As we pulled in we could see Serapio loading provisions onto his boat. He had two teenage Kuna boys helping him out and they offered to come up the river. At first we thought it was to have a ride to a village but later turned out they were being tour guides. Showing us different birds and navigating the river shallows and fallen trees with precision.
There were many different kinds of birds with Johnny spotting a Kingfisher and also locals gathering fruits from there plots of land that were carefully cleared on the river banks and in the rain forests.
After venturing a few miles the river shallowed and we pulled into the bank. Everyone walked up to the river a little while the guides in broke English and Spanish tried to explain something about a large mountain and mud slide? And a very big water fall with all types of animals. It was funny and frustrating not being able to converse with them. A must to learn some basic Spanish!
The mountains were slowly being devoured by a huge dark cloud so we headed back to the dinghy and the small village to try and get back to the boat before the rain.
It turned out we just made it back in time as the weather started to deteriorate quickly once back onboard so we headed off to what we thought would be an easy 7nm trip across the passage to the most eastern of the group called the Cayos Holandes.
Not long after departure the rain came in hard and the wind increased inn the end we had wind from the south west to the north from 10-35kts and rain falling in blankets with no visibility. We were doing 6kts bare poled at one stage having to slow down and see if it would clear before we got close.
Crazy place, crazy weather, underwater life is awesome and today we have had gorgeous weather with thunderstorms in the distance but nothing close just 10kts from the north. Wonderful!
Ez swam into the reef that was behind the boat today with myself joining her about 20mins later and Johnny coming in in the dinghy just after me. It was about a 300ft swim into the shore and the water was deep. This is always when the thought of big things down there enters your head. I always try and think of other things and not get to worried but the thoughts always there.
The reef was nice, kind of up and down in depth with no normal coral wall and deep water. We swam towards the island were Johnny had the dinghy and Ez was further on swimming out to the boat. I spotted some large Trevally and just after that two sharks! They swam straight in and buzzed me. Wasn't much fun so headed straight to some shallower water where I hailed Johnny to give us a lift back to the boat. On the way back he explained his reason for taking the dinghy was the thought of sharks! I'll stick Johnny in the future I think.
Headed to Dog Island after this to snorkel the wreck there. This end of the group is really catering for the tourist. We've noticed beach restaurants on most of the small islands up here with tents and locals selling small items to the tourist.
Tomorrow we'll head over to Provenir to try and clear in and will also get some fresh lobster and provisions.
Well as it turned out they didn't want to know us in Provenir so we've headed out and will now make a fast paced trip down to Colon and the Shelter Bay Marina.
After some major rain squalls and RAIN we made it down to Colon. It was about 1:30am when we pulled into Shelter Bay. So glad to be here after the trip down the wind was so all over the place. Really crazy here with one minute from the SE and then the next from the NW at 20kts just all over the place.
Below you can see the AIS info on iPad. It shows all the shipping around us and their information, things like their destination, speed, name, length and what they are carrying are just some of the amazing things that can be obtained. Luckily most of them were at anchor!
Stay tuned next the panama canal!
The weather is looking great so we plan to head out in the morning around 10am after clearing out, having a nice big breakfast and checking the weather again.
Our passage is clear from here and is about 1,000nm straight to the San Blas islands just to the east of Colon in Panama. We hope to manage about 200nm a day or more so should be there in 4-5 days. Also hoping for a nice light downwind run all the way but we'll have to wait to see what the wind gods give us.
Below is a picture of the weather file we received today for our departure tomorrow. Looks perfect with the wind filling in from the east the further west we get.
I'll be sure to update the blog with our news and goings on as much as possible. All the best for now. Spirit.
When we arrived on Antigua we were lucky enough to find some friends still here on there boats working and getting ready to cross the Atlantic. Below is Johnny, Paco, Marc and Alex all from Mirabella 3.
Ez got in safely and we are now a full crew. It's been raining a lot over the last few days so with Ez's experience we set up the new water maker system consisting of two red buckets and our awning
Johnny having a snooze and Ez below collecting water and doing her daily exercise routine of hoola hooping...... Awesome!
Mmmmm seems like Johnny and I didn't stow well enough for Ez's trained eye. Ez sorted all the provisions out and we made some new bags to hang things from the deck heads. Looking pretty comfy down there. Consolidating all the herbs and spices so we have some more room in the galley to swing the cats around.
We have to refuel today along with picking up some more charts, flags and red wine. Also waiting on some laundry that will arrive tonight from St Maarten. We forgot about it and decided we'd let it catch up to us here. Luckily a friend is heading down tonight and bringing it with them.