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.