07 May 2013 | Ecuador
The Night Watch at 01.00 am. 28.-4.-2013.
I am on watch and it is one of our last nights at sea before we reach Puerto Amistad in Ecuador. We are coasting along in balmy moon light. Later today we will cross the equator. What an exciting thought! But I have just killed a cockroach! Ugh!
We left Panama last Sunday morning and have been at sea all of this week. We have had an amazing sail, even if we have motored part of the way. It took a few days to get out of the Gulf of Panama due to shortage of wind and the Hobolt Currant going north-west. It has been hot and the fans have been on inside the boat both day and night. The sun is baking hot, but for some of the time we have had a nice cloud cover. Two days age we went through the doldrums, as we had little to no wind and confused motion of the sea. Daily we have had electrical storms with thunder and lightening. Two days running David got himself soaked in huge down- pours of rain. Yesterday the rain storm lasted several hours and the wind which followed managed to correct our course back along our rhumb-line. The el-storms took out our navigation instruments twice. It was bad loosing the wind indicator, which gives both direction and wind strength. It took a long time before it got back to work. Yesterday the el-storm was so near that we turned off all instruments including AIS, VHF, SSB, GPS and radar while it lasted. It was a quite frightening. El-storms and heavy rain are typical to the tropics.
Passing along the coast of Columbia we were over 100 NM from the shore. We had been warned not the go to Columbia due to the tensions there and cautioned against piracy, drug-trafficking, loose guns and crime generally. Our insurance had disallowed landing there. I am really sorry about all this, as I am just reading a book about the indigenous (Indians) people in the rain forest on the shore in there. I reckoned it would be well worth visiting and very exciting. The Columbian rain forest is the second largest in the world, and its people are friendly and very clever at basket weaving. They live in houses on stilts along the rivers, and connect with each other in their dug-out canoes.
Sailing in big seas is tiring, as you move all the time just to keep balance. It takes a few days to get used to interrupted rest pattern, with three hours watch and three hours sleep at the time. One night David went off watch in the middle of the night saying: “Here’s a bit of excitement for you: ‘We have no compass light and there is a big tanker 18 Miles away ‘not under command’. Have fun! Steer by the Southern Cross! Good night.”….. “Many thanks, David”. I managed though, no problems.
Doing chores in the galley you have to plan what you are doing more carefully than normal. In heavy seas there is never a still place. The whole boat is in motion! Doing such a simple task as making a coffee for two people is not straight forward at all. It is a challenge! The stove is on the gimble, so the kettle is level, but cups, milk and coffee can not be put down, as it might spill, move and break. So far so good. Only once did an accident happen I cooked beans and left the Tupperware container on the stove - lit off- to cool before refrigerating. When I came back after my sleep, David had tacked in rough seas and believe me, half of the beans were on the stove…… silly jumping beans! Otherwise, no damage has happened during this passage. Well, during a rain storm, our bed in the stern cabin got very wet. One of the catches to a hatch was broken and fresh rain water came in from above. In Panama at the Playita anchorage we got soaked by seawater three times through those hatches. The supply- and pilot boats to the canal traffic went through the anchorage without any consideration or thoughts for the boats at anchor. They were doing much more than the permitted 5 knots per hour amongst about 50 yachts at anchor. Bloody-minded Panamanians! I had to wash the salt water out of all our bed linen three times. Chores like that is such a struggle in the heat! I had to strip the bed, transport the wet bedding in the dinghy to shore, take a bus to the Balboa Yacht club two miles away, use the washing machines, transport it all back to the boat again, hang it all up to dry on the boat to dry, and put it all back. Draining and exhausting tasks, believe you me!
A week seems just the right length of time for keeping food fresh in the tropics when you don’t have a freezer. Well, we have one, but it needs to be fixed, so I use it for cool storage for vegetables bread and chocolate. Before leaving Panama I bought meat, chicken, cheese and eggs. Meat and chicken kept well in the fridge but I always give it a ‘sniff-test’ before cooking and eating. Eggs get turned every day and checked for breakage.
It is mango season right now. Trees are laiden with these beautiful fruits everywhere, and the ground underneath is covered with them and nobody takes them!. Before we left Panama I collected two big carrier bags with mangoes, probably 100 altogether, and we have lived on them all the way from Panama to Ecuador. Wonderful!