13 January 2017 | Marina Santa Marta, Columbia South America
03 January 2017 | Airport anchorage, Aruba
02 January 2017 | Airport anchorage, Aruba
01 January 2017 | at anchor
28 December 2016 | At anchor; Spanish Water, Curacao
17 January 2016 | 17 9.01'N:62 37.81'W, Nevis
08 January 2016 | 16 56.79'N:62 26.40'W, At Sea-Bound for Nevis
04 January 2016 | 16 29.70'N:62 1.34'W, At Sea-Bound for Montserrat
02 January 2016 | 16 08.9'N:61 48.06'W, At Sea-along the Coast Guadeloupe
28 December 2015 | 15 38.84'N:61 30.62'W, At Sea-Bound for The Saintes
07 December 2015 | 15 17.51'N:61 23.05'W, Dominica
07 December 2015 | 14 46.90'N:61 13.05'W, At Sea-Bound for Domonica
02 December 2015 | 14 37.83'N:61 8.73'W, At Sea-Bound for St.Pierre
14 November 2015 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
01 October 2015 | 14 25.93'N:60 53.70'W, Sainte Anne, Martinique
On Land and Sea
25 March 2017 | Land
It was January 22 when I last posted what we were up to; at that time we were approaching Panama where we arrived about mid day on the 23rd. Hoping to make a 3 week or so stop and then be off through the canal headed for the Galapagos and points west. Cailin Lómhara is in Panama awaiting our return next Friday. We have been on land, mostly in Bradenton FL. since the end of January. The boat needed it's bottom redone as the paint applied in Curacao had failed, and we needed to visit the US to see family and get medical check ups before we departed.
We have done both. Charlene spent almost three weeks in Texas seeing family and old friends, and we along with the cats have been staying at my sister Pat's house. As the time has passed Pat has taken on some saintly characteristics in dealing with all of us. We both have visited our doctors and been poked, prodded, examined and tested. It appears that we are not facing any health issues that would pose a problem on our long passage across the Pacific. In fact we are both pretty healthy in spite of what the calendar might suggest.
The boat had her bottom redone, mostly courtesy of Sea Hawk Paints under their warranty. She is also had her varnish stripped and 7 new coats applied, has a new mainsail and new dodger (spray hood) along with some other upgrades and maintenance. She is ready!
The boat is getting older, she will be 18 in a few months and has nearly 50,000 nautical miles under her keel. That does not sound like much but the circumference of the globe is about 26,000 nautical miles. Like our bodies she needs to be cared for or she will fail us at the most inopportune time.
March 31st we fly, with the cats back to Panama. I am not going to predict exactly when we will depart but it will be as soon as possible. Through the canal, then on to the Galapagos which in and of itself is the trip of a lifetime.
From there on to the Marquesas', the easternmost islands of French Polynesia. The northern hemisphere summer will be spent there, diving, swimming, hiking and exploring many of the remote atolls and islands.
I am still exploring a Google Earth program to provide information on our route and expected times in various island groups and am now almost certain I have our automatic tracking sorted out so anyone can see our position, course and speed updated every six hours.
One last thing. The Panama Canal Authority recognizes the value of good publicity so has live web cams along the route. Once I have our transit date and time I will publish that link along with how you can watch us transit the canal. Nothing like adding pressure by asking people to watch you maneuver on live camera!............
At Sea..a calm and beautiful night
22 January 2017
Around sunset yesterday the wind had gone to virtually nothing and the seas were about 1 foot. So calm that our headsail, which we had been using to sail when there was wind and to steady the boat (i.e. keep the rolling to a minimum) when there was not enough to sail became useless so it was put away and we have been motoring in this calm sea ever since. Charlene took the early watch so I got to sleep until about 0100. When I got on deck it was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in a long while. No moon yet, so the only light was from the blanket of stars. There must have been a few clouds here and there which appeared as nothing in the sky above, no stars, no color just a patch of nothing. Though this has been a difficult passage from the sense of frustration with marinas and sailmakers and good sailing weather we could not fully take advantage of, it has still been a passage. We keep on going and will continue as long as it is fun and/or possible. Currently we are thirty eight nautical miles from the Caribbean side of the traffic separation lanes for the entrance to the Panama Canal. The closer we get the more traffic there is likely to be; it will be daylight then so it should be interesting to see the hundreds of ships either exiting the canal, entering the canal or anchored waiting their time for a transit. Just about a month from now, if all goes according to our current plan, we will be anchored in "The Flats" where private pleasure vessels wait for their appointed time. A number of different things have happened which delayed our arrival here, so we are disapointed that we have not spent the time we wanted to visiting the San Blas or Bocos del Toro areas of Panama. From what we understand, each of those are different but very special places. Timing is everything in what we do, mainly because of seasonal weather patterns. If you start across the Pacific late in the year you miss some really spectacular places simply because you are hurrying along to be far enough south to miss the Pacific hurricane season. So for now we have chosen to get the boat and ourselves ready to transit the canal the last week in February, then sail on to the Galapagos Islands as the first stop headed west to all those exotic places. I am working on a Google Earth project which if it works will allow us to post a link to Google Earth that has our expected route and when we might be in the places we intend to stop. More later
At Sea Offshore between Colombia and Panama
21 January 2017
It is 0700 as I sit down to write this. This part of the Caribbean has been described as one of the six roughest patches of ocean in the world. I have no idea if that is at all true, but I can attest to the fact that it is pretty uncomfortable. It is not so much that waves are huge, they are only (mostly)about two to three meters. It is the "mostly" that causes the discomfort. Following the formula used by virtually all weather services when waves are forecast they are using the average height of 2/3rds of the waves and generally in the footnotes we are reminded that the other 1/3 of the waves will be substantially higher. It is these big waves or swells that cause the discomfort. However, since yesterday the seas have declined to about 3-4 feet and the wind is hovering right around 20 kts, down from yesterdays high twenties and thirties.
I mention the wind and seas as we are sailing under adverse conditions, specifically with no mainsail. The fact is that our mainsail is rolled up and tied along the side deck, the boom is being held stable by preventers attached to both sides. One could reasonably ask why that was and the explanation, in all the details would take far to much time. The short version is that we had the main repaired for the third time this year when we got to Santa Marta. Though there is a nice marina with attached boatyard facilities and they offer sail repair services, the "sail technician" has his sewing machine etc. in Carthagena, a mere 100 miles away as the crow flies. Actually they promptly repaired the original tear and returned the sail a week ago. It was very windy, i.e. 25 to 35 kts. of wind so when asked, I allowed as how it might be better to wait a day or so for better conditions. So they came back Monday night about 8PM and asked about putting the sail back on the boom. It was still windy so I suggested firs t thing Tuesday morning might be be better. The next morning was nearly perfect so they went to work. No more than ten minutes before they would have completed the job, the "sail technician" left his crew and went to check on another boat they were working on. Murphy's law was working and the crew was not able to finish lashing the sail to the boom without their boss. Along came a gust of wind which proceeded to tear the entire bottom of the sail from the boom. No problem, back to (apparently the only) sewing machine in Carthagena.
All is well that ends well right? Thursday at about 1600 they returned with the re=repaired sail, properly attached it to the mast and boom and we were underway by 1730. While we were motoring out of the harbor we stowed dock lines and fenders and so right about dusk we put up the mainsail. (as an aside we always turn into the wind to raise the sail)As soon as the sail was up and secured we eased the sheet and turned to our course for Panama. While turning away from the wind the first real strain is put on the sail and BANG. The clew attachment came unsecured, which was immediately followed by the newly repaired bottom of the sail ripping away. That is why it is now lashed to the side deck. Two important points; 1. This is the short version of the story and, 2. There are many lessons to be learned from this episode, we have not sorted them all out yet but the big one is as sturdy (and expensive) as all the gear and equipment is, it does not last forever.
More lessons and more to come.
Another breezy night in Santa Marta
13 January 2017 | Marina Santa Marta, Columbia South America
It being Friday the 13th we would not leave for anywhere even if the weather was perfect. It is not. At the moment we have a steady 35kts of wind with gusts to over 40. The weather files suggest the seas are about 12-15 feet. Otherwise it is quite pleasant. One of the more interesting social aspects of being here at this time is the ARC Around the World sailing rally is here with us.
Some may recall we had considered participating in this rally (actually it was the 2016 version) and ultimately decided against participating. We thought it might be a bit too hurried for our more leisurely lifestyle and a bit rigid. More specifically, most rallies keep to a schedule and though it is not a "race" there are few sailors in this world who don't want to beat everyone they see heading in generally the same direction, thus the rally takes on some aspects of a race.
Both Charlene and I are very much in the camp that perks up when we see another sailboat, tweak the sail controls and generally try and go as fast as we can to beat whoever might be out there.
You might wonder the relevance so I shall endeavor to explain. What it really comes down to is weather and sailing conditions. Weather forecasting is far better now than it was when I was a boy, yet about 5 or 6 days out the probability that the forecast will be correct diminishes to the point that one could say in 6 days the weather at x point could be good or horrible. Add to that the idea that you are looking at weather over distance as well as time and 5 days is pretty optimistic. Rallies running on a schedule of sorts employ professional weather people to provide forecasts prior to the start of each leg. Well most of the 26 boats arrived at the marina where we are Thursday and more arrived today. Now, go back to the beginning and notice the wind speed and wave height. That has been going on here for several days, so the rally participants got to sail their last night on this leg of their trip in awful conditions. Because it is race like no one would think much about heaving to or going to an alternate destination to wait for a better set of conditions. I guess it is kind of like teenagers and peer pressure.
I am glad we decided not to participate in the rally, though we are travelling the same route my hope is we will do so a bit more comfortably.
Final night for this leg of our voyage
06 January 2017
Every passage has a final night at sea and for this leg of our trip tonight is it. Rather unusual for us is we are attempting to sail slowly, as we much prefer to enter a strange and new harbor during daylight. When planning a passage we always take into account what our likely arrival time will be in order to depart early or late enough to pretty much assure us of a daytime arrival. There were a few reasons for this one being a bit more difficult to calculate. The easy one is Columbia lies in a different time zone than we have been, i.e. we were on Atlantic Standard Time and Columbia is on Eastern Standard Time. Yesterday I found it a bit strange that sunrise did not happen until a little after 0700 (by my watch) Today it will be at 0617 now that all the clocks and systems have been adjusted. We could have departed a couple of hours later with no problems. The second issue that made the planning unusual for this passage is that I am trying a new weather routing program, which has some similarities to a Chinese restaurant menu, way too many choices. The weather program I have been using (and will continue)is operated by OCENS and they provide an incredible array of traditional weather products that are static views of what weather feature you choose, for what area and time period. Generally they way I have used that is to find suitible weather along a route I have determined. The program I am trying out uses four well known weather models and, based on input about your preferences and boat performance it provides four detailed routes to choose from. Since they are also forecasts, it is not as simple as saying I will pick route x and follow it. The idea is to find a time when all the models are in reasonably close agreement then build your own route from that. The neat thing is that every 12 hours I can get an email with an updated forecast based on where I am at then, so as weather changes you can get up to date information on how to change your route or what conditions to expect. The OCENS program will do the same type of thing except I have to do all the work of comparing original forecasts to newer ones etc. Anyway, for this passage I am trying it out and so far I like it a lot. It will take more use to become totally comfortable so we shall see. Incidentally, the bottom right hand side of the blog page has a link to the Predict Wind tracking program. It was working whe n we left, but I need internet access to see if it has been working throughout the trip. Finally, I was off watch catching some zzs when Charlene woke me to let me know we had a new tear in out mainsail. Fortunately it was low on the sail so I could reef the sail sufficiently to protect it from further damage. The really bad news is that is number 3 in less than 6 months suggesting a new mainsail is in order really soon. More later...
About the repairs and other stuff....
03 January 2017 | Airport anchorage, Aruba
The repair to the traveler block went very smoothly and quickly. As I had thought there was a new Harken block (a spare of the broken one) in with my box of blocks, pins, shackles and other assorted pieces of gear I have been carrying aboard various boats of mine since 1973. Last year I did get rid of some of the bronze stuff from my first boat which was wood and bronze. The only difficulty today was in unpacking about a third of the forward sail locker to get at the box with the spares. So all is done and my shopping list includes buying another spare block.
I added a new photo album with a picture of the broken block (for some of us that stuff is interesting) along with a photo of the finished repair.
Some might wonder why we are still anchored in Aruba if it was such an easy job. The honest answer is free very fast internet, courtesy of Marriott Rewards. We have been paying unholy sums for pretty slow connections so this was a chance to catch up on some stuff. Besides we are wimps at heart and it was raining all day, so we decided we could stay dry, surf the net until we wore out our fingers and leave tomorrow morning