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Tim and Cath's most excellent adventure
Day 3: in the doldrums!

We are currently 3 days out of the Las Perlas Islands, heading south from Panama on our way to the Galapagos. We're making a southern dog-leg to stay in a favourable south-bound current and in the hope of picking up the west-bound arm of the Humboldt current to help us towards the Galapagos Islands, when we turn right towards them in a few days. There are also supposed to be fairer winds a bit further south. No sign of them yet though.

This is a new one for the Great Ship - clear sky interspersed with periods of muggy overcast and mist, long periods of calm, light breezes now and then from random directions and a flat, oily-looking sea. Classic doldrums conditions. We're obviously worried about cabin fever given slow progress and the 900 mile passage looking like it will extend to 15 days or more. We are not carrying enough diesel to make motoring a sensible proposition, so are having to make best use of the wind whenever it appears. However, so far, we are enjoying living at sea on a completely horizontal and steady boat. Feels like a catamaran, only thinner!

We couldn't get a reply from any of the Galapagos ship agents which you have to use to get clearance to stay in the Islands for a tourist visit. We'll try again when we get closer and they may want our money more: there are outrageous charges for harbour dues, clearance fees, agent fees, national park fees, rubbish disposal fees and a whole list of other stuff, so they should be keen to start milking us. We'll just have to smile and pay, to be able to see the amazing wildlife. This landfall will be one of the highlights of the trip and is a moment I've always dreamed about, so we're planning to try not to let bureaucracy spoil it. We'll see what first contact with the agents brings!

03/22/2013 | mum
Sounds very Ancient Mariner to me! Sounds boring but safe to me as opposed to active but dangerous. I know my preference for you! Very frustrating, though, when you want to get on. Keep writing the blog often..We check it every day. xx
03/22/2013 | Al
Put your slave in the dinghy and get her to tow you for a few hours each day.......
03/22/2013 | Pierre & Hazel
Oh, SHUT UP!!!!! There you go again - rabbitting on about calm seas, blue skies, warm weather and idyllic environments. You want to be back here, chums. Half the country is under snow and blizzard conditions whilst the rest of the UK is flooded once more! The budget has been a DISASTER and as you can probably guess, we are thoroughly depressed! So PLEASE try to be a little bit more understanding with your sitreps and let us have some less than joyous info so we do not feel such under-privileged mortals! In short, it's alright for some, innit it? Got a couple of spare berths? Take care, you lucky people. xx
Today's office: Restaurant Romantico, Isla Contadora, Las Perlas Islands, Bay of Panama

The Great Ship Helena May is fourth from the right of the pillar, feeling at home in the cooler tidal waters of this part of the Pacific. The sea is green with plankton bloom and is literally teeming with fish and patrolled by squadrons of gannets and pelicans. Have caught fish every day (although nothing large enough to photo and blog!). The skipjack tuna round here are like oversized mackerel - they are suicidally keen to jump on a hook. Caught 2 together on a double hooked lure which was almost as big as each of them! Freezer at the moment full, but I have good hopes for large game fish between here and the Galapagos.

We're planning to set off in a day or two - it's about 900 miles to the Galapagos, and we're expecting a slow trip. The winds are generally light and fluky all the way, and the Galapagos themselves are on the equator just on the edge of the doldrums. We'll cross the line just before making landfall, so Cath and I will take it in turns to dress up as Old Father Neptune and dunk the other in celebration of crossing into the southern hemisphere. Don't worry, blog photos will be mandatory!

03/15/2013 | Al
Might be Northerlies for a few days at 8-15 knts - make the most of it! I see the photo was taken in a dark area thus hiding Cath's hair - probably wise so as not to shock 'dear reader'.... enjoy the 'short ish hop' and look forward to next blog + fotos.....
03/16/2013 | mum
Thanks for message and pic....what is a bimini?
03/17/2013 | Sue
Blimey - just through Panama Canal and soon to be en route for the Galapagos! It's the stuff of dreams - enjoy every moment. It snowed here again today! !
03/18/2013 | Ally
Hoi there - omg - the galapagos jel ! enjoy ! We were so taken with your sunny photos and SOOOO fed up with the cold and rain here so just have booked last to s. tenerife.
You left without us !!
enjoy! ps us true blondes must stick together ! xxxxxxx go safe xxxxxxxxx
03/18/2013 | Frances and Colin
Hi we have just seen your videos and it was lovely to hear your voices again! You look well and seemed to be having a great time. Looking at your latest photos Cathy you must tell me do blondes have more fun? You two are truly inspirational what you have achieved! Lots of love and take care xxxx
Panama update
03/07/2013, The Bar

Panama update....
Just a quick ditty. Since we left Port Solent we've done 7000 miles and have got about another 8000 to get to may be 6000 in a straight line  but we're stopping every now and then and there is a definite right or left turn at Tahiti, depending on whether we take the north or south route. So many difficult decisions to make...
Yes.....I am now officially blond...not out of choice but the sun and sea has finally got me. I feel light and frivolous and slightly vague at times ....but come to think of it I was a bit like that before ...? It'll be time for my roots again soon dear very afraid, I am....
We're anchored off La Playita and will be here until early next week. There's a party with free food and beer on Saturday afternoon so it would be churlish to leave before! It's being sponsored by the Puddle Jumpers (ie jumping across the Pacific) and they run rallies and get togethers for mostly the US market, a bit like the ARC for the Brits. Anyway, representatives from the Galapagos tourist board will be there to give advice on permits and cruising visas so it will be well worth dropping in. It's being held in the Balboa Yacht Club, where I'm sitting at the moment overlooking the canal just below the last of the locks and watching the vast ships move down the canal and out into the Pacific. 
We had to come here to "checkout" via immigration today - a complete joke but at least this time it was free! A small man in a uniform hidden in a room behind the toilets where he stamped our passports. I'll tell you the whole story when we're home safe .....all somewhat dodgy! 
When we leave here we're going to Las Perlas islands for a week or so. A group of beautiful unspoilt islands only 40 miles away. It will be nice to get some swimming and snorkelling in after the hustle and bustle of Panama ( It feels a bit like Miami Vice here which is why we've been watching the videos Jase in the evenings!) Then we leave for the Galapagos, which should in theory take about a week but the area is notorious for flat clams so will most likely take longer. I've topped up my kindle so am preparing for a slow passage but I'll happily take that instead of a wild one! 
We recognise most boats around us now, other than the US and Canadian boats which have come down the west coast of the states, as the other boats have all come out of Shelter Bay Marina. Nearly all of those going west will be at the puddle jumpers doo which will be fun. Its half price pizza and beer tonight in the local bar (you'd like that Chris!) so a whole load of yotties are gathering for that. 
Anyway, must dash. Will update before we leave. I hope spring  is beginning to spring .... Still 34c here some days ..damn the heat........!
TTFN xxx

03/08/2013 | Al
Temp forecast to be 34'C here to - errr missed the decimal point. 3.4'C by Sunday and -2'C by Monday with Snow. Bet you wish you were here.

You are approaching the part of your trip that I think will make it all worthwhile (Galapagos) Hope to see some photos of the Gigantic Turtles...... Tim you might catch some beautiful looking fish.......!

Anyway summer is just over the horizon here whilst your winter is approaching. I wonder who will get more rain......??
03/10/2013 | Jase, Son, Soph & Harri
Thanks for the txts while we were skiing.
Soph has spent the week doing off piste ski lessons complete with full avalanche kit. Harri now full parallel skiing and doing blacks with us - at speed!
For the first time, we now have a blinding set of photos of us skiing - taken by Jerry with a super duper camera at 10 frames per second- which are really excellent and will be blown up into a montage.
Tim - are you now a fan of 'blonde totty'? I ask as your wife has clearly undertaken a metamorphosis!!
Give us a call when you can.
03/11/2013 | Al
Weather forecast was right - 1" of snow this morning - Damm the bills !!!!

Boat coming out of garage for first time this weekend after a six month lay off - gonna be cold and windy. Suddenly your part of the world looks attractive.
Current position

Just re-anchored with more scope and a second anchor, to stay safe in the 30knots-and-forecast-to-rise wind. We are in an anchorage at the end of a little causeway that leads off the Panama City waterfront. Can't see the masses of skyscrapers from here, but this view is towards Panama City..

03/04/2013 | Al
OMG its working..........6 days without being able to leave a comment. In that time your hair has gone really blonde Cath, Tim looks completely relaxed and not looking where he is going, and Eric (the handler) looks like he wasn't needed.

Anyway now that you have made it into the Pacific you only have 6000 miles to Oz by which time Cath you will so blonde and so tanned you will fit in nicely with "Sheila".
03/04/2013 | paulette &frans
WOW !!! We're sooo jealous..
You look so relaxed and joyful-glad to hear all is going as planned and some even better than expected.
Frans is off to Indonesia tomorrow for 6 weeks as I man the home ship alone.
No more exciting news to share.
Enjoying your blog.
03/06/2013 | Dave Goodhand
Many congratulations! In the Pacific - awesome! Am following your progress with a twinge of jealousy - bet you're missing SMI, Tim! ;-) For your info - go live all good, no major issues!
Good luck with the next step of the journey - looking forward to reading about it all!
All the best!
We're in the Pacific!!!!

We made it through the canal with many, many laughs with our friends off More Joy, Ean and Jane - and, weirdly, no incidents! Not even a teeny weeny scrape, grounding or bump. Of course that's all down to the team: I just held the wheel and did what the pilot told me I had to (which was very little, so not enough chances to cause an incident). Meanwhile, Cath, Jane, Ean and our professional line handler Eric, did all the work catching the heaving lines tossed to them from the top of the locks and then manhandled the 50m lengths of 7/8ths inch polypropylene ropes which kept us safely centred in the massive chambers. We shared the first flight of locks in the dark yesterday evening with a huge tanker, then picked up a buoy in the Gatun Lake for the night, then came down the last 2 flights of locks into the Pacific this morning. Still hard to believe we've actually done it - but the photos seem to prove it!

PS: what was not surprising was that it was overcast and raining when we came out of the last lock and got our first sight of Pacific water. Yeah, right, Pacific - it was blowing 30 knots!

As I said, everything went without a hitch

The gates of the lock into the Pacific were just opening as this was taken. No crashes, no arguments and laugh after laugh after laugh!

03/04/2013 | Al
Love is in the air - it won't last long!!
03/07/2013 | Pierre & Hazel
Cor Blimey! Who is the stunning blonde, Tim and where did you find her? You rascal you!!!!!

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