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Tim and Cath's most excellent adventure
Panama to the Galapagos: day 45
03/23/2013

Well, OK its only day 5 but some times it feels a lot longer!
We're sailing through the bay of Panama towards the Galapagos in the area well known for the calm, windless days (basically the infamous Doldrums) and we have never seen a sea like it. It's totally flat, more like a marina and considerably more comfortable than many anchorages we've been in. The trip itself is about 900 miles which would normally take us around 7 days but in our first 5 days we have only covered 300 which equates to about a 15 day passage....excellent. We've got all the fuel we can carry but that only amounts to about 300 miles of motoring so we have to wait for the wind. I say "wind" it's more like someone using a hairdryer in the next room.....We're using our "ghoster" (for our non- sailing reader that's a bit like a spinnaker which is made of very light sail cloth for light airs) which helps a lot and is very pretty with blue and white stripes.......I digress..
We spend our time reading, trying to tease an extra half a knot out of the sails and Tim valiantly pursuing fish. He's even had his flashing light lures (I'm not joking) out at night but to no avail. We caught loads of fish in Las Perlas and Panama but I think here we're just going too slowly to interest any. They swim by Tim's lures and give a derisory laugh ...
We have seen lots of rays and they give us a daily exhibition of their ability to jump right out of the water, which is very dramatic to see. We've no idea why they do it but it must be down to "relationship issues" of some sort or another, or maybe they're just having a laugh.
We need to run the engine for a few hours every day as we've got the fridge and freezer on, the autopilot (not enough wind to steer using our wind steering one) and we have to make water etc etc which are all energy hungry. The solar panels make lots of power in the sun but some days it has been quite hazy so they don't produce quite so many amps. Running the engine itself uses diesel so it's a fine balance between running the engine to charge the batteries and at the same time preserving all the fuel we can to allow us to motor in tick-over just to put some miles under our keel. It improves crew morale when we have been completely stationary for a few hours just to move a little bit! However, I have to say that we're really enjoying this trip (even me!)
The night sky is just awesome. We had a BBQ last night and we sat in the cockpit surrounded by deafening silence, a flat, flat sea and a sky full of so many stars and the moon that it was quite overwhelmingly beautiful. A real treat to see.
Meanwhile we dawdle along. At night we've taken to sleeping for a bit longer at a time. Tim will fish for a bit (it's an illness you know this fishing obsession.....) and then we put the alarms on which will tell us if any boats came within 10 miles of us, and then snooze. We generally sail, or should I say drift, about 5-10 miles over night if we're lucky as it gets even calmer (if that's possible!) at nighttime. Most of the mileage is current, for which we are grateful and is why we are taking this particular route. We're nearly at the point when we "turn right" towards the Galapagos proper as the next current takes us there (Tim explained all the technical current stuff on the last blog...I hope you were concentrating.....) we turn right just past a rock called Malpelo which is just visible on google earth I think and we are currently about 30 miles away from it.
In a couple of days we'll cross the equator ...a big moment. No doubt a small tipple will celebrate this event! As we are so close to the equator the air is, not surprisingly, very hot and humid, but at about 4.30pm we can watch the decks getting damp and wet as the hot air cools over the cool water (the sea is considerably colder here than in the Caribbean and even produced some thick fog on the morning we left Las Perlas ) By the morning everything on deck is really wet but our teak deck certainly appreciates a refreshing drink each day as it gets too hot to walk on during the day.
So there you have it. A bit frustrating being so slow, but a real treat to be so comfortable on a passage. We're hoping to arrive the first week of April but we're in the hands of the wind gods. I just hope I don't finish all the books on my kindle before we arrive....
TTFN xxxx

03/23/2013 | Al
I assume you are using Satellite comms to blog at present on 3G / 4G - whatever. If needed I could email you a kindle book if that is possible?

Sounds like the days are flying by and the fish are just jumping occasionally to see who the geezer is with the rod and lures? As you say Cath it is an illness.....we have local fishermen here who sit for 2-3 days at a time and catch nothing. Tim would get on very well with them.

Rather by coincidence the kids watched a programme about the Galapagos this afternoon. Looks fascinating if you ever get there although I'm not sure if you will find a cashpoint and internet café!!!

Easter hols here now for 4 weeks - I am looking forward to having kids at home all day whilst Jane is working. Some fantastic news in that Alex achieved an Academic Scholarship to Kings Edwards, Southampton and starts there in September. Very proud Dad although it cost me a laptop and new phone for Alex as I jokingly offered both to him if he achieved such a feat.......!! Still the lower fees will mean I will get the money back eventually...yeah right!!!

I hope the currents are good to you - on the TV programme it said that the currents don't run some years - about 1 in 7 years - so remember you have oars and a dinghy - naturally Tim will have to remain at the helm whilst you row Cath (Skipper can't leave the boat). Good luck

03/23/2013 | Jane
It all sounds idyllic, if a little frustrating.

I had a very similar experience this morning when rowing on the river. Well, we had the millpond effect, but that's where similarities end. With the lack of wind came a light drizzle and 2 degrees c. But that's positively tropical...tomorrow it's due to start snowing just as we get on the water!

Tim, if it's any consolation, I didn't catch any fish either!

Galapagos sounds amazing, apart from the birds that we saw on the programme Al just mentioned. Apparently they always lay two eggs but once they hatch the biggest chick boots the smallest chick out of the nest to die, so only one ever survives. I can't remember the name of the birds, but they're quite big and white. If you see them, give them a good talking to!

Anyway we've just had a dinner quite similar to your BBQs on the deck. Only difference was the background whine of the kids moaning that's I've cooked yet another meal that they don't really like. They just managed to struggle through enough of the meal to qualify for pudding - oh joy! I might be ready to swap places with you now, Cath!

Take care

Love, Jane xxx
03/23/2013 | mum
So glad to read your blog today..Sounds like a wonderful voyage. 300 miles in 5 days seems quite a lot to me but I forget that you don't park at night!
Looking forward to meeting first great grandchild at the weekend..
The forecast at the moment is showing -4 tonight, a bitter wind again tomorrow and general misery. The garden is one big SQUELCH.
Well done to Al's son. Good to hear of success and achievement.
Much love to you bothxxx
03/24/2013 | Sue
It's still snowing here - and it's so cold they cancelled the race I was going to run today. I can almost feel the heat from yr blog Cath and to quote the young ones as well jell.
03/24/2013 | dave
The agents are very pushy when you arrive, don't hesitate to say no to the first guy who comes aboard. They will even represent themselves as the agent you are really looking for. Joseph Ortega Yepez can be reached at 593 (0) 88266046 cell or 593 52520272. He is more honest than most. Don't buy into all the crap about fuel prices, you can get it for less. Sounds like you have the right attitude to deal with it all and then once you are in FP you won't have to deal with those type of people anymore. Enjoy
03/26/2013 | Frances & Colin
You may be going slow but just think back to your voyage across earlier on your travels, this maybe boring but at least it's calm and safe.
As you have heard it is very cold back here, but the daffodils are out and trees are starting to bud so hopefully Spring is starting to spring.
Sarah is preparing for her GCSE'S and Murphy is preparing to have another sleep! We are off to Blackpool this weekend, as you have probably guessed to go to the 'Home of Football' according to Colin and take in a tacky show, should be fun. Keep safe and hopefully you get some wind soon! Ooh er Missus! Xxxxx
Day 3: in the doldrums!
03/21/2013

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
Tim
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
03/15/2013

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 minute.com 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 Australia...it 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 reader.......be 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.
XX
03/11/2013 | Al
Weather forecast was right - 1" of snow this morning - Damm the heat....ing 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
03/03/2013

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!!!!
03/02/2013

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!

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