On Passage... What do We Do All Day?
01/27/2009, Closing in on Ecuadorian Coastline
Right now we are sitting a couple of hundred miles off the Columbian / Ecuadorian border. We have a spinnaker up and are making good time on a nice even downhill run (wind coming from behind) - averaging about 6kts in 8kts of breeze (we did just hit 9.6kts doing a little wave surfing!). Yesterday was a bit of different story, we were on a beam reach (wind coming from the side) in 15 - 20kts of breeze and doing around 7kts - 8kts but with pretty lumpy seas - between 6-8 feet and pretty close together. We made great time but its not that comfortable. Jeff has had a couple of bouts of seasickness, yesterday being the worst for him, poor bugger, it sure didn't look like much fun. So, while he slept, I kept watch, read my book and dodged rouge waves coming over the side.. only once every couple of hours and just when I wasnt looking, both me and my poor book got drenched once. It was a long day for both of us in different ways but he is over it today and I've had a good sleep so we are back to feeling as normal as you can on a passage.
So what do we do all day on passage? Sure not much to look at out here, right now we havent seen land since we left the Panama Islands on Sunday and its Tuesday morning. We probably wont see land again until Thursday as we make our approach into Ecuador. We have settled into a pattern of sleep shifts from 9 or 10pm - 3am and then 3am - 8 or 9am. The longer watch times seem to give us both a chance to get one solid sleep a day, which helps to keep you feeling normal. We both also usually take at least a couple of hours off during the day to rest, read, nap, whatever. And of course we cook, we try and make sure we have a good dinner together each day - weather permitting, sometimes its just not possible to get a full meal going - its not that much fun cooking at a 15 degree heel. Funny thing is that you end up spending a lot of time alone or sleeping - more than you would think in such a confined space. Speaking of confined space, we always start off super clean and end up looking super messy - I cant exactly say why - but thats just what happens, it's mainly clothes, books and gear that we need access to that you want to be able to get at quickly without waking the other person up. I given up trying to sort it out, we just try and make sure the kitchen / bathroom is always clean.
Night watch is the hardest - right now there is no moon to speak of so its very dark and we are currently crossing the ITCZ so its very overcast and cloudy, not even stars to look at. During night watch we will watch DVD's, read, keep the boat moving along and of course look out for other traffic (it is after all called a watch). Some nights you will see nothing, other times there will be lots of other traffic around but that is generally when you are closer to shore than we are right now. Last night around 3am just as I was getting ready to come off watch and get some sleep - yay - I saw a light off in the distance on our port side. We were just passing a Columbian Island about 30 miles to our starboard that I had read you had to give 10 miles berth, so we were OK (I think its a prison but I'm not sure - lots of countries seem to like using Islands as prisons I guess its pretty hard to escape in the middle of the Pacific). I figured it was just a tanker, thats mainly what we see out here and they move quick - in and out of your sight line in sometimes as little as 30 minutes. Jeff was up on deck and I was getting ready for bed when our VHF radio started to get some chatter on it on various channels - 14, 23... We monitor our VHF when we are on passage, but usually only respond to 16 (which is the hailing channel used all over), especially at night off the Columbian coast! We were pretty sure that the other boat was trying to contact us since the range for VHF is only 20 miles and we havent seen another boat for 2 days, but the calls were in Spanish, so we decided to wait to see what would happen. Finally a call came through on 16, once again in Spanish. Jeff responded in a mixture of Spanish / English and it turns out to the be Columbian Coast Guard, checking to see who we are and what we are doing out here in the middle of nowhere... We let them know who we were and they seems satisfied with that and headed off back towards the Island they were patrolling. Whew, you just never know out here.
Spider Monkey, who sees who?
01/24/2009, Isla de Coiba, Panama
So during our hike we heard a racket in the trees above the trail. We couldn't see thru the cover, so we decided to sit still on a fallen log for a few minutes to see what would happen.
Here are are looking to the left, up the hill, when suddenly movement happens in the Mangrove flats to our right! Two spider monkeys start to rustle around.... I move to take some photos and it's a who see's who moment... i'm bobbing a weaving to get a shot, and the monkey is bobbing and weaving to see what and who we are... classic... almost like looking in a mirror, but from the shot, i think you'll agree he was MUCH cuter ... love the wildlife when you sit down and let it come to you!
Face to face.... CRICKEY MATE!!!!!
01/24/2009, Isla de Coiba, Panama
So hear i am... floating next to the dingy in 25 feet of water, looking down at the prop sitting on the bottom... but that's not all that's down there... within 10' of the prop are 5 Nurse sharks.... most about 5-8 feet long.... I know I might have some size distortion, but I know the size of the prop is 8" and one of the sharks swam over to see if the prop was edible... and it's head was easily 2.5x the size of the prop... so 18 to 20" head on the shark... that would let it be 5-8 feet (if you don't know, Nurse sharks are mostly harmless to people and mainly seem to be sluggish, able to sit on the bottom without swimming)... There are also some large 3-4 foot Jack Mackerels swimming around about ten feet down.. just seems like all the fish are big here!
So decision time.... do i leave the prop, or quickly go retrieve it. I take a few breaths and watch the sharks just sitting there... I can't believe that so many are just right there.. under our boat! just sitting there hanging out... ARRGGHH! I'm not afraid of sharks, per say, but do have a health respect for them... Marko and I dove with Sharks in Florida, and have video to prove it ... and I've dove with Nurse sharks in Belize... so knowing that, should be ok to go grab the prop....
I take one last breath and plunge down.. I have my dive light in my right hand... and quickly get down to the prop... the sharks are behind me... and I grab the prop while swimming on a bit further... there is another object on the ground about 4 feet away from where the prop landed... I don't know what dropped off the outboard, so i grab it... it's a small cylinder... there seems to be a nut in the mud/sand and i grab but miss it.... as i turn to drop back down, as i came up a foot .. i quickly glance back at the sharks and there is one six feet away and slowly swimming over!... it decided to come over and see what i was doing.... i jerk upright and shoot to the surface with bubbles left far behind... bummer is, i drop my flashlight in surprise of seeing the shark a few feet away! DAMN!....
So i break the surface and toss the prop and the second item into the dingy... turns out the second item was an old tin can... not related to the motor at all! BUGGER! There lies my dive flashlight.... stabbing a beam of light 15 feet, and sitting on the bottom! ARRGGHH! It is really getting close to losing the last of our daylight now.... I glance down and see that the commotion has moved the sharks away.... hmmmmm should i? I tell Kirsty what I see.... she thinks i'm nuts, period... being slightly shark-phobic, she would not even be in the water at this point... So i take a few more breaths and tell myself a Nurse shark isn't going to be keeping my dive light... one more quick breath and down i go....
I sprint straight down and grab the light... about five feet from the light i was struggling with my breath... i should have calmed down a few seconds longer and took a few more breaths, but it's ok, i have the light... as i grab it.. i twist to the right to start up... and what do i see bearing down on me...four feet away... a bigger SHARK... and this one starts as i jerk vertical! I doesn't look like a nurse shark from the quick glance as it dodges to the side.... with leg burning strokes i push for the surface... i'm not sticking around to see what it was! Kirsty said she was sitting up on the boat... watching the bubbles and wondering what to do if they stopped! But then she saw the light and me come shooting up fast as! The light gets thrown in the boat and I tumble in after it!....
I lay in the floor of Bongo, breathing heavily for a few minutes and realize what had just happened.... The Nurse sharks were down there hanging out.. but so was another shark... when the nurse scattered after the first dive, I assumed it was just them swimming around to reposition themselves... but a different shark was also in the mix... when I went down for the light.. it was near and decided to look me over... i've heard the most sharks have prey that is horizontal... so when i jerked up vertical, it might have started the shark... maybe i wasn't soo interesting... but i'll tell you it gave me a start!
Wow... so i check the prop and see the the prop pin didn't shear, but the whole prop shaft was twisted and failed, hence why the prop fell off. Talk about excitement for the night!... With all the fish around, we eat dinner and talk about my brush with the shark... we bought a green LED fish light that floats on the water, but only tried it once.... we get that out and string it at the end of our fishing pole to hold it away from the boat... and with no moon it works pretty darn good! Hundreds of fish are swimming in thru the light! 3-4 foot Jacks, and a bunch of others that we can't pick out by the shape... a few smaller sharks drift by, moving in there slow and graceful movements... We finish our celebration Margaritas watching the fish swim round and round....
but I know.... the big ones are at the bottom....
j "shark bait" T
Deserted White Sand Beach.... and props to the dingy...
01/24/2009, Isla Pargo to Isla de Coiba, Panama
So we have a bumpy night anchored at Isla Pargo of the Islas Secas group in Northern Panama. We sailed in under S-SE winds and just got there by sunset... just enough time to anchor before BBQing hamburgers and Mom's Pork and Bean recipe (from memory, so Mom, you can go ahead and email the real one ) They where GOOD! About dinner time, the wind shifts to the NW... Just in the gap between islands!... so we start to rock and bump all night... no big deal, but I was up several times checking the anchor and surveying the scene... it is a dark moon, so nights are particularly dark over the last few....
Morning came quick, but it was time to get up and hit the island for a hike... it was a pretty island.. palms on the white sand beach, deserted, just beautiful! We found a path that was listed in the Rain's Guide book and followed it over the island to the far side... it was a good 40 minutes.... and a major bummer was Kirsty breaking first one then the other of her Croc flip-flops! We put on a emergency Chums sunglass leash for her to be able to walk with the first broken one. She has been loving these thongs, but only lasting 3-4 months is a major bummer... she will email Croc and see what they will do about it... Funny thing is, on the far beach, the second one broke... and wouldn't you know it, but there was a bunch of trash that washed up on that side of the island... within 20 feet of Kirsty were two thongs that kinda fit, enough to get back to Bongo (the dingy). Trash with a new use!.. talk about lucky and convenient!
After the hike, we grabbed our snorkels and went to the closest reef (about 200 yards from the boat) The water was finally as clear as Baja.... and this was the best snorkel since Baja! Lots of fish. Good corral... a lobster hiding in a rock cleft... a black and white sea snake searching the corral for dinner... some huge and colorful parrot fish... the every present King Angel fish.. like i said, lots of fish :)
So we finished and got underway about 12:30pm. Off for Isla de Coiba, about 25 miles away.... This is the biggest island in Central America and is a National Park, we are hoping for a guided hike tomorrow morning. The sail over was amazing... we had 8-12 knots of wind on our Starboard beam (one of the best and fastest points of sail - when the wind is hitting at 90 degrees to the direction the boat is moving). We were hauling ass! 6's and 7's on a flat sea... brilliant sunshine... perfect! As we approached Isla de Coiba, I was helming and the sea was also starting to build from our Starboard, rear, quarter... so we were getting some surfing in... hit 8.3 on the GPS... as our log is off in LA being repaired, I had to rely on the GPS for the speed... what a sail... so we pulled into the anchorage right near the big ranger station.... big mountains on the island... clear water, so we dropped the hook in 25 feet of water... we had the dingy on the rear davit's (mounting brackets on the back of the yacht), which we rarely do, so we decided to pop over to the ranger station and see about getting some info for tomorrow....
Just as we are pulling away from the boat, i feel a "clunk" from the 5hp Honda outboard... "Damn" I think, we just sheared a prop pin... I tilt up the motor to check, as Kirsty grabs the side of Nemesis to pull us back over... and there is NO PROP on the outboard... the whole thing just dropped in the water! I holler for Kirsty to grab my snorkel as I strip out of my shirt, hat and sunnies... she hands me my snorkel and fins and jumps below to grab my dive light... the sun is just setting, so i know we only have a few minutes before it's too dark to see the prop and retrieve it... Kirsty tries a lanyard on the flashlight, but it's too big for the lanyard hole, so i grab the light and jump in the water... as soon as I'm in the water the my first response is "HOLY SHIT!!!!"... i sputter above water and holler to Kirsty, "I see the prop... BUT..."
CONTINUED NEXT BLOG....
Panama Islands Stopover - Enroute to Ecuador
01/24/2009, Islas Secas, Panama
As we set out from Gofildo on Thursday afternoon we had our first real tropical storm, the wind died out, the sky went grey and it poured down for a few hours. I had to get my wet weather gear out, which seems a little weird here in the tropics, but its the only way to keep warm and dry. It was a sauna as soon as the rain stopped! We decided to cruise along the Panama Coast to get to Ecuador, get a little peak at Panama even if we dont have enough time to explore much, because we had been told they are beautiful.
We arrived into the first of the Panama Islands - Isla Parida - on Friday morning and anchored off a white sandy beach surrounded by palm trees and rainforest, yep they are pretty amazing. A couple of other sailboats were in the bay enjoying the view as well. We had plans to have breakfast and then do some snorkeling, but somehow boat projects got in the way and before we knew it we were patching up Bongo - he has sprung a leak and cleaning the hull... That took a few hours and we wanted to overnight in a group of Islands about 20 miles further along the coast so we pulled up anchor and cruised around the Island for a better look. Lots of rocks around, which make for great scenery but you have to be pretty careful navigating around them.
One thing we have noticed is that the closer to the Equator we get the less wind there is, it looks like we will be doing some motoring over to Ecuador. We motored to our overnight stay at Isla Secas arriving just as night was falling and find they are also beautiful. We are the only ones here and have a private beach view form the cockpit. We have taken some pics and will post them when we get to an Internet connection in Ecuador. Of course the wind decided to blow up overnight and we had somewhat of an rolly nights sleep and right now just as the sun has come up and we are enjoying morning coffee and the view, the wind has dropped out again... ahh the wind, the most unpredictable part of our trip!