Borta med Bengt

En resa

The week that past us!

Sunday 3 November 2019, Shelter Bay Marina, Panama

Finally we have arrived in Panama after a fast passage from Aruba. Here in Colon it rains and rains and rains as well as there are lots of thunderstorms.

We left Aruba Friday 25 October. Anchor up at 8 a.m. and a quarter later we were on our way under genua in a strong easterly wind, 20 gusting 30 knots. Bengt rolled and rolled but took up speed and left Aruba behind him. We took it easy and waited until the wind stabilized itself away from Aruba. Coffee is always welcome! Sunshine, blue skies and a blue ocean. What else?
After a few hours the wind turned out to be around 20 knots east-south-east. Wonderful tradewinds weather so we rolled out the staysail on its pole to windward. The towing generator made up to 7,5 ampere so the fridge, Elisabeth and the batteries were happy. Bengt also happy doing up to 8 knots. The cat crawled up on the Reflex-stove and slept. At sunset a large group of dolphins came to play around Bengt who was doing more than 7 knots at that time. We watched them doing all sorts of tricks and jumping over the bows.
During the night the wind increased to 35-38 knots and we rolled in the genua to half size. Going fast! The weather forecast gave 15-20 knots for our area but during the whole passage to Panama we never had the wind the NOAA gave in its forecasts. Especially the passage around Colombia can be very rough, at least according to Jimmy Cornell's book.
The weather continued being rough during Saturday. We got a plastic bag in the towing generator which got entangled in its line so we pulled it in to clear it. We also extended the line to 40 meters since the propeller surfaced when Bengt surfed down the waves (surf speed 13 knots). Otherwise Bengt was sailing steadily at 7 knots. Big waves! The wind generator is closed off during the day but we have full batteries anyway, thanks to the Aquair.
This is the forecast we receive two times a day via our SSB-radio:
Caribbean from 11N to 15N between 72W and 80W including Colombia
406 AM EDT Sat Oct 26, 2019

TODAY...E to SE winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 5 to 7 ft. Scattered
TONIGHT...NE to E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 5 to 7 ft. Scattered
SUN...E winds 15 to 25 kt. Seas 6 to 8 ft. Scattered showers.
SUN NIGHT...NE to E winds 15 to 25 kt. Seas 6 to 8 ft.
MON...E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 5 to 7 ft.
MON NIGHT...NE to E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 5 to 7 ft.
TUE...E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 5 to 7 ft.
TUE NIGHT...NE to E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 4 to 6 ft.
WED...E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 4 to 6 ft.
WED NIGHT...E winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas 4 to 6 ft.

We never had this little wind. After dinner it is Elisabeth who goes to sleep until it is my turn at around eleven p.m. I sit in the cockpit watching the waves and have a cup of coffee. Still very windy, gale force, and the seas run high. Sometimes a wave breaks very close to Bengt and for a few seconds he sails in a bed a fluorescing foam. Even if it is very pretty to look at the wave could just as well break over the aft deck and in the cockpit. One should be careful so we are always tied to the boat with our harness and line.

During the night lots of thunderstorms with spectacular lightning around us but Bengt sailed under a clear sky. The wind, around 25 knots, increased during the morning to 28-36 knots (B-8) but according to the forecast we should have no more than 25 knots. At dawn we could see that the ocean had changed colour from blue to green although it's more than 3000 meters deep here. The wind increases even more, gust of 40 knots, so we rolled in the staysail and continue under genua. During the night the staysail got two tears in its leech so we have to fix that first before rolling it out again. I did this in a 'quite moment' with some adhesive sailcloth. The patches were cut out beforehand and the sail around the tears cleaned with alcohol. The glue has to harden a few hours before rolling the sail out again but that will be no problem. More than enough wind for just the genua.

After lunch the ocean turned blue again. Big waves break close to Bengt and splash in the cockpit. Later the wind decreases to 25-30 knots and we rolled out a half staysail on its pole. The tow generator got something stuck in it so its line got entangled around the prop. We took it in to untangle it. After sunset the wind decreased even more so we got a nice start of the night. Lots of lightning over Colombia but, like yesterday, Bengt sailed under a clear and starry sky. A very hot night which made it difficult to sleep.

During Monday the wind slowly backed to the northeast and we changed course to the southwest to keep south of the shipping lanes to and from Panama. Here we stopped following the route from our weather-routing plug-in in OpenCPN since it wanted us to cross the shipping lanes a few times to take advantage of the wind. Since we have sailed much faster than anticipated we are going to have north-easterly winds almost all the way to Panama and do not have to go so far north as OpenCPN wants us to. The weather forecast is now updated and gives scattered showers and thunderstorms for our area. At afternoon coffee a rain shower passes. The watermaker makes water and we read and enjoy the fast sailing from the cockpit.
In the evening a violent thunderstorm passes ahead of us. We could see the lighting striking in the ocean. Fortunately it moved in the same direction as us. Two ships passed close by so we had to change course a few degrees to avoid 'close contact'. AIS is really good for this. The night is very dark with lightning all around. Later lots of ships pass by and the current turns against us.

The wind decreases more and more on Tuesday. No sun but rain and thunder over land. A grey and moist morning. After breakfast we started the engine for the remaining 50 miles to Colon, the wind turned to the west and decreased to 5 knots. The clock was put back one hour so now we have UTC-5 which is Panama time. Lots and lots of ships pass us coming out of the canal. We had to change course several times to avoid them. We seemed to have passes some sort of turning point and had some scary moments. One moment you have 3 miles distance to a ship and the next moment only 50 meters. Once in the inshore traffic zone it became much easier and we watched the row of ships coming out of the canal.

A few miles before the Colon breakwater we called Cristobal Signal Station on VHF 12 to get permission to enter and to proceed to the marina. It is now nearly midnight so we decided to anchor outside the marina. Slowly we pass enormous ships lying at anchor inside the big harbour. At fifteen minutes after midnight we anchor close to the marina. Two other yachts here. After a sandwich and some juice we go to bed.

We sailed 4 days and 15 hours. Average STW 5,7 knots. Max STW 8,96 knots. Max SOG 13,4 knots.
Day 1: 146 DTW, 150 DOG
Day 2: 150 DTW, 166 DOG
Day 3: 144 DTW, 149 DOG
Day 4: 130 DTW, 115 DOG (counter current)
Day 5: 76 DTW, 67 DOG (counter current)
Total distance sailed: 646 DTW, 647 DOG

Until next week!