|Vessel Name:||Rocket Science|
|Vessel Make/Model:||Custom carbon fiber 55' NA Paul Bieker|
|Hailing Port:||Juneau, Alaska|
|Crew:||Ryan, Naomi & Phil Moritz, Lisa Kirsch, Wade Loofbourow, McKie Campbell, Barbara Campbell, Nguyen Le|
San Jose's waters were too murky to snorkel so we went for a dinghy ride and a beach stroll. Too many croc's to go for a mangrove walk(worse than bears in Alaska) so we decided to spend our too precious lay days on Coiba. We left San Jose the next morning on the 6th and sailed through the night to arrive in Coiba at 5pm on the 7th of Nov., about 300 miles of actual sailing against almost 4 kts of current at times. No wind for the first twelve hours added to our enjoyment only to be upstaged by having to alter coarse for ten or twelve miles of unattended drift net which left us heading back to Jan Jose Island and two wasted hours. Several more of them made us wonder what we would run into that night. Ship's are bad enough. The trip had significant ship's traffic to the extent that Mark and Alan came about in the middle of the night with seven ships in close proximity, some apparently unaware of our presents.A good exit plan is always nice. The good news is that Mark's fishing has been superb with a large Ahi tuna and a significant dolphin ( a fish, not mammal) in a total fishing time of 8 minutes. The barbeque will be going shortly. We will stay on Coiba for two days before heading to Golfito to go on a several day Volcano hike in Costa Rica. Coiba has reported incredible snorkeling, surfing and nature hiking. A former penal colony, the ECO crowd has moved in after the prisoners were removed (we hope) in the last eight or so years. Four species of monkeys, many fresh water croc,s, and zillions of birds including Crimson McCaws. Pretty cool. Got to go to celebrate Obama's victory again ( tomorrow night also).
Nights are often more of a thrill than you bargain for. We had a squall just before dark with 25 kts of breeze, so put in two reefs to lessen the excitement through the night. Mark and I got some sleep for a few hours with Bob Swangard and Jamie McClelland on watch. I did not know that they were hit by another squall, this time topping at 35 kts. I guess I just assumed that the watch was uneventful since nothing was mentioned during the transition. Within an hour of Mark and my watch at 1 AM, we could see some weather coming at us on radar. I felt comfortable with the 2 reefs but somehow the boat was not responding well. I checked the duel rudder linkage (draglinks) and all seemed to be in order. The winds suddenly built and an intense lightning storm evolved with winds topping at 55 kts. The rudders stalled and we swung to weather (towards the wind) with significant weather helm. We were now on our ears as Mark released some main sheet and I pumped the rudder to redevelop l ift. Rocket Science slowly responded and we settled down wind with speeds of around 18 kts. The wind didn't dissipate for about 45 minutes and left us with minimal breeze with a switch of direction by clocking 100 degrees. This would normally seem to be a cold front if it were in northern latitude, but was probably an intense low pressure caused by the heat over Columbia. The forecast had been for diminished winds. To end the suspense, when we got into Panama, we found that the sail locker had filled with water when a new bilge pump failed. This caused a significant weight shift with consequential heavier weather helm. When sailing in heavy weather, ones hands and mind are filled and little effort is left for worry. Bob and Jamie were off shift so had plenty of time to imagine the effects of such a storm. Sleep was not their priority. The morning brought more rain as we neared the breakwater of Colon and the beginning of the Panama Canal. We doused our sails and started the engine. If the night T-Cell hadn't been enough, the engine faltered at the breakwater with a ship bearing down on our stern. I lowered the RPM and made it to the Panama Canal Yacht Club, a older structure surrounded in razor wire and firm warnings not to leave the complex, except by taxi. A drive through the town showed an area more reflective of poverty and fear, a veritable war zone. Meals in the Colon area were only on the boat or in the marina. Our agent came through with our customs, immigration, and transit schedule. We spent two days preparing the boat for the admeasurement, the transit with 12 covered tires and numerous fenders, 4 heavy 125 ft. lines, food preparation for ourselves, Stan and Nancy Barge from Juneau, our paid line handler, and for the onboard marine advisors. The advisor came onboard during our approach to the canal (at night in the rain) by launch and departed at Lake Gatun' at about 12:30 AM. I was advised that an American boat (actually French Canadian) would be rafting to us for the transit. We tied up just before the canal with Rocket Science the maneuvering vessel. Slowly I centered into the canal with the four canal line handlers throwing us monkey fists and the two boats responsible for two outboard lines each. The canal handlers then placed our lines on bollards and it was then up to us to bring in the lines as the water rose and the reverse as we were dropping on the other side of the canal. We secured to a mooring buoy at about 12:30 AM, drank wine and barbequed until 2:00AM and then motored Gatun' lake to the Pedro Miquel locks to drop into the Pacific. All went without mishaps and we were movie stars to boot, since all is recorded live for the internet. Tying up at Flamenco Marina is all about money, (about $150 per night) but a nice marina and a good drop off for Drs. Bob Swangard and Jamie McClellen and pick up for Alan McPherson. We therefore had a little added incentive to push on about two pm after clearing out of Panama with our exit Zarpe, agriculture clearance( had to keep Mark from gardening), customs inspection, entrance and exit of Panama City, stamped exits on our passports, etc. A pile of official papers is of very little significance, unless of coarse you don't have them. It is mainly about money, but that is of little surprise. The transit costs about $3500 and is worth it for the experience as long as it remains safe and the boat in not damaged. We are presently on San Jose Island in the Las Perlas Islands and will take off on the 7th for Coiba. Had a great sail over in about 18kts of wind. Mark caught a good size dolphin fish with a handline of the stern of the boat. Fish tacos for dinner! We dropped anchor by 1pm and Mark had the dingy inflated, engine within a half hour with the interest of snorkeling. Got to go. Please email us and tell us who our new president is!