Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Podcast posted

I have just posted Podcast #15 recorded during our passage from Panama to Galapagos. It may be downloaded from my podcast page at http://podcastaway.libsyn.com/

Monday, March 19, 2007

Arrived in Galapagos

We arrived in Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz on the morning of Sunday March 18th.

The trip took us 8 days. For the first couple of days out of Panama we had a good northerly breeze. This gradually left us and we were forced to motor for 30-40 hours through the calms and thunderstorms of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ aka Doldrums). Then we met the southeasterly trades that stayed with us for the last few days into the Galapagos.

Saturday afternoon, we passed by close to the island of Cristobal just to take a look at it. We particularly checked out an offshore rock called Leon Dormido (Sleeping Lion - above) where we saw boobies, frigate birds and sea lions.

Now we are anchored in Puerto Ayora. We’ve cleared in and have been allowed a stay of 20 days. So, we’re shopping around for tours to start planning our tourist activities over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Halfway to Galapagos

We're now roughly halfway to the Galapagos Islands. We're at N03.06' W083.40' with about 450 miles to go.

We left Isla Perlas Saturday March 10th and initially had some northerly winds, but these faded after a couple of days. In the last 48 hours we have motored 33 hours. I was starting to do fuel calculations to see whether our fuel would take us all the way -- I didn't think it would! Now the wind has picked up out of the east and we're sailing again.

We've also had a couple of overcast days with rain, squalls and thunderstorms. Squalls and no wind is typical weather for the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ aka Doldrums) and the question is whether these easterly winds are the southeast trades on the south side of the ITCZ. If so they might stay with us. We'll see over the next few days.

Everything is going well aboard. Ginger and I are finding that 2 1/2 hours on watch in each 12 hours from having 5 people aboard -- is much easier than our usual 4 hours on, 4 hours off.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Las Perlas, Panama

We left Balboa on Wednesday March 7th after several days of last minute provisioning. We had our order of marine parts that were shipped from Miami, and the fuel tanks were full to the brim.
We stopped first for a few days at Las Perlas. These islands are 30 miles from Balboa so it was a nice spinnaker day-sail. There are many islands in the Las Perlas group -- we anchored in a bay on the east side of Isla Bayoneta. All the islands around us are uninhabited and so it's been a relaxing couple of days snorkeling, and completing a few pre-passage chores.
We'll leave here for Galapagos Saturday March 10th.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Podcast #14: Panama Canal Transit

I have just posted PodCastaway Show #14 which is a 'soundseeing' record of our Panama Canal transit. It can be downloaded, or subscribed to, from my podcast page.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Panama Canal Transit

Finally, the day came. We were scheduled to start our transit at 4pm Wednesday February 28th. All five of our crew were aboard and on Tuesday we received our four 125’ long lines and 12 tire fenders from our agent, Stanley.

On Wednesday morning we motored out of Shelter Bay Marina and anchored in the flats. We dinghied into the Panama Canal Yacht Club to buy fuel, and to receive our clearance papers from Stanley.

At 4pm precisely we raised anchor and trolled about waiting for our Transit Advisor, Felipe. He arrived at 5pm and the ACP (Panama Canal Authority) Pilot Boat managed to hit us and bend a stanchion – so the Transit did not start well!

Unusually, we went through alone. Most small boats are rafted with others to take up less space but presumably there were no other boats that night. It meant that we would use all four of our lines so each line handler would have their own. When rafted, line handlers can work in pairs.

Felipe checked all the lines and gave specific instructions to each line handler. This worked well because it was a new experience for all of them.

We entered the first chamber of Gatun Locks behind a large freighter. Men on the lock walls threw four ‘messenger lines’ and the line handlers (Ginger, Mike, Jan and Nick) tied them onto our long dock lines. One messenger line fell into the water, but Filipe quickly recovered the situation. Once in the chamber, I stopped the boat and the ACP men pulled our lines up and put them on bollards. The line handlers tied them off and we waited for the water.

The lock water literally boils up from the bottom of the lock pushing the boat about. As long as the line handlers kept their lines under control we stayed safely away from the lock walls. When the water settled at its new level, and the freighter ahead started moving, at a signal from Filipe our lines came off the bollards and we pulled them back aboard. The messenger stayed attached and the ACP men walked alongside as I motored into the next chamber.

This process was repeated three times in each of the three chambers of Gatun Locks. Eventually we exited the last chamber into Gatun Lake and motored a mile or so to our mooring spot. There we tied up, said goodbye to Filipe and had dinner. It was about 8:30pm.

Thursday March 1st our next Advisor Rodolpho arrived at 6:30am and we set off across Gatun Lake and into the Canal proper. It’s about 25 miles from Gatun Locks to Pedro Miguel Lock and we motored at 7 knots to make our scheduled Lock time of 11am.

‘Locking Down’ was similar to ‘Locking Up’ except that the water was much more sedate so there seemed to be less chance of an accident.

From Pedro Miguel Lock to Miraflores Lock is about a mile and we called relatives as we approached for them to watch us on the webcam – several reportedly did.

Miraflores Lock has two chambers and at about 1pm the final gates opened and we motored into the Pacific. As we passed under the Bridge of the Americas, we cracked a bottle of champagne and said goodbye to Rodolpho.

We dropped off our long dock lines and tire fenders into the Balboa Yacht Club launch and continued on to anchor near Isla Flamenco. At this point, everyone was physically and mentally exhausted so we just slept.

So we’re in the Pacific. Happily, we’ll never have to through that experience again; it’s exciting and scary in equal measure.