Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Panama to Galapagos : Day 8
27th June 2017
Current Position: 00 53. 76 S / 089 36, 73 W.
By 0630 this morning we had just 80 miles left to run. Wanting to get into port before nightfall we took a whip to the horses and put them into a gallop. We were still sailing but were pushing GWTW to her limit in these brisk conditions. Once we get into the lee of the island in a few hours time the conditions should improve but until then we’re toughing it out.
As a result of the wind and seas last night their were heaps of dead flying fish scattered everywhere on the decks including wedged between out solar panels on the roof. Suitably Liam was allotted the icky task of giving them a burial at sea.
Our overnight visitors on the bow left us at first light for hunting grounds closer to home. We hope they enjoyed the wet ride, still it was probably easier than flying home into 25 knots of wind.

P6273834Just before1pm the Land Ho call rang out on GWTW.  We still had a fair way to go but the end was in sight. The island of San Cristobal is 30 odd miles long and once into the lee of the land and flat water the sailing was great. Our fist impressions of San Cristobal reminded us of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic.
This too was a very arid scene, stunning but arid. The coast was made up of a near continuous line of black volcanic rock with a sprinkle of white sand occasionally. The highlands rose gracefully from sea level and further down the islands shrouded in cloud  and mist was what we figured was the El Junco volcanic crater, which we are hoping to visit during our stay here .
A mile or so off the coast a sheer sided rock formation, Kicker Rock. According to Lonely Planet this is a diving and snorkeling hotspot ,so that also got added to the list of must sees.

We entered the main anchorage, well, the only one cruise boats are permitted to stop at on this island, of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. There were many local fishing, dive and liveaboard boats on the moorings and at anchor as well as two other cruising boats,  both French flagged. Colourful shops and homes dotted the shoreline and a couple of water taxis were roaming around looking for a fare. It seemed pleasant enough and this would be home for the duration of our stay here.  At 1700 the anchor chain rattled it’s way out of our locker and latched onto mother earth again. Doing a  long passage is a bit like child berth. You forget all the bad stuff once you are there. 

P6273855No sooner  had the anchor taken up,  a slap on the transom heralded the arrival of our first marine visitor. A small sea lion  had dropped in to welcome us. He was so cute with those drop dead gorgeous big brown eyes. Seeming quite ofay with boat transoms  he stayed a while and then was off back to the beach to his sunbaking friends.

A little while later our agent’s son arrived. We gave him all the  necessary paperwork and said he’d be back with the officials at 0930 tomorrow. He wished a welcome to the Galapagos and a good night’s sleep.
After 8 days and 9 hours and sailing 957 nautical miles we had arrived.
It was time to crack the champers!
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Panama to Galapagos : Day 7
26th June 2017
Current Position 000 08.63 S / 086 49.91W, Speed 7.kts, DTR 175nm
My watch started at 0300 today and we did our usual handover of what’s been happening, who’s out there with us, yarda ,yarda,yada. Liam hits the hay and I’m up for the next five hours. Just me, my iPod , the eerie glow of our nav systems and a whole lot of nothingness out there. It’s cloudy and cool and I’m wearing a fleece and long pants. It’s not quite the attire that we were expecting to don at this latitude.
The faint light of a trawler is way off to our port side and the blinking icon on our AIS tells me there is a huge cargo ship 20 miles away over the horizon travelling north at 19 kts on our straboard side. I will never see him visually. We are just ships in the night to each other.
By 0800 Liam is stirring. I make him a cuppa and fill him in on all the exciting news of my watch. My report is akin to watching paint dry. He asks all the important questions like wind speed and boat speed, any emails come in and then gets to the really important question...what’s for breakfast? I have it in the bag for this one . We’re having buttermilk pancakes topped with fresh mango and maple syrup. His eyes light up.

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An hour later the wind is picking up. It’s pushing 20 kts  and the seas are getting bigger. We change our sail configuration,  after a coffee of course, down to two reefs in the mainsail but still keep the whole jib out. GWTW is purring along at a comfortable 7-8kts and we have 236 miles to run to San Cristobal. With the boat all settled it’s my turn for the some shuteye.
It’ll be  a short sleep for me this time as we will be crossing the equator in a few hours and I don’t want to miss the big moment. I mean it’s not like there is a big  brass band sitting there waiting for us or a welcoming committee saying “come on down to the southern hemisphere, it’s nice down here”  After all it’s really just an imaginary line with the magic numbers of 000 00.000 but to all sailors  who cross, it might as well be a fireworks spectacular happening.

P6263731At then at 1305 under  blue sunny skies  GWTW nosed her bows back into the  waters of the southern hemisphere. It has taken just over 11 years to get  back here. In keeping with tradition  we had a quick toast to Neptune and poured a decent splash of rum in the blue pacific hoping that it will filter it’s way down to Davy Jones’s locker.

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Having crossed the equator northbound in 2006 there was no need to perform the usual rights of passage where legend has it that you go from being a slimy pollywog, a person who has never crossed before to a trusty shellback, one who has. We now have earned double shellback status. Shame there isn’t a frequent sea miles program for sailors.
It’s early evening now and the sea birds are starting to show up. They are swooping and diving for the flying fish that we are scaring out of the water. It’s easy  pickings for these guys. Identified as Red Footed Booby’s one has already taken up the prime position on our prodder-pole and others are trying to land as well but number one bird is not budging from his post. By last light the final count was four, three on the pole and one hanging on for dear life on the lifelines. It will be a tough night for these hardy critters as the wind and sea state  are due to increase.

Over the past few days the sea water temps have slowly been sliding down the slippery slide. Today it reads 19c indicating that we are now well and truly in the Humboldt current. This cold ocean current originating at the southern tip of Chile flows north along Peru and then turns left at the equator and heads west bringing a plethora of rich nutrients to the marine environment of the Galapagos Islands. Although being present year round this current also provides a cooling effect to to the climates of Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos particularly during the months July to December. No wonder we are feeling a tad cold.

Just as an aside, the ecosystem of this current is among the most productive ecosystems in the world and approximately 20% of the world’s fish are caught in waters bathed by the Humboldt current. The current also gives us a boost along too, kind of like going from a backroad to a freeway. Yee-ha,this will take us straight to the finish line. 
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Panama to Galapagos : Day 6
25th June 2017

Current Position :00 34.12n /085 74.77W
Last night was another wild one. We are a bit over it to tell the truth. A big squall came through around 2100 and as we shortened sail the jib became possessed and went wild. It took both of us to furl it with Liam ending up on his back. By the time we got it put to bed the sheets(lines) had become so tangled from the wind that they resembled a plate of spaghetti.
Most of today has been rainy and overcast but the sea is starting to calm down. The water temp has gone down to 21c so we figure we are now enjoying the chilly ride of the Humboldt Current as it makes it's way from the Antarctic up the west coast of South America and then turns left to the Galapagos Islands.
So what do we do on these sort of days? We check things and today was safety gear checking ,testing and familiarization day.

We have two Epirbs, (emergency position indicating radio beacon) on board. Our main one which lives in our rapid ditch bag is a ACR Global Fix Pro 406Mhz GPS Epirb and we also have an ACR ResQLink+ floating Personal Locator Beacon which we wear on our life jacket. Added to these we have a Kannad Marine Survivor Recovery System, also attached to our lifejacket. This device transmits a man overboard AIS (Automated Information System) alert back to GWTW's onboard Vesper 8000 AIS transmitter /receiver.

DSCN1080This signal is instantly relayed to the alarm to our Raymarine plotter. And believe me those alarms would wake the dead. The thing we like about the Kannard system is that it is an immediate alert to the person on the boat that someone has fallen overboard. It also places a marker on the plotter and gives a reciprocal course to get back to the person in the water.
Visual Safety devices include: Emergency Flashing Personal Strobes: Two ACR Firefly Waterbug and Firefly-Pro and a Zenec SL-15. For outdoor use from the deck or liferaft is our Sirius Signal SOSC-1001 Strobe.

DSCN1081All of the above were tested today and are in working order.
Our Lifejackets are Mustang Survival Offshore with replaceable inflation canisters and we have a 6 man Viking Offshore Liferaft, but we can't and really don't want to have to test that one!
We have a variety of handheld day and night parachute flares and smoke flares kept in a waterproof floating canister.
In the rapid ditch bag which we keep in the living area we keep an orange distress V sheet with signaling mirror attached, 2 x Handheld floating VHF radios. Several 60 hour glow sticks, waterproof floating flashlights and two first aid kits.
We also have an Orion flare launcher gun which shoots 12Ga red aerial day /night use flares to an altitude of 500ft, 4 extra Orion handheld orange smoke flares and a Garmin portable gps plotter. We also have a penknife,chap sticks,sun cream, sun visor reading glasses and polaroid sunglasses well as copies of passports and ships documents.
The latest addition to our safety gear is a Delorme Inreach Explorer Satellite Communicator with built in navigation. If you are following our blog you will already know about this device as it is our tracker to our position.
So there you have it...that's what we did today.
Now the day is coming to an end so it's time for a sundowner. The sky has cleared just in time and we are being entertained by a booby bird as he soars and dives for his dinner of flying fish, I suspect he may stay the night on the foredeck.
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Panama to Galapagos : Day 5
24th June 2017
Current position : 01 06.12N / 083 06.70 W @2100 Panama local time.
Well not a lot to report today folks.
We tacked onto a port tack to take advantage of the building wind and to get away from the Columbian coast AGAIN! Seas are very lumpy making for not so nice living conditions. A fine drizzle of rain is sweeping through and the wind is increasing to 18- 20kts. The seas are building to 2-3 metres. White caps everywhere.
Our sail configuration is Mainsail with 2 reefs and a quarter jib, Waves are slamming into the hull and we are hunkered down.
Liam just went out into the cockpit to trim the jib and got hit by a flying fish on the leg. Guess he was looking for refuge from the conditions as well.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. One can only hope.
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Panama to Galapagos: Day 4
23rd June 2017
Current Position: 02 19.79 N / 081 56.26 W  1930 Local Panama time. Speed 5kts motor sailing. Wind SW 5kts  COG 251T
After a wonderful nights sleep with very little rock and roll we started the day off right. Nothing beats scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and fresh asparagus.
The skies are still overcast but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of squalls about. The winds are light and the seas calm. There was only one fatality on the deck this morning, yet another squid. Maybe we should be stock piling them for a little calamari appetizer once we get to the Galapagos.

DSCN1049Liam has noticed some slime growing on our bows which is very disappointing as we cleaned everything under the waterline just four days ago. Looks like we'll be hitting the surf to clean it off again before the officials come at to greet us once we arrive. Apart from the usual group of officials, the Galapagos team also includes a diver. If the diver doesn't like what he sees when he inspects your hull you are forced to go 40 miles back out to sea while he cleans it. Given what we have to pay to check-in, of course there will be an exorbitant fee for his troubles as well. We do understand their logic as it is a very fragile environment that we are about to visit and they certainly don't want any nasty invasive species being introduced. That would ruin these islands for everyone.

P6233702It's now midday and the day has gone from overcast to blue sky and sunshine. Dolphins have been gathering in their numbers circling the boat and playing in our bow waves. They are an endless source of entertainment for any sailor and are akin to the friendly neighborhood dog who drops by for a visit and then is on their way again. We love dolphins.
This afternoon we also refilled our fuel tanks. We carry just on 260 liters of spare diesel fuel in jerry cans and with the calm conditions today it was an opportune time to top up the tanks.

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The evening looks to be shaping up pretty good. With the clear sky we should get a good look at the stars tonight. It's always great to see the Southern Cross staring down at us reminding us that home is just at the end of this big patch of water called the Pacific.
And their were dolphins at sunset. What a way to finish the day.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Panama to Galapagos Day 3
22nd June 2017
Current Position : 03.03.7N / 080.03.85 W @2100 Panama local time.

Well last night lived up to our expectations, it was wild, wooly and rough. Very hard for the off watch to have a decent few hours sleep. We try to maintain our watches at five hours on and five off give or take and that combo works well for both of us.
Once again we had no birds seeking a safe haven for the night but we did wake up to our decks resembling a graveyard for quite a number of squid who must have been slammed onboard by the breaking waves. Their ink stain leaves quite a tough mess to clean up.

DSCN1068Today we pulled down the mainsail and Liam fixed our batcar that detached itself yesterday. A couple of screws had worked themselves loose and were just hanging in there by their toes. The captain had the foresight to put gaffa tape over them when we spotted the issue to prevent them falling into a watery grave. That made for an easy fix earlier today. Job done so back up went the main and off we went again.
Apart from squalls here and there the day has been pretty quite. Our sailmail program on our nav computer has begun to play up a bit and we suspect there is some in house fighting between a couple of parties on the hard drive. Without sailmail we would have zip contact with the outside world when it comes to emails. So rather than pull our hair out over the issue yours truly fired up her recently acquired HP computer, tweaked a couple of things on the program she'd previously installed just for moments like this and now we are back in business.
Our course over the last few days has been inching us towards the Columbian coast. It's a place we really don't want to go to by boat at this point in time. If we keep on this course then by midday we'll be about 40 miles off said coastline. Late this evening we weighed up the pros and cons about whether to keep tracking south in search of our favored route or to bite the bullet and head west now. Decision made, at 2100hrs we put our indicator on and turned right. So far it's been the right choice. The boat now has a lovely settled motion which is way more conducive to sleep and daily life aboard in general.
The Galapagos now lie almost dead ahead. Distance to run is a mere 583nm  and we have smiles on our dials.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Panama to Galapagos : Day 2
June 21st 2017
Current Position : 04.53.5N / 079.53.9W @1930 local Panama time.

DSCN1062It's been a slow start to the day. The breeze filled in a little just after midday and both the main and jib got a run. Very light breeze from the west but at least we aren't listening to the thump of the engines. Patches of blue are peaking through the cloudy conditions. Looks like another nasty squall up ahead but fingers crossed it will move on before we get to it.
A ketch was spotted heading north and Liam tried to make contact via our VHF radio but to no avail. We figured the guy may have been solo as he was wrestling on the deck with his jib.  So far he is the only yacht we've seen. A few ships have been past but even their numbers are dwindling.

DSCN1057No sea life visiting at present but maybe someone will turn up around dusk. Yesterday we had a party of six penguin looking birds trying to land on GWTW for the night. I guess they saw the vacancy sign on. They gave it their best shot for nearly two hours but none were able to make it onto the tarmac. It was a shame as we are the only boat around . Speaking of that we're pretty sure that we are the last cruising boat of the season heading this way. Still someone has to bring up the rear.

IMG_5725It's now around 7pm and we are juggling cooking dinner, a yummy Moroccan lemon chicken with rice, and putting a second reef in our mainsail. The wind is now gusting up to 20kts and the calm seas of earlier are gone. It's a bumpy road out here now. Liam is up on the boom adjusting the main's leach line and we've just noticed that one of our batcars has separated from the main about midway up where it attaches to the batten.  It's ok for now but will need attention come daylight. we've rolled away our jib and have the engine on so we can hold our course otherwise our next destination will be Ecuador.
Lighting and thunder are all around us and the radar is showing the telltale purple pattern of heavy rain.

Looks like it will be a fun night ahead.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Panama to Galapagos: Day 1
20th June 2017
Isla Pedro Gonzales, Las Perlas Islands, Panama  to San Cristobal Galapagos. Distance: 850nm
Current Position: 08 24.75N /079 5.89W

DSCN1028With our anchor raised and the beautiful voice of Andrea Bocelli filling the air with his song "Time to Say Goodbye" at 0800 we hoisted our mainsail and turned onto a southeasterly course of 164T.  Goodbye Panama, Galapagos here we come!. Our initial course takes us towards the Columbia - Ecuador border where we are hoping that in a few days time the winds will kick in and we can turn right to sail to San Cristobal in the Galapagos. Now if we were a crow the distance we would cover is 840nm, but sadly we are not a crow so we’ll have to wait and see how far we actually sail.
So far the conditions have been very benign with glassy seas and just a slight breeze. We are motor sailing at 6-8 knots under clear skies. And although there were no humans to bid us farewell we did have a fanfare of animals including a whale, lots of dolphins and birds galore.

DSCN1055Within 40 miles of our departure point we came across a five mile barrier of fishing nets strung together between marker buoys and flags. Gingerly nosing our bows up towards a gap in the boys we made a first attempt to get over them but although we could see the connecting line were unsure of it's depth so we backed away running parallel for a few more miles. Once again we tried to get over and this time with Liam down in our head watching through the port at the keel as we crossed, we made it over it without getting snared.
DSCN1040A while later we spotted more floats and flags but this time the line was lurking on top of the water making it impossible for us to pass.  We were starting to feel caged in. Again we were forced to run parallel but this time to the very end before we could get to round the final flag and be on our way. It seemed that Panama was making one last effort to keep us there.

The rest of the day has been pretty uneventful. The breeze picked up for a while and we unfurled the jib. It was nice to see both sails up.

Taking advantage of the calm conditions I couldn't resist the chance to take down all our sun awnings and give them a thorough cleaning. With all the rain and humidity over the past weeks they were starting to resemble a piece of blue cheese. Not a very classy look but nothing some bleach and detergent couldn't fix.
It's now just after midnight and there's no moon and lots of lightning about. A few squalls are showing up on the radar. Liam is now off watch so here's hoping nothing nasty comes near us.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Follow us on our position tracker

18th June 2017

We now have an onboard position tracker so you can follow our journey as we head out into the South Pacific whenever the mood takes you.

Click on the link below and save it to your desktop or home page on your computer or mobile device.

testing from Panama

18th June 2017
this is a test via sailmail

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Final days in Panama

May 15th – June 17th 2017


Yes, it’s been just over a month now since we transited the canal and what are we still doing here, I hear you say?. Well time goes by so fast that it feels like yesterday that we arrived here on the Pacific side. So after the canal transit we still had a couple of weeks to kill until our French visas were ready for pick up, so we toddled down to the Las Perlas Islands roughly 30 miles south of Panama City. Most of these islands here are uninhabited with just a few having a small town or village.


We spent a few days at Isla Contadora where we made new cruising friends aboard the US flagged monohulls Southern Comfort and  Pelican Express, and the Kiwi cat, Off 2 C. This island is one of few which  has fast internet, a couple of decent restaurants, several  plane and ferry services daily and some of the beautiful homes that the wealthy Panamanians own down here. There is the odd B&B and a couple of low key hotels as well as some failed resorts which are now abandoned.



From Contadora we moved further south for a couple more days to Isla Pedro Gonzales with its beautiful palm fringed beach and also to Isla Casaya before returning to Isla Taboga and then back to Panama City.

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Our visas were finally ready and one week later we’d finished our sightseeing of the city, finished the last of the last of provisioning and had well and truly had  enough of the rolly anchorage and the filthy grease ridden waters which are part and parcel of  the canal zone. GWTW  had thick black grease smears all over her pristine hulls and orange slime and barnacles has started to grow on our swim ladder and anywhere else on the hulls within reach of the rapidly spreading orange blob. And after being chased down and nearly hit by an unattended yacht one night that caught our anchor chain as it dragged past us, pulling us with her towards other boats and the sea wall, we couldn’t wait to get out of there.

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 DSCN0964unnameannie canal vis center

P6103678P6103684roger pic

Now we are back at Isla Contadora once more and tomorrow we will head south to the end of the island chain. From there it’s out into the big blue highway, next stop Galapagos Islands in around 10 days time.

I’ll do my best to remote post the text of the blog as we go along but if it doesn’t happen you'll get the full story once we reach land again.

Until then it’s hasta luego Panama


Cruiser Info : Panama City Anchorages, La Playita is very rolly and the water is full of oil and grease which will mark your hull. We used Simple Green  spray cleaner to remove the grease line, It was the only product that worked. Lay Playita marina charges $53 USD per week for dingy dock use . No single day price only a weekly rate  Sunday to Sunday, Can leave trash at marina, no Wi-Fi  available unless you take a slip. Plenty of free Wi-Fi at bars and restaurants across the causeway ..easy 3 min walk.

Small supermarket in strip mall of shops across the road the other side of the causeway on the Las Brias side of the road,

Las Brias anchorage. Very big and flat but very poor if not dangerous dinghy dock. Many live-aboards in this bay , just ask re dinghy access, New public dinghy dock is supposed to open some time in the future.

Flamenco Marina. Can use dinghy dock for $21.40USD per day. Additional cost to pick up guests. Fuel, water and trash disposal available,

Balboa Yacht club. Moorings only no anchoring. No dingy dock ,you must use yacht club tender to get ashore. Good restaurant and bar with free Wi-Fi.

Isla Taboga. Good anchorage on either side of sand spit to suit weather conditions. No dinghy dock but can use beach or public wharf when ferry is not there, This island is 7 miles from Panama City and ferry runs regularly to Balboa YC. Return trip is $20. quite a few good restaurants ashore.

Supermarkets  Riba Smith was the best we found ( big American style) at Alta Plaza. Also a big Rey supermarket and  a Do It centre , similar to Home Depot on the USA, across from Riba Smith. Taxi ride from La Playita is $8-10

Resources,.The Cruiser’s guide to Panama City. Excellent info put together by cruiser’s. It’s available as a PDF free from Shelter Bay marina office or from Yahoo groups online

Taxis. We used Roger who speaks excellent english and has a van and a taxi. He has been looking after cruisers for around 30 years and  charges $10 per hour and will take you where ever you need  to go. Ph # 67176745

Regular taxis are cheap and everywhere, most fares are a couple of bucks. La Playita to French Embassy in the old city is $5 and to Balboa Yacht Club is $3