After our Panama Canal transit we made a quick stopover in Panama City. We rather enjoyed it – the highlight being the fish market with ladies selling lots of different types of ceviche. One cup of ceviche for around 3 dollars! Is it just us that loves the fresh tanginess of ceviche? Anyone else? A quick walk around the old town, we topped Adina up with some fuel, and set sail again.
Destination Las Perlas islands, a group of beautiful islands, around 40 miles south of Panama City. We decided to stopover in the one of the few populated islands called Contadora. Arriving to find a large number of empty mooring buoys and not sure who they belonged to, we chose instead to anchor nearby. The next day was Friday and within 24 hours those empty mooring buoys were full of motor boats. So this is where Panama City heads to for the weekend!
We stayed a few days to catch our breath after the frantic pace of preparing for the Panama Canal transit and more importantly stocking up the boat for the next 6 months given supplies are harder to come by in French Polynesia. Whilst taking time to relax, we also had to start cleaning the boat’s hull in preparation for our visit to Galapagos, where the authorities demand you arrive with a spotless hull. For non-sailors, the Caribbean waters are warm and when you stop, your boat’s hull is a magnet for all sorts of creatures including barnacles, worms, bits and pieces of green etc. (yes, not very nice). So we had some of said creatures to remove. While the Atlantic is largely tide free the same is not true for the Pacific. In Las Perlas tides are rather strong so timing for hull cleaning is essential or you’ll fly off into the open sea. Come slack tide in we both went armed with snorkels and scrubbers. The water was green and had various ‘stingers’. Susie was stung badly within minutes, never to return to cleaning the hull. That left Tom diving to the bottom of the hull, exercising his lungs to the full, and getting stung.
After a few days we hopped off to a far quieter island by the name of Isla Bayoneta. Another change in oceans we’ve noticed is a change in nationalities. The Atlantic and Caribbean is dominated by Europeans whereas in the Pacific we’ve seen a shift to Australians and Americans. The Australians in particular are a very friendly and welcoming bunch. We’ve joined in a radio net set up by the Australians called ‘The Mozzie Net’. Most ocean going vessels have long range radios (commonly called SSB radios) that allow you to communicate over long distances. So at 9am daily a register is taken of boats, where you are, weather, anybody caught any fish, and sharing of useful information. Fabulous! We passed on some information about Las Perlas and next thing noticed our anchorage where we were on our own soon filled up with a few others. But this is another joy of these radio nets; it makes meeting people very easy and we’ve already had some people from a boat named Amiable over for drinks and then joined them for coffee on their boat. Two lovely couples and a wealth of knowledge that Susie and I have been tapping into. I’ve said it before, that’s what we love about this sailing community – everybody genuinely wants to help. So refreshing.
We had time to kill as we are ahead of schedule but looking at weather we became aware that all wind for our trip to Galapagos was disappearing. Waking Tuesday morning, a double check by email with Gareth Wear confirmed our fears. We were planning to leave Friday and he told us no wind after Tuesday night. Hit the acceleration button, we got the boat ready as fast as possible, informed our neighbours Amiable of the forecast and we both headed off that same night. We had some good winds to start and shot out sailing at around 8 knots.
The passage from Panama to Galapagos involves crossing the equator. This area contains the ITCZ or, as it is more well known, the doldrums. And right now we’re in them! We got our parasailor up for a few hours but now there is just 2 knots of wind. The challenge is finding the wind as the passage to Galapagos is 850 odd miles and you’d need a lot of fuel to do that – 7 days worth. Having sailed 20 of our first 24 hours we think we have just enough fuel but it’s a bit nervy to say the least. And no wind forecast at all until the weekend, and that’s a long term forecast so not reliable yet. Fortunately an American on a boat called Field Trip has passed on some information about favourable currents and we’re heading for them. Last week boats were literally drifting to the Galapagos!
So onboard Adina we’ve been playing getting sails out every time a whisper of wind appears – the parasailor has been up and down twice already! And we’ve lost count of how many times we got the big main sail and genoa out only to furl them away minutes later. It does get tiresome to tell the truth. So that’s our challenge, how to pass 7 days of time with no wind…