Travel Journey 12 | 50 Days at Sea

Travel Journey  12 | 50 Days at Sea

3 maart 2019 – 24 april 2019

When the last doors of the six locks of the Panama Canal open, Niels and I sail through the metropolis Panamacity onto the Pacific. The fresh water from the lock provides a considerable upstream stream so that we really shoot out of the lock, with a straight leg into a new adventure.

Swarms of hungry pelicans eagerly make use of the huge schools of fish that the Humboldt stream brings with them and allow themselves to plunge into the water with bushes like kamikaze pilots. Beaches have had to make way for miles of quays that are littered with millions of sea containers. Palm trees are driven out by countless high cranes that provide rows of container ships with a new load. Ships call here day and night and each transport an average of 7,000 containers to a new destination. We zigzag between these mastodons and a graveyard of half sunken boats through a gray and sandy water, on our way to our destination 40 miles away, San Carlos. Here we will await a favorable weather window and prepare the ship for the large crossing to French Polynesia. Bibi also flew here. She will accompany us on the Pacific to New Zealand. A woman on board, that will take some getting used to. Fortunately, with her enthusiastic, assertive and social character, Bibi seems to fit in well with the team.

The port where we are is full of departures and everyone can get their ship in optimum condition. Just like us, they have come to the good facilities with which the Vista Mar Marina is showing off on the internet. Unfortunately, after 1 month of stay, we left a day early, because the majority of these facilities would really have finished mañana (tomorrow). We are therefore forced to postpone major maintenance of the underwater ship on the shore and we are busy for a full day removing the entire reef that has since settled at our keel. The thousands of animals that had this reef as their habitat think they will find their new home in my chest hair. That has become a number of expensive ones.

While the boats around us have loaded their deck with jerry cans of diesel for their energy supply, we have decided to invest in 4 new solar panels. It takes a while to fit and measure, but after two days of odd jobs we have an extra 920 watts of solar energy. We have never done so many groceries and loading all the shopping bags in the boat is like taking a public transport van in Africa. You think it will never fit, but after reorganizing a few times and making a number of concessions, you will succeed. The difference is that our ship does not risk falling through its wheel axles.

On March 3 it seems that a good weather window finally appears for our upcoming trip of more than 4000 nautical miles and the bunches are going loose. That coming week there will be good wind from a northeast direction to the Galapagos Islands for several consecutive days. From there, the weather maps unanimously show a constant southeast trade with wind force 5 up to the Marquis. We are barely out of the harbor or we already have the gennaker standing and drifting over the flat water, due to the wind blowing in the direction of the Galapagos Islands. We make beautiful day distances of around 140 miles (250 km) and even improve our old age record from 169 miles to 176 miles. Within 24 hours we catch a beautiful Mahi Mahi (Dorado) of around 10 kg, so the rods get a rest period in the coming days. Our new solar panels work fantastic so there is enough energy to put the tastiest dishes on the table. Bibi has made herself very loved several times with banana pancakes for breakfast and Niels has proven himself to be a real chef. And did you know that you can make very tasty squabbling from Mahi Mahi? Okay, so we had a really good meal this trip.

After 6 days we have Galapagos in sight and we are already starting to secretly fantasize about what formidable time we are going to put down to the Marquis. After all, it is only a short distance to the “stable” southeast trade. Our chart plotter is also very optimistic at that time and tells us that it will take another 18 days. We decide to sail through the Galapagos Islands and are soon entertained by a number of curious sea lions. While we see a group of birds diving on the port side to a school of fish that is hunted from below by sea lions, the skirts of one of the rods start to rattle. Not much later, the second rod also starts to bend. Enthusiastically I hope that we have been sailed through a school of tuna, but soon our ship is followed by a number of sharks. It will not be the case that …… Unfortunately, our suspicion is confirmed as the fish on the line comes closer after an hour of fighting. The characteristic dorsal fin makes us shiver, we have a shark on the line. And not one of the format where you briefly removed a fake fish from its mouth. A gray reef shark (we suspect) of at least 2.5 meters with a mouth that would easily fit my head has been mistaken in our bait. When the shark is close to the boat, he shakes his head violently a few times and knows how to shake our lures. Fortunately!

On 11 March the wind gods decide that they have spoiled us too much in recent days and the wind is quiet. However, the sea swell continues undisturbed and ensures that we swing back and forth considerably day and night. As if the calm of the wind alone is not bad enough! Many a skipper seems to have gone crazy here and preferred a spot on the bottom of the ocean over his wobbly ship on which everything is flapping. The mirror-flat water invites you to dive, but our experience of a few days ago is still fresh in the memory. Then suddenly something breaks through the water and we clearly hear the powerful blowing of air. Whales! A few of these enormous mammals pass by a hundred meters from the boat. Unfortunately quite far away, but indescribably beautiful. In the days that follow, we prove not to be the only living creatures in this immense water surface. We see friends popping up next to the boat, jumping in the water when a manta ray is swimming behind the boat and a sea turtle is also curious with its head above water. The wind is still not blowing and we are being driven further away from our destination by a northeast stream. And that while there should be predominantly a western stream on this spot of the southern hemisphere. Masses of gray clouds surround us and cause showers at night. Unfortunately, never really hard enough to wash the salt off your body.

Another problem arises. When replacing the membrane of our water maker, it turns out that this kidney no longer functions properly. That means that we can no longer make fresh water from seawater and we have to make do with our supply of water in the tanks. Because we do not know how long we are still in this wind, a strict shower regime is set up. Showers are allowed on Sundays, but not further.

After 12 days of bobbing, a light breeze appears again. This strengthens to a good 5 Bft in the next three days and we hope to have finally found the trade winds. The speed of the ship is increasing and so are our fantasies about a possible arrival date. At this higher speed fish is caught again and we alternate tuna sushi, sashimi and steak with different mahi mahi preparations.

Unfortunately, the wind is slowing again and the rest of the trip remains moderate. Moreover, the many bobbles have taken its toll. Our entire underwater ship is covered with duck mussels, which means we deliver 1.5-2 knots of speed. We sail a lot with the gennaker to maintain some speed. That’s nice, but twice the sail of more than 80 square meters comes down in the water because of a broken line. Twice I am allowed to climb to the top of the mast on the high seas to once again guide the line through which the sail is lifted through the pulley. Being swung to and fro by a rocking ship at a height of 15 meters is not something I do for pleasure and it takes every effort to stay with the mast every now and then. We perform an emergency repair three more times on our gennaker. This time it is always the eye at the bottom of the sail that tears, probably because of the combination of little wind and a lot of swell.

It takes us another 21 days before we have land in sight. We spend our time reading books, watching movies, xboxing and we do some sport to make the transition to the country not too big.

After 49 days we finally have land in sight. High mountains rise from the sea. By the time we reach the country it is dark and we decide to sail back and forth off the coast. The wind gets less and less during the night and the tide turns, so that we risk getting ashore. The electric engine is started when we are still 5 miles away from the coast, but due to the enormous growth we only reach a speed of 1.7 knots in the eco mode. It is too far away to sail at full capacity with our half-full battery bank. Slowly the current moves us towards the rocky coast while the wind has completely subsided. We are still 2 miles from the anchorage and throw our dinghy overboard to make an attempt to drag our ship the last part. Very slowly we come closer, but when a passing catamaran offers to give us a drag we make eager use of the offer. Under the watchful eye of friends who are already there, we are dragged in the last miles. We have traveled more than 4300 miles in the last 50 days and we have not heard the rumble of our diesel engine once and we are quite proud of that. We drop anchor and give each other a hug. We are here, cheers!