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Date: 26 Feb 2010 04:52:00
Title: The Challenge of Provisioning and Preparing for the next leg

Having finally come down to earth after coming through the Canal, provisioning is our major task now. We've been to Panama City several times to provision and that's what all the boats here are doing. The books suggest that you can get provisions in the Islands we hope to visit, but there will be limited choice and it will all be expensive. A can of beer in the Marquesas is reputedly $8 (we're sure it goes up every time the story gets told), where here it's only 40 cents. So some people are buying stacks of beer and trying to provision for the whole trip to Australia or New Zealand - 7 or 8 months worth of food and drink - can you imagine going to the supermarket and buying food for 8 months - the quantities are huge! We haven't got space for that, but are trying to provision for the next 3 months or so. We've made several trips to the supermarkets and every time we think we've bought a lot we bump into someone else who has 5 times what we have. So we recalculate and go back again! The shopping here is excellent - new modern malls with loads of shops (a lot up market - designer brands) and the prices are good, especially the food shops. It's as cheap if not cheaper than Trinidad, and a great deal better. We've still got one more trip to complete the basic provisioning and then a final trip to get all the fresh fruit and veg just before we leave. Our stores are very modest compared with some, but we have 108 litres of bottled water (emergency supplies just in case the watermaker packs up or the tanks become contaminated!), 50 litres of fruit juice (Del Monte tetra bricks are cheap here), 40 litres of UHT milk (plus packs of powdered milk), packs of Pepsi and sprite, and the odd beer or two. We have enough tinned food (salmon, tuna, corned beef etc) for about 3 months and we'll try and live off fresh food for as long as we can before starting on all this. Enough flour for bread making for 3 months and then there's the 50 rolls of kitchen towel!

Most of the food has gone into normal lockers and the drink is in lockers under the floor around the bilge (they're dry lockers), but the forward cabin is being used for the bulky stuff. We did make a bit of space by taking out the cruising chute from the sail locker and putting it on the forward berth - we will need it on the next leg - and filling the space with bottled water.

The next leg should be quite different from the last leg across the Caribbean and we have to prepare the boat differently. For the last leg the cruising chute was buried in it's locker, but we are expecting very light winds for the next 1000 miles and if what wind we have is from behind, the cruising chute will be used a lot. We have to cross the ITCZ, or doldrums, which shift, but are usually just north of the Equator. It's a zone of very little, if any wind and potentially lots of heavy rain. So we are stocking up on fuel, with extra plastic cans (referred to as jerry jugs out here) on deck as we expect to be motoring quite a bit. The Galapagos islands are about 50 miles south of the Equator and we don't expect to get any decent wind until well south of the Islands. But that's quite a way off. Our first landfall should be the Las Perlas Islands, just 35 miles or so south from Panama. Yachts that have been there say the water is lovely and clear (it's disgusting here!). I agreed to help another boat through the canal this weekend (that will make 3 transits), so we cannot leave before Tuesday. We hope to spend a few days in the Las Perlas while we wait for a reasonable forecast to head for the Galapagos. We really would like to sail there if we can. The Blue Water Rally leave Las Perlas about 2nd March but they are going to Academy Bay on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz, we're bound for Wreck Bay on the island of Cristobal. The World Arc leave the Galapagos by 7th March, so we're all waiting for them to go!

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