Fai Tira Blog
Saturday 30th January
Fai Tira at
Porvenir in San Blas 09:33.33N 78:56.94W
The first thing to say at the start of this blog is....Phew!!!!!. The
next and most important thing, is that we’re here on anchor in San Blas, and safe!!.
that the 750 mile passage would take us 5 days, in the event we reduced the
distance by 30 miles and shortened the time by a day!!
This was to be a
journey to yet another new and diverse culture. It was also the time of
introduction to the new discipline of taking anti malaria tablets. And with the
possibility of unknown side effects, not really what was needed at the start of
a long journey. As it happens we both coped quite well, although I’m not sure
that I didn’t just catch site of Pete standing on the aft deck, gazing upwards
and howling at the moon. I suppose it could just have been the effect of the
pills or perhaps a secret ritualistic chant to some imagined force, asking for a
smooth and comfortable few days sail.....If it was then, It didn’t work!!!!!!
The trip across this
particular part of the Caribbean Sea had been the subject of many formal and
informal discussions. Although there were few amongst the crews with personal
experience, the briefings had been quite specific. Expect strong and consistent
Trade Winds, expect confused seas’, expect large breaking, “ square waves,” and
ensure that we head immediately to the 4000 metre contour and then continue,
staying at least 100 miles from the mainland.
tags, given to this long stretch of water vary’ and range from those such as the
Northern Cape Horn to the locally mysteriously threatening description of “The
Now, perhaps, you
can begin to get a feel for it. The creature that the locals described, is
undoubtedly, the one we saw and it never slept, or if it did it was with only
one eye closed, the rest of the time both were wide open as they intensely
glared from a hostile face viciously shaking its body to rid itself of all
Most of the
forecasts had given advanced warnings of strong winds, anticipating initially
15-20 knots then increasing to 25-35 by Thursday, not too much to there to worry
about, it normally takes 25 just to get us moving.
As we set out in a
North Westerly direction in the company of Bill and Sue on Camomile all the
weather predictions were working and we hoisted sail with the same two main
reefs that were in place as we arrived. The goose wing sail plan was functioning
well and we were travelling the right way making about 6-7 knots. We soon lost
sight of Camomile as their twizzle rig set up took them on a more northerly
course. Our, now, more diagonal route was taking us further west, resulting in a
dramatic cutting of the corner and keeping us much closer to the coast. We
maintained our speed throughout the night, and with an average of nearly 7 knots
we beat our previous 24 hour distance by one mile ending up with 167 miles.
During the next 24
hours our course took on a South Westerly aspect as we pointed more towards our
original planned route away from the mainland coast and then directly at San
Blas, the seas became livelier as the wind picked up. Our sail plan was still
working well, although the stay sail was now down and with the conditions
becoming more unpredictable, we also reefed in the genoa and changed our watch
pattern to 3 on and 3 off. This was an attempt to cope with the extra physical
demands of taking over from the wind vain when necessary. Once more our 24 hour
best was up for grabs and we beat it by 2 miles
The wind speed
followed its’ predicted pattern, although it was all happening earlier than
forecast. We’d heard SSB reports from some of the boats ahead, and how the ones
closer in, like us, were experiencing the added hazard of reverse current
whipping up huge waves causing one of the other boats, as he put it, to shut
down to survival mode.
Life was also now
becoming very interesting for us. The wind gauge was constantly reading an
apparent speed of 30 knots, gusting up to 37 and with the boat travelling at 9
knots, we found ourselves well in the grip of a force 8-9 gale.
The following seas
had been continually building as the day progressed. They were now breaking and
massive. At this stage the exhilaration of it all was masking any concern.
Imagine looking up at the following frothing white mass as it lifted the boat as
high as a small block of flats with us hollering as it surfed down its’ face at
up to 14 1/2 knots into the huge hole left by the previous one and then gasping
at the realisation of its’ size as it passed.
With the boat
vibrating, the winds howling and the waves crashing, the noise was
The wash boards
were, now, well and truly in place, the hatch firmly closed and us securely
hooked on, but it was at least still warm and with a full moon providing a
floodlight on the surrounding frothing cauldron.....It was now becoming quite
Sleep was almost out
of the question, the movement so severe and all time spent below; made the noise
from the overworked jibe protector, seem more acute. At about 2am we decided on
another reef in the main. Being hove to in these conditions Just aint too much
fun!!! Pete was at the mast I tried to steer the boat, which wasn’t responding
well even under full power as we struggled to turn further into wind, against
the force of a poled out genoa. We then had the awful realisation that a reefing
line had fallen in and was wrapped around the prop. Luckily the cutter worked
and we maintained manoeuvrability.
For much of the time
we were now hand steering, trying to counter the slewing boat as it broached,
occasionally submersing the boom in the water, verging on knock
We were wet; we were
tired and very relieved to see the dawn break. An inspection of the instruments
revealed another record 24 hour distance of186 miles. Reports throughout the
night also made us aware of the plight of the others.
Although not quite
out of the woods, the worst was now behind us and we sailed into this fantastic
place licking our wounds and looking forward to meeting up with the others and a
chance to swap tales
Sorry no photos as
we are sending by satellite. We’ll send photos as soon as have WiFi