04:35.393'N 80:47.143W - Into the Pacific we go

Hamble Warrior
Jamie Hickman
Fri 24 Mar 2023 22:13

Days 1 - 3
22nd -24th March

NOTE: yesterday's attempts to post the last 5 blog updates covering our time before leaving Cartagena; our passage to Panama, the San Blas islands and the Panama canal appear not to have been successful. Hopefully when we post this the missing blogs will appear and in the correct order. Otherwise our track may look a little erratic but we will have to look into that some time in the future when we have Wi-Fi! That sounds like a long way away right now!!

Anyway.... here we are in the Pacific ocean!

We finally completed all of our checking-out formalities and crammed a few more bits on to the boat; including a final few litres of water at around lunchtime on the 22nd March. Then we had a bit of time stowing gear and getting the dinghy strapped down.

At around 3pm our friends Greg, Jan & Ed on SV "Viridian" passed us in the anchorage and we waved our goodbyes. At 
15.25 we lifted our anchor and motored out of the anchorage. As usual the little mechanical log which measures distance and calculates boat speed wasn't working. This is very common whenever we have been at anchor for a while and Jamie went below decks to pull the paddlewheel that operates it from the bottom of the boat and clean the fouling off it. I had steered us out towards where all the big ships were laying at anchor, weaving between the pilot boats that race from ship to ship at full speed. Finally we had the log working and lifted full sails. Jamie was concerned about our boat speed and felt we were sluggish; this raised two concerns, the first being that we were overloaded with all the extra provisions, supplies, water etc. The second was that we had more fouling under the boat than was ideal and it was slowing us down. We had given Warrior a thorough scrub in the San Blas islands where the water was clear enough to see to clean her keel and rudder but I knew from cleaning the waterline in the anchorage at La Playita how quickly and how much fouling had built up in the few short weeks since we anchored. We started to consider if we should divert to the Las Perlas islands and give her another clean but we were reluctant to delay our departure another day with a limited window of good wind to get us over the equator. Fortunately after about an hour things were feeling much better and Warrior was romping along. We decided it was a combination of foul current and anxiety that had made her feel slow!

As we sailed away from Panama we enjoyed the most incredible view looking back with a panoramic view taking in the stunning Bridge of the Americas and the entire skyline of Panama City stretched out behind us until it was all obscured by the enormous cargo ships we passed idling at anchor. Yet again we found ourselves leaving a little piece of our hearts in a wonderful place; and already planning our return.

Our first couple of hours we spent getting our sails set and getting the spinnaker pole ready for "goose winging" our sails (sailing with the main and headsails set on either side). We used the last bit of phone signal to send messages to family and friends and we watched the other two sailing boats on AIS as they gained ground ahead of us. One of these, Viridian, was soon away and out of AIS range; her longer waterline making her a much faster boat, it is unlikely we will catch them up now. The second boat was a 46ft catamaran called Cinnamon and we stayed within approx. 11nm of them for the next few days eventually chatting on VHF radio on day 3 which was quite fun.

Apart from these sailing vessels there was much large shipping to steer clear of; although most was operating within the shipping lanes that we kept away from. Nevertheless we kept a very close watch for the first 24 hours of our passage.

The first couple of nights were very dark with no moon present but we enjoyed the clear starry sky and watching the spectacular phosphorous bouncing in our wake. It seems to be a particularly bright and clear phosphorous here. We noticed it one night whilst still at anchor when we rowed our dinghy back and the phosphorous was like crisp underwater LED lights that literally highlighted the outline of the boat and the oars. We had never seen anything like it. Very different to the sparkling light-show effect that we had noticed in the Atlantic waters. This same bold phosphorous followed in our wake for these first nights on passage and compensated a little for the lack of moon overhead.

These first 3 days we have had excellent sailing conditions. The winds have generally been force 4 to 5 but with gentle seas; so far very different to the towering; rolling waves of the Atlantic. This has made movement on-board much more comfortable and cooking and making hot drinks has generally been a pleasure rather than the exhausting chore it can be in rough conditions.

We have kept a constant watch although we haven't seen a vessel for nearly 48 hours now. Today the winds eased a little and we launched our spinnaker "Old Meg"; the lightweight headsail that is likely going to work very hard over the coming weeks.

The calm conditions have meant we have been able to get a few jobs done on-board but generally we have been relaxing; reading, puzzling and constantly checking on our fresh fruit and veg which seems to be ripening at an alarming rate. We haven't been as impressed with the produce we bought at the market in Panama as we were with the produce we set off across the Atlantic with from the farmers market in Tenerife. Only time will tell but I doubt we will be arriving into French Polynesia with much fresh left onboard and I'm glad we loaded up with lots of tins!

Meep has been really chilled out and spends most of his time snoozing in his little upturned crate. He came on deck yesterday and spent hours snoozing under the sprayhood. Today he seems to prefer to stay below decks. He seems to understand far better than previously what is going on and isn't so obsessed with trying to climb on the back of the boat as he was on previous passages. Despite this we keep him in a harness and attached to one or other of us; or the boat, at all times when on deck and don't let him wander above-decks unsupervised. He seems very happy though. Although three days out and we haven't seen a flying fish yet which he is bitterly disappointed about!

As I write this we have just seen our first dolphins of the passage. A large and excitable pod that put on quite a flying display for us although didn't come too close to the boat. We could see them leaping and playing off our beam though. We saw a large pod of dolphins a week or so back when we went to fill our diesel tanks at the marina; they came right up to the boat and I commented to Jamie on how big they were. These guys seemed to be very big too as they caught my eye quite a way off. I think this species of dolphin may be bigger than their Atlantic cousins.

That's probably about all for now. We will keep posting regular updates and dropping the coordinates so that you can see how we are getting on. So far all is good and we are enjoying our time aboard. There is a very magical feeling setting off with everything you need onboard and no fixed deadline to arrive; just being pulled along by the wind and listening to the water tinkling along the hull.

We hope everything is just as peaceful wherever you are.