Panama to The Galapagos

JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Thu 21 Jun 2007 01:55

We were at the Balboa Yacht Club, outside Panama City for just a short stay and other than a quick trip to buy food we didn’t really see the city. We spent a couple of days doing odd jobs on the boat and meeting up with the friends who had come through the canal at about the same time. The last job left to do before setting off was to simply add antifreeze to the engine coolant. We planned to set sail that afternoon in company with Y-Not. Well what could go wrong with such a simple job? Noticing a slight leak Barry gave the bolt a tweak and it sheered off in his hand. A piece was left in the hole making it impossible to insert another bolt even if we had one. We decided to postpone the start of our trip for a day and after an unsuccessful attempt at a repair phoned Bill. Useful suggestions were made and finally Barry made an ingenious extension piece and closed off the leak. We had said farewell to Y-Not explaining the problem and hoping to catch up with them but with this quick fix we changed our minds and set off after them. As dusk fell we could see Y-Not’s friendly navigation lights winking to us on the horizon ahead.

Farewell Panama City

Barry had estimated 7 days for the trip but had spoken about needing to avoid the Doldrums. The Galapagos lie to the southwest of Panama but we followed the advice of the experts and headed south initially hoping to pick up south-easterlies or at least southerlies when we reached the Equator. The wind actually was directly from the Galapagos to Panama so we needed to tack.

The trip was a slog. Initially the weather was grey and miserable with some rain. Later as we neared the Equator the weather improved a little but it got colder and we got out our fleeces, not used since the Atlantic, and a blanket. It felt strange but was due simply to the cold Humboldt current.

Here is a rough outline of the "points of interest" on the trip.

Day 2 Boom slider broke. Barry manufactured a temporary replacement.

Day 3 Forward heads blocked. Could not be cleared.

Day 5 Mags found herself paddling in the rear heads and on investigating found the bilges half full of water. It took 2 hours to bail out and clear up and Barry tightened the stern gland believing this to be the source of the water intake. This was rather embarrassing; he had checked the stern gland before leaving Colon.

In clearing the "flood" the forward shower sump pump failed. We are highly delighted though with a small pump we have which you attach to a standard electric drill. It can be used to pump out water from tight and inaccessible places or anywhere you like! A great little tool. No home should be without one!

Day 6 Freak dollop of water came in through the main hatch. It must have done a double flip to get there as the seas were not that big. Just a few drips fell onto the navigation computer. Despite the fact the lid was closed and it was immediately wiped, an hour later it was discovered that the computer had died. Mags’ computer, prepared only recently as a back up, smoothly took over the chart work.

Day 7 Crossed the equator at approximately 1830.

Day 10 Arrived Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, The Galapagos.

Despite the mishaps we were in fairly good heart even though the trip took three days longer than expected. We kept in touch with Y-Not and Orpailleur who was 2 days behind us. From about day 5 we were joined at dusk by some sort of gull which instead of alighting as the previous night visitor had, spent the night fishing in the light of our navigation lamps. Each subsequent night he came back with a few extra mates. There was great luminescence in the water. Two pairs of Stormy Petrels buzzed around us as we neared land. We were also much encouraged by our human contact, the daily radio call with Y-Not. We got to Santa Cruz in the Galapagos on the morning of the 10th day.