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Date: 28 Apr 2012 15:28:33
Title: Dolphins in the Doldrums

Lat 05:38.48N
Lon 080:31.09W

Thursday 19th April

Well here we are, finally at sea in the big Pacific Ocean. Looks more like a giant lake to me, judging by the flat, glassy water! We left Panama on Tuesday evening after desperately trying to tick off all the jobs (nearly got there too) and motored out across the shipping channels and into the Gulf of Panama. We were immediately hit by a massive thunderstorm, which was pretty cool with lightning flashes all around us in the driving rain as it got dark (don't worry not fork lightning!). We had good winds for the first night and rotated around our watch system with no probems. It's actually pretty cool to be out on the water at night, especially when there's nothing around except for the occasional ship - my dayskipper theory lessons are coming in handy for identifying the direction and course of said ships. We have someone "on watch" 24hrs a day, but at night it's only for 2 hours at a time where as during the day the watches are 3 or 4 hours as we're all around on the deck anyway. The stars have been incredible and are getting better with every night further from land. We haven't tried out the old celestial navigation yet but the stargazer app on the ipad is getting some action!

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The first night watch was pretty uneventful until about 3am when the Man Overboard alarm went off. Dad won the prize for being first on the deck to discover that no, I had not fallen overboard, but was hanging over the bow watching a pod of about 10 dolphins playing in the luminescence of our bow wave! It was amazing to see them approaching in the dark - glittering lines of gold in the blackness of the night sea. It took me a while to understand what they were - fast approaching lines of glittering light making a beeline for our boat. They hung around for about 20 minutes which was awesome. Then a few hours later, the Man Overboard alarm went off again. Again Dad (a little grumpy by this stage) was first on the scene, only to find Jamie also hanging out on the bow of the boat watching another pod of dolphins! The Man Overboard Alarm has now been renamed the Dolphin Alarm. Much more appropriate!

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We've had a few patches of wind, and have even cracked out the spinnaker once, but generally there is not much wind around and we have motored for more time than we have sailed. Now that we are out of the Gulf of Panama we haven't seen another boat of any kind for 2 days. Instead we've seen lots of dolphins, including a huge pod of about 200 of them this morning and then about 20 whales followed them up! A couple of whales went right under the boat which was amazing.

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The highlight of today was at lunchtime when we were floating around having lunch in a fairly stationary fashion, when suddenly Jamie's fishing line began to rapidly unreel. Our first Pacific Ocean fish! We had 3 lines out the back of the boat and unfortunately the lines got crossed and Jamie lost his fish. But then it bit onto the hand reel line, and then Jamie had another bite on his line, and suddenly we were surrounded in an aquarium of fish, all swimming around our boat. Fishing doesn't get any easier! We hauled out 5 fish in total, not quite sure what they were but they were about 40cm long and a couple of them tasted very good last night! We also caught a baby shark which we had to put back as despite the excitement as it wouldn't have fit in the frying pan and it was a juvenile (and we already had 5 other fish to eat!). We definitely need to be a bit more ready for bringing a fish on board as these were only little ones and we still got blood all over the boat. It would truly look like a massacre if we had caught a big Tuna!

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So for now we are floating or motoring, hoping that we've chosen the right route to Galapagos - either you go West and then South, or South and then West - apparently there is absolutely no wind for weeks in the middle! We've chosen the latter route and are aiming for Malpelo rock. Unfortunately we are still having trouble with the sat phone so I can't send this today - there will be a sudden flurry of these blogs when we get to Galapagos!



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