Panama 9:20N 82:15W

Wed 1 Feb 2012 18:56

From: Philip
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 6:01 PM
To: blog
Subject: Panama.....................

We arrived at 10am today. Good timing at three and a half days but Cornell was not wrong. Oh no siree, not in the slightest. That was one of the toughest journeys yet by a huge fucking margin. I shit you not. We left Aruba around 7 in the evening on Friday the 26th and the winds gradually picked up to around 30 knots. We knew there was going to be a fair bit of wind because of what we saw on various websites and from what our GRIB files told us and the reason we were heading north west was to miss a storm that was lingering around Cartegena, Colombia. But it kept rising and for the first 24 hours it became a force 8 with enormous swells and huge waves which were just whacking us from all directions.
Then in the following 48 hours the shit got real. The winds rose to around 40 knots gusting 47, which is storm force 9 and nearly survival conditions. You see pictures of these conditions in training books about the Beaufort scale (heights of waves and strengths of winds) and you think, well fuck me I wouldn't want to be out in that for very long. Well try 72 hours of it. Actually don't. We were down to 3 reefs and no genoa (the lowest amount of sail we could have out) and we were still doing 9 knots! We actually hit 15 knots at one point! The waves were around 40 feet high and they would just pick you up and turn you 40 degrees in which ever direction they fancied. They were pummeling us and needless to say we got battered luckily escaping with only two snapped batons in the sail. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. We got dismasted in less than that last year and fuck, how we felt every creak and groan. Jesus, not a wink of sleep. This, coupled with the fact that we had to do 3 hours at the helm because it was too rough for the autopilot made for near insanity and was just unbelievibly draining. We weren't scared, honestly, just deeply concerned, but our nerves were in tatters!
You would look across the sea and there would be stupid amounts of just really fucking monster breaking waves with an enormous swell egging them on. It was truly awe inspiring. One minute you would be lifted 40/50 foot in the air, then dumped back down, the next, a behemoth would crash down over the stern flooding everything, and then the next; what seemed like a very large but nimble sumo wrestler taking a running head butt at you from the side. If you were inside when this was going on it sounded like world war three had just kicked off. All noises are accenuated by a thousand and it truly freaks you out, even when you know what those sounds correlate to outside. Mainly because you can't help yourself from going on deck and hearing for yourself because you cannot believe that no damage is being done. I know I am going on about it and it might sound weird but it was an amazing experience albeit one I can do without for a while.
Anyways. Aruba was lovely. It's called the 'Happy Island' for a reason. It's chilled out and the people are wonderful. A nice mix of Dutch and Spanish who have to put up with two cruise ships a day turning up with fat, American, ignorant arseholes who are just really fucking rude. I have always been intrigued about going on a cruise. Nope, not anymore. No no no no. Packed in with these lobotomised lot in a sardine tin. No thank you. I have nothing against Americans, just ignorant ones.
The marina was cool and well equipped. Reverse osmosis water don't you know (the cleanest in the Caribbean apparently), but that's the Dutch for you. The only downer was that there was a casino right next to it. Damn them, damn them. We spent two nights in there. The first was probably one of the funniest nights of the trip so far. We won a bit of money on black jack and just had a proper laugh. The second however was when all the tensions that had been brewing on the boat came out. We got really drunk before we went in there and proceeded to spend the next 8 hours in there consuming the free drinks available. Needless to say things came to a head. Gareth and Dickon bicker and wind each other up. I told them both to fuck off and leave me alone as I am fed up of being the fucking mediator. Dickon and Gareth nearly came to blows after much shouting which culminated in Dickon storming off, attempting to get a hotel room with his winnings, failing, smashing up a phone box, punching a palm tree, nearly breaking his hand in the process and then blowing all his winnings in a casino down the road whilst waiting to get food!!! Oh yes, one of those nights...
The good thing to come out of this is that we had a crisis meeting the next day and aired our grievances soberly (the best way really) and admitted we had all acted like complete twats and we needed to unite. Needless to say we are getting along better than ever. It is no surprise that when you spend, what is it now, 125 days confined to a small space in a massive ocean that things are gonna piss you off. You can't bottle stuff up. It leads to embarressment in  a casino in Aruba.
Anyway, all good now and just waiting for an agent to take us through the canal.
A big shout out to the Killowen Road boys; Ben, Mark, Maxwell and Fred. Peace x